Being a socially responsible company is not a zero-sum game, where the more socially responsible you are, the worse your financial performance is, and vice versa. Profits don't go out the window when you treat the environment better. Similarly, socially responsible investing is not a zero-sum game, where the more socially responsible you are, the worse your portfolio's performance is. So go ahead and consider investing in some socially responsible companies -- like Synaptics, Incorporated (NASDAQ:SYNA).
In general, socially responsible investments can be quite competitive with their counterparts. A 2011 study from Harvard Business School, for example, looked at 18 years of data and found "strong evidence that firms emphasizing [socially responsible] practices significantly outperform similar firms that do not, as measured by both financial and stock market returns." Meanwhile, a 2014 study by the folks at asset-management firm New Amsterdam Partners found "a positive linkage between stocks with higher ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) ratings and superior returns and reduced price volatility."
Why might you invest or not invest in Synaptics, Incorporated?
Founded in 1986, based in San Jose, California, and with a market capitalization of $2.4 billion, Synaptics is a semiconductor company focused on display and fingerprint technologies, among other things. It has been supplying Android devices, among others, and it has averaged annual growth of about 24% over the past five years.
Bulls like its recent acquisition of Renesas SP Drivers, which seems not only like a great bargain but also a great strategic fit, as it can help bring business with Apple to Synaptics. Some suggest that if Synaptics can combine Renesas' display technology with its touch technology on a single chip, it can be smaller and more economical -- and thus more attractive -- to smart-device makers.
The stock took a dive recently when the company posted earnings results that featured growth that was strong, but not quite as rapid as analysts had expected, as well as weaker-than-expected forward projections. Revenue from mobile devices grew by a solid 23% over year-ago levels, and Synaptics is getting more business from China.
Best of all, Synaptics seems attractively priced. Yes, its recent P/E ratio topped 60, but its forward-looking P/E is a mere 15, well below Synaptic's five-year average of 19. (Its price-to-sales and price-to-cash-flow ratios are above its five-year averages, though.)
What's so socially responsible about Synaptics, Incorporated?
At CSR.hub.com, Synaptics, Incorporated rates below average in several social responsibility categories, such as governance and environment. It's a bit above average in the employees category. We shouldn't write it off, though, without seeing what, exactly, it's doing in that realm.
The company has a web page dedicated to its social responsibility commitments and notes, among other things, that, "Our commitment to the environment includes product design, packaging, waste management, effective office building management, and corporate recycling programs." It also explains that, "We are committed to meeting evolving environmental regulations in every part of the world we serve." (In other words, it's working to eliminate non-environmentally friendly chemicals, including halogen, PVC, phthalate, and other chemicals identified by new requirements from its wares.) Synaptics' products come with an environmental warranty, too.
Synaptics also abides by the EICC (Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition) Code of Conduct that expressly requires "freely chosen employment," so it prohibits the use of "forced, bonded, or indentured labor or involuntary prison labor" for itself, while demanding the same of its suppliers.
Many other companies have longer and stronger social responsibility track records, but Synaptics appears to be on the right path, and for interested investors, its recent stock price looks like a promising opportunity.