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Companies See Profits in Going Green

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

General Electric's plan for addressing climate change is only the latest indication that companies see profits in going green. We've called Timothy Smith, a senior vice president at Walden Asset Management, which specializes in socially responsible investing.

Welcome.

Mr. TIMOTHY SMITH (Walden Asset Management): Thank you.

INSKEEP: So are more companies really seeing the possibility of making profits by going after global warming?

Mr. SMITH: Absolutely. General Electric's recent announcement is part of a massive shift in the corporate community, which increasingly believes it's not only important to address the issue of climate change because it protects the planet or because it protects their reputation and prevents risk, but because it can make them profits. So they see this as an opportunity to advance their business as well.

INSKEEP: You said protect their reputation, but do you think this is more than a public relations move by companies?

Mr. SMITH: When I said protect their reputation, that's because there are some companies who could be very vulnerable, as companies such as utilities, to new regulations on climate change. But there are other companies like British Petroleum, which is now the largest solar company in the world, which is betting on alternatives to energy being part of our energy future and is putting real dollars and real energy behind it. Companies like Ford and General Motors, unfortunately late to the game, but are pushing hybrids and moving toward hydrogen vehicles. These are companies who see this as part--a business case for combatting climate change and for participating and finding other alternative energy sources.

INSKEEP: So now your firm, Walden Asset Management, tries to invest money in so-called green companies, right?

Mr. SMITH: That's correct. We try to invest in companies that take account of commitment to the environment and social responsibility.

INSKEEP: You going to be investing in General Electric?

Mr. SMITH: Well, you know, I think that General Electric's decision is going to really make a lot of socially concerned and environmentally concerned investors take note. General Electric is still involved in nuclear power. For some investors who don't want to invest in nuclear power companies, that will be a concern. And there's still a great deal of concern about GE and its pollution of the Hudson with PCBs. But I think this new leadership step is going to raise their visibility and credibility with environmentally concerned investors.

INSKEEP: Timothy Smith of Walden Asset Management, thanks very much.

Mr. SMITH: Thank you so much.

INSKEEP: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.