Ethical Investing News/Commentaries:
Commentaries by Ron
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Major Canadian Bank To Offer Socially Responsible Mutual
RBC Asset Management, a
subsidiary of Canada's largest bank, the Royal Bank
is to offer three socially responsible mutual funds. RBC is partnering with Michael Jantzi, a pioneer and
leader in Canadian socially responsible companies
research. Also, RBC is taking an important ethical
stance by reducing fund management fees (on 42 of
its funds) as a result of realizing that many
investors are not getting value-for-money in the
trailer fees they pay which are incorporated into the
funds annual charges. Perhaps now all other Canadian
banks and mutual fund families will follow the RBC's
It's about time,
by Rob Carrick, May 30, 2007, The Globe & Mail,
Hazard', Ethics & The Chinese Stock Markets.
Moral hazard is a term economists use to describe
economic conditions that allow for the taking of
increasing risk by market participants, and where in
the event of losses, these market participants
believe that others, i.e. banks, governments, etc.,
will come to limit their losses. This is the
situation in China today, as you will read in this
article, moral hazard exists because many Chinese
'investors' (gamblers) believe that the Chinese
government cannot allow for a stock melt-down to
happen. Currently, the value of trading on the two
major Chinese stock exchanges now rivals that of the
New York Stock Exchange. This is also an ethical
dilemma that all central banks and governments must
take note of. When through monetary or fiscal
policy, they promote
the concept that 'you can never lose', moral hazard
gets created and conditions are set for an eventual
momentous bust. I believe the enormous growth in
asset prices around the world - which far
out-distances actual economic growth - is evidence
of increasing moral hazard and of faltering ethics
by political and economic elites.
Students, monks and maids driving China's hot
Geoffrey York, May 29, 2007, The Globe & Mail,
Coal-To-Liquid Heats Up In US.
This deserves close scrutiny for all investors. The
outcome of this battle will have considerable
repercussions on our environment and on all energy
Lawmakers Push for Big Subsidies for Coal Process,
by Edmund L. Andrews, May 29, 2007, The New York
US 2007 Farm
Bill To Prevent States Restricting Federally
Approved Agricultural Products.
Some US states are considering restricting GM
modified agricultural products, recombinant bovine
growth hormone in milk, etc. The states ability to
do this would be illegal under the proposed 2007 US
Farm Bill. Furthermore, states would be unable to
recall, or barred from prohibiting the sale of, any
unsafe food. It looks like all Americans will be
forced to enjoy their frankenfoods! Good luck
US House may prevent states from protecting food
Britt Bailey, May 28, 2007, IndyMedia, USA.
Commits To Buying Tea From Only Sustainable, Ethical
More good news on how higher consciousness is
influencing business. The growth of ethics and
sustainability in business are unstoppable trends in
Unilever commits to sourcing all its tea from
sustainable ethical sources,
May 26, 2007, Newsfood.com, Italy.
Social Responsibility (CSR) More Than PR?
Some commentators believe that many companies
employing CSR are doing little more than window
dressing. Jeff Ballinger in this article suggests
that Nike's efforts are just that, window dressing.
Again, I bring-up the need for a generally accepted
corporate CSR audited report. A report that is
perhaps along the lines of the
Reporting Initiative (GSI), then professionally,
independently audited, in much the same way as
today's financial statements are prepared and
audited. A few leading companies are already doing
this. I have no doubt that such audited reports will
be commonplace in the next few years.
Why Corporate Social Responsibility Programs are a
The Corporate Crime Reporter, May 25, 2007,
Again More US
Drug Safety Concerns.
Avandia, a best-selling
diabetes drug may give rise to a higher incidence of
heart attacks and cardiovascular problems. Now the
US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) first received
warnings from an eminent diabetic specialist seven
years ago about this drug and some professionals are
accusing the company's manufacturer -
GlaxoSmithKline - of being aware of such adverse
reactions many years ago. It is clear that the
coziness of the FDA with the drug companies has to
be abolished and that data and methodologies from
all drug studies need to be put into the public
domain for anyone to review and comment upon.
Investors should understand that the relentless
drive by drug companies for extraordinary revenue
gains poses enormous ethical, market and stock price
Ignoring the Warnings, Again?
May 25, 2007, Editorial, The New York Times,
Contrasts With Shariah Investing.
Jeff Sanford writes about the startling contrast of
the apparent 'lightening-up' of bank lending
standards and Shariah compliant funds such as
Canadian frontierAlt Oasis funds - which are highly
conservative with regard to debt. I have long felt
that the ability of banks to off-load credit risk
by, for instance, their bundling of mortgages and
then re-packaging and re-selling them to investors
as mortgage-backed securities, plus their spreading
of debt risk via derivatives, inevitably leads to
much greater risks being taken by the banks.
Practices such as this have given rise to enormous
increases in global liquidity (money) - way beyond
the actual growth in economic activity. It is
possible that a global financial melt-down could
occur at some point in the future, and that is why I
believe, like many of the Shariah funds, that
conservative debt loads will be the best practice
over the longer-term.
The easy-money trend …,
April 30, 2007, Jeff Sanford, Canadian Business
Financial Products Gaining Ground.
This Financial Times overview on the
background and growth of Islamic finance is
fascinating reading. It also provides insight into
the potential influence of Islamic investment and
banking on the global financial industry.
Islamic Finance: an FT special report,
May 24, 2007, The Financial Times, UK.
Based On Jewish Law Outperforms Markets.
The Shoam Gmisha Fund was one of the best performing
Israeli funds last year. The fund follows the
Halakha Jewish laws, which includes not investing in
companies that are open for business on Saturdays. I
find this interesting, but the fund's use of options
to get around the strict Halakha laws might be too
much of a compromise.
Fund that follows Jewish law outperforms Israeli
Tal Barak (Bloomberg News), May 22, 2007,
International Herald Tribune, France.
Al Gore Talks
About Sustainable Investing.
In this interview, Al Gore and David Blood talk about
their approach to sustainable investing. One thing I
have long argued, and that they also point out, is
that business executives today are predominantly
short term thinkers. It is also why current global investing
resembles a mammoth casino.
‘Focusing only on the quarter can blind you,’
by Lenny T. Mendonca and Jeremy Oppenheim, May 21,
2007. Article originally published in
McKinsey Quarterly’s online journal.
Canadians Bought Organic In Past Year.
Organic food sales in Canada increased 31% in 2006
compared to 2005 and continue to
trend substantially higher in most developed
countries as concerns over pesticides and
fertilizers grow. Farmland using standard
monoculture, pesticides and fertilizers are
deteriorating the quality of soil everywhere,
whereas organic farming methods are not only showing
comparable yields, but also do not erode the soil.
Canadian consumers push up popularity of organic
foods, survey finds,
May 14, 2007, CBC, Canada.
Offering In Canada New Socially Responsible
Investment (SRI) Exchange Traded Fund (ETF).
One of the world's largest banks has created an SRI
product in Canada. Now the key question is whether
Canada's own large banks will enter the fray, as
they have lagged badly in this regard.
Taking notice of socially responsible investing,
by Rob Carrick, May 17, 2007, The Globe & Mail,
Chemistry Brings Possible Major Societal Risks.
"The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
accuses the U.S. government of gross failure to use
its authority to protect citizens from the
potentially dangerous effects of nano-scale
chemistry, according to scientists and policy
experts at NRDC... Several studies have associated
nano-sized air pollutants with asthma attacks, heart
disease, strokes and respiratory disease. Yet
nanomaterials in consumer products remain
essentially unregulated in the United States." -
See their press release below. (Again, governments
everywhere continue to be 'missing-in-action' about
these risks. Investors should find-out if any of the
companies in which they own shares are in anyway
involved with nano-technologies and determine from
an ethical, environmental standpoint, whether to
continue to hold such investments.)
NRDC Advances Regulation of Nanotechnology to
Protect Human Health,
May 16, 2007, NRDC, USA.
Magazine, Lifescape, Focuses On Issues Relevant To
Environmentally, Ethically Oriented Investors.
Many interesting investment ideas might be gleaned
from this publication. However, always seek
professional advice before making any investment
decisions. Just because something inspires you does
not necessarily make it a good investment.
Look At The Supermarket.
Many investment ideas might occur to you as you read
this article. It also says that 'conscious
consumers' (concerned about ethics, the environment
etc.) in the UK will grow from the present 1.5
million to 3.9 million by 2009.
A world of food – the supermarket of the future,
by Jasmine Smith, May 14, 2007, FOODweek Online,
Lending Report For Canadian Investors.
SHARE (Shareholder Association for Research and
Education) a non-profit, organization, has issued an
interesting report that Canadian spiritual and
ethical investors may want to read to gain a better
understanding of the impact of sub-prime lending in
Sub-prime lending, how should investors respond?
May 14, 2007, SHARE, Canada.
Want Congress To Legislate Corporate Social
The study referred to below says that 82% of
Americans want their government to make compulsory
CSR standards in US companies. This could well
become a 2008 election issue.
NCL/FH Second Annual Corporate Social Responsibility
May 9, 2007, National Consumers League, USA.
Overview On Growth Of Islamic Shariah Investing.
From the article below, "MSCI Barra, a company
that creates and develops a wide range of indices,
is set to launch a series of Islamic benchmarks
based on their existing, more established, indices."
Also, according to this article, there are now 125
Islamic funds worldwide with about $15 billion under
management with the potential to grow by more than
15% per annum. It is good to see the interest in
spiritually oriented investing growing globally.
A shout for Shariah investment,
May 13, 2007, 7 Days AE, United Arab
International Standards Association (ISO) To Develop
A Standard For Social Responsibility.
2008 is the release date for the standard. It will
be interesting to observe both the debate
surrounding the standard as well as to see which
companies employ it. Spiritual and ethical investors
will need to watch this next year.
May, 2007, International Standards Association.
New US Trade
Deals To Include Labour Standards & Environmental
The Bush administration and Democrats from Congress
will include in all new international trade
agreements clauses that prohibit child labour,
forced labour and guarantee the right of
unionization among signatories. Also, such trading
partners must enforce their own environmental laws.
I am still unsure about the wisdom of including such
clauses in trade agreements. In regard to child
labour, I agree that children need to be in
school - but what if there are no schools and
the children's family are dying of hunger? Should
the child not help-out on his uncle's farm to help
feed his family - especially if they are in their
early teens? Also, in many cultures the child learns
a valuable skill from his or her father or mother,
who can help them earn income latter in life. Again,
if there are not any schools around for them to
attend, is it not better that they learn a skill to
earn income? Furthermore, the idea that each country
enforces its own environmental laws implies uneven
treatment whereby the country with the worst
environmental laws may provide companies a
A Winning Deal on Trade,
Editorial, May 13, 2007, The New York Times,
Minister Of Environment And Tourism Chairs United
Nations Commission on Sustainable Development.
How can a country that has decimated its
agricultural sector and, unless someone can show me
otherwise, made no real efforts at sustainability,
chair this all-important UN commission? Investors
concerned about the environment have to wonder if
this will lead to any watering down of the UN's
Environmental Programme Finance Initiative - which
promotes the concept of sustainability to
corporations and investors. It is probably unlikely
that this would be the case. However, at the UN, it
seems that anything can happen these days.
Zimbabwe Ironically Takes Turn At Chairing U.N.
Committee On Sustainable Development,
by Susheela Hegde, May 12, 2007, AllHeadlineNews,
Into UK Ethical Unit Trusts.
More money poured into UK unit trusts (mutual funds)
in the first three months of 2007, than all of 2006.
Global warming, the interest in organics and Fair
Trade, are all reasons cited for the increased flows
by investment industry analysts. What a heartwarming
sign this is to me. Hopefully, it is not just a fad,
but that these investment flows into ethical funds
will continue apace. UK businesses are noting the
changes by the investing public and so many of them
are going green and implementing sustainability
practices to get their piece of the investment pie.
Smart money pours into ethical funds, by Tom
Stevenson, May 11, 2007, Telegraph.co.uk., UK.
'Colony collapse' among bees may well be confined to
non-organic bee operations. How many more reasons do
farmers need to go organic and for investors who
invest in food companies to pay more attention to
sustainable and green activities. Quoting from the
article linked to below, "They [non-organic bee
operations] put pesticides in their hives to
fumigate for varroa mites, and they feed antibiotics
to the bees. They also haul the hives by truck all
over the place to make more money with pollination
services, which stresses the colonies." Thanks
to Larry Decter for alerting me to this.
No ORGANIC Bee losses,
May 6, 2007, Lancifer, USA & Canada.
May 12 Is
World Fair Trade Day.
Fair Trade is growing into a multi-billion dollar
global business and offers many investment
opportunities for the spiritual or ethical investor.
As always though, have a qualified investment
advisor work with you before making any investment
decisions. A good place to find out about today's
events and about Fair Trade generally is to start
with the link below.
World Fair Trade Day 2007: Kids Need Fair Trade,
May 12, Fair Trade Federation, USA.
UN Action On Global Warming.
A common theme now pervading most global religious
groups is the need to care for our environment. It
will be interesting to see how wealthy and
influential religious organizations mobilize their
own resources to aid in this goal. I just hope that
their sentiments are backed-up with substantive
monetary action as well as their verbal bluster. I
am also curious to know what energy saving plans
they might have for their sometimes very large and
cavernous cathedrals, mosques, synagogues, and
Global warming threatens world’s security,
existence, Vatican tells UN, urging action,
May 11, 2007, Catholic Online, USA & Canada.
Food For Your
Controversy surrounds the science of 'nutrigenomics'
- the science of how foods, ingredients eaten,
change our genes. Yet it is an area that spiritual
and ethical investors will need to be increasingly
aware of as the knowledge in this area explodes in
the years ahead. From my perspective, the food and
genetics industry are playing God here, and unless
we have the all-knowing consciousness of God, these
endeavours will backfire on us in the long run. For
a first glimpse on the activities of nutrigenomics,
read the article here.
Gene foods could lead to consumers ruling the food
Jess Halliday, NutraIngredients-USA, USA.
Ads Target US Fidelity Investments & Buffett's
Berkshire Hathaway To Divest Sudanese Related
Now the pressure is really being turned on to major
investment organizations to examine their ethical
investing stance, whether they like it or not! As
consciousness rises, organizations investing in
companies whose activities create human tragedy and
suffering will increasingly be under attack to act
with a moral and ethical conscience - or lose assets
by Joan Vennochi, May 10, 2007, The Boston Globe,
Ethical Companies According Ethisphere Magazine.
This is a new publication which appears to be,
quoting from their website, "...created by PLI, LexisNexis, and Corpedia in
partnership with such leading corporations as
Deutsche Telekom, Time Warner, Avaya and Kraft." I
believe their aims are good, but with business
representatives forming the backbone of their
efforts it may be difficult to determine how
objective they are in their analysis. However, their
evaluation methodology looks good.
2007 World's Most Ethical Companies,
May, 2007, Ethisphere Magazine, USA.
University Offers First Ever MBA in Corporate Social
Responsibility (CSR) In UK.
It is heartening to see CSR spreading to business
schools around the world. It promises that future
business leaders will have a better understanding of
the need to integrate social, environmental and
governance issues into corporations everywhere. It
is a win for business, a win for society, and a win
University of Nottingham Business School,
May, 2007, UK.
After being criticized by Greenpeace as having some
of the most toxic products among electronics'
manufacturers and a shareholder proposal by As You
Sow to ask Apple to clean-up its act, Apple is now
promising an aggressive recycling programme for its
As You Sow Will Withdraw Proposal After Actions by
Apple on Electronic Waste,
May 9, 2007, Ascribe Newswire, USA.
Receive Hundreds of Millions of Dollars From Drug
Talk about unethical practices! Not only do large
drug companies pay huge sums to US doctors for
giving patients their drugs, but in the case of
anemia medications - for which the doctors receive
hundreds of millions of dollars from the drug
companies - they may now be deemed unsafe at
presently used doses. Now should it not be declared
illegal for drug companies to 'bribe' doctors to use
their products? Together with the direct-to-consumer
television advertising where drug manufacturers push
their products onto a medically unsophisticated
public, typifies all that is wrong with US
healthcare. And why the US has some of the worst
health outcomes in the developed world. If you
consider yourself an ethical investor and have
investments in pharmaceutical stocks, you need to
seriously examine the efficacy of the drug claims
and marketing practices of the companies in which
you own stocks.
Doctors Reap Millions for Anemia Drugs,
by Alex Berenson and Andrew Pollack, May 9, 2007,
The New York Times, USA.
Incorporate Socially Responsible Investing In His
He says it is too difficult to do as it is
impossible to quantify the actions of huge numbers
of people in large organizations. However, I would
not be surprised if he is doing some real soul
searching on this issue. For instance, in the past
he has refused to invest in tobacco companies, and
in almost everything he
does he displays high ethical behaviour. My own
suspicion is that he is concerned about having to
sell some of his most profitable holdings, should he
start down the SRI road.
Buffett rebuffs efforts to rate corporate conduct,
by Charles Piller, May 7, 2007, LA Times,
Scores Highest On Ethical Printing Report.
If you are concerned about getting a printer that is
environmentally friendly, or interested in investing
in greener companies, you might like to review this
Ethical printing report released,
by Antony Sawas, ComputerWeekly.com, UK.
Slapped By Wisconsin Regulators For Marking
Non-Organic Goods As Organic.
Was it inexperienced staff marking products
incorrectly or a deliberate corporate policy to show
increased sales? What do you think? One thing is for
sure and that is critics of the USDA's National
Organic Program abound. They cite so many instances
of flagrant abuse of this programme that US
consumers buying organic products really have to
rely on the retailer's reputation rather than the
markings on the product. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart's
venture into organics needs to be seriously
Regulators Slap Wal-Mart for Misleading Organic
May 8, 2007, Natural Newswire, USA.
Social Responsibility (CSR) Gaining In Central &
Eastern European Companies.
The following is an interesting and detailed survey
of what might be called CSR in 'newly emerging
companies'. This is an area of the world that few
non-European investors have thought much about.
Reporting on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
by the Largest Listed Companies in Eleven Central
and Eastern European (CEE) Countries; Second-Time
Comparison with Peers in BRIC and Ukraine,
May 8, CSRwire.com, USA.
Good Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Promotes
Positive Employee Attitudes.
Another confirmation demonstrating that companies
with good CSR policies are likely to attain greater
success. Nick Starritt, managing director of Sirota
Survey Intelligence, Europe, said: “Businesses
that recognise the importance of social
responsibility often have employees who tend to be
more satisfied with their jobs, adopt similar
values, and become more committed to achieving
success within the industry.” - See linked
Employer commitment to corporate social
responsibility linked to employee attitudes,
May 8, 2007, Personneltoday.com, UK.
Ministers Promote Corporate Social Responsibility
Again, we see the mainstreaming of this issue. The
article linked to below also mentions how the German
Confederation of Trade Unions (DGB) is asking for
government CSR legislation. What, perhaps should be
done is for all stock exchanges and governing
securities organizations to require companies to
annually complete a uniform CSR report (see
Reporting Initiative) which also requires an
independent audit. Investors and all stakeholders
would then be able to more accurately compare each
individual company's CSR performance relative to its
peers. Without such uniformity of reporting and
independent auditing of results, investors never
really know whether what a company is reporting is
fact or fiction.
G8 Labor Ministers Call for More Social Engagement
May 7, 2007, Deutsche Welle, Germany.
Cheat More Than Other Graduate Students.
Duke’s Fuqua School of Business recently found that
cheating on writing papers and exams was widespread
in its MBA programme. This is not unique. A study
released late last year led by Rutgers University
professor Don McCabe, found that 56% of US and
Canadian MBA students acknowledged cheating,
compared to 47% of graduate students in those
countries enrolled in other disciplines. I wonder
what happens when these cheating students command
large businesses? Ethics programmes at business
schools are widespread, yet, they seem to have
little beneficial impact on student behaviour. What is
needed is a programme such as
that demonstrably improves ethical and moral
Duke cheating scandal shows need for Sarbanes-Oxley
corporate reform law, May 6, 2007, AP story in
Orients Itself To Socially & Environmentally
This is a good general read as to how socially and
environmentally responsible businesses are beginning
to reshape America.
Businesses Try to Make Money and Save the World,
Stephanie Strom, May 6, 2007, The New York Times,
Determined To Be First in Robot Ethics.
To help with their goal of becoming the world's
leader in robotics, South Korea is preparing the way
by passing the first ethics laws for household
robots. There is little doubt that robots will be
increasingly a bigger part of our technological
development in the decades to come. The article
linked to below provides an interesting perspective
for ethical investors, particularly, on 'robot
ethics' as well as some insight into the robot
Minding the machines,
by Ian Kerr, May 4, 2007, The Ottawa Citizen,
Go For Organic Cosmetics.
In 2006, 31.3% of UK consumers sought toiletries and
cosmetic products that were 'au natural.' This is
part of a trend that is going worldwide. Investors
interested in cosmetics need to be aware of it.
UK consumers diversify needs for organic products,
Louise Prance, May 4, 2007, Cosmetics Design-Europe,
Surrounds The SRI Policies Of Norway's $300bn
Government Pension Fund.
The fund, amassed from the country's oil exports,
has banned 21 companies - 12 of which are American -
from being suitable investments for the fund.
Recently, $400 million of Wal-Mart's shares were
sold as the fund accused the company of allowing
child-labour practices by its suppliers in various
poor countries. A question I have is: How does the
fund feel about investing in oil?
Selling oil is easier than investing ethically,
by Mark Landler, May 2, 2007, International
Herald Tribune, France.
Property Investing' (RPI) Gathers Momentum In The
The survey by the Urban Land Institute and
University of Arizona Professor Gary Pivo, shows
that over 90% of US real estate executives believe
that 'pursuing social and environmental goals as a
business strategy will be more important in the
future.' Going green is seen as bringing more
'green' to their bottom line. This is good news for
the US as it re-orients itself to a pro
sustainability era. An area of keen interest to me
is that not only should buildings be constructed
green, but that they should also promote our
spiritual development. For this reason, I'm very
ULI Survey Shows Interest by Real Estate Executives
in Responsible Property Investment Strategies,
May 2, 2006, PRNewswire-USNewswire, USA.
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