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Shareholder Values

 
"Forty-five percent of U.S. households prefer an environmental, social and governance (ESG) approach to investing... Among those between the ages of 30 and 39, this increases to 64%, and for those younger than 30, it is 67%."
-- Cerulli Associates
 
 (USA)
    October 2018

"The vast majority of Canadian investors are interested in responsible investments (RI) that incorporate environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, and they would be more likely to choose responsible investments if their financial advisor suggested suitable RI options for them."
-- Responsible
    Investment
    Association (RIA)
 
  (Canada)
    June 2017

"70% of people [in UK] want to invest ethically but the financial services industry is failing to respond." Referencing research by Abundance.
-- Acquisition
    International
   
(UK) June 2015

 

Ethical Investing News/Commentaries
November 2018

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Commentaries by Ron Robins

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Companies must address ESG issues to be deemed trustworthy by investors — Edelman survey. "Results of the second annual Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: Institutional Investors show that 89% of investors have changed their voting and/or engagement policy to be more attentive to ESG practices, with 63% reporting that this change has taken place in the past year."

[COMMENTARY] Edelman is renowned for the quality of its surveys. This data, together with the comments of Larry Fink of Blackrock, the world's largest asset manager, clearly illustrate that ESG criteria are frontline concerns for assets managers today. We've come a long way!
Companies must address ESG issues to be deemed trustworthy by investors — Edelman survey, by James Comtois, November 30, 2018, Pensions & Investments, USA.

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Education ‘main barrier’ to engaging in responsible investing. "The survey [by First State Investments and research firm Kepler Cheuvreux], which assessed the attitudes of more than 400 millennials globally about SRI, found that while more than four in five (81%) would be interested in investing in socially responsible or sustainable investment products, a similar proportion (82%) believe more education is needed to drive interest in SRI. Almost half (49%) of those surveyed currently have investments, but despite the apparent interest in responsible investing, just 9% currently invest in a fund focused on sustainability issues."

[COMMENTARY] Several things stand out from this survey. The first is that most millennials aren't, yet, investing in SRI, or even investing generally. Secondly, they know little about SRI. Thirdly, the majority prefer "digitisation, including digital investment platforms and live chat functions" as a means by which to invest. Also, being an online questionnaire might induce a bias to the results. Furthermore, for many parts of the world, SRI is virtually unknown with few products to invest in. The referenced study, published here, does not provide a geographic breakdown.

It's clear that millennials are still a largely untapped market for SRI/ESG/ethical investment products.
Education ‘main barrier’ to engaging in responsible investing, by Robbie Lawther, November 29, 2018, International Advisor, UK.

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OECD, UN Environment and World Bank call for a radical shift in financing for a low-carbon, climate-resilient future. "Delivering a new report, Financing Climate Futures: Rethinking Infrastructure, to the G20 at its Summit in Buenos Aires, the three International Organisations said governments need to adopt a more transformative agenda on low-carbon, climate-resilient investments if they are to meet the Paris Agreement goal of cutting CO2 emissions to net zero in the second half of the century and build resilience to climate change."

[COMMENTARY] I agree with the above call. However, even though most people believe that human activities are heating the planet and massive weather-related costs will be incurred, they reluctant to presently pay for it. Perhaps a few more climate disasters close to home will convince taxpayers that incentives to create new low carbon industries and consumption are truly timely.
OECD, UN Environment and World Bank call for a radical shift in financing for a low-carbon, climate-resilient future, press release, November 29, 2018, UN Environment Programme.

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Lack of international standards holding back ESG investing, finds BNY Mellon study. "Non-financial performance measurement and a lack of international standards have been identified as the biggest hurdle for environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing."

[COMMENTARY] BNY Mellon have hit on an old and familiar theme with their study. However, as addressed in their findings, there's a great deal of work by regulators and others behind the scenes attempting to remedy the situation. I believe in future years we'll see such remedies.
Lack of international standards holding back ESG investing, finds BNY Mellon study, by Joe Parsons, November 22, 2018, Global Custodian, UK.

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Companies Leading on Disability Inclusion Outperform Peers. "Accenture, in partnership with Disability:IN and the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), has released 'Getting to Equal: The Disability Inclusion Advantage.' This report looks at both the disability practices and financial performance of 140 companies over the past four years... Companies that 'embrace best practices for employing and supporting more people with disabilities in their workforces' are several times more likely to outperform their peers financially."

[COMMENTARY] This is a pioneering and worthy study. It might also be true that employees with disabilities feel they have to prove themselves and so are more productive. Hence, forward-looking companies know this and so increasingly employ individuals with disabilities? Thus, such employment is not out of charity.
Companies Leading on Disability Inclusion Outperform Peers, by Megan Amrich, November 20, 2018, TriplePundit, USA.

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Are ESG Ratings the New Credit Rating for Stock Prices? "A new MSCI study of ESG ratings finds they have a similar impact on share prices as do credit ratings."

[COMMENTARY] Though to me the findings are unsurprising, this is the first study to demonstrate that ESG ratings have a similar impact to credit ratings on a company's stock price. This finding will no doubt be challenged, but comes at a time when investors everywhere are looking at the inclusion of ESG criteria in their investment research. It bodes well for the mainstreaming of ESG!
Are ESG Ratings the New Credit Rating for Stock Prices? By Ginger Szala, November 19, 2018, ThinkAdvisor, USA.

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From upstream to mainstream: ESG at a tipping point. "In a year's time, the percentage of Millennials expressing a high level of interest in ESG investing jumped from 26% to 35%, advisers say, while the percentage of Gen Xers embracing ESG spiked from 16% to 25%. This is more than a generational story, however... Twenty-six percent of ultra-high-net-worth investors now show a high level of interest in ESG investing, advisers say, up from only 10% in 2017. Similarly, interest among very-high net worth investors shot from 13% to 19% in a year's time."

[COMMENTARY] These results are from a US survey of 300 advisors. The jump in numbers over just one-year is impressive. Somewhat interesting is that its regular advisors reporting the rapid growth. Calvert was involved too.
From upstream to mainstream: ESG at a tipping point, November 15, 2018, by IN Research and Calvert, Investment News, USA.

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Green finance: a contrarian take. "Renaissance’s argument thereafter is that, even if emerging markets have far lower ESG scores, directing capital their way allows for the highest overall rate of improvement, and so the greatest ethical utility. This is, unsurprisingly, an argument for more investment in EM."

[COMMENTARY] The argument presented here is like the idea of investing in companies who are just beginning to engage in ESG seriously to take advantage of their possible rapid stock price as they're identified as a potential 'high' ESG company. It's recognized by many investors that high ESG scoring companies also now have a premium to their stock prices.
Green finance: a contrarian take, by Thomas Hale, November 15, 2018, FT Advisor, UK.

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S&P 500 Firms Expand Sustainability Data in Financial Filings, But Slow to Adopt Fully Integrated Reporting. "78 percent of S&P 500 companies issue a sustainability report... Among companies that issue sustainability reports, 95 percent offer quantified, annually comparable environmental performance metrics; two-thirds set quantified and time-bound environmental goals. Some 86 percent offer social performance metrics, but only 40 percent set quantified social goals."

[COMMENTARY] Many companies may not acknowledge climate change, but they know that demonstrating an interest in it and providing some metrics is good for their stock prices. There's still the issue that most companies issuing sustainability reports don't have that data independently verified and audited. That being said, we're seeing great progress in such reporting!
S&P 500 Firms Expand Sustainability Data in Financial Filings, But Slow to Adopt Fully Integrated Reporting, press release, November 14, 2018, IRRC Institute, USA.

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Research Links Financial and Corporate Sustainability (ESG) Performance. "Based on 642 North American sustainability reports for the 2017 reporting period, CSE created a unique analysis framework. It identifies correlations between Sustainability (ESG) performance and Financial results."

[COMMENTARY] The press release gives little information on their findings. However, you can download for free the report by providing your contact information. What quickly stood out for me in the report is the abysmal use of external auditors for ESG data in GRI reports.
Research Links Financial and Corporate Sustainability (ESG) Performance, press release, November 6, 2018, Center for Sustainability and Excellence, USA.

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Clean finance needs to include traditionally ‘dirty’ industries. "We need mechanisms that finance climate-friendly projects, not only for solar panels and transit tracks, but also for a massive transition in carbon-intensive industries. The federal [Canadian] government’s expert panel on sustainable finance shares that view, and in October endorsed “transition-linked financial products” to help channel green investment to high-emitting industries."

[COMMENTARY] The transition to a zero carbon future must include ways in which carbon-intensive industries can finance their transition to becoming 'greener.' With carbon-intensive industries forming so much of the Canadian economy, it's timely and necessary that Canada is a leader in this endeavour. This is a very promising development. Congratulations to all those involved.
Clean finance needs to include traditionally ‘dirty’ industries, by Toby Heaps and Annette Verschuren, November 4, 2018, The Globe and Mail, Canada.

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Big data, ESG ratings help find alpha. "This has fundamental implications for how chief sustainability officers and business leaders work with the broader ecosystem. The higher price of corporate sustainability poses a challenge for ESG investors: they need to ask if they are getting good value for money. It is not only a matter of the value of corporate sustainability anymore, it is also a function of the price you are paying for it. Value for price is key."

[COMMENTARY] Harvard Business School professor George Serafeim continues his outstanding research on ESG investing. As we see in the above quote, in his latest paper, "Public sentiment and the price of corporate sustainability,” Professor Serafeim shows that the stock prices of companies with higher ESG scores frequently trade at premium prices--and therefore ESG-ethically oriented investors need to tread carefully to obtain alpha.
Big data, ESG ratings help find alpha, by George Serafeim, November 2, 2018, Top 1000 Funds, USA.

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Disclaimer: This website does not make investment recommendations. Nothing in this site should be interpreted as a recommendation or solicitation to buy/sell any securities or investments. Investing for the Soul is a source of general information and resources for ethical investing and socially responsible investing (SRI). Investors should consider their actions thoroughly and consult their financial advisers and other professionals, prior to taking any investment action. This website does not necessarily agree with the opinions expressed in articles on its pages or offered on the web pages to which it might be linked. Such opinions are the responsibility of the writers themselves. Furthermore, this site does not offer or provide any warranties, representations, guarantees, implied or otherwise, as to the accuracy, legality, copyright compliance, timeliness or usefulness of the information, materials or services on this, or other sites, to which it is linked. Also, Mr. Ron Robins is not an investment advisor, nor is he licensed with any professional investment related body, and thus is not able to, nor does he make, any investment recommendations.

 

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