Ethical Investing News/Commentaries:
Commentaries by Ron
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SustainableBusiness.com Issues Its Report: The State
of Green Investing 2009.
"In 2008, many green mutual funds, ETFs and
individual stocks sunk 50-80%, while the Dow shed
about 40%. But green investors can also expect their
portfolios to rise higher than the overall market as
it recovers... While the Dow is up 21% from its low
in early March, cleantech indexes are up 30%."
Again, with the massive ’green stimulus’ passed
recently by the US Congress, green related
investments may well outperform the general market.
Report: The State of Green Investing 2009, March
31, 2009, SustainableBusiness.com, USA.
Report Shows Sustainable Investment At Over $300
Billion In Emerging Markets.
"The research suggests sustainable investment
assets under management in emerging markets have
grown to over $300 billion or nearly 10 percent of
total investment in emerging markets in 2008.
Slightly more than $50 billion of assets identified
represent funds labelled as sustainable investment,
with the remainder reflecting mainstream
institutional funds committed to integrating ESG
within core investment processes. The IFC-Mercer
report also produced the first rating on ESG
practices of fund managers in China, India, South
Korea, and Brazil." It is great to see
sustainable investing growing even in countries with
IFC-Mercer Report Shows Sustainable Investment Is
Rising In Emerging Markets, March 31, 2009,
press release, IFC-Mercer, USA. (Go to the PDF file
at the bottom of the press release for the complete
Prestigious Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Calls
On G20 To Lay The Foundations For Greater
Transparency And Sustainability.
"The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) today
called on government leaders due to meet at the G20
summit in London on Thursday, to restore confidence
in the global economic system through requiring
greater transparency on environmental, social and
governance (ESG) performance from our companies."
It has been the lack of transparency and ethics,
particularly among financial organizations, that
has, and continues to be, a major factor in the
present financial mess.
G20 Must Seize The Day And Lay The Foundations For
Greater Transparency And Sustainability, March
31, 2009, press release, Global Reporting Initiative
For Corporate Sustainability & Responsible
Investment Research Launched.
"Seven leading corporate sustainability research
organisations from across Europe have been certified
against a new international Voluntary Quality
Standard (VQS) for Corporate Sustainability and
Responsible Investment research. Launched by the
Association of Independent Corporate Sustainability
and Responsibility Research (AI CSRR) the robust VQS
has been developed to drive high quality research
and analysis for organisations in the field." I
have always advocated for some type of benchmarking
for this type of research. Now it is finally
happening. This is most beneficial for the
advancement of ethical stocks and bonds research.
International Voluntary Quality Standard (VQS) for
Corporate Sustainability and Responsible Investment
March 30, 2009, press release, CSRR-QS, Belgium.
Half Of All Boomers Believe They Live A more
Satisfying Life By Having Fewer Material
This survey, from the 2009 Healthy Aging/Boomer
Database® of the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI),
as to how and where we might want to invest. It
describes the profound changes taking shape by the
world’s biggest consumers.
Economic Volatility Creates Changing Boomer
Paradigms, March 25, 2009, lohas.com, USA.
American Shoppers Value Green Sites.
"The study [by 1&1 Web Host] polled 543 US adults
finding that more than 60 percent of people admit to
being swayed to purchase from an online shop if the
website identifies itself as using green energy,
reflecting consumer demand for companies to take
their green efforts to use greener service
providers, whether by choosing to run their websites
from a green data center or by powering their
servers on renewable energy." Ethical investors
investing in online retailers might be interested in
78 Percent of Shoppers Value Green Sites: Study,
by David Hamilton, March 26, 2009, Web Host
Industry Review, USA.
Huge US Funds
Manager TIAA-CREF To Engage In Effort To Avoid
Companies With Ties To Genocide.
"In an important victory for the cause of
genocide-free investing, Investors Against Genocide
has announced it withdrew its shareholder proposal
from the proxy ballot for TIAA-CREF’s July
shareholders’ meeting. This announcement follows
TIAA-CREF’s decision to vigorously engage PetroChina
and other problem companies partnering with the
Government of Sudan and to divest from those
companies if they continue to substantially
contribute to genocide or crimes against humanity.
TIAA-CREF’s policy applies to the ongoing genocide
in Darfur, Sudan, as well as to future genocides."
As was the case with funds and banks boycotting
apartheid South Africa, so divesting from companies
with ties to regimes associated with genocide could
gain real momentum.
TIAA-CREF Announces Escalation in Efforts to Avoid
Investments in Companies with Ties to Genocide,
press release, March 26, 2009, Investors Against
Genocide, CSRwire, USA.
Rebuff Shareowner Request to Create Economic
"Shareowner proposal introduced by Harrington
Investments is excluded from proxy ballots by the
SEC, and Bank of America and Citigroup refuse a
direct request from Harrington to form a board-level
committee." After reading this item, a reader
has to conclude that the financial elites will go to
any lengths to protect their interests--even if it
is at the expense of the public interest.
TARP Banks Rebuff Shareowner Request to Create
Economic Security Committees,
by Robert Kropp, March 26, 2009, SocialFunds.com,
Ethos Urges Shareholders To Reject New UBS Pay
"Ethos said the new UBS pay plan includes a
bonus-malus system - with the bonus calculated over
several years and only reducible by a malus in the
case of underperformance - as well as a share-based
incentive plan. It said that, under the new system,
some UBS bankers could still receive variable
payments worth up to 90 percent of total pay, which
could create the wrong incentives and lead to
’excessive risk-taking’... ’Ethos voting guidelines
stipulate that the variable part of remuneration
should in principle not exceed 50 percent of total
remuneration,’ it said. Personally, I believe
there might be certain situations where big bonuses
are appropriate. However, they must be tied to
longer term performance and profitability measures
and not spur unethical behaviour.
UPDATE 2-UBS shareholders urged to reject new pay
system, March 25, 2009, Reuters,
Primer On Shariah Stock Screening.
"Sharia-compliant investment management is
concerned with investments in assets that are in
compliance with Islamic law. An Islamic investor is
not allowed to invest in companies that derive most
of their revenue from non Sharia-compliant business
activities, or that use interest in operating or
financing their business. In the context of
investing in equities, screening for Sharia
compliance is ensured using two main screens:
business activities and financial ratios." Many
ethical investors and analysts might like to read
this article for insights they could apply to their
own investment analysis.
Sharia stock screening gains ground, by Zaineb
Sefiani, March 26, 2009, Emirates Business 24/7,
United Arab Emirates.
’Say On Pay’
Non-Binding Shareholder Resolutions Becoming A
Feature At Canadian Company Annual General Meetings.
"Over the past month, 10 of Canada’s largest
companies have agreed to give investors a
non-binding annual vote on chief executive officer
pay - a practice known as say on pay - and Mr.
Hawton anticipates many more will voluntarily adopt
the practice as it enters the mainstream." The
furor surrounding the AIG bonus situation may well
change senior level compensation packages in public
companies for years to come. But special
compliments need to be paid to Gary Hawton for
pioneering say on pay resolutions in Canada for the
past several years. Companies with declining
revenues yet with executive compensation hundreds of
times the annual pay of company employees, is simply
unethical and irresponsible.
Amid Wall Street bonus furor, Canadian boards pay
heed, by Janet McFarland, March 24, 2009, The
Globe & Mail, Canada.
Tops In Recycling.
"The survey by Strategic Oxygen and Cohn & Wolfe
of more than 3,500 CIOs, chief officers, IT
managers, line of business managers and other top IT
enterprise decision-makers also recognized HP, IBM
and Microsoft for having energy efficient products
and using eco-friendly materials." We are
witnessing monumental changes towards sustainability
by the world’s largest electronics manufacturers.
Research indicates that such moves towards
sustainability can positively improve product sales
and reduce corporate waste and costs. It is win win
for everybody. Hopefully, in the long run, for
Corporate IT Buyers Rank Dell No. 1 for Its
Recycling Program: Study, March 20, 2009,
Regulators Requiring All Insurance Companies With
More Than $500 Million In Annual Premiums To
Disclose Climate Change Risks & Plans To Deal With
"The National Association of Insurance
Commissioners (NAIC) today adopted a mandatory
requirement that insurance companies disclose to
regulators the financial risks they face from
climate change, as well as actions the companies are
taking to respond to those risks." Great news
for policyholders as well as for ethical investors
looking for insurance stocks that are good to invest
Insurance Regulators Adopt Climate Change Risk
Disclosure, March 17, 2009, press release,
National Association of Insurance Commissioners,
Insurers Must Reveal Climate Change Risks, March
19, 2009, ClimateBiz, USA.
Seek Long Term Focus In Curricula (2).
"Nine out of ten respondents say that a focus in
business on short-term rather than long-term results
has been one of the contributing factors to the
global financial crisis. Just 24% of respondents
strongly agree that they are learning how to make
business decisions that will help avert similar
crises. In addition, a majority of the students
surveyed strongly agree that there is a need for
business schools to introduce other financial models
into the curriculum, specifically models that take
long-term social impacts into account." Wow,
what a change in a few short years! Another example
that the short-term anything goes mentality is
giving way to a new higher holistic consciousness.
New Leaders: New Perspectives. A Survey of MBA
Student Opinions on the Relationship between
Business and Social/Environmental Issues. By Net
Impact in partnership with the Aspen Institute
Center for Business Education, USA.
Less Convinced About Global Warming.
"Although a majority of Americans believe the
seriousness of global warming is either correctly
portrayed in the news or underestimated, a
record-high 41% now say it is exaggerated. This
represents the highest level of public scepticism
about mainstream reporting on global warming seen in
more than a decade of Gallup polling on the
subject." This will be an important trend to
Increased Number Think Global Warming Is
“Exaggerated.” Published on lohas.com. Source:
Gallup Polling, USA.
$750 Billion In Green Spending To Revive World
Economy & Protect Environment.
"The UNEP report said investments of one percent
of global gross domestic product, or about $750
billion, could bankroll a ’Global Green New Deal’
inspired by the ’New Deal’ of U.S. President
Franklin D. Roosevelt that helped end the depression
of the 1930s... Investments should be split between
more energy efficient buildings, renewable energies,
better transport, improved agriculture and measures
to safeguard nature -- such as fresh water, forests
or coral reefs, it said."
This may sound a little heretical to many readers,
but I do wonder about soaring government debt
issuances which these policies require and which
’crowd-out’ the debt markets for small green
companies trying to get financing. Furthermore, I
believe private capital has a better chance of
creating successful green enterprises than
government bureaucracies are able to do. Let
governments give green businesses a level playing
field and stop the outrageous tax benefits,
write-offs, indirect supports, and bailouts that the
dirty carbon industries get!
$750 billion "green" investment could revive
economy: U.N., March 19, 2009, UNEP, Norway.
Sustainable Investments Fall A Little Less Than
Other Assets Classes In 2008.
"The study by Zurich-based onValues said the
value of sustainable investments held in Swiss
funds, mandates and structured products fell 39
percent in calendar 2008 to 20.9 billion Swiss
francs ($17.56 billion). This percentage fall was
lower than for comparable fund categories -- mainly
equities funds and balanced funds -- whose assets
fell by 40.2 percent in the same period to 214
billion Swiss francs." The Swiss experience
typifies what has and is happening to sustainable
investing in most developed countries. However, with
massive green stimulus packages underway,
particularly in the US, it is possible that some
sustainable investments might outperform in the years ahead.
Swiss sustainable investment assets hit by downturn,
March 13, 2009, Reuters in The Guardian
Giant Oil Fund Bars China′s Dongfeng Motor Group Co.
Ltd.; Is Reviewing Siemens AG For A Possible Ban.
"The $297 billion fund will be barred from
investing in Dongfeng Motor on a recommendation from
the Council on Ethics because of sales of military
trucks to Myanmar, the Finance Ministry said in Oslo
today... Germany′s Siemens AG, Europe′s largest
engineering company, was put under observation
because of the ’gross and systematic corruption the
group has been involved in over many years,’ Norway
said." Norway’s giant fund continues to
demonstrate leadership in its selection of ethical
stocks and bonds. It is worthwhile for ethical
investors to always take not of what this fund does.
Norway Bans Dongfeng From Oil Fund; Siemens on Watch
(Update3), by Marianne Stigset, March 13, 2009,
Business Students Want Companies To Address
Environmental & Social Issues (1).
"... 77 percent of MBA students view acting
responsibly as a way to increase corporate profits,
a figure that has grown since 2006, when 60 percent
of students saw the correlation between CSR and
profitability in Net Impact’s first study." It
seems that business students really appreciate
the advantages of using corporate social
MBA Students Say Businesses Should Address Green and
Social Issues, March 12, 2009, GreenBiz, USA.
Slowing Corporate Social Responsibility Initiatives.
"The [Booze & Co.] survey reveals that 40 percent
of respondents expect green and other corporate
social responsibility (CSR) initiatives to
significantly slow due to the downturn, while 29
percent of respondents don′t believe it will delay
green projects. The pullback will be especially
evident in transportation and energy industries,
with, respectively, 51 percent and 47 percent of
respondents in those industries saying CSR agendas
will be delayed." While business students (see
above) understand the advantages of using corporate
social responsibility, it seems many companies still
view it as an expense that can be cut when times get
Survey: Recession Slows Corporate Sustainability
Efforts, March 11, 2009, Environmental Leader
republished at lohas.com, USA.
Series Tracks Gender Equality.
"’What we found to be especially interesting in
our research was the positive correlation between
gender diversity in Boards of Directors and senior
management and the quality of earnings reported by
companies," Gorte continued... The Index series will
include large and mid cap companies that recruit,
retain, and promote women.’" This will be a
fascinating index series to watch and to see how it
influences both corporate management and investor
behaviour. Will the best socially responsible stocks
to invest in be led by women?
Goal of New Index Series Is to Advance Gender
Equality, by Robert Kropp, March 11, 2009,
Social Funds, USA.
With $55 Trillion In Assets Want More Corporate
Action On Carbon Emissions Reductions & Strategies.
"Investors that are signatories of the Carbon
Disclosure Project (CDP), a nonprofit organization
which acts as an intermediary between shareholders
and corporations on climate change issues, want the
companies in which they invest to do more than just
disclose climate and carbon information. The CDP
signatories, who manage $55 trillion in assets, want
companies to take such additional actions as
adopting emissions reductions targets and developing
low carbon solutions as well."
The survey of institutional investors supports the
view that analysts are increasingly incorporating
climate change factors in their analytical
methodologies. The survey results were compiled by
Investors Want More Disclosure of Climate Risk Data
from Corporations, by Robert Kropp, March 10,
2009, Social Funds, USA.
Says Bristol Myers-Squibb, General Mills, Inc., &
IBM Corp. Are 2009’s Top Corporate Citizens In Its
Top 100 List.
"... the methodology used to compile this year′s
100 Best list was debated and voted on in open
session by 27 leading corporate responsibility
practitioners representing nine major industry
segments October 2008 at the CRO Conference in
Chicago." Of course, in such lists, one has
always to pay attention as to how they are compiled.
Most of these companies are considered among the
most popular stocks that are good to invest in by
Corporate Citizens 2009, March 9, 2009, CRO
Brothers Survey: Human Trafficking & Abortion Top
Issues Of Concern Among Catholic Institutional
Other issues of concern are, "... companies that
support governments engaged in genocide or
terrorism... environmental justice,
sweatshops/contract supplier standards, and access
to water and responsible use of water resources...
85% of Catholic institutional investors believe that
active ownership has a positive impact on
corporations." Morally conscious investing is
huge. In America, one dollar in nine is invested in
portfolios that screen-out investments engaged in
activities such as those cited above. Spiritual
investors will find the results of this survey
Christian Brothers Investment Services Announces
Results of New Catholic SRI Survey, press
release, March 9, 2009, Christian Brothers
Investment Services, USA.
New US Low
Carbon Index Launched By S&P.
"The S&P U.S. Carbon Efficient Index is composed
of a subset of constituents in the S&P 500 with a
relatively low Carbon Footprint while maintaining at
least 50% of the original weight representation for
every GICS® sector in the S&P 500. The Carbon
Footprint is calculated by Trucost PLC and is
defined by the company′s annual greenhouse gas (GHG)
emissions assessment, expressed as tons of carbon
dioxide equivalent (CO2e) divided by annual
revenues." With its emphasis on capturing
large-cap, low carbon, S&P 500 companies, this index
could prove useful to many green and ethical
investors. No doubt various ETFs and index-based
funds will be created from it.
S&P U.S. Carbon Efficient Index, March 9, 2009,
Standard & Poor’s, USA.
Study Shows No Outperformance Of SRI Funds During
"’None of the socially responsible investment
equity funds available to European investors
produced alpha or outperformance, according to an
EDHEC Risk and Asset Management Research Centre
study released today... ’SRI security selection in
itself does not lead to outperformance,’ the report
said. ’Our results show that SRI fund performance is
accounted for instead by style biases and market
This author is just saying that there are still no
magic SRI formulae for stock market outperformance.
However, as I have argued many times we can at least
invest according to our values and still likely
enjoy conventional returns. But I still believe that
investment analysis incorporating ESG
(environmental, social and governance) and ethical
factors will over the long-term provide superior
EDHEC: No alpha from SRI funds for Europeans, by
Barry B. Burr, March 9, 2009, Pensions &
Companies Getting Their Suppliers To Disclose Carbon
Emissions & Reduction Strategies.
"Nearly three dozen companies -- including heavy
hitters such as Johnson and Johnson, P&G, Johnson
Controls, Boeing, Dell and PepsiCo -- called on
thousands of their major suppliers to disclose
emissions and reduction strategies through the
Carbon Disclosure Project. Of the more than 2,300
suppliers asked to participate in the disclosure,
634 responded, the vast majority of which -- 71
percent -- were divulging their emissions and
mitigation strategies for the first time.
Fifty-eight percent of respondents acknowledged
climate change risks." It is a sign of the
times that we see
environmentally conscious major corporations
encouraging greater environmental engagement from
A Third of Global Suppliers Unaware of Climate
Change Risks: CDP, March 6, 2009, ClimateBiz,
E-Purchases Greener Than Bricks & Mortar Shopping.
"The transaction studied was the purchase of a
flash drive and its journey from the manufacturer
ultimately to the customer’s home. The e-commerce
business that was focused upon in the study was
Buy.com, a member of the Green Design Consortium at
Carnegie Mellon’s Green Design Institute.
Researchers found that Buy.com’s business model for
such a transaction involved 35 percent less energy
consumption and carbon dioxide emissions than a
traditional retail shopping model." If, despite
the present economic situation, you are interested
in retail stocks, this research might shed some
light on your options.
Study Finds E-Shopping Greener Than Traditional
Retailing, by Leslie Guevarra, March 6, 2009,
Sustainable Pharmaceutical Business Models And
Global Health Outcomes In Emerging Markets.
This detailed new report by Pharma Futures is a
fascinating study of the potential future shape of
the pharmaceutical industry in the developing world.
However, cost vs. availability of life saving drugs
in the developing world continues to be a major
issue. From my perspective, traditional medicine
also needs to be fully evaluated. However, since it
is difficult for big pharma to patent such
medicines, they have so far shown little interest in
this area. But I have heard that some drug companies
are having second thoughts here.
Pharma Futures 3: Emerging Opportunities, March
Corporate Responsibility Gaining Ground In Emerging
"By using a subset of EIRIS′ assessment
methodology and publicly available documentation, 40
leading companies in ten emerging markets were
examined and each company was assessed against key
environmental, social and governance (ESG)
criteria... This study′s findings indicate that the
majority of the 40 emerging market companies have
shown evidence of addressing at least some ESG
issues in their public disclosures."
SIRAN is a network of 150 investment analysts in
North America, supporting the ESG research work in
more than 30 investment related firms. It’s terrific
to see companies in emerging markets seeing the
advantages of using corporate social responsibility.
A Review of ESG Practices in Large Emerging Market
Companies, March 2009, SIRAN, USA.
Could Boost 1,200 US Companies.
"Legislation that puts a cap on greenhouse gas
pollution will spur job expansion in a dozen
manufacturing states in the U.S., according to the
Environmental Defense Fund. The environmental group
published on Friday an online
interactive map identifying more than 1,200
companies that stand to benefit from future climate
change legislation." Indeed, a re-alignment of
dollar flows from carbon producers to green and
greener companies could soon take place.
EDF Maps 1,200 Companies Poised to Benefit from
Climate Laws, March 2, 2009, GreenBiz.com, USA.
Times (UK) Publishes ’The Rich Green List.’
"This first Sunday Times Green Rich List shows
that the enthusiasm among the world′s wealthiest for
investments in areas as diverse as electric cars,
solar power and geothermal energy is unaffected by
the recession." It’s inspiring to read how the
world’s richest people are putting their money into
green and sustainable investments.
The Green Rich List, by Philip Beresford, March
1, 2009, The Sunday Times, UK.
Institute Publishes Its List Of The World’s 100
"The list highlights the significant energy
efficiency achievements of global corporations
operating major data centers. It includes exemplary
FORTUNE 500 and InformationWeek 500 organizations
with a demonstrated board-level policy and
governance commitment to increasing energy
efficiency and reducing the carbon footprint of
their enterprise IT and data center operations."
These are certainly among the world’s most
environmentally conscious major corporations. You
have to suspect that there is a correlation between
a company’s focus on green IT and their commitment
The 100 Top Green IT Companies, February 27,
2009, Uptime Institute press release on lohas.com,
Shareholder Resolutions Related To Climate Change
Projected To Increase By 10%.
"By mid-February, shareholders had filed 337
resolutions related to sustainability, up 10% from
this time last year, according to RiskMetrics, the
proxy advisory firm. It expects the total to exceed
the 410 resolutions filed by investors in 2008."
Clearly, the bad economy is not dampening
shareholder enthusiasm to get companies to be more
Analysis: investors – Green with anger, by John
Russell, February 27, 2009, Ethical Corporation, UK.
Believe Corporate Ethics Are Poor.
A Knights of Columbus poll found that, "76%
[of Americans] believe that corporate America’s
moral compass is pointed in the wrong direction, 58%
of corporate executives agree; and a majority of
Americans, and two-thirds of executives, gave a
grade of D or F in ethical matters to the financial
and investment industry." These results are not
unexpected considering the economic downturn we are
experiencing. However, perhaps people need to look
at their own actions first before criticising those
of others. How many of them are applying higher
values to their own investments?
Majority of Public Believes Corporate America Needs
New Moral Direction, press release by Knights of
Columbus in EarthTimes.org, USA.
Alcoa, Hess &
Time-Warner Rated As Tops In Environmental &
Sustainability Reporting Among New York Based Firms.
"The Roberts Environmental Center of Claremont
McKenna College (CMC) today released a detailed
analysis of the social responsibility reporting
efforts of New York’s top corporations. Titled
’Analysis of Sustainability Reporting in New York
Public Companies,’ the report contains a compilation
of Pacific Sustainability Index scores evaluating
the environmental and social reporting of the 91 New
York companies on the 2008 Fortune 1000 list... The
report scores companies based on the reporting,
intent, and performance of environmental and social
sustainability efforts. The research, based entirely
on material released on the firms’ Web sites..."
The report makes fascinating, detailed reading, and
demonstrates to all companies the advantages of
using corporate social responsibility.
New Report Grades Sustainability Reporting of New
York Fortune 1000 Companies, press release,
February 24, 2009, Claremont McKenna College, USA.
Download full report (PDF 8MB)
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