That's the objective behind Carleton University's Responsible Investing Initiative, and the reason why its principal researcher, Tessa Hebb, has been nominated for a Manning Innovation Award - an accolade for Canadians who have demonstrated innovation in developing and marketing a new concept, process or procedure.
Working at the Carleton Centre for Community Innovation, Ms. Hebb has spearheaded the research in partnership with various local and international organizations, addressing institutional investors including banks, insurance companies, mutual funds, pension funds, foundations and endowments.
Internationally, investors managing $30 trillion of assets have signed onto principles calling for more responsible investment choices, including clean technology or social housing.
Ms. Hebb's research seeks to change people's mindsets about what makes a good investment. British Petroleum, for instance, is seen by many as a good bet even after one of its offshore oil rigs spilled into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, and despite the fact that the company fought against safeguards necessary to prevent such an accident.
Responsible investing includes examining safety reports, or looking at ways the company interacts with indigenous communities in developing countries.
Many changes are already being made, Ms. Hebb said. On Bloomberg, a business and financial news website, company profiles now include environmental, social and governance data on top of traditional financial information.
The Responsible Investing Initiative seeks to have more companies enact responsible investing policies as a consciousness-raising exercise.
Currently in the first of three stages of research, the program will include an international conference in October to unite academics with large institutional investors, chosen for this research because of their enormous buying power.
The conference will be held at York University's Schulick School of Business, one of the initiative's partners alongside the University of British Columbia, Concordia University and Oxford University.
Ms. Hebb will attend the Manning awards ceremony at the Ottawa Convention Centre on Oct. 17, when she will find out if her social innovation will be one of the first of its kind to be recognized by the foundation.
"In the past, the Manning Foundation has been really associated with high-tech innovation," Ms. Hebb said. "And yet, I'm the social innovation ... We think it's as critical as the hard science for our society. Social innovation is a way to tackle difficult social problems."