Investments pinned to non-financial criteria grew more than 13% to $3.07 trillion, in the three years through 2009, a troubled period when all professionally managed assets increased less than 1%, according to the Social Investment Forum Foundation. 

The strong growth included both retail investors and institutions, which own or administer $2.03 trillion socially-responsible assets. Retail SRI mutual funds grew from $202 billion to $569 billion over that same period.

The Social Investment Forum Foundation defined assets included in the $3.07 trillion total as those that incorporate environmental, social and governance goals into investment analysis and portfolio construction; file or co-file shareholder resolutions on these issues; or make deposits or investments in banks, credit unions, venture capital funds and loan funds dedicated to community investing.

For example, investors increased their commitment to community investing institutions by 62%. “The needs of communities underserved by mainstream banks became increasingly obvious,” said Cheryl Smith, the chairman of the Social Investment Forum Board.

From 2008 through 2010, more than 200 institutions that account for $1.5 trillion in assets, including public funds, labor funds, religious investors and foundations and investment management firms, filed or co-filed shareholder proposals related to social goals.

The number and type of investment options have also surged.

"SRI is a ray of hope across an otherwise dreary investment landscape,” said Joshua Humphreys, director of the Center for Social Philanthropy at the Tellus Institute. “We see impressive growth in new sustainable investment vehicles and strategies across asset classes, from ETFs to alternative investments in venture capital, double-bottom-line private equity and responsible property funds that promote environmental sustainability and positive community impact.”