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Commentaries by Ron
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Survey Shows Both Consumers &
Company Executives Not Buying Corporate Green
"The corporate sector has gone to great lengths
in recent years to persuade consumers of its
commitment to environmental sustainability. But
consumers aren't buying it, to judge by the results
of a study released this month by Gibbs & Soell
Public Relations. Nor, for that matter, do corporate
executives -- queried in a parallel survey --
necessarily think companies are deeply committed to
I wonder if consumers are getting bored with all the
green talk. Perhaps they are more concerned about
their jobs and losses in their net worth? It is a
pity that we as humans tend to be reactive rather
than proactive. Unfortunately, it might take more
environmental disasters that deeply hurt their
finances before consumers really think green.
Thumbs Down on Corporate Green Efforts, by Mark
Dolliver, August 31, 2010, Adweek, USA.
Younger Canadians Less Likely To
Buy Products Based On Company's Social
"In the survey, only 16 per cent of those under
the age of 30 said a company’s reputation was 'very
important' for them in making product choices,
compared with more than 75 per cent of respondents
over the age of 55.... The findings are contained in
the Consumerology Report, a quarterly survey
conducted for Toronto advertising agency Bensimon-Byrne
that tracks trends in Canadian consumer attitudes."
This data is a shocker. I wonder if it extends
to the US and other developed countries? What does
it mean for investing in 'best-of-sector' (in CSR)
Survey points to a generation gap over corporate
social responsibility, by Adrian Morrow, August
31, 2010, The Globe & Mail, Canada.
Covalence Offers Insight Into
Ethical Behaviour In Banking Industry.
"The ethical reputation of banks shows a smaller
progress than other sectors, according to the
Covalence Banking Sector Report 2010 released today.
The reasons are a low volume of positive news
regarding products, as well as criticisms related to
remunerations and gender discriminations."
Ethical investors interested in the banking sector
might find this report useful. Nothing
Banks are Shy in Offering Sustainable Products,
September 1, 2010, Covalence, Switzerland.
Will Reducing Oilsands Output
Increase Carbon Emissions?
"According to a study released earlier this
month, the implementation of a low-carbon fuel
standard in the U.S. would increase global
greenhouse gas emissions by up to 19 million metric
tonnes because it would force U.S. refiners to
import more oil in tankers from the Middle East,
Venezuela and elsewhere." This is a twist on
conventional thinking. Of course the study was done
by the undoubtedly biased National Petrochemical and
Refiners Association. It would be useful to see any
independent studies on this issue.
Credibility 'Gap' August 31, 2010,
The Calgary Herald, Canada.
Banks Getting Concerned About
"After years of legal entanglements arising from
environmental messes and increased scrutiny of banks
that finance the dirtiest industries, several large
commercial lenders are taking a stand on industry
practices that they regard as risky to their
reputations and bottom lines." Ethical investors
might like to monitor what the banks are doing and
perhaps adjust their holdings as they see fit.
Banks Grow Wary of Environmental Risks, by Tom
Zeller Jr., August 30, 2010, The New York Times,
A Tale Of Woe For ShoreBank, A
Socially Responsible US Bank.
"It's been a week since the Federal Deposit
Insurance Corporation swept away ShoreBank's bad
assets (cost: $367.7 million), changed its name to
Urban Partnership Bank, and left it largely in the
hands of the same people (and investors) who ran it
before... Distinctions need to be made to fully
understand what transpired. ShoreBank, the community
development lending institution and bank with a
presence in Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland, was
owned by a holding company: ShoreBank Corporation.
The bank failed, but not the holding company, which
still oversees some community development
Shorebank had often been held-up as
a model for socially responsible banking. It is
unfortunate to see these developments.
Did Green ShoreBank Escape Bankruptcy? By Paul Chesser, August 27, 2010, National Legal and Policy
US Employees Losing Faith In
Their Employer's Green Efforts.
"The Green Confidence Index, which is derived
from a monthly online survey of approximately 2,500
Americans aged 18 and over, measures Americans'
attitudes towards and confidence in how leaders and
institutions are perceived to be addressing
environmental issues, the adequacy of information
available to them to make informed decisions, and
their past and future purchases of green products."
I wonder if this might be related to companies'
belt tightening activities?
Employees Losing Confidence in Companies' Green
Commitments, August 26, 2010, GreenBiz, USA.
Something Different: The Quest
For Gross National Happiness.
"In Bhutan, the economic challenge is not growth
in gross national product, but in gross national
happiness (GNH). I went to Bhutan to understand
better how GNH is being applied. There is no
formula, but, befitting the seriousness of the
challenge and Bhutan's deep tradition of Buddhist
reflection, there is an active and important process
of national deliberation." This is the kind of
debate all societies need. Human induced climate
change, excessive debt, and resulting recessions and
depressions, are the result of not first finding
lasting fulfillment within ourselves.
Happy growth in a Buddhist economy, by Jeffrey D
Sachs, August 28, 2010, TODAYonline, USA.
Shareholders With 3% Or More
Shares Can Nominate Directors, Says US SEC.
"The Securities and Exchange Commission today
adopted changes to the federal proxy and other rules
to facilitate the rights of shareholders to nominate
directors to a company's board... Under the rules,
shareholders will be eligible to have their nominees
included in the proxy materials if they own at least
3 percent of the company's shares continuously for
at least the prior three years."
This is great news for all those interested in
environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.
It means it will be easier to get ESG oriented
directors nominated, and hopefully on the boards of
SEC Adopts New Measures to Facilitate Director
Nominations by Shareholders, August 25, 2010,
U.S. Securities Exchange Commission, USA. Also,
New US proxy access rules a “win-win”, says CalPERS,
by Daniel Brooksbank, August 26, 2010, Responsible
Apple Refuses to Participate In
UK Cell Phone Green Ranking.
"The UK has started up its own green ranking
system for mobile handsets, but Apple wants no part
of it. The company has refused to allow the iPhone
to be included in the system by O2, but its reasons
for declining the opportunity aren't exactly
clear... But Apple doesn't want to take part. A
spokesperson from Apple wouldn't clarify the
reasons, either, only citing Apple's online
environmental reports for its products (which
provide very, very limited information about the
products life cycle analysis)."
Does Apple have something to hide? Do they fear
their iPhone would show poorly in the rankings?
Apple Refuses To Take Part In UK's First Green Cell
Phone Ranking System, by Jaymi Heimbuch, August
25, 2010, Treehugger, USA.
Canadian Managers VanCity &
Bâtirente Campaign For More Women On Boards.
"Corporations around the world should increase
the number of women on boards of directors,
according to a coalition of global investors
managing more than $73 billion (US) in assets,
including Canada’s Vancity Investment Management and
Bâtirente, who recently issued a joint press release
on the topic." The firms say that studies show
there is a correlation between a company's
profitability and board diversity.
40% Of Consumers Likely To Test
Drive Electric Vehicles.
"Forty percent of consumers say they are likely
to test drive an electric vehicle, according to an
online survey of American adults from the Consumer
Electronics Association (CEA)." Aside from the
much increased power grid demands, one of my
concerns not yet addressed is the electro-magnetic
radiation (EMR) levels that drivers and passengers in
these cars might be subjected too.
Study Finds 40% of U.S. Consumers Likely to Test
Drive EVs, August 24, 2010, Environmental
SRI In South Africa Focuses On
Infrastructure, Development & Black Economic
"This paper explores whether any investment
products or strategies in South Africa take
environmental sustainability into account. By
looking at how environmental, social, and governance
(ESG) criteria are used in investment decision
making, we found that most socially responsible
investment products and responsible investment
strategies largely focus on infrastructure,
development, and black economic empowerment."
Climate Counts Updates Its
Corporate Sustainability Scores.
"The latest update to the Climate Counts
scorecard, released today by the nonprofit group
launched in 2007 with support from Stonyfield Farm,
reflect general improvement in sustainability
issues, but huge differences remain sector by
sector, and industry as a whole is failing to meet
the climate challenge." For ethical investors,
these findings are always useful to look at.
Pharma Leads, Toy Makers Lag in Latest Climate
Counts Scores, by Climate Biz, August 19, 2010.
Faith-Based Funds Outperform
Market & Most SRI Funds Says New Study.
"[The study] examines the performance of these
faith-based funds over three different five-year
periods from May 2001 to February 2008. By applying
a comprehensive set of tests, the authors find
evidence that faith-based funds mostly outperform
the market. The results also suggest that
faith-based funds do better than socially
responsible investing funds in general."
This looks like a fascinating study. It has been my
contention for four decades that investments based
on ethics and higher values will eventually
demonstrate the best long term returns. But to
get a copy of this study costs $45.
The Impact of Faith-Based Screens on Investment
Performance, by Esmeralda O. Lyn and Edward J.
Zychowicz of the Frank G. Zarb School of Business,
Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY, USA.
Harvard Sells Some Israeli
Stocks, Furor Created. -
"Harvard University has sold millions of dollars
in shares in Israeli companies, a move that it
insists is purely financial but which has already
been claimed by a pro-Palestinian group as a victory
in its boycott and divestment campaign against
Israel... Harvard said the change had taken place
because Israel had been part of its emerging markets
portfolio but the country's status had been upgraded
to developed market." I will leave it to the
reader to make-up their own conclusions.
Harvard insists Israeli shares sale not driven by
boycott, by Ewen MacAskill, August 16, 2010,
The Guardian, UK.
Islamic U.S. Mutual Funds
Flocking to Malaysia: Islamic Finance. -
"Malaysia is attracting Islamic investment funds
from the U.S. seeking higher returns in Asia as
growth in developed economies slows... [Funds include:] Saturna Sdn., Franklin Templeton GSC Asset
Management Sdn., Nomura Islamic Asset Management Sdn.,
and Aberdeen Asset Management Plc." Islamic
mutual funds are likely to grow significantly in
Muslim countries. For additional insight
see my column,
Ethical and Sharia-compliant Investing Takes Off.
Islamic U.S. Mutual Funds Flocking to Malaysia:
Islamic Finance, by Soraya Permatasari, August
16, 2010, Bloomberg, USA.
Executives, Consumers Doubt
Companies Are Going Green. -
"Only 29 percent of Fortune 1000 executives and
16 percent of consumers feel a majority of companies
are committed to adopting more environmentally
friendly business practices, products or services,
according to the 2010 Gibbs & Soell Sense &
Sustainability Study. In comparison, 54 percent of
executives believe only some are walking the green
walk, in addition to 48 percent of consumers
participating in the survey." Though not
surprising but nonetheless shocking, this survey
reflects a widespread feeling that probably not
enough is being done to help the environment and
Executives, Consumers Doubt Most Companies Really
Going Green, August 11, 2010, GreenBiz, USA.
Virtue May Now Trump Vice. -
"'Up until now, probably the evidence might lean
towards the 'sin' category doing a bit better, but
I'm not sure going forward that would still be the
case,' says Ron Robins, a former investment analyst
and founder of the 'Investing for the Soul'
website." Out today, a Wall Street Journal
article quotes me extensively on my thoughts about
sin versus ethical investing. However, you do need a
subscription to the Journal to see the full
article. Individual copies of the article can also
be purchased though.
GETTING PERSONAL CANADA: Virtue May Now Trump Vice,
by Monica Gutschi, August 11, 2010, The Wall
Street Journal, USA.
Ceres Leads 50 Institutional
Investors Asking Oil & Gas Companies To Disclose
Their Emergency Plans For Oil Rig Disasters. -
"A coalition of mostly institutional investors is
demanding oil and gas companies disclose their
existing safeguards and plans of action in the event
of another offshore rig disaster and possible oil
spill like the one experienced by BP PLC and other
companies in the Gulf of Mexico." The responses
to this request will be watched by the entire
investment world. The companies have a duty to be
fully transparent and ready for criticism concerning
Investors Ask Oil, Insurance Groups to Disclose
Safety Plans, August 5, 2010, Nathanial
Gronewold, Greenwire in The New York
India May Institute Mandatory CSR
"Corporate social responsibility (CSR)... will
now be made mandatory for corporate India, sources
in the Ministry of Company Affairs told CNBC-TV18.
If approved, companies will have to spend 2% of the
average net profit on CSR." I have been calling
for mandatory CSR reporting for many years. It is
great to see both developed and developing countries
getting with it. See:
Call for Mandatory Corporate Social Responsibility
We Need Mandatory Corporate Social Responsibility
Mandatory CSR not a great idea, feels India Inc.,
August 5, 2010, moneycontrol.com, India.
China Leading In Cleantech IPOs &
"In 2009, China accounted for 53% of cleantech
IPOs and 69% of IPO money raised in cleantech."
This is both terrific--and concerning. Terrific,
because China might get really serious about dealing
with its pollution problems. Concerning, because it
means that cleantech leadership is moving to Asia
and further signifying the potential fall of the
West in this area.
Insight of the Week, August 5, 2010,
US Cleantech Venture Funding
Comes Back To Life. -
"US venture capital (VC) investment in cleantech
companies in Q2 2010 hit $1.5 billion in 68
financing rounds, a 63.8% increase in capital and an
4.6% increase in deals compared to Q2 2009,
according to an Ernst & Young LLP analysis based on
data from Dow Jones VentureSource. This was the
highest level of venture funding for cleantech since
Q3 2008." Looking at the data it seems to me
that $80/barrel oil is a spur to some of this
US VC investment in cleantech continues upward
trajectory with $1.5 billion investment in Q2 2010,
August 3, 2010, Ernst & Young, USA.
The International Integrated
Reporting Committee (IIRC) Plans To Develop Company
Annual Reports That Integrate CSR. -
"The IIRC’s remit is to create a globally
accepted framework for accounting for
sustainability. A framework which brings together
financial, environmental, social and governance
information in a clear, concise, consistent and
comparable format - put briefly, in an 'integrated'
format. The intention is to help with the
development of more comprehensive and comprehensible
information about an organization’s total
performance, prospective as well as retrospective,
to meet the needs of the emerging, more sustainable,
global economic model."
This initiative is extremely
timely and led by some outstanding individuals and
organizations. What they aim for is something I have
desired to see accomplished for two or three
decades. I wish them great success!
Formation of the International Integrated Reporting
Committee (IIRC), press release, August 2, 2010,
Matthew Kiernan, Former Head of
Innovest Strategic Value Advisors Advocates
'Strategically Aware Investing.' -
"... rebranded and conceived as simply
strategically aware investing, rather than
stigmatized or ghettoized as 'ESG/RI/SI investing'
more institutions and asset managers might actually
try it. And who knows, if they did, both the planet
and the investor/fiduciaries’ risk-adjusted returns
would likely be the better for it. Investors,
advisors, shake off your current acronyms and
embrace SAI —- you have nothing to lose but your
(intellectual) chains!" I greatly admire Mr.
Kiernan and met him a number of times. He makes some
great points as to why his proposed term makes
We’ve got RI, ESG and CSR: now it’s time for
strategically aware investing! By Matthew
Kiernan, August 3, 2010, Responsible Investor, UK.
Green Consumer Confidence Index
"The past three months showed stagnation in the
green economy, at least in consumer perceptions of
it, according to the latest quarterly update from
the Green Confidence Index. The Index returned to
levels of mid-2009, in the depths of the recession."
The originators of the index suggest that the index
is likely to follow economic trends, both up and
Flagging Economy Sinks Green Consumer Confidence,
August 2, 2010, GreenBiz, USA.
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