Socially responsible investing doesn't mean you have to give up making money. There are funds that are managing to do both.

The folks at The Social Investment Forum recently commissioned a study of 160 socially responsible mutual funds. It found that the majority of socially responsible large-cap funds outperformed the S&P 500 over the past three years and the past 10 years. Here are a few of the funds it looked at.


Expense Ratio

10-Year Avg. Annual Return

Neuberger Berman Socially Responsive A (NRAAX)



Parnassus Equity Income (PRBLX)



Calvert Social Investment Equity (CSIEX)




Those returns may not seem all that impressive, but compared to a slight drop for the Vanguard 500 Index Fund over the past decade, the gains are actually significant.

Opinions differ
Even these funds aren't necessarily slam-dunks, though. The Neuberger Berman fund has a front-end load of up to 5.75%. The Calvert fund shaves off 4.75%. You have to really believe that it will more than make up for that in performance. It might -- but there are plenty of solid no-load funds that don't present that hurdle.

You might also want to rethink some socially responsible funds because you may not agree 100% with their philosophies or their managers' decisions. For instance, the Neuberger Berman fund "endeavors to avoid companies that derive revenue from gambling or the production of alcohol, tobacco, weapons, or nuclear power." So you won't find shares of Altria (NYSE: MO) or General Dynamics (NYSE: GD) within the fund, despite the fact that both have been extremely profitable and have paid healthy dividends to shareholders over time.

But Neuberger may not go far enough for you. If you think cable TV is bad for society, then Comcast's (Nasdaq: CMCSA) record of beating analysts' expectations in each of the six past quarters won't make you like the fact that the fund owns its shares. And despite Intuit's (Nasdaq: INTU) potential growth prospects if higher taxes make tax planning more necessary, if you believe that we shouldn't pay taxes to the government, you may not approve of how it makes its money.

Socially responsible investing is often in the eye of the beholder. Few companies are perfect viewed from every angle. Some investors might do best by choosing individual companies on their own. If you're less particular, managed mutual funds can save you much time and effort.

What's your take on socially responsible investing? Where do you draw your line -- are there any companies you won't invest in? Leave a comment below and let us know!

Learn about the 100 Best Corporate Citizens, which have trounced the market over the past three years.

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of an S&P 500 index fund. General Dynamics is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Try any of our investing newsletter services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.