For the purposes of this answer I'll be using three terms:
- Animal-neutral businesses are not built on selling or exploiting animals, but neither do they make any special effort to avoid it. Example: a moving company might have trucks with leather seats, but only because it's normal and common in our society.
- Cruelty-free businesses provide regular goods and services while attempting to minimize animal products. Example: a salon might have a policy of only using hair products that were never tested on animals.
- Vegan businesses provide goods or services that replace traditional uses of animals. Vegan businesses have a mission to disrupt the animal-industrial complex.
Currently there are no mutual funds designed around vegan, cruelty-free, or even animal-neutral businesses.
While many investors prefer to buy shares in mutual funds instead of picking individual stock options, there are currently no mutual funds with a focus on the rights of animals.
Source: Ethical Investors Have Been Missing Something When It Comes To Animals
I did find one page that provided some more information about some mutual funds that screen for animal welfare considerations.
October 2018 update A new ETF called the US Vegan Climate Index excludes businesses involved in animal testing, animal products, animals in sport/entertainment, and a few other things. The focus is on animal-neutral business, not vegan business, so it includes finance and technology corporations.
Most people have heard of stocks (or equities) in the context of investing. The idea, basically, is to buy and hold part of a company, and take some of the profit when the company does well.
There are thousands of publicly traded companies that meet the criteria for animal-neutral or cruelty-free, but surprisingly I could only find two vegan businesses that are publicly traded:
- The Hain Celestial Group, Inc. (HAIN)
- Tofutti Brands Inc. (TOFB)
Of the vegan companies I looked at, about half were privately held and the other half had been acquired by large parent companies like PepsiCo or Danone. It's pretty much impossible to invest in a vegan company that is owned by a non-vegan parent company.
When finding vegan businesses to invest in seems difficult, another tactic to consider is shareholder activism. Rather than passively investing in companies that are already vegan, you might consider purchasing some shares in companies that profit from animals and use your rights as a shareholder to attend investor relations meetings and demand a change of course for the business. This is something that PETA is trying with Canada Goose. The enigmatic IPS Millennium Fund also seems to practice what they call "constructive engagement" on behalf of animals.
Given that vegan investing is quite difficult through traditional channels, it might be worth considering crowdfunding sites (eg. Kickstarter, GoFundMe, Indiegogo) as an alternative. Kickstarter has a vegan food section, and there are plenty of things to support on other sites as well. If you're on Kiva, you might also look at what loans other vegans are supporting.
Start A Business
If you have the time and inclination, maybe it would be worthwhile to try starting a business! If so many other vegan business have already been bought out by large companies, maybe the sector is doing well.