Oftentimes, investors have more than just one reason to buy a stock. In addition to sales growth and profitability, there are also environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors that can play important roles in determining whether a stock is a suitable choice for a particular investor.
If you want to invest in a cannabis company that values ESG, there are many options out there for you. Scotts Miracle-Gro (NYSE:SMG), Green Thumb Industries (OTC:GTBIF), and Hexo (NASDAQ:HEXO) are all marijuana-related businesses working on initiatives that help society and the environment, which could be ideal for ESG investors.
1. Scotts Miracle-Gro
Gardening and hydroponics company Scotts Miracle-Gro plays an important role in the cannabis industry’s expansion, as it provides growers with the tools they need for efficient cultivation activities. Hydroponics growers don’t even need soil; they use pipes and pumps to save space, as well as minimize the use of water and land. It’s a potentially more environmentally friendly way to grow crops. In addition, the company maintains a focus on social justice reform. It is involved in many programs, including the Last Prisoner Project, which aims to “release and rebuild the lives of those who have suffered from the criminalization of cannabis.”
Scotts prioritizes ESG while also delivering strong financials. Over the nine-month period ending July 3, the company’s sales of $4.2 billion were up 29% from the same period a year ago, and its net income totaled $561.3 million, up 46%. Its Hawthorne business, which focuses on hydroponics, has done especially well, with sales of $1.1 billion driving much of the company’s growth. The segment’s top line has risen by 60% over the past three quarters; the U.S. consumer segment, which makes up the bulk of its operations, grew at a rate of 19%.
These solid financials will leave Scotts in a good position to continue to focus on ESG issues while also providing investors with some great returns in the long run.
2. Green Thumb Industries
Marijuana producer Green Thumb Industries is also involved in the Last Prisoner Project and other social issues. Green Thumb has a “Good Green” initiative that helps underserved communities and invests in opportunities to make changes in education and employment, as well as expunging marijuana-related criminal records. It also offers a License Education Assistance Program (LEAP) through which it helps “reduce barriers to cannabis business ownership for individuals who have been disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition.”
The company will help up to three licensees in Illinois with funding and six months of mentorship to help grow their cannabis businesses. It began accepting applications for the LEAP program in August and will announce the participants next month.
Like Scotts, Green Thumb also sports strong financials. Last year, sales of $556.6 million more than doubled the prior-year tally of $216.4 million. The company even demonstrated a rarity for a cannabis producer: an after-tax profit. It posted per-share earnings of $0.07 (in the previous year, it incurred a per-share loss of $0.31).
Green Thumb operates in 14 markets and opened its 62nd retail location in the country on Aug. 9. That location was its 16th store in Pennsylvania under the Rise brand. The company says its will donate its first-day profits from the new Rise Warminster location to the National Giving Alliance, which looks to help low-income individuals.
Overall, Green Thumb is an ethically strong business that clearly values ESG. And with some impressive sales numbers, investors don’t have to sacrifice growth opportunities for ethics, either.
Hexo is the only company on this list that has been a bit underwhelming in terms of financial performance. For the quarter ending April 30, its revenue of 22.7 million Canadian dollars was up just 2% from a year ago, and compared to the previous quarter, sales declined by more than 31%. The cannabis producer has also incurred a loss in each of the past four periods.
However, investors may be willing to remain patient with the business because Hexo does show promise, holding the top position in the Canadian cannabis beverages segment. The company has a joint venture, Truss, with beer maker Molson Coors. Hexo is also in the midst of many changes, acquiring multiple Canadian cannabis companies earlier this year — Zenabis, Redecan, and 48North — as it aims to be one of the top three cannabis businesses in that country.
It is also transforming its business in other ways: In June, the company announced it would be 100% carbon-neutral as of September. Among the ways Hexo is minimizing its environmental footprint include using more recyclable packaging material, minimizing waste, and shifting toward a virtual workforce. Hexo is not just offsetting the emissions of its own operations but also the personal emissions of its 1,200 employees.
Hexo is the riskiest investment of the three listed here given its struggling financials, but if you’re an ESG investor, this might be a stock worth taking a chance on. The company is differentiating itself from its peers with respect to the environment, and that could attract more investors in the long term — and lead to some great returns.
This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis — even one of our own — helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.