July 2007

Global Fair Trade Sales Grow 41% In 2006 Over 2005. – [COMMENTARY] It will be interesting to see when Fair Trade’s products move well beyond the agricultural domain, say into areas of manufacturing, etc. This is impressive growth though and many of the world’s poorest individuals are benefiting from it.
41 Percent Increase in Global Fair Trade Certified Sales Benefits 1.4 Million Farmers Worldwide, July 31, BusinessWire, USA.

UK Ethical Investing Sector Alarmed By Proposed Chinese Stake In Barclays. – [COMMENTARY] In my opinion this is the taste of things to come, as China uses over $300 billion of its reserves to purchase assets other than US treasury bonds. If companies that now receive high ratings from socially responsible investing screens do receive funding by the Chinese state, these companies could be barred from many ethically and socially oriented investment portfolios. The reason of course is China’s abysmal human rights record. Ethical investors should need to watch China’s investment actions closely.
Barclays Chinese Deal Dismays Ethical Investors, July 24, 2007, FinanceDaily, UK.

New Global Islamic Shariah Indices Launched. – [COMMENTARY] MSCI Barra announced that it has launched a global family of Islamic indices designed to reflect Shariah investment principles while retaining replicability for international investors.” (Quote from article in link below.) This is good news. I believe that many spiritual and ethical investors, socially responsible investors, and others, will welcome the launch of these indices. In some respects, they will mirror the values of these investors. In fact, many such investors may well be drawn to them.
MSCI Barra launches global Islamic indices, July 27, 2007, Khaleej Times (Online), United Arab Emirates.

Green Cars? This Study Fires The Debate. – [COMMENTARY] A study by CNW Marketing Research Inc. looks at the total lifecycle cost of a large number of vehicles. You may be surprised at the conclusions. Well worth at least a casual reading to provide some, perhaps, hitherto unconsidered ideas as to what makes a green vehicle. Will this study have an impact on what cars and trucks get sold – and which car and truck companies become winners? I doubt it. However, if you invest in the automobile industry, you just might want to be alert as to the impact of this study.
Which cars are the greenest? You’d be surprised, by Neil Reynolds, July 27, 2007, The Globe & Mail, Canada.

Climate Change Corp Picks Its 20 Top Climate Change Corporations – [COMMENTARY] If you are looking for ethical stocks and bonds, you might want to check-out this list of corporations who, according to Climate Change Corp.com, are environmental leaders. However, be sure to check with your financial planner or investment advisor to get help with investing.
Top 20 companies: Climate change leaders show the way, by Mike Scott, July 26, 2007, Climate Change Corp.com, USA.

Pointers For Socially Responsible US Banking. – [COMMENTARY] This is an useful article for Americans interested in socially responsible banking.
Community Investing and Other Socially-Conscious Banking Options, by Penny Nickel, Get Rich Slowly (blog), USA.

US Ethical Investing Groups Opposing Proposed Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) Changes To Shareholder Resolution Process. – [COMMENTARY] It is expected that the SEC may unveil new proposed changes to shareholder resolutions today, July 25, as they begin their Open Commission Hearings. It is believed that the SEC wants to toughen the rules on the so-called ’voluntary’ shareholders resolutions. Such resolutions have been used by many socially responsible investing (SRI) organizations, religious groups, NGOs, etc., to create changes in corporate behaviour. The SEC is playing with fire if it again tries to limit these resolutions. They failed in 1997/8 and they will likely fail again in today’s more ethical investing friendly environment.
Groups to SEC: Hands Off Shareholder Resolution Process for Investors, July 24, 2005, PRNewswire-USNewswire, USA.

New Supply Chain Management Practices Interest Ethical Investors. – [COMMENTARY] Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) issued an interesting report as to how businesses can better manage ethical and corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices among their suppliers.
BSR Proposes Going Beyond Monitoring to Achieve Truly Sustainable Supply Chains, by Bill Baue, SocialFunds.com, USA.

Mutual Funds Analyzed By Their Carbon Footprint! – [COMMENTARY] Trucost Plc has just released a study measuring the carbon footprint of the holdings of 185 UK investment funds. The three funds with the lowest carbon print are all socially responsible investing (SRI) funds. Trucost is also likely to perform the same analysis for US funds. This kind of analysis is a real boon for ethical investing.
Carbon Counts 2007, July, 2007, Trucost Plc, UK. Also, see U.S. in line for survey ranking mutual funds by carbon ‘footprint′, by Thao Hua, July 23, 2007, Pensions & Investments, USA.

Many Marketers Pay For Advertising In Return For Good Stories On Their Companies Or Products. – [COMMENTARY] This fifth annual PRWeek/Manning Selvage & Lee (MS&L) Marketing Management Survey polled 279 U.S. chief marketing officers, directors of marketing and marketing managers. It focused on ’consumer generated media, integrated marketing and industry ethics.’ The survey found that almost one in five senior marketers actually saying that their organizations bought ads in order to get favourable news stories on their companies or products. In fact the number is probably much higher as a lot of marketers may not admit to it. Unethical corporate governance is still rampant among today’s corporations.
17% Of Senior Marketers Say Their Organizations Have Bought Advertising in Return for a News Story, press release, July 18, 207, BusinessWire.com, USA.

Link To Goldman Sach’s Study Indicating Stock Price Outperformance Of Companies Selected By Their Environmental, Social And Governance (ESG) Framework.  – [COMMENTARY] Goldman has developed its own ESG criteria, which certainly shows promise. This is good reading for all those  investing in ethical stocks and bonds.
Introducing GS SUSTAIN, Goldman Sachs, USA.

US Oil’s Top Guns Finally Recommend Dramatically Increasing Energy Efficiency. – [COMMENTARY] This is quite a turn-around for big oil. A committee of the US National Petroleum Council, headed by current and former senior oil industry executives, proclaimed a disturbing future for the US as world oil supplies are increasingly stretched and the US further reliant on imports from insecure areas of the world. For me, the much talked about nuclear energy power option is just too risky with potentially devastating costs. Just look at the situation in Japan, where the world’s largest nuclear power station is subject to the potential of an earthquake so large that it could destroy it – and kill or harm millions of people globally. No insurance company will insure a nuclear power plant. The risks are too large and unknown. Also, I understand that the decommissioning costs of a nuclear plant are as much as building it and rarely included the pricing of the energy output. I believe our future energy solutions must come primarily from wind and solar power, combined with a major focus on energy conservation and efficiency.
Oil executives sound alarm about fuel use, by Shawn McCarthy, July 19, 2007, The Globe & Mail, Canada.

In UK, 86% Of People Worry About The Environment.  – [COMMENTARY] Though the number of people taking steps to significantly reduce their environmental impact is well under half of the UK population, the two studies mentioned in this article gives me reason to feel optimistic about the future. Before any new action on a problem, people have to first become aware of what needs to be done before they consider acting to solve it. We see that awareness is now there in the UK of the environmental problem, and that activities to solve it on the individual level are beginning to take hold. For me, the data continue to support the notion that it is still advantageous for green investors to seek out environmentally conscious corporations.
Survey reveals nation of ’armchair ecologists’, by Alison Benjamin and agencies, July 18, 2007, Guardian Unlimited, UK.

New Book Links Brain Structure To Spiritual Experiences. – [COMMENTARY]
“… neuroscientist Beauregard and journalist O’Leary mount a sweeping critique of a trend in the pop science media to explain away religious experience as a brain artifact, pathology or evolutionary quirk. While sympathizing with the attraction such neurotheology holds, the authors warn against the temptation to force the complex varieties of human spirituality into simplistic categories that they argue are conceptually crude, culturally biased and often empirically untested. In recently published research using Carmelite nuns as subjects, Beauregard’s group at the University of Montreal found specific areas of brain activation associated with contemplative prayer.” – Publishers Weekly.
The Spiritual Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Case for the Existence of the Soul, by Mario Beauregard and Denyse O’Leary, HarperOne 2007.

Pension Fund Managers Responsible Investing Guide Website Launched. – [COMMENTARY] We need to thank the UK Social Investment Forum for compiling all this information in one place. After reading the material here, no pension fund manager has an excuse for not employing environmental, social and governance (ESG) screening practices in the management of funds. In fact, one can easily argue that pension fund managers are not fulfilling their fiduciary duties unless they do include ESG screening!
Sustainable Pensions Library, UK Social Investment Forum, UK.

UK Clothing Retailers Ethical Practices Studied. – [COMMENTARY] To companies, the advantage of using corporate social responsibility practices becomes clear in reviews such as this. For ethical investors looking for stocks that are good to invest in, it pays to read these surveys too.
How clear is the high street’s conscience? By Lucy Mayhew, July 18, 2007, Telegraph.co.uk. UK.

Another Report Cites Increasing Ethanol Demand To Increase Food Prices. – [COMMENTARY] According to the article linked to below, 30% of US grain production by the end of 2008 will go towards the production of ethanol! Most of the food people eat – dairy products, poultry, eggs, etc., rely on corn as the primary animal feedstock. As you know, corn prices are rocketing upward. It seems crazy why energy conservation is not more rigorously promoted. The reason is, unfortunately, that too many people – and investors – have a stake in ever-expanding energy consumption. Where do you stand on this issue? Are you investing in carbon related industries and therefore seek higher outputs for higher profits? This is an interesting question for all ethical investors, and those interested in environmentally responsible investing.
Ethanol to fuel global food price shock, by Robert Stockdill, July 16, 2007, FoodWeekOnline.com, USA.
Added July 17. See also: Corn on Corn Action, by Kevin Kerr, July 17, 2007, The Rude Awakening, USA.

Australian Government Agency Suing Google For Deceptive Ads. – [COMMENTARY] This will be an interesting legal case to follow. It centres on deceptive advertising being placed on Google’s pages and whether Google has the responsibility for ensuring the legitimacy of those ads. If Google has to vet all ads, their administrative costs could soar and their ad revenues may fall, thereby, potentially, negatively affecting its profits.
Google Suit Raises Ethical Questions About Search Advertising Practices, by Scott Karp, July 13, 2007, internet.seekingalpha.com

Canadian Mining Report Reviews Problem Mines. – [COMMENTARY] First read the article linked to below, and then if you have the time, the study which the article is based upon. The study really illuminates both the good and the bad about mining ventures in the developing world. As long as humans demand goods, mining will be with us. For all those who will not invest in mining, then perhaps from an ethical standpoint you should give-up your car — and home too! These things all require huge amounts of stuff that comes out of the ground. However, what we should do, as ethical investors who believe in socially and environmentally responsible investing, is to try and ensure, wherever possible, that our investments go to companies with the best possible corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices.
PDAC report blames poor company practices, NGOs, and corrupt governments for Canadian mining company woes, by Jack Caldwell, July 12, 2007.

John P. Mackey, Whole Foods Co-founder, Shows Dubious Ethics. – [COMMENTARY] According to reports in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, Mr. Mackey, under a pseudonym, Rahodeb, created a blog that frequently criticized Wild Oats, possibly their principal competitor and now a company they plan to takeover. This kind of unethical activity from the chairman of a company espousing high moral principles is highly disconcerting. I believe Whole Foods shareholders should show their displeasure with him by campaigning to have him step down as chairman and CEO of the company. Furthermore, from a pure governance standpoint, no public company should have the same individual be both board chairman and CEO. It can lead to conflicts of interest and management improprieties.
Whole Foods Executive Used Alias, by Andrew martin, July 12, 2007, The New York Times, USA.

New Report Shows All UK Demographic Groups Want To Shop & Act Green. – [COMMENTARY] “80% of consumers want to buy local food, reduce product packaging and recycle rubbish… 26% say they will boycott firms that damage the environment, up from 9% in 2001” This, according to a major survey by Henley Centre HeadlightVision. It is clear that going green is gaining more and more momentum in the UK and around the world. It is a very hopeful sign, and with growing higher consciousness, hopefully, the effects of climate change can be mitigated.
80% of consumers want to buy local, recycle and have less packaging, by Peter Shield, July 10, 2007, NaturalChoices.com.uk

Thomson Extel/UK Social Investment Forum Announce 2007 SRI & Sustainability Survey Results. – [COMMENTARY] The survey provides significant insight into how the UK operations of some of the world’s largest investment companies engage in socially responsible and sustainability corporate research. According to the survey, the leading firms in this area are Citi Investment Research, Goldman Sachs International and Société Générale.

Corporate Ethical Codes Seen Mainly As Advertising, Says Canadian Survey. – [COMMENTARY] Companies have to do more than just print ethical codes of conduct. They must be seen as strongly implementing them! This Canadian study should be an eye-opener to all companies to seriously engage in corporate social responsibility (CSR).
Corporate Ethical Codes Hold Little Weight, Prof Finds, July 9, 2007, news release, University of Guelph, Canada.

Natural Cosmetics Go Mainstream In US. – [COMMENTARY] As in the UK, natural, organic cosmetics are now going into the stores of mass market retailers. This is welcome news, and ethical investors may want to take note of these developments.
US natural cosmetics go the mainstream route, by Simon Pitman, July 9, 2007, Cosmeticsdesign.com, USA.

Socially Responsible Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) Gain In The US. – [COMMENTARY] The annual fees for socially responsible ETFs can be less than their mutual fund counterparts. This is a useful article looking at the pros and cons of the new ETFs which is something that all ethical investors, and those interested in socially responsible investing, might want to discuss with their financial advisors. However, bear in mind that since ETFs trade as shares, not all financial advisors can offer them.
Socially Responsible Investing With ETFs, by Eleanor Laise, July 8, 2007, The Wall Street Journal online, USA.

UN Wants Business Schools To Focus On Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).  – [COMMENTARY] This report is not only a good read regarding what the UN wants business schools around the world to do, but also provides much more information on the Goldman Sachs study concerning the out-performance of shares in companies they deem to have superior ethical practices.
U.N. Calls For Education In Corporate Responsibility, by Steve McGookin, July 6, 2007, Forbes.com, USA.

Netherlands Sees 20% Gain In Sustainable Investments In 2006. – [COMMENTARY] In 2007, a 35% rise is expected. The growing public debate and interest in climate change is a major factor in the rise of sustainable investments in the Netherlands, according to this report. However, both savings and investments related to sustainability still represent only around 3% of the total funds in savings and investments. Nonetheless, this growth, as elsewhere, is continuing to encourage large mainstream financial institutions to offer environmentally and socially responsible investment options, thereby promoting such investment vehicles to a much larger public.
Sustainable Savings and Investments on the Rise in Netherlands, July 7, 2007, NIS News Bulletin, Netherlands.

Goldman Sachs Study Shows Ethical Companies Outperform Peers. – [COMMENTARY] As one of the world’s biggest stock-brokerage and investment banking firms, the findings of their study is likely to create considerable global interest in ethical investing! “The study found that companies on an ethical list compiled by Goldman outperformed the MSCI World Index by an average of 25 per cent, with 72 per cent of companies outperforming their sector peers.” Quote from FT.com article in link below. Please note an FT subscription is required to view the whole article.
Ethical groups outperform peers, by Frances Williams, July 3, 2007, FT.com (Financial Times), UK.

US Real Estate Developers Increasingly Adopt ’Triple Bottom Line’. – [COMMENTARY]  “The survey, conducted by the Urban Land Institute, shows that the real estate industry, including investing companies and developers, is increasingly adopting a “triple bottom line” business approach that measures success in terms of economic, social and environmental value.” I am waiting for the day when the real estate industry adds a fourth value: consciousness. Buildings have a major influence on our minds and our consciousness too. The building system that truly incorporates this value is Maharishi Vedic Architecture.
Real Estate Execs Land ’Responsible Property Investing’ Strategy, July 5, 2007, GreenerBuildings, USA.

Most Small & Mid-Sized UK Businesses Have No Corporate Social Responsible (CSR) Policies. – [COMMENTARY] The data in this survey suggests that small and medium sized UK businesses do not generally understand what CSR is and how it might benefit them. Since the UK is a leader in CSR – and even has a government department promoting it – it is probably true that similarly sized businesses in most other countries are also lagging significantly in adopting CSR as well. Helping these companies recognize and implement CSR policies could be a major sales opportunity for consultants and companies engaged in this area.
Corporate Social Responsibility: Customers key to getting the message across, July 5, 2007, Sourcewire.com, UK.

Social Investment Forum (US) Launches Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) Guide For Foundations & Philanthropic Missions. – [COMMENTARY] Foundations in the US manage over $600 billion in assets and many of them want to incorporate SRI in the management of those assets. This guide is worthwhile reading, not only for foundations, etc., but for any investor or money manager new to SRI.
The Mission in the Marketplace, July 2, 2007, Social Investment Forum Foundation, USA.

US Securities And Exchange Commission (SEC) Site Lists Companies With Dealings In States That Sponsor Terrorism. – [COMMENTARY] When you click on the link below, you will see Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria as states that the US says sponsor terrorism. Click on any of these countries and you will find a list of companies that have links or activities in that particular country. Spiritual investors, ethical investors and socially responsible investors, all might want to view this list in terms of their own personal values, and take appropriate action in accordance with those values.
Countries the Secretary of State Has Designated as State Sponsors of Terrorism, July, 2007, US Securities And Exchange Commission, USA. A useful article describing this site in some detail is the following: Are You Spying on Your Portfolio? By S. J. Caplan, July 2, 2007, The Motley Fool, USA.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *