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"Almost three-quarters of investors (74 percent) would be more likely to work with an advisor who could give them competitive investment returns from investments that also made a positive impact on society and 65 percent of investors would be more likely to stay with an advisor who could discuss responsible investing with them."
--
TIAA Global Asset
    Management
(USA)
    May 2016

"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
June 2017

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Commentaries by Ron Robins

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ESG ‘best signal’ for future risk in equities. "But ESG appears to isolate non-fundamental attributes that have real earnings impact: these attributes have been a better signal of future earnings volatility than any other measure we have found... US financials that did not survive the global financial crisis saw disproportionate ranks for diversity, shareholder rights and compensation policy."

[COMMENTARY] Finally, what is common sense --that poor ESG factors can have a negative influence on corporate financial performance -- has been found to be true in this Bank of America Merrill Lynch study.
ESG ‘best signal’ for future risk in equities, by Jessica Tasman-Jones, June 29, 2017, Fund Strategy, USA.

European Commission takes further steps to enhance business transparency on social and environmental matters. "These guidelines will help companies to disclose relevant non-financial information in a consistent and more comparable manner. The aim is to boost corporate transparency and performance, as well as encourage companies to embrace a more sustainable approach."

[COMMENTARY] Europe again leads in the implementation of ESG. These new guidelines reinforce and expand upon the earlier ones dating back to 2014.
European Commission takes further steps to enhance business transparency on social and environmental matters, press release, June 26, 2017, European Commission, Belgium.

Canadian companies among the most carbon intensive in the developed world. "Genus Capital Management today released 'The Carbon Emissions Report: The Effect of Carbon Emissions on Investment Returns,' which concluded that an investment portfolio's carbon intensity negatively impacted returns by 9.2 per cent over the past seven years, after adjusting for other variables and risk factors...

High intensity emitters tend to be penalized by the market because their businesses are neither efficient nor forward facing. Divesting from fossil fuels is one way to minimize the carbon intensity of a portfolio. By conducting this research, we're pleased to see that the results support the case for divestment and sustainable investing."

[COMMENTARY] I've seen several studies of this nature. As ESG criteria are implemented by money managers, this type of outcome is to be increasingly expected.
Canadian companies among the most carbon intensive in the developed world, press release, June 28, 2017, Genus Fossil Free funds, Canada.

More Companies Reporting on ESG. "Around 82% of S and P 500 companies published corporate sustainability reports in 2016, according to the Governance and Accountability Institute, up from 20% in 2011 and 72% in 2013."

[COMMENTARY] These are great numbers and demonstrate how companies are responding to investor demands for increased ESG reporting. For companies, there's the additional benefit of measuring themselves on ESG variables, many of which are material to their operations and can help improve their financials.
More Companies Reporting on ESG, by Leila Mead, June 27, 2017, International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), USA.

Institutional Investors More Likely to Invest in Companies with Business-Driven ESG Disclosures, According to New White Paper. "Ninety-eight percent of institutional investors say a company with strong environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives makes for a more attractive investment, according to the newly released white paper, Is Your ESG Report Getting Noticed?, developed by Burson-Marsteller, a strategic communications and global public relations firm, and research firm PSB."

[COMMENTARY] Wow. Such studies and surveys are coming thick and fast. They demonstrate how ESG has become popular in finance today. It's been a long time coming.
Institutional Investors More Likely to Invest in Companies with Business-Driven ESG Disclosures, According to New White Paper, press release, June 26, 2017, Burson-Marsteller, USA.

Can Good Corporate Citizenship Be Measured? "A new study that tries to quantify and correlate stock performance with E.S.G. factors is generating a lot of chatter among the investor class. The study, developed by a team of quantitative strategists led by Savita Subramanian at Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch Global Research unit, appears to be the most expansive, looking at several hundred companies over a decade starting in 2005."

[COMMENTARY] Interesting analysis. Largely supportive that a focus on ESG may provide improved returns. However, I'd appreciate it if the study mostly discussed in this article were published in a recognized financial journal with proper peer review. For me, the 'gold standard' in ESG - financial performance is, ESG and Financial Performance: Aggregated Evidence from More than 2000 Empirical Studies. Admittedly, it only looks at ESG and corporate financial performance, whereas, Subramanian's et al study above relates ESG to stock performance.

For another view on ESG and investment performance, see, From the Stockholder to the Stakeholder: How Sustainability Can Drive Financial Outperformance, by Arabesque Asset Management and Oxford University.
Can Good Corporate Citizenship Be Measured? By Andrew Ross Sorkin, June 26, 2017, The New York Times, USA.

95% of European pension funds ignore climate change impact: Mercer. "With NASA stating that April 2017 was the second hottest since records began in 1880 (with 2016 the hottest), Mercer’s recent report has found that only 5% of 1,241 European pensions schemes have considered the investment risk posed by climate change. As a result the consultancy has called for 'more urgency from the industry' to address the issue. The 2017 report – Mercer’s 15th edition – gathers information from 1,241 institutional investors across 13 countries, reflecting total assets of around €1.1 trillion."

[COMMENTARY] These findings are surprising given the relatively high level of purported integration of ESG by European money managers. It would be interesting to hear from Mercer and the compilers of other relevant studies as to why there is this apparent contradiction.
95% of European pension funds ignore climate change impact: Mercer, by Gary Robinson, June 26, 2017, International Investment, UK.

Individuals and institutions split on benefits of ESG investing: survey. "Individuals believe the environmental, social, and ethical records of the companies they invest in are important, said Natixis, while professionals at institutions and within 'the investment community' were more sceptical about the efficacy of these strategies, for example having concerns about performance measurement."

[COMMENTARY] The findings of this Natixis Global Asset Management survey highlight -- in part -- why the financial industry has taken so long to respond to client ESG interests. Despite the arguments made in this article, I suggest that investment professionals not only disregarded their clients interests but have taken an extraordinarily long time to understand what ESG is and its potential alpha. Another issue is that most investment professionals have become short-term oriented, whereas, ESG investing is more about performance over the long-term.
Individuals and institutions split on benefits of ESG investing: survey, by Susanna Rust, June 15, 2017, IPE, UK.

Millennials Think About Charity Entirely Differently -- they invest in companies making a positive impact and "social entrepreneurism." "A study by Bank of America-owned U.S. Trust showed the youngest of the three generations isn't as interested in writing a check for a good cause — millennials would rather contribute in other ways, which could affect how an advisor manages their wealth. Only 36 percent of millennials defined 'giving' as making a charitable financial donation, versus 61 percent of Gen X participants and 83 percent of Boomers."

[COMMENTARY] This is good news for advisors and the financial markets. It assists the overall orientation towards ESG and is positive for improved ethical behavior in all financial market participants.
Millennials Think About Charity Entirely Differently, June 14, 2017, WealthManagement, USA.

Americans Question Motives Behind CSR. "According to the latest annual Harris Poll Reputation Quotient study, which tracks the perception of the 100 most visible companies in the U.S. by asking consumers to rank their reputations across a half-dozen key attributes, 45 percent said they believe companies embark on CSR initiatives because they believe it’s a role they should play as leaders in their communities.

Conversely, a similar amount — 40 percent — said they believe companies develop CSR initiatives only to bolster their public image and establish social value for stakeholders."

[COMMENTARY] I believe it's a great thing that companies embark on CSR activities. However, I wonder if the term CSR has outlived itself? I find ESG a much better differentiator between companies as I believe it delivers a better corporate focus (organizationally and financially) and possibly reduced 'greenwashing' for consumers.
Americans Question Motives Behind CSR, by Jon Gingerich, June 12, 2017, O'Dwyer's, USA.

16th annual Best 50 Corporate Citizens in Canada report. "This year’s Best 50 Corporate Citizens in Canada ranking is a reflection of this new disclosure climate. Corporate Knights had maintained 12 key performance indicators for a number of years due, in part, to how widely disclosed these data points were on an industry-wide scale. Additional metrics were not adopted because of the limited value provided by assessing companies on a metric that isn’t available for the majority of companies in the research universe.

With sustainability disclosure practices improving (albeit slowly), Corporate Knights was able to add two new metrics to the ranking methodology this year: the supplier score and the clean air productivity score."

[COMMENTARY] The Best 50 Corporate Citizens in Canada is always a good read and helpful to ethical investors.
16th annual Best 50 Corporate Citizens in Canada report, June 6, 2017, Corporate Knights, Canada.

Wegmans, Publix Super Markets, Amazon, Tesla And USAA Draw Top Social Responsibility Scores In Harris Poll. "Other companies receiving 'excellent' corporate social responsibility ratings are Lowe’s, UPS and L.L. Bean. Monsanto, Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs garnered 'critical' corporate social responsibility marks in the Harris Poll study, which asked more than 23,000 consumers to rate the 100 most visible companies in the U.S. on social responsibility attributes such as: supports good causes, environmental responsibility and community responsibility."

[COMMENTARY] Some of the names at the top of this list are surprising. Wells Fargo has been engaged in some unethical customer practices, while Monsanto is criticized by a number of health critics.
Wegmans, Publix Super Markets, Amazon, Tesla And USAA Draw Top Social Responsibility Scores In Harris Poll, press release, June 7, 2017, The Harris Poll, USA.

Do SRI Funds Have a Future in [US] 401(k) Plans? "SRI funds are slow to crack the $6.7 trillion 401(K) market, even though investor demand is strong."

[COMMENTARY] This story covers the results of a survey with 600 US financial advisors. The numbers of advisors claiming to be engaged with SRI funds makes me question how the advisors might've interpreted that and other questions. If the advisors are right, then a large percentage of their client base should already be in SRI products. However, I doubt that is the case. Though, it's great to see these numbers!
Do SRI Funds Have a Future in [US] 401(k) Plans? By Mark Miller, June 2, 2017, Wealth Management, USA.

Sustainable Investment Market Report 2017 – Sustainable investment market in Germany, Austria and Switzerland makes significant gains yet again. "The strongest growth in sustainable investments was recorded in Switzerland (+39%), followed by Austria (+24%) and Germany (+15%). 'Each year, we see increasing numbers of investors opting for sustainability in the management of their assets,' says Volker Weber, Chair of the Board of Directors at FNG, commenting on the latest market figures. 'Institutional investors, in particular, are increasingly being won over, while we know from asset managers that more and more of them see factoring in non-financial criteria as a normal part of their fiduciary duties.'"

[COMMENTARY] These are huge one-year growth figures. Quite likely a few very large funds were particularly responsible. Sustainable investing is now mainstream almost everywhere.
Sustainable Investment Market Report 2017 – Sustainable investment market in Germany, Austria and Switzerland makes significant gains yet again, press release, June 1, 2017, Eurosif, Europe.

Institutional Investors to Boost ESG Investments. "Nearly 80% of asset managers and asset owners incorporate environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into their decision-making, according to a survey from BNP Paribas Securities Services. The report, titled 'Great Expectations: ESG – What’s next for asset owners and managers,' found that among the asset owners incorporating ESG, 46% plan to invest at least half of their assets into funds that incorporate ESG by 2019."

[COMMENTARY] This survey indicates tremendous growth for ESG based institutional investing strategies in the next few years. It's certainly a positive for all ethical investors.
Institutional Investors to Boost ESG Investments, by Michael Katz, June 1, 2017, Chief Investment Officer, USA.

Now, this is controversial: FAU Study Says Corporate Social Responsibility Does Not Prove to Be a Profitable Investment for Most Companies. "Companies that try to 'do good' are likely to find that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is bad for their bottom lines, according to a new study from Florida Atlantic University's College of Business. 'We found that emphasizing Corporate Social Responsibility is not good for shareholders,' said David Javakhadze, Ph.D., assistant professor of finance, who investigated the relationship between CSR and efficiency with which firms allocate their capital resources. 'If you're an investor you should think twice before you invest in those firms that emphasize CSR.'"

[COMMENTARY] Since numerous studies including those from elite universities such as Harvard and Oxford have shown that companies excelling in ESG (CSR?) perform as well or better financially and in stock returns, this new study is an outlier. Nonetheless, it's worth reviewing and critiquing.
FAU Study Says Corporate Social Responsibility Does Not Prove to Be a Profitable Investment for Most Companies, press release, June 1, 2017, Florida Atlantic University College of Business, USA.

Canadian investors are interested in responsible investments, and they want gender pay equity and more women in corporate leadership. "The report, sponsored by OceanRock Investments Inc., found that while 77% of investors are interested in RI, a staggering 73% know very little or nothing about it. These results highlight the 'RI awareness gap' – a significant gap between investor interest vs knowledge about RI.

'A strong majority of investors told us that they are more likely to choose responsible investments if their advisor suggests suitable options or if their financial institution, credit union or online brokerage informed them about responsible investments,' said Deb Abbey, CEO of the RIA."

[COMMENTARY] At the beginning of Canada's 2017 RIA Conference in Vancouver, the RIA announces some incredible survey findings: Canadian investors want responsible investing!
2017 RIA Investor Opinion Survey, press release, June 1, 2017, RIA, 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 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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