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Claire Smith, Beyond Investing
Claire Smith, Beyond Investing

VEGN growth and expansion plans 

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US Vegan Climate ETF (VEGN), launched by Beyond Investing in September 2019, now has USD83.7 million in assets under management, reports chief executive, Claire Smith.  

Smith also announces that VEGN rose by 38.08 percent in 2023, in comparison with the S&P 500 Index, which she notes edged upwards by 26.29 percent in the same period.  

VEGN aims to avoid investing in companies which are involved in the slaughter of, cruelty towards or other mistreatment of animals. Smith calculates that the lives of almost three million animals have been spared, based on her analysis of the total number of animals globally; the proportion of those in the US; and the market caps of companies excluded from VEGN because of their use of animals.  

While VEGN is the firm’s only ETF at the moment, plans are afoot to introduce more, due to demand in Europe as well as in the US: “People contact us about this all the time,” says Smith: “So, we have plans for another ETF in the US and possibly also one in Europe.”  The new products have been scheduled for launch in the second quarter of 2024. 

Smith believes that more than four years later, VEGN is still the only ETF of its kind in the US: “We’re aware of other food-related ETFs, such as specialist, thematic food funds that claim to have exposures to vegan products. But they are not vegan ETFs because the companies that they’ve invested in are making animal-based products as well as vegan products”, she observes.  

Considering possible reasons why other firms have not to date followed VEGN’s lead, Smith comments: “Amongst the larger asset managers, there may be an unwillingness to create a product that’s specifically targeted at the vegan market. Perhaps they don’t perceive the market to be big enough and believe that there would not be enough demand. It takes an enormous amount of work to check every company for anything related to the use of animals and they may not be prepared to undertake this.”  

Inspiration for her move into vegan impact investing came when Smith was looking for suitable fund products for a pension. She discovered a level of exposure to companies that were not sufficiently animal-friendly: “I was not comfortable with this at all,” she emphasises: “The product I settled on in the end was a sustainable fund that seemed to be making some effort to exclude fossil fuels and had rules around animal testing, but I couldn’t find any fund that was doing what we are doing now. So, that sowed the seed of my idea.”  

Smith’s commitment to animals extends beyond VEGN Climate ETF. She is not just a vegan, as are her colleagues, chief investment officer, Larry Abele and Lee Coates, head of ethical screening: Smith is also president of the charitable foundation, Beyond Cruelty, which she founded to campaign to end animal exploitation and fund safe havens for animals. In addition, she is founder of the Beyond Animal online professional network for vegans and investors.   

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