Rockefeller & Co. invests to save the seas

Date: May 15, 2015

Source: Barron’s

Author: Stacey Perman

Rockefeller & Co., founded in 1882 as the family office of John D. Rockefeller, has for an entire generation quietly been at the forefront of what is now known as “sustainability and impact investing.” Back in the 1980s, the firm began investing in water-technology companies that addressed issues of pollution and the need for clean drinking water. And before that, in 1956, the family founded RockResorts, one of the first conservation-focused luxury-resort companies.

David Harris, left, chief investment officer at Rockefeller & Co., with stockpicker Rolando Morillo, middle, and sustainability analyst Mariela Vargova. They are collectively building the firm’s Ocean Strategy portfolio, investing in 50 companies they are betting will make money and help repair our seas. Photo: John Emmerson for Barron’s

Nearly six decades later, in the competitive world of private banking and family offices, this patrician firm with $9.6 billion in assets under management and $33.5 billion under administration, unexpectedly finds itself carving out a niche by arguing that capital can create both financial returns and measurable positive social impact.

Rockefeller & Co.—the multifamily office, not to be confused with the family’s affiliated nonprofit, the Rockefeller Foundation—has an investment division engaged in environmental, sustainability, and corporate-governance issues. But more recently it has invested in the high seas.


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