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NextEra Energy, Inc. (NEE), Google Inc (GOOG): 4 Stocks Cashing in on the Trend Towards Social Responsibility

Google Inc. (GOOG)Social responsibility has never been more critical than now to potential investors — now more than ever, social pressures create upward or downward movement on individual securities. It pays to keep a careful eye on the social networking streams to see what is “in,” and what is “out.” Four choices that are “in” and show no signs of losing social clout or financial steam are profiled below.

Modernizing breakfast, and beyond…

Traditionally, General Mills, Inc. (NYSE:GIS) hasn’t been top of mind when social responsibility is discussed. For many years, General Mills pumped kids full of sugar, food dyes, and additives. Yet, this Foolish blogger sees the tides turning with this behemoth food company, as new gluten free offerings and reduced sugar cereals hit the grocery store shelves. The Green Giant now has steamed veggie entries that are faster to prepare than ordering a pizza, and General Mills now offers 300 products that have removed wheat as an ingredient.

And the new food offerings aren’t the only thing that’s healthy about General Mills, Inc. (NYSE:GIS). Long known as a blue chip, if somewhat unexciting stock, General Mills is one of the world’s biggest food companies. Not only is this company big with respect to overall size, it is also big on strategy, execution, and vision. The company’s dividend history reflects this overall fiscal health; the company has had fourteen dividend increases since 2004. From the company’s blog, ” If you had invested $1,000 in GIS in 1928 and held it through calendar year 2012, with dividend reinvestments, It would be worth more than $7M today”.

The last announced dividend represented a 3.2% yield. Price performance is also strong, with a 26.8% increase in price over last year. The stock is now trading near its 52-week high, this Fool believes that it would be prudent to wait for one of the many market corrections we enjoy to happen, then to buy and hold with dividends reinvested.

The sun shines on NextEra

Florida-based NextEra Energy, Inc. (NYSE:NEE) has provided investors with a 21.84% one year return, and 8.06% five-year dividend growth — blasting any misconceptions that a green energy company can’t be financially healthy. Named a Top 25 Socially Responsible Dividend Stock by Dividend Channel, the current dividend yield is 3.3%. This is a bit behind the energy industry’s average of around 5%, but better than most tech stocks with no dividend.

NextEra Energy, Inc. (NYSE:NEE) is the number one producer of solar power in the U.S., and is definitely reaping the benefits of a $38 billion investment in modernized infrastructure and is passing these benefits on to its sizable customer base. Windpower is another key revenue and energy production area for NextEra, and it operates 100 wind farms in the U.S. and Canada. And it practices what it preaches — the company’s headquarters just received the coveted LEEDs Gold certification level — only Platinum is higher. These certifications measure a building’s impact on the environment, and overall sustainability.

One possible concern with NextEra Energy, Inc. (NYSE:NEE) (and the only negative comments that can be found on this stock’s Foolish commentary section) is its dependence on government subsidies for solar power. What happens if they go away? Definitely something to be watched. Many of these subsidies governed the build out of wind power, and most of the needed capacity has already been built, so impact may not be as high as some fear.

In the meantime, the stock has a consensus analyst rating of Buy and a CAPS score of 5/5. One could say that the wind is blowing in the right direction for NextEra Energy, Inc. (NYSE:NEE).

Lighting up homes with Cree

Trumping the humble compact fluorescent bulb in every way — Cree, Inc. (NASDAQ:CREE)‘s LED incandescent replacement bulb is 84% more energy efficient, lasts 10 years longer, and is brighter. The only down side is the price tag; but the amount of marketing dollars being spent could be a part of the cause for the sticker shock as well as the reason it will be overcome.

In the early days of LED technology, a vision that this lowered power lighting would become mainstream, ignited materials engineers’ imaginations everywhere. A big barrier to this dream becoming reality was the lack of ability to create a blue LED — in light technical terms, the bandgap that electrons had to cross was too wide and “traps” that existed due to “junk” that was unavoidable in production grabbed them before they got to the other side for the blue light wavelength.

The only way to fix this was to transcend the typical GaAs, or GaAsP (Gallium Arsenide or Gallium Arsenide Phosphide) materials technology that was used “back-in-the-day” (early to mid 1980s), when I was a young engineer with HP’s Optoelectronics Division. Other technologies were developed, but they were impossible to mass produce cost effectively — until Cree introduced the first mass-marketed blue LED in 1989. Thanks to Cree, Inc. (NASDAQ:CREE), LED lighting has now crossed the chasm from business use to residential use (for enlightened consumers who prefer a lower electric bill even if upfront costs are higher).

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