In 2004, a half dozen of Trillium Asset Management's well-heeled clientele wanted to invest a portion of their portfolios to improve the environment and find alternatives to harmful carbon dioxide emissions. On the group's behalf, Trillium invested $1.5 million in EcoEnergy International, a developer of renewable energy, including hydro, wind and coal-carbon capturing.

When EcoEnergy was sold to Suez Energy in 2008, the investors made two and a half times their investment. When the deal closed, they'd both helped the environment and generated a spectacular return. Matthew Patsky, CEO of Boston-based Trillium, calls this a prime example of impact investing, which involves investing in community development projects or companies that benefit society - and produce solid returns.

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