These socially responsible parameters may force companies to take on a long-term business model. In the short-term, some observers may argue that companies could be intentionally setting input costs higher. Nevertheless, many consumers are willing to pay more for the products to feel better about the way a product was made.

Over the long-term, adhering to social responsibility can also diminish costs. Improving energy inefficiency may require a large upfront capital expenditure to set up long-term efficiency. Moreover, a reputation for social responsibility can attract and retain talented individuals who are more apt to feel proud of their work.

Investors seeking to invest in companies that have a smaller impact on the global environment typically follow characteristics described under sound environmental, social and governance, or ESG, principles. Retail investors interested in ESG investments can also take a look at the SPDR MSCI ACWI Low Carbon Target ETF (NYSEArca: LOWC) and the iShares MSCI ACWI Low Carbon Target ETF (NYSEArca: CRBN) for more socially responsible strategies. [Two Low-Carbon ETFs for the Socially Responsible Investor]

LOWC and CRBN both target the MSCI ACWI Low Carbon Target Index, which tries to address carbon exposure by overweighting companies with low carbon emissions relative to sales and per dollar of market capitalization, compared to the broader market. Many of the component stocks are familiar names, including Apple (NasdaqGS: AAPL), Microsoft (NasdaqGS: MSFT), Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) and General Electric (NYSE: GE).

For more information on socially responsible investments, visit our socially responsible ETFs category.