April 2008

The Dream Of Energy-Efficient Superconductivity At hand. – [COMMENTARY] Green investors take note. Superconductivity has long held-out the promise of enormous efficiencies in energy production and transmission. Here is an example of a pioneer application by American Superconductor.
Superconductor cable gets energized on Long Island, by David Ehrlich, April 30, 2008, cleantech.com, USA.

Is Big Oil Giving-Up On Alternative Energy? – [COMMENTARY] It seems high oil prices have possibly influenced major oil companies to favour investments in oil rather than in alternative energy. This is a short and interesting article.
Dawn of an energy famine, by Jeremy Legett, May 2, 2008, The Guardian, UK.

New Harvard Study Offers Insight Into Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). – [COMMENTARY] This study provides a detailed analysis and discussion of the legal and economic basis for CSR.
Corporate Social Responsibility through an Economic Lens, April 2008, Harvard University, Kennedy School of Government, Faculty Research Working Paper Series, USA.

KPMG Report Outlines Climate Change Risks For Various Types Of Businesses. – [COMMENTARY] By publishing this report, KPMG has performed an important service for both companies and investors. For companies, the report cites four types of climate change risks: regulatory, reputational, physical and litigious, and shows their effects on different business sectors. For investors, this report could be used as a helpful guide to analyse how companies are performing in regard to dealing with these climate change related risks, and assist them in determining the best stocks that are good to invest in with regard to climate change.
Climate Changes Your Business, April 2008, KPMG, Netherlands.

US Islamic Fund Wins Top Honours. – [COMMENTARY] This year’s Lipper Fund Award winner in the equity category — which has over 200 funds — is the Amana Trust Income Fund with close to $400 million in assets. The manager, Nicholas Kaiser, credits his success to the Sharia principles that guide him in his investment selections. He has won this award for two years in a row. Well done Mr. Kaiser!
Managed By God, by Michael Maiello, April 21, 2008, Forbes.com, USA.

More MBA Students Seek Jobs Making A Real Societal Contribution. – [COMMENTARY] “According to the survey of 1,943 MBA students at 15 top-ranked business schools in the U.S., Canada, and Britain, conducted last fall, 25% of MBAs are looking for a job with the potential to make a contribution to society, up from 15% in the Aspen Institute’s 2002 survey.” These numbers are not large, but they do denote a sentiment that favours higher ethical conduct and concern for society at large.
The Do-Good Disconnect, by Kelly Bronk, April 21, 2008, Business Week, USA.

Social Stock Exchange Proposed For UK. Rockefeller Doing Study. – [COMMENTARY] The concept is to provide a stock market where all listed companies meet certain environmental, social and governance criteria. This could be really interesting for socially responsible and ethical investors. It will be well worth watching. If it works in the UK, where government support appears to be there for it, the concept will spread fast around the world. Such an exchange could make it easier to find ethical stocks that are good to invest in.
Rockefeller backs ‘social′ stock market, April 15, 2008, iNSnet.org (originally published in the Financial Times), UK.

Mutual Fund Industry Warming To Climate Change Proxy Resolutions. – [COMMENTARY] Ceres reports that their “Review of Proxy Votes by 1,300 Mutual Funds Finds Shift from Solid Opposition to Abstention Middle Ground… ” (Ceres is a US coalition of investors, environmental groups and other public interest organizations encouraging companies to address sustainability and issues related to climate change.) Gradually the mutual fund industry is realizing the importance of climate change as it pertains to corporate performance and to the profits of companies they hold in their funds.
Mutual Fund Industry Opposition to Climate Change Resolutions Begins to Thaw, April 16, 2008, CERES, USA.

A Call For Investment Advisors To Better Service Socially responsible Investors. – [COMMENTARY] This long article contains interviews with eight socially responsible investors. It makes fascinating reading for everyone interested in the subject and comes from an authoritative source too.
Quiet Conversations: The Expressive Nature of Socially Responsible Investors, by Meir Statman, Ph.D., Glenn Klimek Professor of Finance at Santa Clara University, Leavey School of Business, Santa Clara, California. USA.

US Unions’ Website Tracks Executive Pay In S&P 500 Companies. – [COMMENTARY] From this site as well as from other sources, it is clear that executive compensation in America is growing fast while employee pay increases are unable to cover the rise in inflation. Furthermore, executive compensation is frequently tied to short term financial results which often run counter to the long-term interests of their companies. The downfall of America’s big three automakers was in large measure due to them spending huge sums to buoy up their stock prices — which greatly benefited the compensation of their executives who had inordinate amounts of stock options — when they should have spent these sums on product development. Ethical investors looking for stocks that are good to invest in just might want to consider how executive pay, stock options and stock buybacks, relate to the companies long-term prospects. I suggest huge sums spent on stock buybacks and large amounts of stock options for executives could be signs of unethical management behaviour and, or, poor business practices that may eventually harm their companies profitability.
2008 Executive PayWatch, April 2008, AFL-CIO, USA.

Financial Institutions Need To Understand The Business Case For Biodiversity, Says United Nations Environmental Program’s Finance Initiative (UNEPFI). – [COMMENTARY] Though this report is principally aimed at management in the finance sector, it is fascinating reading, particularly also for those investing in this area as well.
The Business Case for Biodiversity, March 2008, United Nations Environmental Program’s Finance Initiative (UNEPFI), Switzerland.

Overview Of US Faith-Based Mutual Funds. – [COMMENTARY] There are not too many reviews on faith-based funds. This is a brief, interesting one for US spiritual investors. It is worthwhile to note that Sharia (Islamic) funds are doing especially well as they do not invest in financial stocks due to their prohibition on investing in companies who receive interest income.
Fever Grows for Faith-Based Funds, by Liz Wolgemuth, April 11, 2008, U.S. News & World Report, USA.

Institutions Selling Tax-Deferred Savings/Investment Plans In New Zealand Required To State If They Have An Ethical Investing Policy. – [COMMENTARY] As far as I know this is the first time any government has asked such providers to say whether or not they have an ethical investing policy. Clearly, it is likely that any providers who do not have such a policy could be at a disadvantage. The policy came into effect April 1. Well done New Zealand!
Winds of ethical change, April 8, 2008, Stuff.co.nz, New Zealand.

Article Claims Leading Figures Behind Dow Jones Islamic Index & Other Sharia Compliant Funds, Back Terror Groups. – [COMMENTARY] The financial world’s interest in Sharia (sometimes spelt ’Shariah’) compliant banking and investing may undergo more scrutiny due to assertions that some key figures backing it also back terrorist groups. This will be an important area to watch in the years ahead, as Sharia finance has been burgeoning. To me, the pure concept of Sharia finance looks appealing and fascinating as it has many of the attributes of spiritual or ethical investing. However, it does seem that ’background checks’ of some of the leading individuals behind it is warranted.
ATTACK ALERT: Wall Street and Sharia Finance, by Alex Alexiev, April 6, 2008, B’NAI ELAM, Israel.

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