September 2013 Newsletter

September 2013 Newsletter

News & Commentaries by Ron Robins


Number of ’climate leaders’ doubles in new CDP report. – [COMMENTARY] “Companies that have made the environment and sustainability central to their businesses strategies are seeing higher profits while also better positioning themselves for an uncertain future, says the CDP S&P 500 Climate Change Report, the latest update on greenhouse gas emissions and climate strategies from the biggest corporations in the U.S. The report is based on responses from 334 companies on the Standard & Poor’s 500.” The growth in interest by companies concerning sustainability is mounting–and with good reason: it’s profitable!
Number of ’climate leaders’ doubles in new CDP report, by Jonathan Bardelline, September 23, 2013,, USA.

Lehman anniversary: banking sustainability grows, but not enough. – [COMMENTARY] “In spite of the improvement, however, the banking sector still ranks below controversial sectors such as pharmaceuticals or oil and gas … and below the average 3.3 score across all sectors. In other words, progress is being made, but it remains slow.” This article in the UK’s The Guardian newspaper and written by EIRIS’s CEO, further illustrates the continuing poor level of ethics in much of the global banking industry.

I continue to believe that really major financial troubles are brewing in many developed countries’ banks and financial institutions.

Many banks, etc., are allowed by worried unethical regulators to hide losses in their assets (real estate, bonds, etc.) and to totally minimize the risks of their massive highly unstable off balance sheet derivative positions! Provisions for derivative losses hardly exist and tiny losses could sink any large bank.

I know EIRIS to be a wonderful analytical firm, particularly with ESG matters. However, I don’t know how far they go in investigating and analysing the problems I just outlined. For me, they’re terrifically important ethical and governance issues.
Lehman anniversary: banking sustainability grows, but not enough, by Peter Webster, September 25, 2013, The Guardian, UK.

Sustainable Insight Capital Management Launches Joint Study With The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP). – [COMMENTARY] “According to SICM CEO Kevin Parker, ’Our analysis demonstrates that industry leaders are not only taking critical steps to establish the requisite governance, management systems, and environmental efficiencies to engage on climate, but that they have also demonstrated superior profitability, more stable cash flows and higher dividend growth for investors.’”

This is a powerful study that says companies should integrate sustainability into their operations and benefit from higher financial and stock performance. I hope that academic institutions are able to perform such research too–or even to audit these findings so that they’re believable to companies everywhere.
Sustainable Insight Capital Management Launches With Joint Study With The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), press release, September 24, 2013, Sustainable Insight Capital Management, USA.

Solar Power & Wind Power Now Cheaper Than Coal Power In US. – [COMMENTARY] “It′s less costly to get electricity from wind turbines and solar panels than coal-fired power plants when climate change costs and other health impacts are factored in, according to a new study published in the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences.”

This is unsurprising news to me, though it’sgood that the numbers to support it are finally coming out. The big question is how to get those authorities and investors backing energy projects to include ’full cost’ accounting–which would include climate and health impacts–into their project assessments!
Solar Power & Wind Power Now Cheaper Than Coal Power In US, September 20, 2013, Clean Technica, USA.

UK’s Operation Noah launches Bright Now and calls on churches to divest from fossil fuels. – [COMMENTARY] “More than nine out of 10 [UK] church goers of all denominations say churches should invest their money ethically but a significant proportion remain confused about what this means in relation to disinvestment.” This is obvious good news from an ethical investor’s viewpoint, though the question could perhaps have been better phrased. For instance, answering no to it implies the survey respondent favouring their church invests in ’unethical’ investments!
Operation Noah launches Bright Now and calls on churches to divest from fossil fuels, press release, September 20, 2013, Operation Noah, UK.

Do sustainable companies offer sustainable pensions? – [COMMENTARY] “We often think of European companies leading the way on good environmental practices. But a recent report by Independent Capital Management AG, took a closer look at the pension funds of a number of Swiss companies, all of which are listed on the global Dow Jones Sustainability Index. Not one fund it looked at adopted the same stringent investment policies as its sponsoring company.”

Is this a lapse of management oversight or only a weak commitment to sustainability that sustainable companies don’t have sustainable pensions? Employees and stockholders in all so-called sustainable companies have to put this question to the management of these companies.
Do sustainable companies offer sustainable pensions? By Emma Simon, September 19, 2013, The Guardian, UK.

Volkswagen, Panasonic stand out on Dow Jones Sustainability Index. – [COMMENTARY] “Each year, research firm RobecoSAM asks 2500 of the world’s largest public companies to report on their sustainability performance, covering governance, social and environmental criteria. (In a recent GreenBiz Intelligence Panel survey, 45 percent of respondents named DJSI as a top sustainability framework in terms of credibility and importance.)” Interestingly, among the companies delisted from the DJSI are Johnson & Johnson, HSBC and Bayer. The first two had been SRI favourites for many, many, years.
Volkswagen, Panasonic stand out on Dow Jones Sustainability Index, by Sustainable Business News, September 13, 2013,, USA.

PRI study: ESG factors influence countries′ economic development and sovereign debt. – [COMMENTARY] “Environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors are ’material’ in the $47 trillion sovereign debt market, according to a new study by the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI).” This is fascinating and important news. ESG factors will be increasingly used in assessing sovereign bond risk!
PRI study: ESG factors influence countries′ economic development and sovereign debt, by Alex Blackburne, September 13, 2013, Blue & Green Tomorrow, UK.

Green investments performing strongly for big business. – [COMMENTARY] “79 per cent of US companies reported higher returns on their emission reduction investments than those from the average business investment, according to the CDP Global 500 Climate Change Report 2013, co-authored by CDP and PwC. It also found that carbon emissions from the 50 biggest emitting companies have risen by 1.65 per cent to 2.54 billion tonnes over the past four years.” So there is good and bad in this report. At least with the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), we’re starting to get more reliable data on corporate carbon emissions.
Green investments performing strongly, by Sam Fenwick, September 12, 2013, E2B, UK.

Achieving a new global corporate consciousness. – [COMMENTARY] “With significant reductions in poverty, progress in key health indicators and greater economic opportunity, an increasingly well-integrated, technologically empowering, private-sector driven international economy is turning into the most transformational force since the Industrial Revolution.” George Kell makes a great case as to how businesses–through largely integrating ESG factors in their activities–are helping to create a more sustainable world. My question is though, is it fast enough?
Achieving a new global corporate consciousness, by George Kell, Executive Director, UN Global Compact, USA.

Gender Divide A Growing Issue For Advisors (Women More Interested in SR/Ethical Investing). – [COMMENTARY] ” A recent U.S. Trust survey of high net worth investors asked how important social, political or environmental impacts were in evaluating investments. Such impacts were considered ’somewhat’ or ’extremely’ important by 65 percent of women but only 42 percent of men.” Financial advisors especially, should read this article.
Gender Divide A Growing Issue For Advisors, by Joseph F. Keefe, September 4, 2013, FA Magazine, USA.

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