Festival Sponsor Bill Reilly Makes the Case for Socially Responsible Investing

Bill Reilly

By Cassandra West

Bill Reilly recalls being invited to participate in a panel on socially responsible investing in Oak Park a few years ago. That’s when he first learned about One Earth Film Festival.

A senior financial advisor at Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, Reilly since has become a festival supporter. In 2017, his team of Merrill Lynch financial advisors, Oak Brook-based The Reilly Group, were Festival sponsors. And they plan on being sponsors again for the 2019 Festival, he says. This year, for Giving Tuesday, Reilly was a matching donor.

His backing of the festival plays out in other than financial ways, too. Reilly introduced two of last year’s films, “Happening: A Clean Energy Revolution” and “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.” He also attended 9-10 screenings at venues across the Chicago region, downtown, River Forest and Oak Park and Elmhurst—and brought along family, friends and clients.

Films presented by One Earth have educated him on many environmental issues, as has his wife, Laura, who works for Chicago Wilderness, a regional alliance that connects people and nature.

About 20 years ago, Reilly began helping clients with what’s called environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing. “We talk [with clients] about legacy and the impact that people can have through their saving and investing,” he says.

Reilly is a member of Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment (US SIF) and believes people can make investments that match their values. Those values might include protecting the environment by reducing use of fossil fuels or pesticides, topics addressed in multiple films screened by One Earth Film Festival since it began in 2012.

Reilly says: “If you donate money to the One Earth Film Festival, which is trying to bring about a more sustainable world, why would you be supporting and owning investments in companies that are going out of their way to destroy the environment?”

“We call it values-based investments,” he says. However, he adds, “Whether or not you really care [about socially responsible investing], companies that make good long-term decisions in the area of ESG perform better.”

More money is flowing toward socially responsible investing, Reilly says. “One out of every five dollars invested in the U.S. capital markets today is invested with some sort of green, ESG, socially responsible mandate, and it’s growing.”

On Giving Tuesday, Reilly joined the festival team and supporters for the One Earth Kickoff Party and Silent Auction at Great Central Brewing in West Town. With Reilly’s $2,500 match, #GivingTuesday brought in a total of $6,215.

"We are so grateful to Bill [Reilly] and to all of our #GivingTuesday donors who helped us meet Bill's matching gift challenge,” said Carolyn McCormick, the Festival's development manager. “Our Silent Auction and Kickoff Party provided another $6,000, which is a huge help this time of year as planning for our 2019 Fest has swung into high gear."

Festival director Ana Garcia Doyle recognized Reilly for his support and asked him to make a few remarks. For him, it was one more opportunity to make the case for socially responsible investing.

“Over the last 20 years, companies that are most focused on making good long-term decisions on an environmental basis, on governance basis and on social issues have outperformed on virtually every financial metric out there,” Reilly said. “They’ve created more jobs and generated more profits and seen their market caps grow. Investments in ESG-strong companies have grown faster than their peers [and] with lower risks.”