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Episode #14 | Katherine Collins: Sustainable Investing – What Are You For?

“Over the long arc of history, when capitalism has overshot and underdelivered, it’s often as a result of pining oneself to a growth imperative that is overly narrowly defined.”

– Katherine Collins

Interested in what constitutes healthy growth, the benefits of high failure rates, and what nature can teach us about becoming better investors? Katherine Collins shares her thoughts on these topics and so much more. Her career has been a series of groundbreaking firsts, from serving as the first female of director of research at Fidelity Investments to being the first professional investor to weave powerful mental frameworks such as biomimicry into her work. Katherine’s insights are not only applicable to your investment portfolio—utilized creatively, they can also enhance your overall life!

About Katherine Collins

Katherine Collins true WELLth Podcast

Katherine Collins is head of sustainable investing at Putnam Investments and portfolio manager for Putnam’s Sustainable Leaders and Sustainable Future strategies, with over $5 billion in assets under management. A recognized thought leader, Katherine is the author of The Nature of Investing and founder of Honeybee Capital, an independent investment research firm focused on sustainable investment themes. Earlier in her career, she served as head of equity research, portfolio manager, and equity research analyst at Fidelity Investments. Katherine serves on numerous boards, including Last Mile Health, Santa Fe Institute, Omega Institute, and Harvard Divinity School Dean’s Council. She earned a master of theological studies from Harvard Divinity School and a bachelor’s degree from Wellesley College.

Show Notes

Katherine Collins was two years ahead of me at Wellesley College and considered one of the leading minds on campus. To say I was intellectually in awe of her would be putting it mildly. A decade later, Katherine and I were both members of the Wellesley Business Leadership Council, a group of businesswomen who had experienced noteworthy success in their careers. The group fosters cross-industry exchanges of ideas and overall support of both each other and the current generation on campus. When I finally had the nerve to speak to Katherine shortly after joining the council, we hit it off instantly.

Never have I met someone with such a wide range of knowledge that also runs so deep. If curiosity were a superpower, Katherine would be a modern-day Wonder Woman. She not only has an unquenchable thirst for learning, but she is also a natural teacher, eager to share thoughts about complex topics in a manner that neither talks down to nor overwhelms you. A rare skill, indeed! When she agreed to do this interview, I was over the moon—as I have a solid hunch no matter what lens you view this episode through, you will come away with meaty insights and mental models to apply in your own life.

Manisha’s Top Takeaways

  1. What constitutes healthy growth?
    In so many areas of life—and especially in business—we don’t question the widespread belief that “growth is good.” In a business context, that usually translates into growth in revenues and profits. Katherine challenges us to ask a series of vital questions ranging from “Growth for what purpose?” to “What may need to shrink in order for something else to grow?” to “Are the resources and systems even in place to support that growth?” [9:00]
  2. Biomimicry, and its implied question of “what would nature do,” is a handy tool in investing and in life.
    Katherine has written an entire book on this subject. To summarize, nature gives us a library that is 3.8 billion years old from which we can seek answers to a wide range of seemingly unrelated questions. That’s because nature is a series of adaptive systems—and what is a company or humanity if not that! [11:30]
  3. Feedback loops are essential for healthy growth in nature, business, and relationships.
    In nature, the term “feedback loop” has a precise definition. Three elements must be present: (1) a relevant signal, a receptor, and an appropriate response. No doubt this sounds simple on the surface! Katherine shows us why it is anything but, and how to use that to our benefit in both our professional and personal lives. [15:30]

Other Major Topics

  • What it really takes to be a good investor. [3:00]
  • Katherine’s biggest surprise during her time at Harvard Divinity School. [4:30]
  • Why asking “What are you for?” is the real key to truly impactful sustainable investing, as well as successful movements of any sort across history. [18:45]

Resources Cited in the Episode

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