A founder's two chief goals

Buying stock in companies that do good can have "feel-good" rewards. For some, that's enough.

But Citizens Funds founder Sophia Collier demands more.

"We would never attempt to excuse poor financial performance by saying 'well, we did it in a socially responsible way,' " says Ms. Collier from the firm's headquarters in Portsmouth, N.H.

When Ms. Collier got Citizens up and running in 1992, her aim was to prove that investors with a social conscience could still reap big rewards.

"What socially responsible investing [needs] ... to have credibility is a strong financial record. Otherwise it's just another form of philanthropy, and one that's not very effective," she says.

Her funds have performed. Three of the five funds Citizens offers have produced annualized returns of 30 percent or better since their inception.

"My master is my shareholder.... The impact I seek to have is ... on a person's retirement, ... their ability to buy a home, to accomplish their own financial objectives. So I don't see myself as a social crusader," Collier says.

Even before starting Citizens, she was all business. In the late 1970s she developed Soho Natural Soda, selling the firm in 1991 to buy the money-market company that became Citizens.

What made her think that leap would work? "Well, they're both liquid," she jokes.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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