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Dear Urban Diplomat: Is it wrong to invest in environmentally questionable companies?

Many years ago, my business partner and I invested in an energy company that’s involved in coal mining, among other things. After the weird winter we just had, I’ve started to worry more about the environment. My partner argues that lots of successful companies aren’t so hot on environmental stewardship, and she doesn’t want to let the investments go—they’re making decent money, which is what stocks are for. What’s the right thing to do?

—Dirty Money, Rosedale

Pulling out now won’t save the planet. Divestment—even on a large scale—often fails to have an effect on corporate behaviour. But you know what definitely won’t change things? Doing nothing. Sticking to your principles will at least send a message to your partner, and may sway decisions over which stocks to buy down the road. To solve your immediate dilemma, suggest some alternative (but equally profitable) investments. If she still won’t budge, offer to let her personally buy the shares from your business, and opt for stocks that are less likely to contribute to a Day After Tomorrow–calibre apocalypse.

Send your questions to the Urban Diplomat at urbandiplomat@torontolife.com

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