How CoPeace is democratizing impact investing
Best for Colorado: Companies of Peace puts together companies doing good things for the world under one umbrella
Companies of Peace (CoPeace) is a holding firm at the vanguard of sustainable impact investing. It has worked to build a profitable, ethical, sustainable portfolio that everyone can invest in. Best for Colorado spoke with Craig Jonas, CEO of CoPeace, to learn more about this B-Corp certified company.
Best for Colorado: How did you decide on the name CoPeace?
Craig Jonas: Companies of Peace evolved from the idea of putting all these companies that are doing good things for the world under one umbrella, and then we shortened it to CoPeace to make it more intriguing. The word peace is especially significant to me because of my background. My parents were both very interested in social justice—my dad marched with Martin Luther King Jr.—so, I always had a sense of wanting to be more involved in this kind of community.
When we discovered the impact investing movements, we decided the timing might be right for our Companies of Peace idea. We argue that the only way we are going to have peace in our world is by changing the current financial system to be more inclusive and caring about our future.
BFCO: How did CoPeace get started? What is most rewarding aspect about your company’s work or what are you most proud of?
CJ: I’m trying to make a difference my kids can believe in (I have 22 and 26-year-olds). I was looking at what was going on in the world, and I started to ask myself, ‘What’s going to be my contribution?’
I wanted to find a path that was more mission-aligned with my worldview. In contrast with past work I’ve done, I now feel a deep alignment with our mission, and we have an incredible team. Having been part of nine startups in the past, I know it is all about the team, and I don’t think there’s anything more rewarding than working toward a common goal with teammates you like and respect.
BFCO: Your company emphasizes the involvement of “non-traditional” investors. How did this emerge as a priority within your company, and how has this evolved or improved over time?
CJ: The current system is not working for more than 90% of our world and it has only worsened inequality. Our idea was to take the Berkshire Hathaway approach and allow everyone to have access to it. We felt we could make a significant improvement if we could create a tool that provides a path to build equity for people from communities that haven’t traditionally had access. As we’ve gone along, more ‘institutional’ investor types have told us how difficult this is. We’ve realized this, but we’ve only become more and more committed as a result. Our goal is to democratize the process so almost everyone can directly invest in companies without being wealthy accredited investors.
BFCO: Can you tell us a little bit about the process by which a company gets added to your portfolio?
CJ: We use the head plus hear plus math approach:
- Head- Is it a good idea?
- Heart- Does it have a measurable positive social or environmental impact?
- Math- Do the finances compare favorably vs. less sustainable businesses?
The good news is that we’re finding a lot of promising opportunities in which companies that are more sustainable and more egalitarian are better positioned for long-term success. We use B Corp’s criteria and mission-alignment to figure out who to do business with. Of all the companies we evaluate for possible inclusion in our portfolio, we only invest in about 2% of them.
BFCO: What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far, and how did you overcome it?
CJ: The biggest challenge so far has been the somewhat cumbersome bureaucracy. The legal, audit and compliance processes are quite onerous and expensive. We are fortunate to have friends and family who are supportive of what we are trying to do, and who believe in our mission; my brother was our first investor. The diverse capabilities of our staff allow us to get things done together.
BFCO: You’re competing with other investment companies and non-investment organizations. What do you believe sets you apart from the competition?
CJ: We welcome anything that democratizes and gives people access in a different way, and we think that’s a good thing. One of our differentiators is our leaders have deep experience. We have brought in experienced people who bring leadership, finance and marketing skills, which gives us an inclusive set of abilities. Another differentiating factor includes our emphasis on involving non-traditional investors. CoPeace is trying to balance the expertise of older people with the idealism of younger people, and we’re committed to diversity in all aspects of our work.
BFCO: Could you please share how you first heard about the Best for Colorado program?
CJ: Being a certified B Corp, we are constantly looking for ways to be more involved in a community of like-minded and mission-aligned companies both locally and globally. Since we founded CoPeace, we have been following The Alliance Center and had built relationships with a few individuals on their team. One day we received an email about the Best for Colorado program and decided to explore the option.
Joining the program felt so natural and had a very local community feel to it. We enjoy Best for Colorado because it’s brought us into another network of companies who are perhaps not yet certified B Corps, but are mission-aligned and in the state. Best for Colorado allows us good opportunities to join forces with these companies and be part of a growing community.
BFCO: What is your company’s vision of the future?
CJ: We envision becoming a modernized Berkshire Hathaway. Our vision is to become a publicly-traded entity that grows because of our authenticity and ability to make good choices. We want to be extremely genuine about our investments so that young people, women and people from marginalized communities can invest in companies with long-term goals to create social and environmental change.
Best for Colorado is a program of the Alliance Center. It allows Colorado companies to measure and improve their social and environmental impact, regardless of where they are on their corporate social responsibility journey. Best for Colorado offers programming and tools for all Colorado companies, including B Corps, to improve their practices and connect participating companies with local resources, education and support.
Esperanza Chairez Uriarte is the programs and communications intern at The Alliance Center.