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Links may only be valid for a limited time    January 29, 2015

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Universities score poorly on climate change risk investment. "While climate science has been a prominent concern of many university based researchers, these same venerable education institutions have failed to walk the talk in regard to applying climate change science to climate risk investment of their financial assets. A new global survey of universities has found that the overwhelming majority are financially exposed to the risk of stranded assets and physical impacts of climate change."

[COMMENTARY] The data is unsurprising. The university boards are usually stuffed with conservative business leaders who go by the advice of their fund managers that still don't believe in the idea of fossil fuel divestment and the impacts of climate change.
Universities score poorly on climate change risk investment, by Takver, January 28, 2015, SF Bay Area Indymedia, USA.

Helena Morrissey, Aiming at Britain’s Glass Ceilings, Gets Results. "Ms. Morrissey has directed her steely focus on Britain’s most powerful men. Working behind the scenes, she has persuaded 120 of the country’s top chairmen that they want what she wants: more diverse boards that will produce better company returns.

The approach has produced some remarkable results. Since 2010, the percentage of women on Britain’s top boards has nearly doubled, to 23 percent, while in the United States, the figure has crept up a few percentage points to 17 percent."

[COMMENTARY] There's a powerful case for including more women and minorities on company boards. Many studies show they improve board performance and corporate results. It's for those reasons as well as for equity rights -- and most likely Ms. Morrissey's own impeccable character and credentials -- as to why she's been so successful.
Helena Morrissey, Aiming at Britain’s Glass Ceilings, Gets Results, Jenny Anderson, January 26, 2015, Dealb%k, The New York Times, USA.

The (Corporate) Sustainability Yearbook 2015 by RobecoSAM. "A record number of companies participated in RobecoSAM’s Corporate Sustainability Assessment. Out of more than 3,000 companies that were invited, 830 companies from 42 different countries participated. RobecoSAM views this as a positive development in corporate sustainability. For investors, the Sustainability Yearbook identifies companies that are strongly positioned to create long-term shareholder value."

[COMMENTARY] Another good review of the most sustainably oriented companies globally. European companies take top spot, followed by Asian, then American companies. What's good here are the industry profiles. Ethical investors might want to review them.
The (Corporate) Sustainability Yearbook 2015 by RobecoSAM, January 23, 2015, Switzerland.

American High Income Women and Social Responsibility. "Only 15 percent of high income women do not consider social responsibility in their investment decisions."

[COMMENTARY] It's generally observed that relatively more women than men favour socially responsible-ethical investing. It's good to see that among rich American women the interest in socially responsible-ethical investing is so high.
High Income Women and Social Responsibility, by Kent McDill, January 23, 2015, Millionaire Corner, USA.

Corporate Knights 2015 Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations. "The Global 100 index (which is equally weighted) commenced on February 1, 2005. From inception to December 31, 2014, it delivered a total return of 90.76%, compared to 96.98% for its benchmark, the MSCI All Country World Index. This is the first year-end that the Global 100 Index has fallen behind its benchmark, in large part due to the rising U.S. dollar, as 81 per cent of Global 100 constituents trade in non-US denominated currencies, versus approximately 50% for the MSCI ACWI. The Global 100 is calculated by Solactive, the German index provider. It is available on Bloomberg under the ticker <CKG100 Index> and on Reuters under the ticker <.CKG100>."

[COMMENTARY] The top ten rated firms are: Biogen Idec, Allergan, Keppel Land, Kesko, Adidas, BMW, Reckitt Benckiser Group, Centrica, Schneider Electric and Danske Bank. This is always a good review for ethical investors. For full results, click here.
2015 Global 100 results, January 22, 2015, Corporate Knights, Canada.

Canadian Responsible Investments Surpass $1 Trillion says 2014 Trends Report. "Responsible investing (RI) is experiencing rapid growth in Canada, according to the 2014 Canadian Responsible Investment Trends Report. The biennial report, released today by the Responsible Investment Association (RIA) and RBC... suggest that 31 per cent of invested assets under management in Canada involve some aspect of RI."

[COMMENTARY] A quick look at the figures suggests continuing great growth for responsible-ethical investments in Canada. What I'm especially pleased about is that retail responsible-ethical mutual fund assets are growing almost twice as fast as 'conventional' fund assets. This probably indicates a growing percentage of Canadian investors moving into responsible-ethical funds.
Canadian Responsible Investments Surpass $1 Trillion says 2014 Trends Report, press release, January 22, 2015, Responsible Investment Association, Canada.

Canadian MP who Championed Tougher Warnings on Prescription Drugs now wants Tougher Warnings on Cell Phones. "Conservative MP Terence Young will announce today that he has multi-party support from MP's across Canada for his Private Member's Bill requiring warning labels on cell phones and Wi-Fi routers wherever they are sold.

The Oakville MP was successful last year in passing a law requiring clearer warnings on pharmaceuticals. He's now introduced a Bill that will require safety warnings on all microwave emitting wireless devices sold in Canada.

'The World Health Organization places wireless radiation on the same cancer warning-list as DDT, lead and car exhaust,' said Young. 'Canadians have a right to know this.'

[COMMENTARY] Some 50 to 70 years ago concerns began to emerge about the detrimental health effects of smoking. I believe we're at the beginning stages of understanding the negative health effects of excessive electro-magnetic and wireless radiation. As concern grows, this could negatively impact huge swaths of the tech industry. Ethical investors might want to avail themselves of the latest findings with respect to this issue so that they aren't sideswiped by market developments and possible portfolio losses.
Canadian MP who Championed Tougher Warnings on Prescription Drugs now wants Tougher Warnings on Cell Phones, press release, January 19, 2015, Canada.

Ethical Questions of Investing in Pot. "Public pension funds and university endowments are increasingly shying away from putting their money in so-called sin industries and focusing on more “socially responsible” investments, but it’s unclear where marijuana falls on this spectrum. Is marijuana closer to the health care industry, given its benefits for certain ailments, or should it be lumped into the same category as cigarettes, alcohol, gambling, guns and, in some quarters, fossil fuels and sugary soda?"

[COMMENTARY] This is one of those issues that ethical investors are beginning to vigorously debate. From my side, I believe every investor should make up their own mind on this issue. For ethical investors I've long advocated that to truly reflect their personal values it might be more appropriate to invest, where possible, in individual stocks than mutual funds/ETS -- if such products don't really reflect one's values. However, for those managing other peoples' assets such as pension funds -- it's a big dilemma and one that I believe will never be really resolved.
Ethical Questions of Investing in Pot, by Andrew Ross Sorkin, January 12, 2015, DealB%k, The New York Times, USA.

Denmark Sets New Wind Power World Record. "Denmark has long been one of the world’s leaders in wind power. The country of 5.6 million has set a goal of generating 50 percent of its power from clean energy sources by 2020 and aims to be entirely fossil fuel-free by 2050. Those goals, especially the one for 2020, are well achievable: Denmark has announced it scored 39.1 percent of its energy from wind in 2014."

[COMMENTARY] For all those naysayers that it's not possible to have most of our energy from renewable sources, Denmark's experience demolishes that argument! Now, with solar and wind financially competitive with fossil fuel energy in many markets, that argument is even more spurious. The future for renewable energy shines bright. However, as in any developing industry, ethical investors know to be aware as there'll be many more companies failing than succeeding. But the ones that do succeed will likely show exemplary profits.
Denmark Sets New Wind Power World Record, by
Leon Kaye, January 9, 2015, TriplePundit, USA.

Wealthy (UK) under-40s are more likely to make social investments, Charities Aid Foundation says. "CAF surveyed more than a thousand people with average wealth of £7.5m and found that four-fifths of those under 40 were socially conscious investors, compared with 63 per cent of over-40s."

[COMMENTARY] This is continuing good news for ethical investors. It suggests that the younger generations of wealthy will increasingly favour ethical investing. One important difference between the younger and older generation that might be at play here, is that the younger generations’ greater concern for the environment and climate change. After all, they are the ones that are going to have deal with it.
Wealthy under-40s are more likely to make social investments, Charities Aid Foundation says, by Sam Burne James, January 9, 2015, Third Sector, UK.

Clean Energy Investment Jumps 16%, Shaking Off Oil’s Drop. "New funds for wind, solar, biofuels and other low-carbon energy technologies gained 16 percent to $310 billion last year, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. It was the first growth since 2011, erasing the impact of lower solar-panel prices and falling subsides in the U.S. and Europe that hurt the industry in previous years."

[COMMENTARY] Much of the gain is attributable to a 32% rise of renewables' spending in China and huge offshore wind developments. Lower oil prices might have a detrimental effect on transportation related growth but it is unlikely to dampen the continuing growth for renewables in electrical generation where they are increasingly cost-competitive.
Clean Energy Investment Jumps 16%, Shaking Off Oil’s Drop, by Louise Downing, January 9, 2015, Bloomberg, UK.

75% of [South Western UK] savers keen to see their cash invested more ethically. "More than three quarters (78%) of savers and investors in the South West [of UK] would like to see their money invested in environmental and social sectors. According to research from the ethical bank Triodos Bank figures show that 14% of those planning to invest over the next year are likely to choose the social investment sector; an increase on last year’s figure of 11%."

[COMMENTARY] In the UK, the Triodos Bank is pioneering a new kind of socially and environmentally sensitive banking aimed at ethical investors. When reading this article you should be aware that in the UK there's a huge backlash against the enormous bonuses that many bank bosses are paying themselves, especially as many of these bank were rescued by UK taxpayers. A spin-off from this is that people are increasingly interested in ethical banking and investing.
75% of savers keen to see their cash invested more ethically, by Olivier Vergnault, January 9, 2015, Western Morning News, UK.

Four in five Americans favor companies with green behaviours. "Tiller Green Survey conducted nationwide has revealed that 78 percent or nearly four in five American consumers believe that it is important to 'purchase products from a socially or environmentally responsible company.' In fact, 43 percent of the respondents said that they have declined to buy a product over the last 12 months out of concern for the impact that the product or its packaging might have on the environment."

[COMMENTARY] This is encouraging news for ethical investors. So often people say one thing and do another. The latter point about 43% of people declining to buy something in the past year that they thought might harm the environment is terrific.
Four in five Americans favor companies with green behaviours, by Vikas Vij, January 2, 2015, Justmeans, USA.

Report: Energy Industry Spent $721 Million on US Midterm Elections. "The American Progress analysis... found that the energy industry as a whole gave $84 million to candidates, political parties and political action committees (PACs), spent $163 million on television ads, and paid nearly $500 million to Washington lobbyists in the two years leading up to the elections.

Environmental organizations also spent some big money... [but] amounted to a fraction of the energy industry’s involvement... environmental groups spent about $43 million on lobbying, while individual candidates and PACs received a combined $11.7 million since 2012. Unregulated 'soft money' contributions made up the bulk of donations, with those groups receiving a combined $87 million from environmentalists."

[COMMENTARY] Clearly, the energy industry vastly outspent environmentalists. Of course that is nothing new. The unfortunate result is that there will be a greatly increased presence of anti-environmentalists in the US Congress in 2015. Ethical investors will need to watch carefully how the US supports or does not support those programmes benefiting alternative and renewable energy industries.
Report: Energy Industry Spent $721 Million on Midterm Elections, by Bill DiBenedetto, December 30, 2014, TriplePundit, USA.

Climate report reveals which companies have been naughty or nice. "Thomson Reuters this week released its latest report (PDF) on the greenhouse gas emission patterns of the global 500, which reveals a mixed bag of environmental efforts and encompasses companies in diverse industries. The biggest emitters include household names concentrated in the energy and manufacturing fields."

[COMMENTARY] This article is a good one to read. Ethical investors might want to review some of their holdings in light of this report.
Climate report reveals which companies have been naughty or nice, by Lauren Hepler, December 25, 2014, GreenBiz, USA.

Financial Start-Ups Aim to Court the Anti-Finance Crowd. "A number of new financial start-ups are trying to reach younger and middle-class Americans by upending the customary fee structure of traditional brokerage firms and money managers. They are backed by deep-pocketed venture capital investors — and even celebrities like the rapper Snoop Dogg — who are wagering that these upstarts can challenge the Wall Street establishment."

[COMMENTARY] It's good to see innovative start-ups challenging the established investment industry! The main challenge the new start-ups present concerns client fees--potentially much lower than with the investment majors. American SR-ethical investors might want to check them out.
Financial Start-Ups Aim to Court the Anti-Finance Crowd, by William Alden, December 22, 2014, Dealbook, The New York Times, USA.

Study Finds Institutional Investors, Proxy Advisors Fail to Use Economic Value Creation as Major Factor in Say-on-Pay Voting. "Economic value creation is not a major factor in institutional investors' Say-on-Pay voting, nor in the recommendations of the two largest proxy advisors that counsel investors how to vote. The research reveals that there is no material difference between institutional investors' Say-on-Pay voting for those companies that create economic value as compared to those that destroy value."

[COMMENTARY] I'm not surprised by this finding as those promoting say-on-pay mostly want to restrain executive compensation, no matter the company's financial position. However, the underlying premise of this report seems to be that executive compensation should be related to the company's underlying economic/financial position both now and in the future. I agree with both points of view.
Study Finds Institutional Investors, Proxy Advisors Fail to Use Economic Value Creation as Major Factor in Say-on-Pay Voting, press release, December 22, 2014, IRRC Institute, USA.

Bloomberg Markets Strategies: Finding Value in Good Governance. "Stoxx Europe 600 companies with higher-than-average female representation on their boards have outperformed the overall index by 13 percentage points since 2008. Global oil companies with leading safety records returned 63 percent in the five years through September 2014, double those with higher incident rates. Those examples highlight why investors and executives are embracing the importance of environmental, social and governance issues and how they can affect a company’s reputation and performance. "

[COMMENTARY] That last sentence says it all. But I'll continue to harp about the majority of financial/investment advisors who are blind to this information and not representing their clients' interests!
Bloomberg Markets Strategies: Finding Value in Good Governance, by Lee O’Dwyer, December 17, 2014, Bloomberg, USA.

New York fracking ban reverberates nationally. (Bans fracking due to health and environmental risks!) "New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Joe Martens recommended the ban Wednesday after reviewing the results of Acting Health Commissioner Howard Zucker’s long-awaited report on the potential health effects of fracking. 'I asked myself, would I let my family live in a community with fracking? The answer is no,' Zucker said in a statement. 'I therefore cannot recommend anyone else’s family to live in such a community either.'"

[COMMENTARY] Finally, some reputable public health authority has reviewed the respective environmental and health risks related to fracking. And they've considered it too risky. Many European countries also have come to the same conclusion. It'll be informative and unfortunate to see the resultant health and environmental problems from fracking in the states that have so vigorously promoted it. Furthermore, as everyone realizes, should the low prices of oil and gas continue, the growth of the fracking industry is likely to stall or even decline in the years ahead.
New York fracking ban reverberates nationally, by Peter Moskowitz, December 17, 2014, Aljazeera America, USA.

Independent Research in Responsible Investment (IRRI) Awards 2014. "Evaluating how asset managers rate the services of independent providers of sustainable and responsible investment (SRI) & corporate governance (CG) research. Responses were gathered through October 2014 by WeConveneExtel from... over 1,000 voters, 500 different firms, in 35 different countries.

· Best SRI analysis (firm) - Sustainalytics
· Best SRI analyst (individual) – Tobias Jung, Inrate
· Best Corporate Governance analysis (firm) – ISS & MSCI ESG Research (joint first place)
· Best Corporate Governance analyst (individual) – LoïcDessaint, Proxinvest
· Best Asset Management analyst (voted by companies) – Cedric Laverie, Amundi
· Best Research firm analyst (voted by companies) – Albert Charlier, Vigeo
· Best Asset Manager / Owner for use of SRI & CG research – ERAFP
· Best Asset Manager / Owner for contribution to the SRI debate – PGGM"

[COMMENTARY] Evident from this survey is that it is mostly smaller organizations winning the awards. Review the video link below for the full survey results and explanations.
Independent Research in Responsible Investment (IRRI) Awards 2014, video, December 15, 2014, UK.

State of Corporate Citizenship Finds Executive Support for Corporate Citizenship. "The Carroll School of Management Center for Corporate Citizenship at Boston College... finds that executives believe that corporate citizenship contributes to success, and plan to increase their investment in the future...

The 2014 State of Corporate Citizenship key findings include:
• The majority of executive respondents, across all business types and industries, confirm that corporate citizenship helps them successfully achieve strategic goals, ultimately improving performance.
• For the first time in over a decade, the majority of executives anticipate resources for every corporate citizenship dimension to increase over the next three years."

[COMMENTARY] Executives are increasingly finding that CSR pays. Aside from ESG/CSR actions taken internally frequently showing demonstrable financial benefits, such actions also enhance a company’s overall reputation, benefiting all aspects of its operations -- including its stock price. Thank you Boston College for this insightful research.
State of Corporate Citizenship Finds Executive Support for Corporate Citizenship, December 2014, Carroll School of Management Center for Corporate Citizenship at Boston College, USA.

Survey: UK pensions industry rejects polling members on ethical investing. "A survey has revealed that almost two thirds of the (UK) pension industry does not believe that defined benefit schemes should poll members on investment concerns, such as environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues."

[COMMENTARY] Many in the pension industry believe the divergences of responses they might get back from such surveys don't warrant the effort. To me, that's a copout. The opinions of those who're paying you to manage their funds should matter a great deal! This only illustrates the arrogance of many pension fund managers. In this respect they're similar to numerous financial advisors and brokers who really don't want to know the personal values of their clients. In fact, they fear knowing their values as it might mean changing the way they do business.
Survey: pensions industry rejects polling members on ethical investing, by Charlotte Malone, December 12, 2014, Blue & Green Tomorrow, UK.

Green Investors Flunk Fracking Industry on Impact Management. "ExxonMobil, Chevron, and WPX Energy are ranked among the worst fracking companies in a new report by a coalition of green investment firms that scores major oil and gas firms on their efforts to reduce the negative impacts of their operations."

[COMMENTARY] According to this report, “Disclosing the Facts 2014: Risk and Transparency in Hydraulic Fracturing,” the fracking industry is getting away with massive un-reporting and misrepresentation concerning environmental degradation and destruction. America's desire to be energy self-sufficient is allowing it to overlook the full health and environmental consequences of fracking. With low oil prices likely restraining fracking industry growth, perhaps some breathing room will be found to consider the potential health and environment effects of fracking. Meanwhile, most ethical investors stay clear of this industry for good reason.
Green Investors Flunk Fracking Industry on Impact Management, December 11, 2014, Environmental News Service, USA.

European investors stepping up responsible investment strategies. "European asset owners are increasingly moving towards responsible investment strategies, according to a new survey that shows 72% of investors have drawn up formal responsible investment policies, an increase of 7% on 2013.

Novethic published the survey at its annual event in Paris. It questioned 185 long-term investors, with over €6 trillion (£4.7tn) in assets in 13 European countries about their commitment to integrating environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into asset management."

[COMMENTARY] The survey's findings are impressive and continue to point to mainstream asset managers accepting that ESG analysis adds to returns. If only investment advisors and brokers were so knowledgeable!
European investors stepping up responsible investment strategies, by Charlotte Malone, December 9, 2014, Blue & Green Tomorrow, UK.

Green Bonds to reach $100 billion in 2015. "Delegates from Spain, France, UK, Portugal and the Netherlands have gathered at the Green Bonds International Conference on yesterday in Madrid, organized by the sustainability experts SUST4IN. The number and variety of attendees at the conference can be explained by the fact that the market for green bonds has tripled this year to 35bn USD, including in Spain, and should reach 100bn USD in 2015, according to the forecasts of most of the speakers."

[COMMENTARY] The issuance of green bonds is exploding. The above projection is made by an authoritative figure, Sean Kidney, CEO of the Climate Bonds Initiative. This is tremendous news for ethical investors who'll now have many new fixed income investment options.
Green Bonds to reach $100 billion in 2015, December 4, 2014, SUST4IN, Spain.

Oil Investors at Brink of Losing Trillions of Dollars in Assets. Gore: It's That Road Runner Moment. "A major threat to fossil fuel companies has suddenly moved from the fringe to center stage with a dramatic announcement by Germany’s biggest power company and an intriguing letter from the Bank of England... Bank of England Governor Mark Carney... instructed his staff to review whether sizable losses from stranded coal, oil and gas reserves could hurt banks, investors, insurance companies and the rest of the financial system."

[COMMENTARY] When the Governor of the Bank of England is concerned about the potential for stranded (fossil fuel) assets to adversely impact the financial system, you know that the economic and political elites are worried. Actually, the stranded assets scenario--the writing-down of fossil fuel reserves--might also happen because of the current oil glut and very low oil prices!
Oil Investors at Brink of Losing Trillions of Dollars in Assets. Gore: It's That Road Runner Moment, by Alex Morales, December 2, 2014, Bloomberg, USA.

Concordia becomes first Canadian university to begin divesting from fossil fuels. "However small or tentative this first step may be, Concordia University now has the distinction of saying it is the first university in the country to have initiated the process of divesting from fossil fuels... But while some student groups welcomed this as a step in the right direction, Divest Concordia has called it a 'flat-out rejection of student calls for full divestment from fossil fuels.'"

[COMMENTARY] Though small, it is a beginning. It could serve as 'wake-up' call for other Canadian universities. The 'ice is broken' so it'll encourage other university divestment groups and campaigns.
Concordia becomes first Canadian university to begin divesting from fossil fuels, by Karen Seidman, December 2, 2014, Montreal Gazette, Canada.

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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 spiritual investing, 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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