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Top Ethical Investing News for October 2017
Links may only be valid a limited time Commentaries by Ron Robins
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Companies That Lead on Societal Impact Reap Financial Benefits. "Companies that outperform in industry-relevant environmental, social, and governance (ESG) areas boast higher valuation multiples and margins, all other factors being equal, than those with weaker performance in those areas, according to a new report by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG)."
BCG’s research shows that companies excelling in ESG outperform others in
their respective industries in profit margins and stock prices, all else
being equal! What more confirmation do companies need to optimally perform
on ESG criteria? Likewise, investors who′ve been ignoring the importance
of ESG should rethink their stance.
McKinsey: ESG No Longer Niche as Assets Soar Globally. "More than a quarter of the $88 trillion assets under management globally are now invested according to environmental, social and governance principles known as ESG, a McKinsey & Co. study found."
McKinsey doesn’t seem to be referring to original work as the figures
they’re quoting appear largely from published works such as the 2016
Global Sustainable Investment Review. Perhaps they should state their
sources. Anyhow, it’s terrific they’re engaged in promoting ESG!
Climate risk exposure falls as companies boost green action. "Almost a quarter (23%) of companies have targets to move away from fossil fuels in energy consumption, while almost all (98%) have designated climate risk as a board or senior-management responsibility. The Carbon Disclosure Project’s (CDP) annual analysis for 2017 further found another one in seven have agreed to set science-based targets to reduce emissions, while a separate three in ten plan to do so within two years."
The CDP survey data seem to run counterDespite the views of the Trump
administration, it’s apparent that numerous American businesses
increasingly view climate change as serious!
Three-quarters of companies don’t acknowledge climate risks. "That is the stark conclusion of a new report from consultancy giant KPMG, which reveals that 72 percent of large and mid-cap companies worldwide do not acknowledge the financial risks of climate change in their annual financial reports."
One reason for this is that companies don’t yet see the
investor/analyst/regulatory demands for it. Also, companies don’t want to
add to their potential liabilities by acknowledging possible associated
costs that could hurt long-term profits, stock prices, and executive
compensation from stock options!
Seniors 65 and Older Are More Interested in ESG Strategies Than Younger Generations, Finds AllianzGI ESG Clarity Survey. "AllianzGI found that 68% respondents in the 65+ age demographic had a favorable view of ESG investing compared to only 59% of those 25-44. In addition, 65% of seniors called it a sound investment strategy compared to only 54% of those 25-44.
Seniors are also incredibly engaged in practicing personal ESG in their daily lives with 81% of those 65+ engaging actively in the issues they care about by staying up to date, deciding which products to buy and contributing their time and money to causes important to them. This compares with only 66% of investors aged 25-44 who practice personal ESG."
It’s heartwarming to see this data. I’m concerned about a lot of these
surveys though. Who doesn’t want to respond positively when asked, "Do you
invest in ’responsible’ companies?" Most people would be afraid of saying
’no’ to the interviewer. It’ll be interesting to get feedback from the
pollsters on this. Of course, what people say and do are very different
ESG analysis grows in all regions for CFA Institute members; EMEA takes biggest leap. "Although environmental, social and governance consideration was up for all regions from the CFA Institute’s 2015 survey, Europe, the Middle East and Africa replaced Asia-Pacific as the region where investors are most likely to take ESG issues into account at 85%, up from 74% in 2015. Meanwhile, some 81% and 68% of investors in the Asia-Pacific and Americas, respectively, said they take ESG factors into account, up from 78% and 59% in 2015."
The CFA is a highly reputable organization. However, the percentages of
investors saying they’re taking ESG into account look overblown to me. ESG
analysis is no doubt gaining in credibility but if these responses are to
be believed it would be dominant in financial analysis today. Yet, it
doesn’t seem to be the situation from any objective analysis of the
PRI threatens to strip members of signatory status in ’greenwashing’ purge. "The PRI argued that many of the 200 or so asset managers and schemes that have signed up to the United Nations-backed principles on tackling environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues pay little more than lip service to them. Now they will be faced with a new set of standards to prove they are making active efforts to effect change, or they risk being removed from the PRI’s official list of signatories."
The UN Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) have been talking about
doing this for some time. I’m delighted to see it happening.
’True Bearing’ Financial Planners Unveil Consumer Attitudes Towards Sustainable Investment. "With 32.9% wanting to invest in ESG/sustainable investments, why do actual investments total only 3%? Using the survey results, the 3% of total UK assets managed should increase many times over. These figures suggest that IFA’s are missing out on a large market share, of those keen to take up ESG investments."
This is something I’ve been talking and writing about for decades! Most
financial advisors and planners -- so many different nomenclatures -- are
reluctant (or not required) to spend the time to really know their
clients. They make a mockery of what should be their ’know thy client’
mandate. Also, the time to gain knowledge concerning ethical/ESG
investments, commission arrangements, and other impediments, thus lead
numerous advisors to offer inappropriate advice to their clients.
Investors fear ESG investment will hurt returns. "Almost half of big European investors fear they will lose out on returns if they invest sustainably, despite the majority believing environmental, social and governance issues will become increasingly important over the next five years."
Schroders definitely sees the future in ESG investing and is taking it
seriously. The research they’re compiling -- and its results -- is
spurring increasing attention throughout the investment industry.
Investment industry professionals should note the results of the study
below that just won this year’s Moskowitz Prize!
Announcing the 2017 Moskowitz Prize Winner for Sustainable and Responsible Investing. "This year, the Moskowitz Prize acknowledged the superior quality of the paper Corporate Governance and the Rise of Integrating Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Criteria in Executive Compensation: Effectiveness and Implications for Firm Outcomes released in September 2017. The study examined the integration of CSR contracting – that is the linking of executive compensation to social and environmental performance – and how it affects firm-level outcomes.
’This study provides practitioners of sustainable, responsible and impact (SRI) investing with data that shows how companies that do good also perform well,’ said Steve Schueth, producer of The SRI Conference and president of First Affirmative Financial Network. ’The authors’ findings add to the mounting evidence that investing in companies that integrate sustainability best practices into their operations does not hinder financial performance, but can improve it – especially for their long-term investors.’"
I’ve given a lot of space to this study because it’s important for many
reasons. Firstly, the Moskowitz Prize offered by the Center for
Responsible Business at the Haas School of Business, University of
California, Berkeley, has become THE prize for SRI/CSR researchers
globally. Secondly, the winner of this year’s prize uniquely demonstrates
the advantages of CSR for company executives and stockholders!
Major asset managers moving slowly but surely toward impact investing. "Nine out of the top 10 largest U.S. asset managers are now active in impact investing, according to new Tideline analysis. All but Vanguard, the second largest US asset manager, have stood up or are actively testing impact investing strategies."
impact investing continues to grow, largely due to the demands of high net
worth investors says this survey. Also, this survey found that
institutional investors are laggards in this area.
100 Women: Do women on boards increase company profits? "More sophisticated pieces of analysis carried out by academics have shown very small positive correlations between female board members and financial success. But this is an average - in some companies the relationship was neutral and in some it was negative. And proving causation is far harder."
Ethical investors are convinced that having women on boards improve
corporate financial performance. Studies support that thesis. However,
this article cites some research contradicting that finding. So, who’s
right? As in most social science research, results can differ greatly
Research preoccupied with short-term financial metrics. "Excluding environmental, social and governance issues leads to misallocation of capital... A global survey of 342 financial analysts by Aviva Investors found that 42 per cent of respondents thought research published by banks and brokers was preoccupied with short-term financial metrics."
Interesting, aren’t these the analysts that publish the research? Yet,
they’re the ones criticising themselves of a short-term preoccupation and
avoidance of ESG measures they know are important for understanding the
long-term financial prospects of companies! At least they know their
issues. Perhaps it’s their managers that need to get with it!
Candriam: ESG analysis deems 49 countries ’non-investable.’ "China, Russia and Turkey are among 49 countries that are ’non-investable’, according to an analysis of their potential for long-term sustainable development by Candriam. Of the 35 advanced economies analysed – based on the definition used by the International Monetary Fund – only Greece came out as non-investable. Out of the 88 emerging economies, 48 were classified as non-investable."
Candriam have completed a fascinating analysis of investible countries
based on ESG criteria. What is especially interesting is that this
analysis applies to both equity and bond investing.
The New Grand Strategy: Restoring America′s Prosperity, Security and
Sustainability in the 21st Century, by Mark Mykleby, Patrick Doherty
and Joel Makower, St. Martin′s Press 2016
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Disclaimer: Neither The Soul Investor nor Ron Robins makes investment recommendations. Nothing in this newsletter should be interpreted as a recommendation or solicitation to buy/sell any securities or investments. The Soul Investor 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 professional advisers prior to taking any investment action. The Soul Investor does not necessarily agree with the opinions expressed in articles in its newsletter or offered on the web pages to which it might be linked. Such opinions are the responsibility of the writers themselves. Furthermore, The Soul Investor 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 in this e-newsletter, or other sites, to which it might be 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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