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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
    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
    Association (RIA)
    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
(UK) June 2015


Ethical Investing News/Commentaries
July 2012


Commentaries by Ron Robins

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Women As Directors Beat Men-Only Boards In Company Stock Return. - [COMMENTARY] "Shares of companies with a market capitalization of more than $10 billion and with women board members outperformed comparable businesses with all-male boards by 26 percent worldwide over a period of six years, according to a report by the Credit Suisse Research Institute, created in 2008 to analyze trends expected to affect global markets."

This study adds to a body of research that women are invaluable corporate board members. There are a few ethical funds that specifically favour investing in companies where women are significantly represented on corporate boards. It’s about time that women played a much more pronounced role in finance. I even believe we would see fewer financial scandals too!
Women as Directors Beat Men-Only Boards in Company Stock Return, by Heather Perlberg, July 31, 2012, Bloomberg, USA.

How Reliable Is Corporate Carbon Data? - [COMMENTARY] "Max Horster joined South Pole Carbon Asset Management two years ago to design climate-neutral investment portfolios. But there was a problem: Only 3,000 of the world′s 40,000 listed companies published emission figures, and most of those weren′t trustworthy. It′s not that companies are purposely hiding the correct numbers, he said. They just don′t put much effort into it."

I’ve been saying for years that all sustainability and CSR reporting for public companies should be independently audited and verified, similarly to financial statements. How else can you trust them? How else can you know who’s doing best in their industry? Ethical investors ought to be vociferous in demanding such rules.
Tracking companies’ carbon emissions using public data, by Kelli Barrett, July 26, 2012, GreenBiz, USA.

Environmental and Social Investment Implications In The Food Sector, Survey. - [COMMENTARY] "World food prices have reached record levels and show few signs of abating. Low-income consumers in the developing world have been hit especially hard, with ripple effects spreading around the globe. The long-term food outlook is no better. Water stress, resource scarcity, waste management and climate change are having a further destabilizing effect on agriculture, food sourcing and production."

The food sector might well be an outstanding long-term investment option for many ethical investors--as well as helping to feed the world. Be careful though. Know what you’re doing!
Environmental and Social Investment Implications in the Food Sector, by Martina Macpherson, July 2012, MSCI ESG Research, Credit Suisse and WWF, USA.

Banks Lacking Sustainable Values Face Destabilizing Risk: Report. - [COMMENTARY] "If the 2008 financial crisis laid bare nearsightedness in global financial markets, then the way to prevent future shocks is to give participants ’wider and better quality lenses,’ according to a new report published by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)."

When people lack a sense of inner fulfillment they tend to crave immediate gratification. Those who most fall into this mindset are in the investment/banking business. It’s a direct reflection of societal values. Society has to look and change from within first before anything meaningful will happen to investment/banking industry behaviour!
Banks Lacking Sustainable Values Face Destabilizing Risk: Report, by Peter Green, July 27, 2012, Bloomberg, USA.

S&P ESG India Index Outperforms Its Benchmark Index Since 2008. - [COMMENTARY] "The S&P ESG India has returned about 19 per cent, compared with Nifty′s 14.40 per cent this calendar year so far. Since January 2008, the index gained by 17.10 per cent, compared with the Nifty′s negative 15.79 per cent." This type of performance is what will make most companies engage in ESG matters. And it’s happening even in the developing world!
Good corporate citizens perform well on markets, by Ravi Ranjan Prasad, July 24, 2012, mydigitalfc.com, India.

Yet Another Study Shows US Companies Lagging Europe, Japan, On ESG Disclosure. - [COMMENTARY] " According to a new study by The Conference Board, the overall disclosure rate of this type of information by U.S. companies in the Russell 1000 is 10 percent, compared to 19 percent for a global sample of 3000 business organizations tracked by Bloomberg’s Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) database."

It’s almost boring the number of such reports that have appeared in recent months. What will encourage US companies to engage more in ESG issues? I suspect it’ll really happen when companies realize it’s more profitable to incorporate ESG factors into their business practices and investors cite increasing preference for companies with outstanding ESG performance. We’re almost there!
U.S. Companies Continue to Underperform European and Japanese Businesses in Environmental and Social Disclosure, press release, The Conference Board, July 25, 2012, USA.

ESG Factors Misunderstood, Rarely Used, In US University & College Endowments, Says IRRC Study. - [COMMENTARY] "The endowment community, on the whole, exhibits a very weak understanding of ESG investing strategies, trends, opportunities, and language." This is quite a damning report on a community of investors one would think might be in the vanguard of applying ESG principles. I have no doubt that this will be a wake-up call to many university and college communities to re-think their endowment investment practices--especially now it’s been shown that an ESG focus in portfolios usually means better returns.
Environmental, Social and Governance Investing by College and University Endowments in the United States, July 18, 2012, The IRRC Institute, USA.

Yet More Unethical Behaviour In the Financial Industry--Hedge Funds Polling Analysts. - [COMMENTARY] "They are supposed to be among Wall Street′s most closely guarded secrets: changes in research analysts′ views, up or down, of a company′s prospects. But some of the nation′s biggest brokerage firms appear to be giving a handful of top hedge funds an early peek at these sentiments — allowing them to trade on the information before other investors get the word."

Given the revolving door between regulators and those they regulate and that the regulatory agencies are underfunded and understaffed, is it any wonder that the financial industry in its many guises gets-away with mass illegality? Politicians have been helpless to do anything about this since they rely so much on financial industry funds for their election campaigns. What a mess.

At least this stuff is coming out into the open now, and hopefully, a growing disdain for these practices might create an environment for real change. We’ll see. It might sound harsh, but I believe that a country gets the government it deserves! Good luck America.
Surveys Give Big Investors an Early View From Analysts, by Gretchen Morgenson, July 15, 2012, The New York Times, USA.

Ethical Misconduct Pervades The New York Fed, Most Financial Industry Regulators & Financial Institutions. - [COMMENTARY] In a series of articles in The New York Times it’s revealed how the elites in the financial industry--in London and New York most particularly--are overwhelmed by greed that totally subsumes any trace of ethical behaviour. I suggest that this is not only a problem for the financial industry, but for society in general.

But on a hopeful note, it is interesting that these problems are coming to light now. Perhaps on some level there’s some type of ’phase transition’ in ’collective consciousness’ that is bringing this about? I believe it really could be the case.
New York Fed Knew of False Barclays Reports on Rates, New Fraud Inquiry as JPMorgan′s Loss Mounts, and Once-Stodgy World of London Banking Losing Its Old-School Ways, July 13, 2012, USA.

Sustainable Investment Portfolios Significantly Outperform Averages, Says Study. - [COMMENTARY] "Oekom Research looked at companies in its Prime Portfolio Large Caps (PPLC) – a group of 300 major firms with sustainability accreditations – over a seven-year period between 2004 and 2011, and compared their performance against the MSCI World Total Return Index. The results are encouraging. After being weighted by market capitalisation, the PPLC displayed a 30.9% cumulative return on investment. Over the same timescale, the MSCI World achieved 26.8%. This 4.1 percentage point difference equates to a 15.3% higher return for the PPLC."

Yet another confirmation that investing in companies where ESG matters, pays-off. It’s still surprising to me why there is still so much resistance to ethical investing within the mainstream financial industry. Perhaps too many in the industry are more interested in making money by manipulating markets and cheating than caring about offering sound investment advice based on hard data!
Analysis shows the ‘superior performance′ of sustainable investment, by Alex Blackburne, July 13, 2012, Blue & Green Tomorrow, UK.

10th Annual Thomson Reuters Extel/UKSIF Socially Responsible Investing & Sustainability Survey Results Announced. - [COMMENTARY] "Leading Brokerage Firm(s) for SRI & Sustainability Overall: 1) CA Cheuvreux, 2) Bank of America Securities - Merrill Lynch and 3) UBS." It’s a good list to review for ethical investors.
Thomson Reuters Extel and UKSIF 2012 Socially Responsible Investing & Sustainability Survey Results, press release, July 12, 2012, UK.

Libor Scandal Could Be Enormously Costly To Participating Banks. - [COMMENTARY] "Dozens of lawsuits filed by municipalities, pension funds and hedge funds have been consolidated into a few related cases against more than a dozen banks that are involved in setting Libor each day, including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Deutsche Bank and Barclays... Darrell Duffie, a professor of finance at Stanford, said he expected that their lawsuits alone could lead to the banks′ paying out tens of billions of dollars, echoing numbers from a recent report by analysts at Nomura Equity Research." In most ethical funds financial stocks are heavily weighted. Ethical fund investors should be concerned about this.
Rate Scandal Stirs Scramble for Damages, by Nathaniel Popper, July 10, 2012, New York Times Dealbook, USA.

16% Of Financial Industry Employees Would Commit Insider Trading, Says Survey. - [COMMENTARY] "16% of those surveyed said they would engage in insider trading if they could make $10 million and not get caught. Only 55% said they ’definitely’ would not, leaving the remaining 29% apparently on the fence about committing crimes. Though in some slightly encouraging results, 94% of those surveyed said they′d be willing to report wrongdoing and 86% said they are putting their clients first."

If 16% admit that they would do it, how many in the survey wouldn’t admit that they would do it? My guess is the answer is substantially higher than 16%! Unfortunately, the financial industry is probably more representative of society generally, than most of us would admit.

Survey after survey, study after study, shows that people today are more likely to cheat and lie than in previous generations. Is it any wonder that the ’West’ is in relative decline compared to the ’East?’ However, I believe we’re near a point where society will adopt measures that will reverse such decay in morals. Longer-term this will add to ethical investing returns.
Financial Industry Survey: 16% Would Commit Insider Trading, by David Benoit, July 10, 2012, The Wall Street Journal blogs, USA.

Deceitful Banks Pushing Customers To Ethical Banking & Investors to Funds Devoid Of Financial Stocks. - [COMMENTARY] Two stories caught me eye, one from the UK and the other from the US. But at what point will this become a mass movement?
Ethical Banking: Big Increase In Applications, July 3, 2012, Sky News, UK, and Why This Investor Won’t Ever Buy Banks or Insurers, by Chris Gay, July 3, 2012, US News & World Report, USA.

Yet Another Study Shows US Companies Lagging European Firms In ESG Reporting. - [COMMENTARY] "US companies are lagging far behind their counterparts in the European Union on transparency of environmental and social practices, with the accuracy of information often unverified, according to a report* by the Conference Board." Generally, I think that most people would agree that European culture is more attuned to environmental and social concerns than in the US. Until the cultural dynamics in the US changes towards those of the Europeans, Europe will continue to lead.
US groups lag behind on ESG, by Ruth Sullivan, July 1, 2012, Financial Times, UK.

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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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