Joel Solomon, green investor and philanthropist, who for more than 30 years has been at the centre of a group of private businesses, not-for-profits, foundations and educational institutions deploying many millions of dollars to transform his adopted home of British Columbia. He’s now published a book called The Clean Money Revolution.
Joel Solomon is businessman, visionary, investor, philanthropist and now author of The Clean Money Revolution. A regenerative economy is at the heart of our sustainable future, says Solomon. And without “clean money” no other sector will change. In this exclusive Green Interview, he speaks with Silver Donald Cameron about his own journey after being diagnosed with a serious illness and how it led ultimately to his latest book about clean money—investing in socially and environmentally responsible ventures as a way to shift society towards sustainability.
The Health Connection
In his early 20s, Joel Solomon learned that he had inherited polycystic kidney disease, a potentially fatal illness that runs in his family. He told The Green Interview that his doctors told him he could live a long time or he could live for two years, and there was nothing he could really do about it. “That shook me up a lot,” he says. “I spent a lot of time searching for what’s the meaning and purpose of my life. If it is going to end, and it might end soon, then what do I want to have accomplished or what matters to me? So it really did send me on probably the most important journey of my life.” Instead of following in the family’s lead and going into the shopping mall development business in Tennessee, Solomon was eventually drawn to Cortez Island, off the coast of British Columbia. Solomon’s health concerns also led him to pursue alternative health regimens, particularly focusing on a healthy diet. “My first involvement with money was inheriting a small amount from effectively my father’s work and I decided it needed to go into healthy, cleaner food because that had become an important part of my own journey and from there one thing led to another.”
The Clean Money Revolution
Solomon’s book, The Clean Money Revolution, looks at the concept of clean money – or what he calls “examined money.” Solomon says that with any financial transaction, and particularly when money is being invested, questions need to be asked about who the money is affecting and how. “I’m not satisfied doing maximum damage to people and place in order to maximize my money. I don’t really think it should be legal if I really get down to it,” he says. Solomon says the drive to understand how his money is being used in the world is a “responsibility” he takes seriously because when it’s used to exploit people or the planet—activities that often result in higher returns—it resembles a “toxic substance.”
Socially Responsible Investing
In 1993 Solomon, who inherited $3 million, formed a partnership with Rubbermaid heiress Carol Newell, who inherited roughly $60 million from her family’s fortune. In the beginning Solomon helped Newell “design, structure, strategize and implement a program to put the majority of that money out into the world doing good, clean or better, cleaner things than what was going to happen by just handing it over to a wealth manager into a stock market,” he tells The Green Interview. Over the years they have created an organization that includes a foundation (Tides Canada), a charity (Endswell), as well as an investment agency (Renewal). Solomon is currently president of Renewal Partners, “a collection of independent organizations founded (in 2009) by Newell to carry out her original mission of fostering social change,” according to its Web site.