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Lever for Change

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Two alums, different generations, one field: socially responsible investing (SRI). Change is made either from the outside or from within, note Thomas Kuh 75F and Alex Lamb 99F, and they decided their talents would best be used within. The two work at KLD Research & Analytics in Boston, a company on the leading edge of SRI research and indexing.

"Socially responsible investors are long-term investors who consider the impact on workers, communities, and the environment rather than thinking about investment as just a way to earn money," explains Kuh.

Socially responsible investing is a logical career choice for Hampshire graduates. "The work we do is indicative of the work that Hampshire students do," adds Lamb. "Hampshire has an incredible dedication to social justice and the environment. I didn't go there seeing the world through that lens—when I left I couldn't go back to seeing the world any other way."

 "Hampshire's endowment is one of the few college endowments that has a socially responsible investment policy," Kuh says. "Hampshire as a college has been a leader itself in this area."

Before Lamb started at KLD, the two did not know each other. "Our connection [to Hampshire] is one we're both proud of," says Kuh, managing director of KLD Indexes. "And it's fitting given the type of student Hampshire attracts and the commitment to the broader world it nurtures. KLD's mission fits that."

Kuh and Lamb joined the company at very different times: after Hampshire, Kuh was a teaching fellow at Harvard and professor of economics at Simmons College. He has been with KLD since 1992, and has seen it evolve from a six-person team creating one index—the Domini Social 400—to more than 60 employees producing over 20 different indexes.

Lamb, manager of marketing, joined KLD in 2007 after graduating from Bainbridge Graduate Institute, the first school to offer an M.B.A. in sustainable business. He had planned earlier to go into law, but a sustainability conference made him realize that law was not where he wanted to be—it was the business field that would allow him "to work as a change agent. Today, business is at the forefront of change in our society," he says.

"KLD works within the financial system, using the capital markets as one lever for change in corporate behavior," says Kuh. When the company started in 1988, it was one of the first investment research firms to specialize in socially responsible investing. Its indexes are comprehensive lists of corporations, like the S&P 500, with one major difference: by investing in these corporations, investors know they are supporting socially responsible practices.

Kuh and Lamb are in different departments, but do get opportunities to work together. "Tom has been in the industry for 16 years, so I often go to him for guidance on where we should be focusing our marketing energy," says Lamb.

Kuh maintains strong ties to Hampshire College through his wife Willa S. Kuh 73F (she and their oldest daughter, Ariela Kuh 03F, are also alums), who serves on the college's Building, Grounds and Environmental Sustainability Committee.


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