Organizations are investing in their values – 401Ks and beyond

Jenny Morgan

Small- to medium-enterprises (SMEs) are essential for delivering more inclusive globalization and economic growth. They represent over 90% of the business population, provide over 60% of employment, and make up 55% of GDP in developed economies. SMEs have been recognized as an important economic catalyst by contributing towards financial growth, creating jobs, reducing global poverty, and expediting national development by generating income and national wealth. A significant portion of this economic growth can be achieved through the investments they financially support and offer to their employee stakeholders.  

By leaning on subject matter experts like As You Sow, Creative Money, and Green Retirement, Inc, Tradewater has consolidated a list of actions to ensure that both SMEs and individuals are not inadvertently funding the climate crisis, and instead investing in purposeful funds with low financial risk.  

Identify investments that are bad for your money and the planet 

No matter the rumors you may have heard, sustainable investments are good for the financially savvy and do not represent a sacrifice on returns. When you dive into the details of the top funds, you will unfortunately discover that they are often fueling (no pun intended) the climate crisis, inequality, global violence, gender disparity, and private prisons profiting from mass incarceration.  

As Flannery O’Connor so eloquently stated, “The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.”  

So, what are we going to do about it?  

Know where your dollars go 

Climate risk is business risk, and if your entire investment portfolio is built on unsustainable markets, then your dollars are at risk. If you need the proof, look up some of the retirement plans that large companies are funding or look up the investment funds that continue to fund the climate crisis. You may be surprised how much money is going towards deeply harmful environmental and social actions. 

I think the more people that know this information, the better off we will be, personally and financially.” – Katie Noble at Creative Money  

Apply educated action to your financial portfolio 

See what sustainable and purposeful options you can add to your retirement plan offerings. Check out Fossil Free Funds to view some of the highest rated funds based on performance and sustainability. These funds are rated based on their investments in fossil fuels, deforestation, gender equality, civilian firearms, profitable and private prisons, military weapons, and tobacco. You can click into each fund and each rating to determine why they received an A or below in a specific category and make your determinations on how to move forward based on what you discover.  

“The US retirement plan market is $37.8 trillion as of 12/31/22. For many people, their retirement plan may be their largest asset. Shifting retirement plan assets from fossil fuel investments to ones focused on a greener economy is a natural and vital action in combatting climate change. Understanding what you are investing in through your retirement plan is even easier these days through helpful websites like” – Timothy Yee at Green Retirement Inc. 

Influence systemic change 

Now, it’s time to get loud. Get loud about your financial stability, your sustainable investments, and how you have educated yourself on how you can achieve your financial and environmental goals simultaneously. Share your actions and learnings with others in your industry. Start a coalition with others by sharing the results from these public rating tools and start explaining how easy and empowering it is to make the switch. You can play a role in growing a movement of individuals and businesses that invest their values! 

Be persistent in sharing your findings because as Flannery O’Connor stated earlier in this post, the truth may be difficult to accept, but that does not change that it is, in fact, true. Even if values are not the driving factor for your network, it’s important to acknowledge is that environmentally harmful investments have disturbing financial risks.  

Small- to medium-enterprises are already known for their drive and determination, and these qualities can help drive systemic change. A 401K plan can help businesses attract and retain talent, incentivize performance, and lower taxes, while helping employees meet their financial and climate goals. Directing retirement and employee investments towards sustainable funds makes a significant difference, influences systemic change, and ensures your money is supporting the values that you embody every day. Utilizing the resources provided by the pioneers mentioned within this article, together, we can achieve security and profitability through purposeful finance today. 




Emission reductions are considered permanent if they are not reversible. In some projects, such as forestry or soil preservation, carbon offset credits are issued based upon the volume of CO2 that will be sequestered over future decades—but human actions and natural processes such as forest fires, disease, and soil tillage can disrupt those projects. When that happens, the emission reductions claimed by the project are reversed.

The destruction of halocarbon does not carry this risk. All destruction activities in Tradewater’s projects are conducted pursuant to the Montreal Protocol , which requires “a destruction process” that “results in the permanent transformation, or decomposition of all or a significant portion of such substances.” Specifically, the destruction facilities Tradewater uses must meet or exceed the recommendations of the UN Technology & Economic Assessment Panel , which approves certain technologies to destroy halocarbons, including the requirement that the technology achieve a 99.99% or higher “destruction and removal efficiency.” Simply put, this means that Tradewater’s technologies ensure that over 99.99% of the chemicals are permanently destroyed. During the destruction process, a continuous emission monitoring system is used to ensure full destruction of the ODS collected.


Some carbon offset projects necessarily rely on estimations or assumptions when calculating the emission reductions from project activities. Forestry projects, where developers make assumptions about the carbon that will be sequestered over future decades if trees are conserved, are a perfect example. Such projects sometimes result in an overestimation of the environmental benefit of the project.

Tradewater’s halocarbon projects avoid the issue of overestimation by consistently conducting extremely precise testing and measurement of the amount of refrigerant destroyed in each project.

  • Every container of ODS that Tradewater destroys is weighed by a third-party using regularly calibrated scales. The ODS is then sampled by a third-party and analyzed by an accredited refrigerant laboratory to determine its species and purity. These two steps combine to ensure that credits are issued only for the precise volume and type of refrigerant destroyed.
  • The destruction facilities that Tradewater uses continuously monitor the incineration process during destruction events to ensure that over 99.99% of the ODS is destroyed. This monitoring is mandated by regulatory protocols and is part of the verification process to which projects are subjected.
  • Tradewater accounts for the project emissions created during the collection, transport, and destruction of ODS, and the number of offsets issued is reduced by a corresponding amount. The protocols that we use also build in other reductions to account for substitute chemicals that will be used to replace the destroyed refrigerants. Tradewater publishes this information in the documentation for all its ODS destruction projects. These documents outline how the material was obtained, the project emissions calculations, the test results, and the amount and type of ODS chemicals destroyed, among other information.
  • Additionality

    It is a basic requirement of all carbon offset projects that the underlying project activities are additional. “Additional” means that the projects would not happen in the absence of a carbon market. Tradewater’s halocarbon projects simply would not happen – and the gases would be left to escape into the atmosphere – without the sale of the resulting carbon offset credits. This is because there is no mandate to collect and destroy these gases. It is still permissible to buy, sell, and use halocarbons that were produced before the ban. There are other reasons halocarbon destruction projects are additional:

    • There are no incentives or financial mechanisms to encourage halocarbon destruction. According to the International Energy Agency and United Nations Environment Program, “there is rarely funding nor incentive” to recover and destroy ozone depleting substances in storage tanks and discarded equipment. And collecting, transporting, and destroying halocarbons is time-intensive and expensive. The burden to collect and destroy these gases therefore remains prohibitive outside of carbon offset markets—meaning that if organizations like Tradewater do not do this work, nobody else will.
    • Countries are not focused on the need to collect and destroy halocarbons. The Montreal Protocol has been celebrated as a success because of its production ban. This success, however, ignores the legacy gases produced before the ban and is a blind spot for government regulators. In the U.S., for example, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed a Vintaging Model in the 1990s to estimate the quantify of ozone depleting substances left in circulation. Based on the inputs and assumptions put into the model, the EPA predicted that no CFCs would be available for recovery beyond 2020 in the United States. But this prediction did not prove accurate. Tradewater has collected and destroyed more than 1.5 million pounds of CFCs globally in recent years and continues to identify thousands of pounds per week.
    • International carbon accounting standards do not require corporations to measure or track emissions tied to halocarbons, and refrigerants are specifically excluded from Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) commitments. These commitments derive from emissions reporting under the GHG Protocol, which requires companies to report on emissions only from new generation refrigerants, such as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), but does not establish any obligation to report inventories or emissions of refrigerants still in use, such as CFCs and HCFCs. All these factors combine to make Tradewater’s carbon offset projects highly additional. As Giving Green, an initiative of IDinsight, concluded: “Tradewater would not exist without the offset market, so this element of additionality is clearly achieved.” The case for additionality is not so clear for some other project types, such as forestry and landfill gas carbon projects. For example, some forests are already being conserved for their beauty, or for use as parks, and generate carbon offset credits only because those conservation efforts do not yet have full formal protection in place to avoid deforestation in the future. Similarly, methane from landfills can be used to make electricity or captured as compressed natural gas, thereby creating additional revenue streams to support the activities, beyond the sale of carbon credits.