December 31, 2014
To end the year, a very interesting article from The Guardian titled, "POPE FRANCIS’S EDICT ON CLIMATE CHANGE WILL ANGER DENIERS AND US CHURCHES". It discusses his belief that climate change is man made and it is up to man to do something about it. He's taking some interesting steps in front of some summits that are taking place next year.
December 11, 2014
Forbes just posted several articles by Devin Thorpe on Impact Investing and SRI. Don't have time to read them today, but for those of you who have a chance, they look interesting.
December 7, 2014
LA Times had an article this morning entitled "Beyond profits: Millenials embrace investing for social good." Much of the data was the information created by the US-SIF biannual report (See November 20, 2014 below). But the focus here was how a new generation sees investing and purpose very differently than those before them. They are looking at the double bottom line. (Social good and profits together).
December 6, 2014
Just got Bloomberg article from a couple of days ago, "WEF Offers Impact Investing Road Map for Wealthy Families." WEF is the World Economic Forum. The article talks about how important making a difference is for one's investments to many wealthy families but has a couple of warnings. The first is that many advisors really don't understand it. They advise to make sure that your advisor not only understands it well, but to make sure the opportunity is actually good. As people are flooding into the market, there are a lot of offers that are not up to par and without the right advice there is a good chance that one can lose a lot of money. The article does go on to mention that there are more opportunities coming on board every day and to make sure you find the right one.
December 5, 2014
The industry media covers ESG/SRI differently than the mainstream media. Financial Advisor has an article today on shareholder advocacy. While the mainstream media focuses on the trends, articles like this talk about what advisors are actually doing and how they differentiate their practices in this case helping clients look at proxy issues.
December 1, 2014
James Montier wrote a very interested article today entitled "The World's Dumbest Idea". It talks about how the only purpose of corporations is to create value for their shareholders came about and how it doesn't work. (Basically it started to make sure that executives couldn't use the corporation to only help their bottom line.) The article was picked up by many different media sources. For a quick summary I recommend the article from the Economists entitled "No Value."
November 28, 2014
PBS's Frontline had a podcast earlier this month entitled "What’s the Moral Cost of Doing Business Today?" If you have a chance, listen to it's conversation about the obligations, benefits and costs of doing business as a world citizen.
November 20, 2014
US SIF (The membership organization for SRI professionals), just released their biannual Report on US Sustainable, Responsible and Impact Investing Trends 2014. While I haven't had a chance to read the whole thing yet, this is their summary for those who want to read it:
The US SIF Foundation conducted research from May through August 2014 and documented:
- $6.20 trillion in US-domiciled assets as of January 1, 2014, held by 480 institutional investors, 308 money managers and 880 community investment institutions that apply various environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria in their investment analysis and portfolio selection, and
- $1.72 trillion in US-domiciled assets at the start of 2014 held by 202 institutional investors or money managers that filed shareholder resolutions on ESG issues from 2012 through 2014.
After eliminating double-counting for assets involved in both strategies, the overall total of SRI assets was $6.57 trillion.
- Much of the growth is explained by the expansion of the investment funds offered by money managers that incorporate ESG factors into investment decision-making. The assets managed at the start of 2014 by investment firms considering ESG issues grew more than three-fold—from $1.4 trillion at the start of 2012 to $4.8 trillion.
- Similarly, the pool of assets to which institutional owners—including public pension funds, foundations, educational endowments and religious institutions—apply ESG criteria has grown to $4.04 trillion, up 77 percent since the start of 2012.
- A subset of 119 money managers responded to a question on why they offer ESG products. The top factor—cited by 80 percent in this group—is client demand, but more than 70 percent of the subset also said they considered ESG factors in order to fulfill their (or their clients’) mission, to improve returns and to manage risk.
- From 2012 to 2014, the number of private equity and other alternative investment funds considering ESG factors grew from 301 with $132 billion in assets, to 336 with $224 billion in assets.
- Following the December 2012 elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, policies restricting investments in weapons manufacturers have spread. Since 2012, consideration of these criteria by money managers has grown nearly four-fold in asset-weighted terms to affect $588 billion. Among institutional asset owners, concerns over weapons now apply to $355 billion in assets, a nearly five-fold increase.
- Sudan remains the leading social issue for institutional investors in terms of the assets affected, with restrictions on investing in companies doing business there affecting $2.7 trillion in assets.
- For both money managers and institutional investors, climate change remains the most significant environmental factor in terms of assets, affecting $276 billion and $552 billion, respectively. Fossil fuel divestment policies, tracked for the first time in 2014, now affect tens of billions of dollars in assets.
- Moreover, shareholders concerned about climate risk filed 72 resolutions on the subject in 2014, more than double the number in 2012, and negotiated a number of commitments from the target companies to disclose and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
November 17, 2014
Article in today's LA Times about how a pure electric car could create more emissions than a gas powered car. In some states, such a big percentage of the electricity comes from inefficient carbon based power plants that charging a car from these plants will be worse for the atmosphere than using a gas engine. Of course, many of these plants are changing over time and this is the exception, but its important for people on both sides to look at the big picture and not get stuck thinking there is only one solution or right way.
November 13, 2014
MSCI and Barclays just announced a new index family around green bonds. These indices will track the growing market of bonds issued to fund projects with environmental benefits. While these are not yet funds, it’s another way to track how ESG investing compares to non-ESG investing by tracking the separate indices which is often easier than comparing individual funds.
November 12, 2014
The big ESG news this week was the agreement President Obama made with China over emissions and climate change. Interesting to hear from one side it doesn't go far enough, and from the other that it went too far. Probably means that its a step in the right direction. Of course, climate change law will get interesting over the next couple of years as the presumed new head of the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee is a climate denier.
November 5, 2014
KMPG has just launched their guide: “‘Sustainable insight: the essentials of materiality assessment”. This guide will hopefully be used by many companies to report the sustainability of their underlying materials and therefore will help those who track SRI issues to better compare public companies in an additional meaningful way.
November 6, 2014
Nice Forbes Article entitled “Style vs. Substance in Corporate Social Responsibility.” Good food for thought discussing some companies that do good because it’s what’s right and some that do it because it’s what’ll make them money.
October 28, 2014
Harvard University just announced last week their five-year sustainability plan. According to Harvard Magazine, the plan creates "a strategy to build on existing greenhouse gas reduction goals and setting priorities in five core areas: energy and emissions, campus operations, nature and ecosystems, health and well-being, and culture and learning." While not directly having to do with SRI, it will be interesting in how Harvard implements much of its plan and which resources it uses. Those can have rippling effects throughout the country as many large institutions look to Harvard for leadership.
October 14, 2014
Just received the executive summary of the white paper "How and Why SRI Performance Differs from Conventional Strategies." While there were many findings two I find the most interesting:
- "SRI and non-SRI fund performances are nearly identical at the mean, supporting the conclusion by SRI proponents that, on average,socially conscious investing does “no harm” relative to unconstrained, conventional investing."
- "SRI funds tend to outperform non-SRI funds for below-the-median outcomes, and this outperformance is especially strong during bear markets."
October 13, 2014
The Department of Defense released their "2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap". This 20 page report talks about how the DoD considers Climate Change an immediate threat to national security. One quote of many: "In our defense strategy, we refer to climate change as a "threat multiplier" because it has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges we are dealing with today – from infectious disease to terrorism. We are already beginning to see some of these impacts." For those who don't think that climate change effects every taxpayer and every American, they should read the report and see some of the potential costs to each of us.
October 8, 2014
The US SIF Foundation (United States Social Investment Forum) just released their guide for individual and institutional investors entitled "Investing to Advance Women." To quote the US SIF, "This new guide highlights practical strategies that investors can use to increase economic opportunities for women in the United States and around the world. The guide focuses on a variety of areas including board diversity and corporate performance, gender lens investment strategies and shareholder engagement. " A very interesting read if this is of interest to you.
October 7, 2014
Fast Company just published an article titled "Why Is Goldman Sachs Advocating For Sustainability?" I think that title and the subtitle "Even consulting firms and investment banking firms think that better corporate social responsibility equals more money," explains why its an interesting read for anyone interested in ESG investing.
October 6, 2014
Article in today's Wall Street Journal entitled "‘Ethical’ Investing in Emerging Markets?" with the subtitle "Socially Responsible Investing Around the Globe Isn’t Easy." Boy do they have that right. Great article on some of the difficulties having an ESG portfolio in the emerging markets. But, as the article mentions and I've noticed, there are getting to be a lot more choices and the disclosures are coming by easier. It isn't easy finding good information about some US companies either, but everything is changing.
October 1, 2014
Blue & Green Tomorrow just released the some of the results of the UN survey on global CEO's and sustainability. They report that "Two-thirds of global chief executives believe that businesses are not doing enough to address global sustainability challenges" The article goes on to say, "Ninety-three per cent said they consider environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues to be important to the future of their business, while 79% said that they provide a competitive advantage in their industry." The survey shows that these are some great opportunities, but the benefits might take a little longer to see. (My take is that its part of the definition of sustainability is that it needs to make sense long-term).
September 24, 2014
The Sacramento Business Journal reported last week that the State of California just bought $250M in green bonds issued by the World Bank that finance renewable energy and other climate change-related projects across the globe. The bonds will be purchased in the CA Pooled Money Investment Account - this is an account that invests to stabilize the state's cash flow.
September 22, 2014
Seems the focus lately with most clients who have are looing into Socially Responsible Investing lately has been fossil fuels. While we work with clients to match their personal values to their investment portfolio no matter what those values are, most clients lately have talked about fossil fuels. (We continue working with clients building portfolios on religious grounds, environmental beliefs, empowering women and other issues such as limiting GMO exposure). But for those who are interested in climate change, MSCI, a company that creates a lot of the indices for passive investors just announced they are expanding their line-up of Low Carbon Indexes.
September 22, 2014
The NEW YORK TIMES today reported that the Rockefeller's Brothers Fund philanthropic organization will divest its $860 million dollar investments from fossil fuels. This announcement was made to time with the United Nation Climate Summit that starts today. For those of you who don't know John D. Rockefeller built most of his family's fortune in the oil business.
September 21, 2014
Today was the People's Climate March in New York. Many of the investment companies that we do business with were present along with a couple clients. Glad they took the time to go to NYC and fight for future generations. Great press not only in the SRI realm and the news networks, but managed to see coverage on the local news.
September 16, 2014
Went to the local National Drive Electric Week at UCLA today. Always interesting interacting with other EV drivers and catching up on the new technology. It’s amazing how many new cars have come out in the last year, although the most by far at the event were the LEAF’s. Of course, being in WLA, electric cars are all over the place. We’ll have to see how the rest of the world takes on this technology.
September 11, 2014
The Responsible Investor website recently published an article based on a letter from “David Swensen, the renowned chief investment officer at Yale University, to the asset managers of its $21bn endowment fund” to its investment managers. The letter stated “that evaluation of the impact of climate change is now essential when looking at investment opportunities and saying that Yale now expects its managers to engage with companies on the issue. The message from one of the world’s leading investment foundations could be a game changer in prompting fund managers, especially hedge funds and private equity funds, to think about the financial costs of climate change and the potential for serious asset depreciation or stranding as a result of a mooted tighter price on carbon and environmental pollution.” The big players are moving on this.
September 9, 2014
Green Money Journal just published an article from Barbara Krumsiek, CEO & President of Calvert Investments entitled, “What’s Next for Sustainable Investing? An Individual and Industry Perspective.” It’s interesting to see an industry leader’s thought of what’s coming next.
August 28, 2014
Great article published last week in Entrepreneur. This is one of the most in-depth articles I've seen in a long time called "Does Social Responsibility Hurt a Company's Bottom Line?" The article starts discussing vice oriented funds (ones that focus on buying tobacco, firearms, alcohol, etc.). It talks about their history and then moves to ESG funds and gives some great background and prospective. I think its a great read if you're thinking of investing in SRI (or avoiding it) as it discusses both sides of the debate.
August 6, 2014
SEI released this month their 2014 Nonprofit Investment Challenges 2014 survey results of executives and Investment Committee members from nonprofits in the U.S. to gauge their current investment challenges and practices. While a lot of our practice is focused on the nonprofit world, the interesting part of the survey to this blog is the second to last page which discusses ESG factors when it comes to investment decisions. One line: "Nearly one-third (32 percent) of the poll participants said the organization either currently does or plans to integrate ESG factors in the investment process.
August 4, 2014
Today’s WSJ had an article entitled, “Men Had Their Chance; New Funds Bet on Women.” It discusses the various investments that are available that specialize in investing in companies with Women Leadership and why they may (or may not) be successful. Interesting quick read for those who want to think more about their SRI choices.
July 28, 2014
Just read former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubins op-ed in the Washington Post from last week. His argument is that by ignoring climate change we could ruin our economy. Many naysayers argue that preventing global warming will cost too much. He argues the opposite. My favorite quote, “To cover those costs, we will have to increase the deficit; raise taxes; or significantly cut spending on defense, our social safety net, and public investment including infrastructure, education and basic research. Which means that, whatever your public policy views, whether you care about our national debt and deficits, our tax rates, or government investment in everything from national security to job creation, you should care about the costs of coping with climate-related damage. By forcing policymakers to recognize likely future expenditures — and the trade-offs required to make them — we may increase the political appetite for policy changes now.”
July 23, 2014
Another NY Times article today on the use of Antibiotics. What I found interesting was the concept to get the cheapest meat to the marketplace, a widespread use of antibiotics on those animals makes sense. Cheaper meat for people and more profit for the companies. But when people get infected with diseases that are resistant to antibiotic because of all the antibiotics in the meat, then the only the people (and the insurance companies and the government) pay for the treatment. The argument goes on that the biggest profiteers of the use of antibiotics in meat are McDonalds and Walmart who don’t provide insurance for their employees and therefore much of the cost goes to the taxpayers.
July 16, 2014
Article in yesterday’s NY Times entitled “Motivating Companies to do Good.” Interesting read talking about how many of the most successful companies of the last century made sure their workers were well treated and how that practice has ended with most companies. Interesting arguments in the article explaining why it might be beneficial for more companies to treat employees well and how it can help both their bottom line and the country’s bottom line.
July 8, 2014
Just sat down to read this month's GreenMoney e-journal. Always interesting topics. This one was on how Millennials see the investment world. There were about a half dozen articles all written by Millennials talking about their perspective. I thought most of what I read was stated nicely in a few sentences in the article by Liesel Pritzker Simmons:
"We want our work to have meaning for ourselves and the world, and we place a higher value on consumer goods that have some sort of beneficial social or environmental impact. Climate change is not a debate for us, and we probably still nag our parents about separating the trash from the recycling. Although we are generally more conservative in our investment decisions than previous generations (can you blame us?), we are willing to take on more financial risk if it increases exposure to ESG impact. "
June 30, 2014
CERES just released their Climate Disclosure search tool. The online tool has data from all 3000 stocks of the Russell 3000 since 2009. It allows users to filter and customize company 10-K filing excerpts relating to clean energy, renewables, weather risk and climate-related regulatory risks and opportunities. The tool scans filings, automatically identifies climate-related text, and sorts information into renewable energy, physical impacts and other categories. Users can search by industry, and can search for topics such as “climate and fossil fuel extraction”, “energy/fuel efficiency”, and “GHG emissions reduction goals.” While not the only reason to invest in a company, this makes the research on sustainability much easier to find.
June 20, 2014
Listened to a great presentation today put on by US-SIF on Green Bonds. Started with the World Bank talking about their Green Bond releases. Next up was an official from Massachusetts. They were the first to issue muni Green Bonds. 3rd was a manager from Trillium Asset Management. They discussed what they looked for in purchasing a Green Bond. Representatives from Calvert and Bloomberg also gave a follow up on sustainable finance.
June 16, 2014
Last week Olivia Mitchell a professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (my alma mater), wrote an article in the WSJ entitled “The Financial Sacrifice of Socially Responsible Investing”. She discussed the potential sacrifice of limiting your investment choices. Today Blue & Green Tomorrow, with the help of US SIF posted their response and how while there are downsides of SRI investing there are potentially more upsides.
June 4, 2014
There was an announcement today of “the first and only mutual fund in the U.S. that focuses on investing in companies that are global leaders in advancing women.” I haven’t been able to do any due diligence on the fund and haven’t gotten the details yet, but I find this an interesting move. There have been studies that show that companies whose boards of director have women outperform those that are all male. Let me know if you’re interested and as I find out more information I’ll let you know when I find out more.
June 2, 2014
Want to know what companies are doing as far as sustainability? It’s getting easier. The Governance and Accounting Institute just released the results of their current study: In year 2013, our analysis shows 72% of the S&P 500 published in some form a sustainability or responsibility (or “citizenship”) report. In 2012, their analysts reported that just over half (53%) were reporting. In 2011, the first year of their analysis, they found just under 20% of S&P 500 companies were publishing reports.
June 2, 2014
I assume anyone reading this blog has already read about the EPA’s new carbon pollution standards. But some might wonder how this effects their investments. I thought it was summed up nicely by CERES in a quote from New York State Controller Thomas P. DiNapoli: "As the trustee of the New York State Retirement Fund, it is my duty to maximize returns on investment and to manage avoidable risks. Quite simply, climate change poses a significant risk to the global finances, and our fiscal and ecological health depends on building a low carbon, energy efficient economy. The Carbon Pollution Standards released today will greatly serve that goal by providing a catalyst for clean energy solutions already at work in the United States." The New York State Retirement Fund manages $176.2 billion in assets.
May 31, 2014
Article in today’s New York Times entitled “The Surge in Investing by Conscience.” Nothing new in the article and I think everything that was written is mentioned below, but always good to get the word out.
May 23, 2014
From Income Investing: Barclays this week downgrades the entire electric sector of the U.S. high-grade corporate bond market to underweight, saying it sees long-term challenges to electric utilities from solar energy, and that the electric sector of the bond market isn’t pricing in these challenges right now. It’s a noteworthy downgrade since electric utilities which make up nearly 7.5% of Barclays’ U.S. Corporate Index by market value. Makes you wonder about what other traditional industries could get hurt by mispricing the cost of their unsustainable ways.
May 20, 2014
Article today in the Financial Times written by Michael Bloomberg (billionaire, former NYC Mayor) and Mary Schapiro (former SEC Chair) about non-financial disclosures. Public companies must disclose all their relevant financial information. They need to tell investors about profits, losses, assets, etc. But, most don't disclose much else. But in an ever changing world, there is some important information that is not disclosed. One example from the article: "Take climate risk for example, and consider two property development companies, both valued at $1bn. If one owns buildings that are in a coastal flood plain and the other does not, do you – as an investor – want to know?" When looking at SRI for clients, I try to find managers that are aware of not only the financials but are always looking at non-financials for insight.
May 8, 2014
Just read an article in USA Today about McDonald's. They announced new goals for sustainability and social responsibility by 2020. Some include:
- Increasing in-restaurant recycling by 50%
- Purchasing 100% of fiber-based packaging from certified or recycled sources.
- Serving 100% more fruit, vegetable, low-fat diary or whole grains in nine of its top markets.
Or course, there are many environmentalists who are saying based on their size, it's not enough and they need to go further to make a real dent in their footprint.
May 7, 2014
More news out of Stanford today. Nice article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review magazine that is published at the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society at Stanford University. The article entitled "Investing Evolves: A brief history of investing that advances environmental and social concerns, and why impact investors and sustainable investors should look to what they have in common, not how they differ." It's a good summary for those of you who are new to SRI and want to learn about it's history and some good questions to ask yourself.
May 7, 2014
The big news in the SRI world today is that Stanford University has decided to divest from coal companies. I find it interesting that I talk to some clients that surround themselves with people who think like them and have integrated SRI into their portfolios. But most clients feel they are in a bubble, and are always questioning their decision until they see moves like this from major players.
May 7, 2014
CERES annual report entitled "The Future Is Now" was just released. This is their 25th anniversary and I think they gave a little extra knowing this. The report goes over their history of activism and really shows where the SRI movement has gone over the last 25 years. For those of you who aren't familiar with CERES:
"Ceres is an advocate for sustainability leadership. Ceres mobilizes a powerful network of investors, companies and public interest groups to accelerate and expand the adoption of sustainable business practices and solutions to build a healthy global economy.
Our mission is to mobilize investor and business leadership to build a thriving, sustainable global economy.
Founded by a small group of investors in 1989 in response to the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Ceres has been working for more than 20 years to weave sustainable strategies and practices into the fabric and decision-making of companies, investors and other key economic players."
April 30, 2014
CERES just released their report entitled "Gaining Ground: Corporate Progress on the Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability". It's available online if you want to see how well 613 of the largest, publicly traded U.S. companies are integrating sustainability into their business systems and decision-making. Key findings according to CERES:
- While many companies are taking action to reduce GHG emissions, few have set time-bound targets.
- A growing number of companies are incorporating sustainability performance into executive compensation packages
- More companies are setting clear sustainability standards for suppliers
April 21, 2014
Article today written by the CEO of Philips for the Middle East in Gulf Business. (That's the one in the Middle East, not the one in the South). Title is: "Good Business: Why Placing Ethics Before Profits Pays Off." I think that says enough when a corporate leader in that part of the world understands the need for doing the right thing.
April 14, 2014
Just read that the first Green Bond from the auto industry is being launched for about $3.5 mil. Toyota Financial Services is using the bond to finance loans for hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles. These bonds were all snatched up and were not available for the public to buy, but the concept is interesting as more and more companies are allocating some of their debt towards specific green parts of their business allowing investors to follow their passions more and more in the bond market.
April 11, 2014
The Clean Energy Victory Bonds Act of 2014 was introduced on April 8th. This bond is a proposed US Treasury bond in support of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. Green America is having a webinar on the topic on 4/17/14 if anyone is interested. More info on their website.
Government bonds and Treasury bills are guaranteed by the US government as to the timely payment of principal and interest and, if held to maturity, offer a fixed rate of return and fixed principal value.
April 8, 2014
Harvard University just announced the launch of it's $20mil climate fund. It's always interesting when the largest university endowment in the country acts on something like this. Of course, based on the size of their endowment, this is just a token gesture. University president Drew Faust said "We can and must galvanise the deep commitment of students, faculty, staff and alumni to work together to move us closer to a world founded on renewable energy.” Harvard has also become a signatory to the United Nations-backed Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) and the CDP, formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project. They however have not stopped investing in fossil fuels.
April 4, 2014
While this blog is on SRI, our firm's base is in Financial Planning. Beyond the typical financial planning advice we feel we have expertise in three areas, SRI, multi-generational wealth management and philanthropic planning. We consider it all Legacy Planning. It is always nice when the outside world combines some of these emphasis areas. The Boston Foundation, one of the oldest and largest community foundations in the United States, has just announced that they are going to offer SRI choices as investment options for its donors in response to donor demand, especially from younger people. We've been working with clients to help there goals for a better world come together. This is an example of how one can help philanthropic causes while making your investments are matching your morality.
April 1, 2014
Article in the Wall Street Journal today entitled "More Companies Bow to Investors With a Social Cause." Great read reviewing on the basics of how shareholder activism is getting companies to relook at their environmental policies and how proxy proposals work in getting companies to act.
March 24, 2014
Just read a recap of some of the recently passed farm bill. While a very small portion of the bill, funding for fruits, vegetables and organic programs increased by more than 50% since 2008.
March 20, 2014
Just heard we didn't win a Sustainable Quality Award this year. We scored above average in all three judging categories, but not high enough to win. We'll still be attending and hope to see you on 4/30/14. It's a great event right here in Santa Monica.
March 17, 2014
Interesting article in the New York Times entitled A Harvest of Company Details, All in One Basket. It discusses a couple of different sites/apps that are taking available government data and aggregating it so it could be found in one place. Traditionally if you wanted research about a company and it's public records you had to go to various sites, such as the SEC, congressional records, etc. These sites allow you to get information all at one place such as how much a company executives might have donated to various presidential candidates, how many of their executives visited met with POTUS, their lobbying expenses and their SEC filings all in one place so you can get a complete picture without going to a dozen places.
March 11, 2014
Finally finished reading the 2014 Proxy Preview (See March 5, 2014 entry for more details). Fascinating discovery of the trends that are going on and how shareholder activists are using proxies to change companies from the inside out. I highly recommend scanning it if you are thinking about how to vote your proxies on certain ESG issues.
March 5, 2014
Just listened to the annual 10th annual Proxy Preview webinar. Produced by As You Sow, every year this report looks at the shareholder resolutions that are proposed and categorizes them to show the hot issues. As we've discussed below, SRI (Socially Responsible Investing) is related to and sometimes used interchangeably with ESG (Environment, Social, Governance). Much of modern ESG investing is done by having shareholders file resolutions with the companies they own to promote change from within. This year there was a record number of 417 shareholder environmental and social resolutions in the US. The webinar talked about current trends and where they think proxy voting is going.
March 4, 2014
This is not as much about SRI, than about personal social responsibility. The LA Times has had a few articles in the last week based on Shahzeen Z. Attari's paper in the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States" entitled Perceptions of Water Use. Both the articles and the paper talk about how households use water and easy ways to save water. A good read if you want to learn a few easy tricks to save water and a great read if you're about to do some remodeling. As with most things in life the intuitive guess isn't always the right method.
February 27, 2014
Interesting article in Forbes today on "The Key Ingredients of CSR". For those not in the know, it's Corporate Social Responsibility and deals with the need (or lack thereof) of corporations to give back to the community. Boston College's Center for Corporate Citizenship reported that 97% of surveyed companies had a discreet operating budget for Corporate Citizenship in 2013, up from 81% in 2010. The article talks about different views of CSR and how it might effect the valuation of a company.
February 17, 2014
Britain charged three ex-Barclays employees for fraud for allegedly rigging a key interest rate in the run-up to the financial crisis. For many SRI is about environmental causes, but this is a good reminder that SRI can be about more. Corporate governance is a key component of many investment manager's SRI check list. While it's not without its own risk, looking for companies that have a management team that tries to make ethical decisions can avoid this sort of embarrassment in one's portfolio.
February 14, 2014
Turned in our application today for the Santa Monica Sustainable Quality Awards. Wish for the best for Capital Intelligence Associates. We'll hear how we did in the next several weeks.
February 13, 2014
Speaking of speeches (see Feb. 11), a reader just pointed out that another great speech to watch is Chris McKnett's Ted talk entitled "The investment logic for sustainability."
February 11, 2014
If you have a chance, look up the speech given by Nancy Pfund to the National Association of College and University Business Officers Endowment. Titled "Beyond Campus Conflict: How Impact Venture Capital Can Address Student Concerns While Furthering Endowment Investment Goals," it goes over some of the history of the SRI movement and gave practical ways to move forward for colleges and endowments. I believe that these methods can also be used in an individual portfolio easily.
February 5, 2014
Nice article on The Motley Fool entitled "More Corporations See Sustainability as a Boon, Not a Burden." Gives some great real life corporate examples of companies doing things to improve the environment and by doing so also saved money.
February 3, 2014
A quick update from December. Environmental Leader magazine is on their third article on "Sustainable Mythbusters". This one is on the myth that "Sustainability is Too Expensive".
January 31, 2014
For those who really like to see both sides of every arguement, there were two interesting articles in The Guardian over the last week. The first by Charles Eisenstein was titled ""Let's be honest: real sustainability may not make business sense." That was followed up by Hunter Lovins' "Sustainability is better business – and we can prove it". While both give food for thought, Lovins' piece cites over 50 studies showing that sustainability is good for business and for the world, including such "from the likes of those wild-eyed environmentalists at Goldman Sachs show that the companies that are the leaders in environment, social and good governance policies are financially outperforming their less sustainable peers."
January 30, 2014
Great article on the Dealbook section of the New York times about foundations gathering together in order to get rid of fossil fuel investments. The article talks about some foundations that are and why. This goes hand in hand with the US-SIF piece mentioned below.
January 27, 2014
Spent the weekend reading US-SIF's "Unleashing the Potential of US Foundation Endowments: Using Responsible Investment to Strengthen Endowment Oversight and Enhance Impact." Great read if you are on the staff or board of a non-profit with endowment funds. Too often we see the non-profit world investing money in companies that are fighting against their charitable purpose. The paper is great on showing how an SRI portfolio may help you meet your fiduciary duties and helping organizations think about the issues and take the steps that are appropriate for their goals.
January 24, 2014
Great article in today's NY Times entitled "Industry Awakens to Threat of Climate Change". It talks about how corporate profits are being hurt based on climate change and how many companies that traditionally have fought against climate change regulation are now fighting for it. Some interesting points are made regarding the cost of the regulation vs. the cost of not regulating carbon and making global policy changes.
January 23, 2014
Trucost.com released their 108 page State Of Green Business report "State of Green Business 2014" online. The report stays away from investment advice, but I find it useful for two reasons. First it talks about the problems and solutions that are facing the environment and business. It allows me to look at companies that are addressing these concerns and those that are ignoring them. Second they have created a Natural Capital Leaders Index that shows who they think are the top companies around the world in each industry. While the data is imperfect I find it a great overlay when doing research along with other analysis.
January 20, 2014
On Martin Luther King Day, I like to think about the power each of us have to make a difference. By doing the right things each of us can help change the world. It was the divestment movement that helped finalize the downfall of Apartheid South Africa. The movement goes farther back to religious organizations who refused to invest in companies that were involved in the slave trade in our country's early days.
January 13, 2014
Per the request of some green builders I know I put in a proposal to speak on SRI at the 2014 GreenBuild in New Orleans. With over 30,000 attendees this is the largest conference in the world for those in the green building industry. The presentation is a bit outside the box for what they normally focus on at the conference, but based on my experience, most people in this industry have a green professional portfolio, but are lacking when it comes to a green investment portfolio.