Shareholders File Record-Breaking Number of
Social, Environmental Resolutions. "Investors
have filed 417 social and environmental shareholder
resolutions so far this year at least 50 more than
the same time in 2013 and 20 percent more than in
February 2012, according to an analysis of proxies."
The growing number of these resolutions
indicates that more and more investors are concerned
about ESG issues and that companies are increasingly
taking notice of them. This is a good
development--though I believe it's just really
starting to get going.
Shareholders File Record-Breaking Number of Social,
Environmental Resolutions, March 6, 2014,
Environmental Leader, USA.
Top 100 TSX-V (TSX Venture Exchange) miners
shows that the best performing miners place strong
emphasis on social management. "Annually,
MacCormick reviews PWC’s Top 100 Junior Mining
companies by market cap. listed on TSX’s Venture
Exchange. The review analyzes those Top 100
companies against MacCormick’s in-house CSR index
which consists of 10 CSR categories and a 3-tier
rating system for each category. Of MacCormick’s Top
20 CSR reporters: 8 were exploration, 10 in
development and 2 in production. The report also
dives into the financial performance of those Top 20
companies for a closer look at financial indicators
from which to correlate financial and social
This is terrific news. Many ethical investors
don't relate to mining, but it's a necessary and
important aspect of our global economy. It should
just be conducted with high ethics and a keen
awareness of ESG factors. MacCormick's CSR index of
junior mining companies is revolutionary and will
encourage this. I'm really keen to see how it
Diamonds In The Rough, press release, March 4,
2014, MacCormick IMC, Canada.
Apple, eBay, Gap, Intel throw weight behind
Climate Declaration. "A group of 140
California firms have reiterated calls for
[California] legislators to deliver ambitious action
on climate change with the release of a new
declaration signaling their support for policies
that serve to cut emissions and drive investment in
clean tech... 'We, the California-based companies
below, are proud to sign the Climate Declaration in
recognition of the economic opportunities associated
with reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, the
development of renewable energy and alternative
transportation fuels and the preservation of clean
water for ourselves and for future generations.'"
This is good for the environment and good for
business. These companies see the opportunity and
want California to continue to lead among American
states in climate regulations. Judging by who are
among the signatories to the declaration, it might
even get a response from Washington!
Apple, eBay, Gap, Intel throw weight behind Climate
Declaration, by BusinessGreen staff, March 3,
2014, GreenBiz, USA.
Powerful global finance institute fails to
train future leaders on sustainability. "By
skimming over environmental and social factors, is
the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute [CFA]
failing to train tomorrow's financial leaders for
today's sustainability challenges?"
They've found a formula that works so
well--having become the global standard
qualification for financial analysts (140,000
students)--that they don't want to change. They
argue that the course content is arrived at by
consulting with the investment community. One can
only guess exactly who it is they might be
Powerful global finance institute fails to train
future leaders on sustainability, by Jo Confino,
March 4, 2014, The Guardian, UK.
New EU rules require companies to report
social impact. "Member states today approved
a compromise deal with MEPs that would require large
listed companies to file annual reports on their
corporate social responsibility, detailing their
policies and activities on issues such as human
rights, corruption and protecting the environment."
This is great news and demonstrates leadership
by the EU in CSR concerns. Though companies grumble
about all the new reporting requirements, the fact
is stakeholders, especially investors, have a right
to this information. Such information might be vital
in assessing the ethics of a company--and hence its
long-term financial performance as well.
New EU rules require companies to report social
impact, by Nicholas Hirst, February 26, 2014,
European Voice, Belgium.
Pricking The 'Bubble' Of Banking By Calling
The Sector To Account. "Last month the
Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) and
the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC)
signed a memorandum of understanding to more closely
collaborate to 'advance the evolution of corporate
disclosure and communicate value to investors.' It
was a very important statement of intent, cutting
across the factionalism that sometimes dogs a sector
intent on sustainability and corporate social
responsibility (CSR). It also lifted CSR,
sustainability and Environmental, Social and
Governance (ESG) risk out of their individual niches
and brought them together into a very ‘real’ world
of accounting for better, more strategic corporate
Will banks adopt these recommendations? I
believe they will--in time. It'll only take a few
top banks to do it and all the others will follow. And it'll be ethical investors that'll
lead the fight forward. Banks and financial
institutions will want to incorporate these
reporting standards so as to benefit their
reputations which will assist in enhancing all
aspects of their business activities. The ones who
do it first might also reap benefits in their stock
prices. Studies show the pioneers in CSR activities
have better financial and stockholder returns than
those that come later.
Pricking The 'Bubble' Of Banking By Calling The
Sector To Account, by Dina Medland, February 24,
2014, Forbes, USA.
Example for all university finance
students--University of Pittsburgh students score
with SRI portfolio. "After managing a
theoretical portfolio of socially responsible stocks
for a few years, the students invested $100,000 in
real money Feb. 4, 2013, from a grant they received
from business school dean John T. Delaney. Over the
next year, their 30-stock portfolio earned 23.6
percent, outperforming the S&P 500, which returned
19.8 percent over the same period."
Many finance students at colleges and
universities get to 'play' with hypothetical
investment portfolios--but few are able to use an
SRI orientation. The results of the University of
Pittsburgh students are great and I wish them
continued success as they set a wonderful example to
Heard Off the Street: Pitt student investing club
teaches the value of ethical conduct, by Len
Boselovic/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, February 22,
2014, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, USA.
Environmental profit and loss: The new
corporate balancing act. "Current corporate
accounting has a significant omission that creates a
blind spot for corporate risks in terms of
understanding impacts (and dependencies) on natural
systems. The consequence of this omission starkly
was highlighted by the recent TEEB for Business
Coalition's commissioned Trucost report, which
identified $7.3 trillion in environmental
externalities for certain businesses globally."
It's about time that companies began financially
accounting for possible externalities related to ESG
factors. One excuse has always been that such
externalities are difficult to financially measure.
Well, that's fine--just simply provide a range and
show how financial accounts could be impacted.
That's a lot better than shareholders getting
hit-over-the-head with surprising costs! (Actually,
there could even be instances of surprising upsides
to revenues too.)
The main point is to be ethical and honest in
financial accounting. Everyone familiar with
financial accounting knows how subjective it all is
and that companies keep different sets of books for
tax purposes, for operations management, etc. I'm
just suggesting one more set. I know it's the set
that I'd take most seriously too.
Environmental profit and loss: The new corporate
balancing act, by David Meyers and Sissel Waage,
February 18, 2014, GreenBiz, USA.
GlobeScan and SustainAbility publish survey,
Rate the Raters. "As with the 2012 survey,
NGOs are again most trusted by experts to judge
corporate sustainability performance, but ratings
are catching up. Governments and journalists remain
least trusted. The five most credible ratings
remained the same as in 2012, although the order
shuffled. The top five in 2013 are CDP, the Dow
Jones Sustainability Index, Access to Medicines
Index, the FTSE4Good Index Series and oekom
Those who perform sustainability ratings are a
mixed group. It's great that GlobeScan and the firm
Sustainability surveyed the experts who really know
and study the output of the sustainable/ESG rating
groups. You can download the study at the following
The 2013 Ratings Survey: Polling the Experts,
Church of England vows to fight 'great demon'
of climate change. "The Church of England has
said that it will, as a last resort, pull its
investments from companies that fail to do enough to
fight the "great demon" of climate change and ignore
the church's theological, moral and social
If followed through, the Church of England will
be setting a great example to all institutions whose
values marry with social and environmental causes.
For many such organizations there's still an
enormous gulf between what they attempt to do and
how they invest their funds. Ethical investors might
want to contact the various charities and
philanthropic organizations they know and point-out
what the Church of England is doing, so encourage
them to similarly invest ethically.
Church of England vows to fight 'great demon' of
climate change, by Sam Jones, February 12, 2014,
The Guardian, UK.
Fracking is depleting water supplies in
America's driest areas, report shows.
"America's oil and gas rush is depleting water
supplies in the driest and most drought-prone areas
of the country, from Texas to California, new
research has found. Of the nearly 40,000 oil and gas
wells drilled since 2011, three-quarters were
located in areas where water is scarce, and 55% were
in areas experiencing drought, the report by the
Ceres investor network found."
It'll be interesting to see if the US droughts
begin impinging on the fracking boom. Then there are
the mounting environmental problems too. Add to that
future concerns about restricting carbon-based
fuels' use and the subsequent possibility of large
write-downs of such assets. You see where I stand. I
think that's where most ethical investors stand as
Fracking is depleting water supplies in America's
driest areas, report shows, by Suzanne
Goldenberg, February 5, 2014, The Guardian, UK.
Majority of non-Muslim UK consumers believe
that Islamic finance is relevant to all faiths.
"The survey was conducted by independent research
company, 2Europe, on behalf of Islamic Bank of
Britain, in August 2013 through telephone
interviews. 300 British Muslim and non-Muslim
consumers across the UK were questioned: a third of
all respondents (i.e. 100) were non-Muslim and a
third of all respondents were a combination of
Muslim and non-Muslim customers of IBB."
Perhaps many UK consumers equate Islamic finance
with ethical finance. The two do have many
similarities. Nonetheless, it's an interesting
finding. The findings would probably be quite
different had the the same survey been done in the
Majority of non-Muslim UK consumers believe that
Islamic finance is relevant to all faiths, by
Matthew Amlôt, February 6, 2014, CPI Financial, UK.
Royal London: sustainable investors should
consider health and safety. "Royal London
Asset Management (RLAM) has pointed out the benefits
of taking health and safety issues into
consideration when selecting investments. The firm’s
Review of Sustainable Investing looks at the steps
the firm has taken to ensure sustainability over the
last year and trends in the area."
Royal London's report cites how BP's stock lost
54% and suspended dividends after its Gulf oil
spill. Also, their report cites the lack of
standardization in reporting health and safety
issues. Unfortunately, this is a problem everywhere.
So, though one would like to take health and safety
issues into account when investing--the lack of
reliable and standardized data makes this
challenging. Where data is reported though, it's
still worth reviewing to see if it might affect your
Royal London: sustainable investors should consider
health and safety, by Charlotte Malone, Blue &
Green Tomorrow, February 5, 2014, UK.
Consider this article from an ethics
standpoint. It's titled: "Dumb Investment Of The
Week: Socially Responsible Investing."
The principle concern of this article is that
many 'ethical' funds have ideals that their
investments don't mirror. I've been long concerned
about this. I can understand it if in the mission
statement of the fund it is purposely investing in
companies so that they might have a real say in
improving a company's CSR/ESG performance.
However, if that isn't there and they invest in
firms contravening the funds principles--it's
something investors in that fund should worry about.
I still believe that if an investor has the ability
to invest in a diversified portfolio of 10-15
companies which truly mirror their values, then
they'll be ethically better served to do that. Also,
depending on how often they trade, substantial sums
might be saved in trading and management fees. Over
the long-term those fees can reduce the value of
your holdings by over 50%!
Dumb Investment Of The Week: Socially Responsible
Investing, by Ben Strubel, February 3, 2014,
Seeking Alpha, USA.
Exciting new index: The Natural Capital
Leaders Index. "The Natural Capital Leaders
index is designed to recognize companies
demonstrating natural capital leadership – and in
addition, break new ground by identifying those
companies that are truly ‘moving the needle’ by
decoupling growth from natural capital impact.
The Natural Capital Leaders Index features two
categories of leaders: Natural Capital Efficiency
Leaders used natural capital most efficiently to
generate revenue over the past year; Natural Capital
Decoupling Leaders increased revenue while
decreasing natural capital impacts over the most
recent five year period."
It'll be fascinating to see how these
indices perform. I would be interesting to know if
they 'back-tested' these indices and to know those
results. Looking through the constituents of these
indices one sees many recognizable names.
The Natural Capital Leaders Index, Trucost, UK.
Stock exchange aims to reinvent investing for
birds, bees and trees. "Intrinsic Value
Exchange's (IVE) mission is 'transform intrinsic
value into financial capital for natural and
societal assets — things like clean air, water,
wildlife and human potential,' according to its
website. 'This transformation provides direct
incentives to protect and invest in these assets and
opens a powerful pathway to sustainable economic
growth that is in step with ecological and societal
Continuing, "Launched in May with a
crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, IVE would create
an online trading exchange where investors could buy
and sell these assets in the same way as a
traditional stock or commodity futures market.
Originally slated for a beta release late last year,
the San Francisco-based organization now hopes to
begin testing its first products by June, said IVE
co-founder Douglas Eger."
Wow! What an extraordinary and worthwhile
concept. Can it really be done? I guess we'll know
in the next few years. Meanwhile, I wish them every
success. I'm sure that many ethical investors will
want to participate in this.
Stock exchange aims to reinvent investing for birds,
bees and trees, by Heather Clancy, January 31,
2014, GreenBiz.com, USA.
Concept of CSR in new Indian law differs from
that in the developed world. "Under the new
Companies Act, CSR will become mandatory for
companies... from April 1, 2014... [16,245
registered companies above a certain size] will have
to spend at least two percent of their three-year
average profit every year on CSR activity...
anything done [for] the employees is not CSR, it is
a human resource activity. Compliance with any rule
or regulation is not CSR... The old way of writing a
cheque for religious cause or an activity that
benefits their own workers will not be considered
It's obviously a product of different
environments and income levels, but India's new CSR
legislation appears to have a particularly large
focus on philanthropic endeavours. There are
numerous definitions of CSR, but one I like is by
Lord Holme and Richard Watts of the World Business
Council for Sustainable Development. They write that,
"Corporate Social Responsibility is the continuing
commitment by business to behave ethically and
contribute to economic development while improving
the quality of life of the workforce and their
families as well as of the local community and
society at large."
CSR will be mandatory for corporates from April 1,
by Ians Chandigarh, January 29, 2014, Deccan Herald, India.
Most execs believe in sustainability, but half
don't act. "Companies largely have accepted
the importance of addressing sustainability issues,
yet a large gap persists in translating that
awareness into action. So says a new global study by
MIT Sloan Management Review and the Boston
Consulting Group (BCG)... two-thirds of executives
rated environmental or social issues as significant
or very significant, yet only 40 percent reported
their companies were 'largely' addressing them. Just
10 percent reported their companies were 'fully'
addressing these issues."
Interestingly, the study says that industrial
goods makers and utilities do much better on
sustainability issues than 'light' industries such
as media. But the study also finds something else,
something I've been concerned about for years: if it
involves planning and or spending for things
more than 3-5 years out--forget it! Again, it
reflects the dominant short-term mentality in
corporate management today. Too many managers today
are like day-traders!
Most execs believe in sustainability, but half don't
act, by Nina Kruschwitz, January 28, 2014,
Reward Canadian mining companies for social
responsibility, expert says. "A former mining
executive says that if financial analysts better
understood corporate social responsibility, worthy
companies would see their stocks soar."
Mining companies aren't on the radar for many
ethical investors. Yet, they're delighted with their
new Chevy Volt which requires enormous new mineral
resources and extraordinary amounts of energy to
produce. Until we're able to recycle everything--or
give up our vehicles, bicycles, etc.--there's no
choice but to accept the need for mining.
Fortunately, when mining is done in an
environmentally and socially responsible way--as
many miners do today--it's a win for everybody.
Unfortunately, it's the relative few 'bad apples'
that gives mining its bad rap. This mining executive
is right. Investors and financial analysts need to
understand and appreciate those companies employing
great CSR/ESG policies.
Reward Canadian mining companies for social
responsibility, expert says, by Marco
Chown Oved, January 22, 2014, Toronto Star, Canada.
CSR ‘More Deeply Embedded in Firms.’
"Some 60 percent of companies have a corporate
social responsibility executive, a 74 increase over
what firms reported in 2010, a study says. Almost a
third of these CSR execs are within one level of the
chief executive and almost 100 percent of companies
have a CSR budget, compared to 81 percent in 2010,
according to the Carroll School of Management Center
for Corporate Citizenship report."
Clearly, companies increasingly see the
importance of CSR to their bottom line or it
wouldn't be as prevalent as it is today!
CSR ‘More Deeply Embedded in Firms,’
January 21, 2014, Environmental Leader, USA.
New website by business academics promotes
ethical business research. "EthicalSystems.org
is a non-profit collaboration of researchers, most
of whom are based in American business schools. We
all share the conviction—backed up by research—that
in the long run, good ethics is good business. We
believe that integrity in business can be enhanced
by wise leaders who take a systems approach to their
organizations and the environments in which they
operate. All collaborators participate as a public
service, dedicated to a common mission."
This site--which became public January 14--is
terrific news for inspiring greater ethical conduct
in business. Also, it aids the goals of ethical
investing. The site details considerable research in
this area. It's well worth reviewing.
Google tops Fortune's list of best companies
to work for. "Fortune released its 17th
annual list of the 100 best companies to work for.
This year’s list includes some of the usual suspects
— ahem, Google — alongside a few first-timers like
The Cheesecake Factory and Hyatt Hotels. And while
some of the companies are techy newcomers, with
trendy perks like fitness incentives and stock
options, others are more traditional companies that
offer top-notch health care benefits and competitive
What is common to all these companies are that
they are tops in CSR, generally highly profitable
and with great stock market performance. CSR equates
with higher employee loyalty, often reduces staff
costs due to lower staff turnover which usually
higher productivity--and profits! Thus, ethical
investors like these companies too.
Google tops Fortune's list of best companies to work
for, by Danika Fears, January 16, 2014, Today
Climate change a long-term threat to
investment, UN tells investors. "More than
500 investors have been told by the UN’s climate
chief [Christiana Figueres] to invest in low-carbon
technologies in order to avoid losing money over the
long-term because of economic risks posed by climate
change... 'Institutional investors who ignore the
risk face being increasingly seen as blatantly in
breach of their fiduciary duty to their beneficial
owners – men and women who have worked hard all
their lives to put away something for their
retirement and for their children.'"
Those invested in fossil fuel companies might
have to seriously consider how much they want to be
in them for the long term--for several reasons.
Firstly, the global fracking revolution is
bringing to market huge new quantities of oil and
gas that might lower fossil fuel
prices. Secondly, as global warming is appreciated
as a threat to humanity's survival, government's
everywhere will induce carbon taxes and possible
fossil fuel quotas. Thirdly, the increasing
competitiveness of renewable energy production.
Fourthly, pension funds and other asset owners, as
Christiana Figueres says, due to their fiduciary
duty might have to sell stocks in fossil fuel
As a result of the above many fossil fuel company
reserves might become stranded assets: i.e. they will
have to be marked down and appear as significant losses
to their companies.
Thus, absent wars and oil supply restrictions,
those invested in fossil fuel companies are
forewarned of some potentially huge headwinds ahead
Climate change a long-term threat to investment, UN
tells investors, by Ilaria Bertini, January 16,
2014, Blue & Green Tomorrow, UK.
10 ways to generate $36 trillion of green
investments by 2050, by Ceres, and
This chart makes it painfully obvious that climate
deniers are ridiculous, finding that, "Only
one — ONE — of the 9,137 authors of peer-reviewed
climate change articles rejected anthropogenic
[human induced] global warming."
Global investment in clean energy falls for
second year running. "Global investment in
clean energy fell for the second year in a row to
$254bn last year, with green investment in Europe
crashing by 41%, new figures showed on Wednesday.
The drop casts a pall over a high-profile investor
summit at the United Nations on Wednesday. The
summit, organised by the Ceres investor network, was
supposed to build momentum for the shift to a clean
energy economy – a transformation requiring global
investment of some $1 trillion a year by 2030."
The decline in Europe was partly due to much
lower solar panel costs and governments in Germany,
France and Italy, reducing their financial supports
for renewable energy. However, globally, there was a
20% increase in solar installations last year! One
big problem in the US is that
infrastructure to distribute renewable energy--as
compared to natural gas--is hampered by excessive
government regulation. (See:
Here’s another reason why renewables are at an
unfair disadvantage, by Jaafar Rizvi, January
13, 2014, grist, USA.)
Global investment in clean energy falls for second
year running, by Suzanne Goldenberg, January 15,
2014, The Guardian, UK.
Renewable energy set to improve ethical
investing perceptions. "Investors who are
vigilant about recycling and think twice before
taking a domestic flight are still unlikely to have
spent much time worrying about how ethical their
investments are. There is an ingrained preconception
that being ethical doesn't pay when it comes to
investing... people wanting to avoid investing in
companies that damage the environment. For them,
investments in the renewable energy sector could be
the most attractive."
Some good points are made in this article. What
I would add, though, is that the number of investors
interested in investing in renewable energy
companies is increasing significantly each year.
Renewable energy set to improve ethical investing
perceptions, by Tanzeel Akhtar, January 13,
2014, Interactive Investor, UK.
Investors Swayed by Corporate Social
Responsibility Reputation. "When companies
have a strong CSR record, investors who focus almost
exclusively on financials estimate a company's
fundamental value to be about 25 percent higher than
those who divide their thinking more equally between
financials and CSR. When a firm has a poor CSR
record, the former group's estimate is about 9
This is another study--and from a fascinating
perspective--demonstrating that CSR benefits
corporate stock performance. And another positive
factor for ethical investing. Study authors are:
Mark E. Peecher of the University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign, who conducted the research;
colleagues W. Brooke Elliott and Kevin E. Jackson of
the University of Illinois; and Brian J. White of
the University of Texas at Austin.
Investors Swayed by Corporate Social Responsibility
Reputation, by Michael Cohn, January 10, 2014,
Accounting Today, USA.
UK records 20% annual increase in amount
invested in ethical funds. "The Investment
Management Association’s (IMA) latest investment
statistics show a 20% increase in the amount
invested in ethical retail funds in the year to
November 2013. This is higher than the 16.4% rise in
assets across conventional funds."
This is welcome news as it continues to show
that UK investors increasingly favour ethical funds.
According to EIRIS, assets under management for UK
ethical funds as of October 30, 2013, totalled £12.2
billion, up £1.2 billion over the previous 12
IMA records 20% annual increase in amount invested
in ethical funds, by Charlotte Malone, January
10, 2014, Blue & Green Tomorrow, UK.
Industry Groups Attempt To Overturn Conflict
Minerals Rule Today. "The aim of the rule,
mandated by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and
Consumer Protection Act, is to provide transparency
into corporate practices and specifically to reduce
funding for armed groups involved in human rights
violations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
and surrounding countries."
I believe this Dodd-Frank rule is ethically
sound--though I can see its implementation could be
troublesome for numerous companies, especially for
those that outsource their production to developing
countries. Nonetheless, I hope it stands as it sets
a precedent for corporate ethical conduct. Also,
it'll help ethical investors to ascertain which
companies they might favour for their investments.
Industry Groups Attempt To Overturn Conflict
Minerals Rule, January 6, 2014, Justmeans, USA.
If you are a
spiritual investor, or believe in ethical investing
and socially responsible investing, get the latest
relevant news in your inbox. Sign-up now for our
The Soul Investor.
Special note on news intermediaries.