Invest like Pope Francis for big returns: Expert

Pope Francis in 2015.
Max Rossi | Reuters

Heeding Pope Francis' advice on environmental responsibility can still lead to big returns, the head of a self-proclaimed "responsible" investment fund said Friday.

In his long awaited encyclical Thursday, the pontiff criticized wasteful consumers and companies that put profit over the common good. The pope has faced backlash, as some questioned why he should jump into the often-politicized topic.

But investors can promote their social values without giving up profits, said John Streur, president and CEO at Calvert Investments, which manages $13 billion and touts investments in responsible companies.

"What he's talking about is investing in leading companies that are asking people to behave, take responsibility for some of their actions," Streur said on CNBC's "Power Lunch."

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He added that investors can find companies "able to conduct their business interests in an expert way with minimal impact on the environment and meet society's greatest needs." Streur believes companies including Apple, IBM and Unilever fit those criteria.

However, money managers in charge of other investors' assets need to first think about performance, said Hank Smith, chief investment officer at Haverford Trust, which has more than $8.2 billion under management. Smith said his job is to "maximize returns within a level of risk," not "make a statement."

In a "Power Lunch" interview, he noted that some Haverford clients ask the firm to use certain social standards for their portfolios, such as cutting out fossil fuel companies.

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