December 23, 2013
Growing up I always thought a reusable tree was better for the environment since it could be used over and over again. But, looking at most research nowadays, it appears that most are better of buying a real tree. (Of course if you live in an environment where you can buy a live tree and plant it even better). Most real trees are grown on tree farms and can be mulched after the holidays. Artificial trees are mostly made in china with chemicals that are not good for the environment and created using energy from coal burning plants. Lots of good articles online if you want to do some research.
December 19, 2013
Always interesting when the big players get concerned about SRI. Bloomberg just came out with their new Carbon Risk Valuation Tool. The tool lets you look at individual companies or a total portfolio and determine how much a change in oil prices could effect their stock price. It can differentiate between changes in oil price due to carbon taxes or by other methods of creating energy becoming more efficient. I think that if the big players are concerned the rest of us should be too.
December 11, 2013
KPMG just issued their 2013 report on corporate responsibility. A few interesting findings:
- Of the 250 largest companies in the world, 93% now create corporate sustainability reports. So, if you're looking to invest, the information about sustainability is getting easier to find.
- In the US, 86% of the largest companies created these reports - up from 74% just 5 years ago.
- My favorite quote was: "Companies should no longer ask whether or not they should publish a CR report, even in the absence of regulatory requirements to do so. That debate is over," according to John Hickox, who heads Climate Change & Sustainability for KPMG Americas. "Companies that do not publish these reports need to ask themselves whether it benefits them to keep swimming against the tide."
December 9, 2013
Environmental Leader magazine has started a series of articles entitled "Sustainability Mythbusters: Debunking the Sustainability Myths". The fisrt topic is that "Sustainability does not make business sense." The article gives some great examples of public companies that are saving money by being sustainable.
December 3, 2013
For those of you who say I only talk about the positives of SRI, you should read the article in today's LA Times entitled "Power Struggle: Green Energy Versus a Grid that's not ready". The concern is that the US has a very old power grid that was built to rely on constant energy sources from mostly fossil fuels. Alternatives tend to not be as constant as wind power has gusts and lulls, solar power's output changes with each passing cloud, etc. The more we add alternatives to the system, the harder it will be on the grid and require more infrastructure improvements.
November 26, 2013
Article today on Morningstar about SRI. Not much information there, but I think it can be summarized in one line when asked about how SRI funds perform: "SRI funds appear to hold their own in the market."
November 22, 2013
Great LA Times article today on climate change. The research states that just 90 companies worldwide produced fuels that generated two-thirds of industrial greenhouse gas emissions from 1854 to 2010. For those of you looking to change your portfolio to reduce its carbon footprint, that's a great place to start.
November 20, 2013
Just read the recently released Callan survey results that assessed the status of responsible and sustainable investment strategies in the U.S. institutional market. The questions concerned ESG (Environment, Social and Governance issues). Some of them most interesting findings to me:
- Around one-fifth of respondents have incorporated ESG factors into decision making.
- Funds with $2 billion or more tend to embrace ESG more than their smaller counterparts. The larger the fund, the more likely ESG adoption is present: funds with greater than $10 billion in assets were more than twice as likely to have incorporated ESG factors into investment decision making (46%) as the total respondent group.
- By fund type, foundations had the highest rate of ESG adoption, followed by endowments. Public and corporate funds had similar adoption rates.
November 18, 2013
Pardon the interruption. We had been busy redoing our website and I've been unable to post over the last month.
October 21, 2013
Trilliums CEO, Matt Patsky was featured in the Wall Street Journals Voices column which is designed to allow wealth managers to address issues of interest to the advisory community. Trillium is one of the oldest SRI companies around and when they speak, its almost nice to listen. This article focused on shareholder advocacy.
October 5, 2013
Today was the 70th birthday party for one of my favorite former coworkers and she invited some other former friends from our AFP Group days. One of them is now working for a local firm that specializes in Impact Investing. While there product is still being rolled out, I look forward to the opportunity to be able share this investment space with clients sometime soon.
September 26, 2013
Attended a Santa Monica Green Business mixer tonight hosted by the SM Chamber and Sustainable Works. It was nice mingling with other like-minded businesses and looking at ways to help each other get better and greener results. I was asked to speak for a few minutes and as the featured Certified Green Business and talk about how the process has helped our business (and the planet).
September 20, 2013
CalPERS just released their set of 10 Investment Beliefs that will provide a basis for strategic management of the investment portfolio, inform organizational priorities and ensure alignment between the Investment Office and CalPERS staff. Its an interesting read. They really are looking at sustainability and trying to match assets and liabilities. As the largest pension fund in the US, not everything they do applies to the average investor. But by looking at their 10 Investment Beliefs, one can start asking tough questions about his or her portfolio and consider whether it makes sense to make changes that reflect what the large players are doing.
September 17, 2013
CNBC just ran an article How to extract fossil fuels from your investment portfolio. While this approach isnt right for everyone, it can be done. My favorite line is And you dont have to sacrifice performance. 2 years ago, the discussion of fossil-free portfolios almost never came up. Now its a regular occurance. It isnt easy, but I can show you how.
September 6, 2013
Third NY Times article in the last week about SRI. This one talks about more mainstream investors going using ESG factors and how some traditionally focused SRI investors are looking to broaden their holdings. My favorite line First, lets talk returns. Are they as good as a portfolio without an E.S.G. screen? The short answer is yes.
September 6, 2013
Read article today published on 9/2 about the crowd funding site Mosaic that specializes in renewable energy projects. While I think there isnt enough data to recommend to clients, I think that foundations and non-profits will be using more and more investments like this to make sure their portfolio matches their mission.
September 5, 2013
Nice article in todays NY Times regarding the divestment programs at many top universities, featuring Harvard. It compares the fossil fuel compaigns today to the South Africa campaigns of the 80s.
September 3, 2013
Just passed my last test for my CAP(R) designation. While there is paperwork to complete, its not official, but the last test is done. Its been a great joy studying for these exams as its really about helping clients reach their goals for a better world. The last class did a great job of integrating ESG and SRI factors into philanthropy and looking for the best models to serve clients and make the world a better place.
August 22, 2013
Studying for my last exam in the CAP (R) (Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy) program. Great couple of assignments looking at non-profits trying to match their mission with their investments and of the rise of for-profit business models that are trying to also do good.
August 14, 2013
For those of you who have businesses in the City of Los Angeles, they have just announced their Green Business Certification Program. There is no cost for the first 300 businesses that qualify. Going through the process with the city of Santa Monica earlier this year was a great experience for our firm and we were able to make some changes that helped our firm and the environment.
August, 13, 2013
The US SIF just released a report on investment vehicles that target community development. There have been many such funds that have developed across the globe in recent years, but they haven't gotten as much attention in the US. The report though states that interest for these funds is increasing, "especially from high net worth individuals, family offices, donor-advised funds, community foundations and pension funds." The report mentions that some structural changes are still needed on how these funds are offered, but the trends are moving in the right direction.
July 24, 2013
News is just coming in that a US Court upholds in full US SEC Rule 1502 requiring companies to disclose use of conflict minerals. This was an important part of Dodd-Frank and a great step of requiring companies to better disclose their sustainability.
July 23, 2013
The Triple Pundit website posted tody a great summary of Catalyst Research study of women in the board room. Looking at Fortune 500 companies that had women board members. Those with women members showed Higher Return on Equity, Superior Sales and Higher ROI. The study goes on to show that having women board members also helps enable sustainable business results.
July 18, 2013
The USSIF (United States Social Investment Forum) has just announced that they are launching a new education brochure on their website entitled "Investing to Curb Climate Change: A Guide for the Retail Investor." While I haven't read it yet, based on the quality of their other investor oriented pieces about SRI, I'm sure it will be quality work. For those of you who have questions about SRI, their website is a great resource of knowledge.
July 11, 2013
Just finished reading the ICCR's Insights for Investors Working for Bolder Intervention on Climate Change. Very interesting piece discussing what can be done about climate change. It emphasizes that the majority of the work needs to be done by global policymakers, but discusses the importance of investors doing their roll. It talks about the benefits and drawbacks of both divestment, such as 350.org's campaign, and of sharehold engagement.
July 10, 2013
Interesting article on TriplePundit.com. It starts by comparing America's want of gun control legislation and congress' failure to act to similar polls showing most Americans want climate change regulation but the lack of any bills to make it out of congress. The article talks about some of the reasons that they believe no action has been taken.
June 26, 2013
Spent some time reviewing President Obama's Climate Action Plan that was announced yesterday at Georgetown University. Most of the feedback I've read shows that the measures that will help to drive innovation, create U.S. jobs and benefit consumers, and bolster international efforts to curb climate change. Many in the SRI community believe he hasn't gone far enough but almost all agree that it's a move in the right direction. As it gets implemented there will be many companies that are affected adding another another dimension to company analysis.
June 17, 2013
CERES just released their Roadmap for Sustainability on their website. The Ceres Roadmap provides a practical framework for companies that are integrating sustainability into their business models. The website explores 20 expectations for a sustainable corporation, gives examples with new case studies and resources, and shows data on the performance of 600 of the largest U.S. companies. It's a great way to look at the companies you might be investing in or give thoughts on how to improve your small business.
June 10, 2013
Just watched a video on Vimeo done by Jon Scott on how to vote your Proxy. I am often asked by clients how to vote their proxies and have a hard time answering without spending hours doing research. This 20 minute video goes through an actual proxy ballot vote by vote discussing what it means to vote and the potential impacts of your vote. I admit to not even looking at most of my proxies in the past, but a few minutes of time can make a huge impact on causes I care about. Over the last few years I look at every Proxy and try to do what I think is best for my profits and the world. It gives good references to sites such as Proxy Democracy and Proxy Preview where you can look up specific ballots and get ideas of what other thought leaders are voting.
June 7, 2013
Interesting survey results just released from Green America (GA), EcoVentures International (EVI), and the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO). They interviewed a 1305 small business owners and the results showed it paid to be green. Some of the results included that "Nearly six out of 10 (58 percent) small businesses said that they had been able to expand their products and services with green offerings during the recent economic downturn" and "Nearly four out of five (79 percent) of small business survey respondents strongly agreed that offering green products and services gave their businesses a competitive advantage." More results can be found at the Big Green Opportunity website.
May 21, 2013
CERES just released their report "Power Factor: Institutional Investors' Policy Priorities Can Bring Energy Efficiency to Scale. "Many interesting points on how little changes in laws can help investors really fuel a change in power efficiency in the US and around the world. Small changes can make a big difference. In addition the report pointed out that Investment analysts estimate that climate change could contribute ten percent of overall risk within institutional investment portfolios.
May 16, 2013
Just completed the course "Fundamentals of Sustainable and Responsible Investment" that is offered by the US SIF. While many of these were basic ideas that were review, it is always helpful to review the basics. I only missed one question on the exam for a score of 97%. If anyone knows investors or professionals who are looking to really understand ESG and SRI better, I highly recommend the course.
May 8, 2013
The CFA Institute (Chartered Financial Analyst) is having their 66th annual conference in 10 days in Singapore. They have a lot of articles leading up to the conference about investing in Asia. Usman Hayat posted a great article about SRI in Asia. He mentions that financial companies usually get bad press but some of the SRI issues could help them in a more positive light. The article went over the conflicting moralities of industrial projects there. One example was banks looking at funding a dam that would provide power to some of the poorest people in the world but on the other hand would cause environmental problems. He then lists other reasons that SRI can add value to a portfolio.
April 29, 2013
Just read an article published last week in Forbes about Socially Responsible Investing. It gives the real basics on waht SRI is and questions you should ask.
April 25, 2013
Several great articles today, including the New York Times regarding the petition to the SEC requiring companies to disclose their political donations. Over 500,000 people signed or commented making it by far the biggest petition ever to the SEC. ESG (and other) investors want full transparancy to keep corporations accountable in a post Citizen's United era. But there is resistance of course from the big corporations who do not want their donations disclosed.
April 23, 2013
We're in the middle of proxy season. For years I didn't vote for my personal holdings as I thought it didn't make a difference. But so many of the votes today are put on the ballot by socially responsible investors that it's worth a few minutes of time to research your vote and see if it a topic of interest to you.
April 17, 2013
Capital Intelligence Associates just went through the Santa Monica Green Business Certification Program and are now a Santa Monica Certified Green Business. While there wasn't much we had to do, the letters we wrote to our landlords helped make changes much bigger than our firm.
April 8, 2013
Many investors I know avoid SRI because they feel it won't make a difference. I just got a release from one SRI firm that they were able to get four companies to agree to making Board Inclusiveness one of the criteria they look for in searching for new board members and to review the skills of the board on an annual basis to look for openings for new board members. All four companies currently had zero or one woman on the board.
April 3, 2013
Investment News, one of the many trade publications I read regularly, printed this week an article entitled "More Investors Follow Their Heart." It is a good piece discussing why many clients prefer SRI, how many advisors think incorrectly that SRI investing will hurt their clients returns, and how an advisor can't advise well in this area unless they devote significant resources to it.
March 15, 2013
The US-SIF released their statement on fossil fuel investments today. It doesn't call for an all-out ban aknowledging that can't be done for every portfolio or every client. But it outlines the issues very well and gives some best practices. I believe the analysis can work equally well among most SRI issues.
March 14, 2013
Went to the 18th annual Santa Monica Sustainable Quality Awards today. They've given out over 100 awards over the years. It's amazing how you don't have to look hard to so many people doing so many good things for the environment.
March 5, 2013
Just finished our initial review and adjustments as we work with Sustainable Works towards becoming a Santa Monica Certified Green Business. We have accomplished most of the items on the checklist before meeting with them. We are currently working with our landlords to help make our office environment more sustainable. Also we have finished our purchasing and staff environmental policies. Hopefully they'll be up on the web when our rebranding is completed (but that's a whole different matter).
February 26, 2013
RepRisk just released a report on what they deemed to be the "Most Controversial Companies of 2012". Very interesting to see who made the list and why. Most were big news items, but a few have slipped through the cracks in most of the U.S. media. Its amazing how so many companies can do so many bad things in so little time.
February 14, 2013
Being Valentines Day, I've seen a lot of advertisements for various "perfect gifts." It's hard to look at most of these companies and not see the issues they have with the sourcing of their stones, or providing living wages to their employees or the pesticide use or... But some do stand out. Always good to know who you're doing business with.
January 31, 2013
For those of you who are concerned about climate change, a client just pointed me to this WEBSITE where you can ask your college or university to divest their holdings of fossil fuels. A lot of my clients ask me how they can act. This little bit of work might lead to a huge change.
January 28, 2013
The NEW YORK TIMES OPINION PAGES ran an interesting debate last week. It featured articles from 6 different stakeholders on divestment. It looked at the pros and cons of divesting mostly in petroleum but also mentioned firearms. The pages look at why one would want to divest and the possible outcomes caused by mass divestment.
January 8, 2013
For those of you who are worried about corporate involvement in politics (according to a recent Demos poll about 80% of all Americans), the SEC is looking into what it can do. The agency announced that they will consider a proposed rule to require that public companies provide disclosure to shareholders regarding the use of corporate resources for political activities. A petition requesting this rule-making was filed in 2011 by a bipartisan committee of leading law professors.