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A feel-good index ranking companies based on social impact instead of profits now has a fund

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Goldman Sachs is jumping into the social impact investing world with a new ETF.Richard Drew/AP Photo

Spiritual guru Deepak Chopra had just finished teaching a class about ethics in business at Columbia Business School when he called billionaire investor Paul Tudor Jones II in the fall of 2012.

“Listen, one of my students has got a really good idea,” Jones said Chopra had told him. The student had posed two questions: “Why can’t companies be an instrument for goodness? Why can’t companies focus their capital — human and financial — on being a change agent for societal betterment, a change agent for justness?”

This was long before the ESG movement — the focus on environmental, social and governance issues — became fashionable, and Jones was struck by the question. So he set out to answer it. Since then, he has built an entire foundation, Just Capital, around the idea and developed a series of metrics to measure corporate America on more than mere profits, using annual polls to determine what corporate practices, including how workers are treated and job creation, matter most to Americans.

Up until now, Jones’ measure of corporate America was simply a list of companies, a ranking that he hoped would encourage chief executives to think more about doing right by society.

But now it is about to become a financial product.

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