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Links may only be valid for a limited time   October 9, 2015

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Many 'ESG' Managers Fail To Explain How They Screen Investments, Report Says. "Disclosures of the type of standards used were not made for 62 percent of the assets being invested using ESG criteria, the SIF Foundation says. ESG integration is defined as the systematic inclusion by investment managers of environmental, social and governance factors into financial analysis and is one of several sustainable, responsible and impact investing (SRI) strategies, according to the organization.

The study looked at 16 of the nation's largest ESG money managers, and only eight of them at least partially disclosed the criteria they consider, according to the report."

[COMMENTARY] The survey results are unsurprising at this juncture. In time, many more will disclose their criteria.
Many 'ESG' Managers Fail To Explain How They Screen Investments, Report Says, by Karen Demasters, October 8, 2015, Financial Advisor, USA.

Corporate Responsibility Impresses Millennials, Survey Finds. "About 66 percent of millennial respondents said they are likely to invest in a company well-known for its corporate social-responsibility program, compared with 48 percent of adults older than 34. Eighty-two percent of millennials are likely to seek employment at a company recognized for its ethics, compared to 68 percent of people older than 34." (Survey by Aflac.)

[COMMENTARY] It's well known among ethical investing advisors that millennials are among the foremost groups interested in ESG/CSR related investing.
Corporate Responsibility Impresses Millennials, Survey Finds, by Rebecca Koenig, October 7, 2015, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, USA.

ESG Still Not a Priority for CIOs. "A new survey by Hermes Investment Management found that 90% of respondents believed fund managers should price in corporate governance risks as a core part of their investment analysis.

Despite this show of ESG awareness, 47% still said pension funds should focus exclusively on maximizing retirement incomes—a goal the majority believed would not be met by focusing on ESG issues. Just 46% believed ESG-focused investing would produce better long-term returns."

[COMMENTARY] It appears that many investors and fund managers are unaware of how a focus on ESG can enhance returns. What is good news though, is that this knowledge among investor groups has improved immeasurably in recent years!
ESG Still Not a Priority for CIOs, by Amy Whyte, October 5, 2015, Chief Investment Officer, USA.

Global Food Companies Unite On Climate Action. "With key international climate negotiations fast approaching in Paris, the chief executive officers of,  Mars, Incorporated, General Mills, Unilever, Kellogg Company, Nestlé USA, New Belgium Brewing, Ben & Jerry’s, Clif Bar, Stonyfield Farm and Dannon USA today released a joint letter to U.S. and world leaders pledging to accelerate business action on climate change and urging governments to do the same by forging a robust international agreement this December."

[COMMENTARY] Ceres does it again by coordinating a major industry statement on climate change and the need for success at the Paris talks.
Global Food Companies Unite On Climate Action, press release, October 2, 2015, Ceres, USA.

Major U.S. banks call for leadership in addressing climate change. "Bank of America, Citi, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo – have issued a joint statement calling for cooperation among governments in reaching a global climate agreement. The statement, published today by the sustainability advocacy nonprofit Ceres, voiced support for policy frameworks that 'will provide greater market certainty, accelerate investment, drive innovation in low carbon energy, and create jobs.'”

[COMMENTARY] It appears to me that there's little doubt the COP21 Paris climate talks will come up with a significant agreement. I'm sure most investors heard Bank of England's Governor, Mark Carney, commenting on the extreme risks that climate change poses to humanity. From his position, representing the financial elites, only adds momentum to a successful climate agreement. Fossil fuel companies will face severe challenges in the years ahead.
Major U.S. banks call for leadership in addressing climate change, press release, September 28, 2015, Ceres, USA.

NGO: 45 Percent of Corporations Obstruct Climate Change Policy. "Nearly half of the world’s 100 largest companies, including Procter & Gamble and Duke Energy, are 'obstructing climate change legislation,' according to a study released last week by the London-based nonprofit NGO InfluenceMap.

And it gets worse: Almost all (95 percent) of these companies are members of trade associations that act in the same obstructionist manner. The recently formed InfluenceMap uses a new research methodology it developed in conjunction with the Union of Concerned Scientists."

[COMMENTARY] The grading of companies on their 'InfluenceMap' is important for all ethical investors to view. This UK organization is providing a valuable function. Its methodology seems robust.
NGO: 45 Percent of Corporations Obstruct Climate Change Policy, by Bill DiBenedetto, September 23, 2015, TriplePundit, USA.

New Cone Communications Research Confirms Millennials as America's Most Ardent CSR Supporters, But Marked Differences Revealed Among this Diverse Generation. "The study, the most comprehensive snapshot of how Millennials engage with CSR efforts in the U.S., reveals more than nine-in-10 Millennials would switch brands to one associated with a cause (91% vs. 85% U.S. average) and two-thirds use social media to engage around CSR (66% vs. 53% U.S. average).

[COMMENTARY] These results demonstrate that CSR will continue to grow and become ever more consequential to consumers and investors.
New Cone Communications Research Confirms Millennials as America's Most Ardent CSR Supporters, But Marked Differences Revealed Among this Diverse Generation, press release, September 23, 2015, 3BL Media, USA.

NGO Ranks 155 Companies Across 20 Industries Revealing Significant Supply Chain, ESG Risks for Major Brands. "Most U.S. large-cap companies are still lagging in efforts to affect positive change with regard to global humanitarian issues, but existing technology and solutions can quickly reverse this trend. That is among the conclusions expected to be revealed today by a panel of experts participating in a webinar regarding the release of a major research study into corporate social responsibility and conflict minerals filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission."

[COMMENTARY] For information on the ESG risks for these companies click here.
NGO Ranks 155 Companies Across 20 Industries Revealing Significant Supply Chain, ESG Risks for Major Brands, September 22, 2015, Responsible Sourcing Network and Source Intelligence, USA.

Corporate responsibility revolution more environmental than social. "Large companies in the US, UK and Germany have made far slower progress in reporting on social responsibility than on their green credentials, a Scottish research project has found.

The three-year study at the universities of Glasgow and Aberdeen, backed by the Economic and Social Research Council, will this week present some of its findings at an Edinburgh seminar staged by Scottish Business in the Community."

[COMMENTARY] This study confirms what most of us in the ethical investing community have known for sometime. It's the 'E' in ESG that garners most corporate and investor interest.
Corporate responsibility revolution more environmental than social, September 20, 2015, The Herald-Scotland, UK.

VW Sets Aside $7.3 Billion as Emissions Probe Widens. "Volkswagen AG plans to set aside 6.5 billion euros ($7.3 billion) in the third quarter to cover the costs of addressing irregularities in diesel engines installed in 11 million vehicles worldwide, as the scandal that started in the U.S. widens."

[COMMENTARY] I find it extraordinary that senior managers that authorize such unethical practices would not realize that at some point they will be found out. The incentives for them to hide this practice must be substantial. Hence, the real blame for this is likely with senior management in the way the company incentivizes its managers.
VW Sets Aside $7.3 Billion as Emissions Probe Widens, by Chris Reiter and Jones Hayden, September 22, 2015, Bloomberg News, USA.

Green funds finally adding-up, says academic study. "University of Edinburgh Business School academics found green mutual funds, invested in companies with exceptional environmental credentials, now outperform ‘black’ funds – which invest in fossil fuels – by more than 14% over the period 2012 to 2014.

Analysing the performance of more than 1,400 funds between 1991 and 2014, researchers also found green funds delivered no worse returns than ‘conventional’ investment vehicles between 2012 and 2014."

[COMMENTARY] As the concept of stranded assets becomes an increasing reality for fossil companies -- plus the possibility of continuing low prices for their products, fossil fuel stocks could continue to underperform. This is especially true as renewables such as solar and wind gain increasing price competitiveness.
Green funds finally adding-up, says academic study, September 17, 2015, The Economic Voice, UK.

Reputation Institute Announces Top Global Companies for Public Perception of Corporate Social Responsibility. "Reputation Institute today released the Global CSR RepTrak® 100, which highlights the companies that have the best reputations for corporate social responsibility (CSR) among the general public in 15 countries. Google tops the ranking for the second year in a row, with a significant lead over all other companies in the ranking.

The Global CSR RepTrak® 100 reflects public perceptions of corporate performance across three dimensions of reputation: citizenship, workplace, and governance."

[COMMENTARY] This is always a good ranking by a company with its own good reputation.
Reputation Institute Announces Top Global Companies for Public Perception of Corporate Social Responsibility, press release, September 17, 2015, Reputation Institute, USA.

Sustainability reporting lacking among world’s largest firms. "According to a study by sustainability adviser Corporate Knights and insurer Aviva.

Only 37 percent of the world’s 4,969 largest listed companies disclose their greenhouse gas emissions, one of seven key indicators, according to a 2015 study based on 2013 data. That’s down from 39 percent in the previous study. Meanwhile, only 10 percent of the companies disclose their injury rates, 12 percent their turnover rates, a fifth reveal waste generated per unit of revenue and 22 percent report on their water usage."

[COMMENTARY] Such lack of data disallows investors from really understanding corporate behaviour and negatively impacts their ability to invest according to ESG principles and factors. Congratulations to Toby Heap and Corporate Knights/Aviva for compiling this important research.
Sustainability reporting lacking among world’s largest firms, by Adam Brown, September 8, 2015, IR Magazine, USA.

Dump CSR Departments, Says BP’s Ex-Chief. "Companies should get rid of their corporate social responsibility and public relations departments, according to Lord Browne, the former chief executive of BP. As PR Week reports, Browne was promoting his soon-to-be published book, Connect, on Radio 4’s Today program. The book says managers should take responsibility for their companies and not hide behind PRs and CSR departments."

[COMMENTARY] Lord Browne makes an interesting point. Every employee in an organization has to imbibe CSR in everything they do. BP was highly respected by ESG rating organizations before the Gulf crises -- largely as a result of its great CSR department. Yet when it came to crunch time the managers in the field behaved badly.
Dump CSR Departments, Says BP’s Ex-Chief, September 11, 2015, Environmental Leader, USA.

Lawyers See ESG Risks as Central to Clients’ Interests. "Our latest research shows a 45 percent growth in the number of ESG-related regulations calling for more robust corporate transparency worldwide since 2012.

As Vanessa Havard-Williams, head of global law firm Linklaters’ sustainability practice and co-head of its risk and governance team, explains: 'Regulatory developments around ESG should be watched closely by business and lawyers alike – we are now making the transition from a normative to a compliance framework. Although the regulatory risks of non-compliance with these regulations are often quite limited, the potential reputational and commercial damage from being seen not to comply can be significant.'"

[COMMENTARY] As regulatory authorities increasingly institute new ESG regulations, lawyers are involving themselves in corporate compliance. It's terrific to see the legal profession developing ESG specializations to satisfy corporate needs.
Lawyers See ESG Risks as Central to Clients’ Interests, September 10, 2015, TriplePundit, USA.

Sustainalytics to acquire ESG Analytics. "Sustainalytics has agreed to acquire Zurich-based ESG Analytics, a provider of analysis software that helps money managers and asset owners to analyze and manage ESG risk and opportunities."

[COMMENTARY] Sustainalytics seems unstoppable in its quest of being the global leader in ESG analysis. Again, congratulations to Michael Jantzi and his outstanding team.
Sustainalytics to acquire ESG Analytics, press release, Sustainalytics, September 8, 2015, USA.

Sustainable investing a fiduciary duty for fund managers, says U.N.-backed study. " U.S. managers were particular laggards in making sure environmental, social and governance (ESG) views were used alongside other financial measures when discussing a company's investability, in part because of an outdated view of fiduciary duty, or acting in the best interests of customers, it [UN study] said."

[COMMENTARY] It's becoming increasingly clear that fund fiduciaries should not only incorporate ESG factors in their investment analysis -- but in some cases could be held legally liable for losses incurred by not paying attention to ESG factors!
Sustainable investing a fiduciary duty for fund managers, says U.N.-backed study, by Simon Jessop; editing by Mark Potter, September 6, 2015, Reuters, USA.

Corporate responsibility efforts boost more than just reputation. "A study by IO Sustainability and Babson College... determined that well-designed CSR programs have the potential to increase a company’s revenues by up to 20 per cent, strengthen customer loyalty by 60 per cent and allow for premium prices to be charged on products and services."

[COMMENTARY] The financial benefits accruing to companies with well-designed CSR programs are now virtually incontestable. We're approaching what could be universal acceptance for CSR/ESG and ethical programs in companies everywhere -- and correspondingly much heightened interest of mainstream investors in investment products geared to taking advantage of this development.
Corporate responsibility efforts boost more than just reputation, by CK staff, August 31, 2015, Corporate Knights, Canada.

Investors target anti-climate lobby. "A coalition of 25 institutional investors with over £40bn in assets under management is calling on nine major companies to review their membership of lobbying groups that seek to undermine EU climate policy. The investors have written to publicly listed BHP Billiton, BP, EDF, Glencore, Johnson Matthey, Proctor and Gamble, Rio Tinto, Statoil and Total."

[COMMENTARY] These companies support financially business groups that lobby for policies that these businesses themselves oppose! Of course, businesses continue memberships in such groups for many reasons, but it is absolutely right for these investors to point out to these businesses the double standard they are playing by belonging to these business groups.
Investors target anti-climate lobby, September 2, 2015, reNEWS, UK.

Doing Good Is Good Business, But Can You Prove It? "The latest evidence that the financial benefits of CSR are causal and not just correlated comes in the form of a study as hefty as a brick. 'Project ROI: Defining the Competitive and Financial Advantages of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability' is an effort to assess the business case for CR for the benefit of senior executives, boards of directors and even Wall Street.

According to the study, with proper design and sufficient investment, a company’s 'CR Assets' can support returns related to share price and market value; reputation and brand; sales and revenue; human resources; and risk and license to operate."

[COMMENTARY] Surely and gradually the financial case is being made for CSR! Companies who ignore developing good CSR strategies are likely being seen as dinosaurs and whose stock price and reputation taking increasingly bad hits.
Doing Good Is Good Business, But Can You Prove It? By Ryan Scott, August 26, 2015, Forbes, USA.

Companies that Care for Consumers Earn Higher Returns: New Study. "A new study called 'Meaningful Brands,' conducted by global advertising agency Havas, shows that when companies invest the time and effort to connect with consumers, it pays. Such companies typically command increased sales, better brand recognition and higher annual returns than other companies.

The study surveyed 300,000 people in 34 countries and asked them how they felt about 1,000 brands across 12 industries. The findings showed that a meaningful brand has a 46 percent higher share of the consumer’s wallet, which refers to the amount a consumer spends on a particular product. Furthermore, the top 25 more meaningful brand outperformed the stock market by 133 percent."

[COMMENTARY] This study results make sense. It's good to have hard data to prove what we believe to be true.
Companies that Care for Consumers Earn Higher Returns: New Study, by Vikas Vij, August 20, 2015, Justmeans, USA.

Almost Three Quarters of Investment Professionals Use Environmental, Social & Governance Information When Making Investment Decisions. "Almost three-quarters of investment professionals worldwide (73 percent) take environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) issues into consideration in the investment process, according to the CFA Institute ESG Survey, a new survey of CFA Institute members created by CFA Institute and the Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute (IRRC Institute).

In addition, 64 percent of survey respondents consider governance issues, 50 percent consider environmental issues, and 49 percent consider social issues in investment decisions. Only 27 percent do not consider ESG issues."

[COMMENTARY] Wow, these numbers are incredible. I just wonder how the survey questions were framed. At face value, it would seem the work of the responsible-ethical investment community has been accomplished. But is that really the case?
Almost Three Quarters of Investment Professionals Use Environmental, Social & Governance Information When Making Investment Decisions, press release, August 17, 2015, The Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute (IRRC)/CFA Institute, USA.

Witness says brokers try to pass themselves off as fiduciaries. "'Brokerage firms now engage in advertising that is clearly calculated to leave the false impression with investors that stockbrokers take the same fiduciary care as a doctor or a lawyer,' claims the report, which was co-authored by Christine Lazaro, director of the St. John’s School of Law securities arbitration clinic.

'But, while brokerage firms advertise as though they are trusted guardians of their clients’ best interests, they arbitrate any resulting disputes as though they are used car salesmen,' wrote the attorneys.

Their report claimed that Merrill Lynch, Fidelity Investments, Ameriprise, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley, Allstate Financial, UBS, Berthel Fisher, and Charles Schwab all advertise 'in a fashion that is designed to lull investors into the belief that they are being offered the services of a fiduciary [when they aren't].'"

[COMMENTARY] This type of misrepresentation is highly problematic in many areas of the financial industry -- and in jurisdictions globally. Clearly, the investing public needs to know who is a salesperson and who is a real fiduciary! At least in the US they're beginning to grapple with this issue. (Thanks to Joe Killoran for alerting me to this article.)
Witness says brokers try to pass themselves off as fiduciaries, by Nick Thornton, August 14, 2015, BenefitsPro, USA.

Morningstar to launch ESG scores for funds. "Chicago-based Morningstar Inc. plans to launch environmental, social, and governance (ESG) scores for mutual funds and exchange-traded funds later this year... Morningstar says that it will use the ESG ratings provided by Sustainalytics on more than 4,500 companies to create asset-weighted composite ESG scores for the mutual funds and ETFs that it covers based on the company-level ESG ratings."

[COMMENTARY] This is terrific news! It will mean greatly increased exposure of ESG-ethical investment products to investors and the investment industry. It could encourage many more advisors to place ESG-ethical funds/ETFs in their client portfolios. Congratulations to Michael Jantzi and Sustainalytics for their part in this endeavour!
Morningstar to launch ESG scores for funds, by James Langton, August 13, 2015, Investment Executive, Canada.

Why Putting a Number to C.E.O. Pay Might Bring Change. "So why does anyone expect a different outcome from the Securities and Exchange Commission’s new rule requiring disclosure of the gap between what a company’s chief executive is paid and what its rank-and-file workers earn?

I put that question to some experts on executive pay...

Their thinking goes like this: Because the rule will generate an easily graspable and often decidedly shocking number, it may energize a cadre of new combatants in the executive pay fight. And because these newcomers — company employees, state governments and possibly even consumers — will most likely be more vocal on the matter than institutional investors have been, the executive pay bubble might actually start to deflate."

[COMMENTARY] This article is well worth reading for all ethical investors who're concerned about excessive executive pay. Though I'm hopeful it could help bring down the pay gap between executives and their employees, I'm concerned that ways will be found to kill its implementation before it starts in 2017.
Why Putting a Number to C.E.O. Pay Might Bring Change, by Gretchen Morgenson, August 6, 2015, The New York Times, USA.

365 Companies and Investors Announce Support for EPA’s Clean Power Plan. "In an unprecedented show of business support for tackling climate change, 365 companies and investors sent letters today to more than two-dozen governors across the United States voicing their support for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan for existing power plants and encouraging the state’s 'timely finalization' of state implementation plans to meet the new standards... [Signatories include: General Mills, Mars Inc., Nestle, Staples, Unilever and VF Corporation.]"

[COMMENTARY] Actions like these from businesses of all sizes offer hope that Paris COP21 environmental conference might actually produce real carbon reduction agreements. Hitherto, business was acting as a retarding force to such agreements. So these actions really point in a very positive direction.
365 Companies and Investors Announce Support for EPA’s Clean Power Plan, press release, July 31, 2015, Ceres, USA.

SRI Investing Opens For 4.7 Million Government Workers. "For the first time, government workers and military personnel saving for retirement will have the option to invest in sustainable, responsible and impact investment funds, based on a vote this week by the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board. The board serves the government's massive retirement system known as the Thrift Savings Plan or TSP."

[COMMENTARY] It's taken a long time, but finally, the US government is doing the right thing. There might well be an infusion of new funds into ethical investment products, providing further support for the sector.
SRI Investing Opens For 4.7 Million Government Workers, by Maureen Nevin Duffy, July 29, 2015, Financial Advisor, USA.

EIRIS Foundation Launches Database of Companies Doing Business in Occupied Lands. "Building on its 30-year history of providing free and objective information on ethical finance and corporate activity to the public, the EIRIS Foundation announced the release of a new online database of companies in Crimea and Palestine. For the first time, businesses, civil society, media and the investor community will have access to objective and comprehensive information about corporate operations in these two occupied territories."

[COMMENTARY] This database will be welcomed by many -- though controversial as well. South African apartheid was largely abolished through business disinvestment there. However, Crimea and Palestine are very different situations from that of South Africa in the 1980s and 1990s.
EIRIS Foundation Launches Database of Companies Doing Business in Occupied Lands, press release, July 16, 2015, EIRIS, UK.

Sustainability Initiatives Can Drive Corporate Revenue Growth And Innovation, New Research Shows. "Between 2010 and 2013, revenues from company-defined portfolios of sustainable products and services grew by 91 percent among the companies examined in the report. For S&P Global 100 companies that break out revenue for sustainable products or services separately, that revenue stream grew at six times the rate of overall company results."

[COMMENTARY] Clearly, such growth is illustrating consumers' desire for sustainable products and services. One needs look no further than McDonalds with their experimentation to find healthier and more environmentally friendly menu options. We are at the beginning of a new era where sustainability becomes uppermost in everyone's mind and where companies are responding. Over time, this will be especially financially rewarding for ethical investors.
Sustainability Initiatives Can Drive Corporate Revenue Growth And Innovation, New Research Shows, press release, July 1 re July 14 webinar on subject, The Conference Board & The Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute (IRRC), USA.

‘Halo Effect’ of CSR Allows Companies to Get Away with Corruption. "A new study shows that companies with corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs tend to get more favorable court decisions on corruption cases completely unconnected to CSR – and that’s a problem...

Now, a study from Harrison Hong of Princeton University and Inessa Liskovich of the University of Texas found that this type of CSR, aimed at making a company look good, has the beneficial side-effect of making it more likely the company gets away with a crime, specifically, bribery as defined under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act."

[COMMENTARY] The writer of the article describing this study suggests it's ultimately the consumer to decide who's most ethical and thereby buy appropriately. What do you think? Should companies with good CSR receive easier sentences or fines, or, because of their out-front ethical standards be dealt with more harshly! Anyway, for companies that might have some shady things to hide, promoting CSR in their organizations might not only be good PR but ultimately less costly to their operations. Whatever is the case, it does promote CSR!
‘Halo Effect’ of CSR Allows Companies to Get Away with Corruption, by Nithin Coca, July 8, 2015, TriplePundit, USA.

Women Want Social Responsibility from Their Brands. "The demand for corporate social responsibility continues to sweep the brand marketplace. According to new research from Nielsen, corporate social responsibility is important as a benefit to positive branding efforts. We also know for your brand reputation positive press is key. What you may not realize, however, it is also critical to winning the hearts and minds of the coveted group of women consumers."

[COMMENTARY] As per many studies and surveys, women are significantly more interested in CSR and SR-ethical products than men. Thus, they're also more interested in SR-ethical investing.
Women Want Social Responsibility from Their Brands, by Colin Shaw, July 2, 2015, LinkedIn post, USA.

Who are the sustainability leaders? (GlobeScan) "Most would agree that some corporate giants have taken great strides toward sustainability in recent years. But experts in the field still cite too few companies doing so.

Instead, our latest GlobeScan/SustainAbility Leadership survey finds that experts believe that other non-governmental actors have been driving the sustainable development agenda since the United Nations Earth Summit in Rio in 1992. The business sector is not seen as the driver, with few exceptions."

[COMMENTARY] This is a great article that provides much insight into who are the leading companies integrating sustainability into their operations, and what drives them to be a sustainability leader -- all from the perspective of sustainability experts.
Who are the sustainability leaders? By Eric Whan, July 2, 2015, GreenBiz, USA.

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