September 2008

US Congress Grants Extensions To Green Tax Credits. – [COMMENTARY] “The bill authorizes a one-year extension for federal production tax credits for wind power, which means developers and lobbyists will be able to take a few months off before badgering Congress for another extension starting next spring. Solar power gets more breathing room—an eight-year extension of investment tax credits, and generous support for homeowners to install their own solar panels. (The bill also includes support for clean coal development.)” The entire US green energy industry was quite relieved by the extension of these tax credits! If they were not passed, there was a danger of the US green energy industry coming to standstill.
Green Bailout: House Passes Rescue Plan and Clean Energy Credits, by Keith Johnson, October 2, 2008, Environmental Capital, Wall Street Journal blog, USA.

With An Emphasis On Ethics, Islamic Banks Are Gaining Non-Muslim Clients. – [COMMENTARY] “The Birmingham-headquartered Islamic Bank of Britain said it had seen significant growth in non-Muslim customers since the onset of turbulence on financial markets as Islamic banks, bound by strict religious principles, are largely seen as insulated from the credit crisis.” I have recently read of such reports from a number of countries. Perhaps this could represent a trend for religious institutions everywhere to set-up their own religious-ethically oriented financing and investing organizations?
Non-Muslims turn to Islamic Bank as a safe option, by Anna Blackaby, October 3, 2008, The Birmingham Post, UK.

Cleantech Venture Capital In North America, Europe, China and India, Reaches New Record Of $2.6 Billion In 3Q08. – [COMMENTARY] “The 3Q08 total is a 37 percent increase over the same period a year ago, and 17 percent increase over 2Q08. Cleantech venture investments through 3Q08 now total $6.6 billion, exceeding the full-year 2007 total of $6.0 billion.” The article notes that despite difficult economic times, cleantech investment continues to grow strongly.
Cleantech venture investment reaches record of $2.6 billion in 3Q08, October 1, 2008, Cleantech Group, USA.

New Eurosif Survey Says Responsible Investment Now Represents 17.5% Of European Funds Industry. – [COMMENTARY] “The total socially responsible investment (SRI) assets under management in Europe have reached €2.665 trillion and represent as much as 17.5% of the asset management industry in Europe, Eurosif reports. This corresponds to 102% growth of since Eurosif’s previous European SRI Study in 2005.” Clearly, investing in ethical stocks and bonds has become mainstream in Europe.
Responsible investment 17.5% of the European funds industry, October 1, 2008, CSR Europe, Belgium.

Norway’s ’Oil Fund’ Lags Other Ethical Funds In Addressing Climate Change, According To Innovest & WWF. – [COMMENTARY] “A new report by WWF and financial analysts Innovest shows that Norway’s large and influential Government Pension Fund, with a reputation as a leader in ethical investments, does not apply best practice in sustainable investments, and is not yet fully addressing the impacts of global warming… The $381bn fund is based on petroleum revenues and is the world’s second largest sovereign wealth fund.” Innovest and the WWF argue that since the fund derives so much of its capital from Norway’s oil operations, that it has a special responsibility to help offset the carbon emissions caused by those activities.
Joint Innovest/WWF Report Shows Norway’s “Oil Fund” Lags Behind Peers in Addressing Climate Change, September 29, 2008, CSRwire, UK.

Merrill Lynch Study Finds Outperformance Using Values Based Investing Approach. – [COMMENTARY] “In a recently conducted quantitative analysis performed by Merrill Lynch Research, companies that ranked high in responsible economic, environmental, social and corporate governance issues demonstrated lower volatility globally and provided higher dividend yields in the U.S. than those with lower scores.” This is proving my thesis that we can expect higher values to be recognized in the stocks of companies with higher ethics. With the atrocious ethics displayed on Wall Street, investing in ethical stocks and bonds will in the future be at the core of mainstream investing. View the video on this link. Mr. Rasco is to make a presentation on October 10 to the New York Society of Financial Analysts about these findings.
Higher Dividends and Lower Volatility in Values Based Investing, commentary by Jose Rasco, Merrill Lynch, USA.

Whole Foods, Toyota, GM, and Honda Capture the Largest Share of Eco Bloggers. – [COMMENTARY] “Based on the analysis of 40 million blog posts collected during the past six months, in six major industries, four brands—Toyota, General Motors, Honda and Whole Foods—garnered the greatest volume of positive conversation among online bloggers regarding environmental sustainability, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2008 Environmental Sustainability Report… “ Surveying blogs represents an interesting new development in marketing research. It could prove a useful method in finding ethical stocks that are good to invest in.
Whole Foods, Toyota, GM, and Honda Capture the Largest Share of Eco Bloggers, September 26, 2008, Business Week article on, USA.

15% Of US & European Consumers Interested In Plug-In Vehicles. – [COMMENTARY] I have yet to see good analysis as to what plug-ins will do to electrical demand? And are they really a better trade-off environmentally and economically than small, high efficiency gas/diesel/electric hybrids? Ethical investors will need real answers to these questions.
15% Of U.S. Consumers Very or Extremely Likely To Buy Plug-In Hybrids, September 26, 2008, Environmental Leader article on, USA.

PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Carbon Disclosure Project Report Shows More Companies Taking Climate Change Seriously. – [COMMENTARY] “The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), to which PwC [PricewaterhouseCoopers] has been appointed global adviser and report writer for the next three years, has published the results of the Global500 and S&P500 companies that disclosed their activities… It also shows how companies compare against their industry peer group and who is leading the field”  Incidentally, a recent study by the Swiss bank, Pictet, showed that “a socially responsible global equities portfolio would have carbon emissions 40% below those of a portfolio indexed to the MSCI global equities index.”
Carbon Disclosure Project Report, September 2008, PricewaterhouseCoopers, UK.

Seven US States & Four Canadian Provinces Starting Emissions Cap & Trade System. – [COMMENTARY] “… the Western Climate Initiative, issued the basic blueprint this week for the cap-and-trade system designed to curtail heavy industry’s emissions of greenhouse gases.” It is fascinating to see individual US states and Canadian provinces moving ahead of their respective federal governments on this issue.
After smoke clears, a boon for business, by Patrick Brethour, September 26, 2008, The Globe & Mail, Canada.

China’s Central Bank & WWF Join Forces For Greener Banking In China. – [COMMENTARY] Here is more evidence that the Chinese are taking sustainability to a new level. Who knows, perhaps we will soon see Chinese banks sign-on to The Equator Principles! (These are social and environmental principles that now guide the lending practices of many of the world’s leading banks.) Ethical investors may want to keep an eye on the possibility of investing in green oriented banks in China.
Chinese central bank and WWF outline greener banking roadmap, September 24, 2008, WWF, Switzerland.

UK Government’s The Carbon Trust Issues Report On How Climate Change Could Create Or Destroy Company Value. – [COMMENTARY] Ethical investors looking for stocks that are good to invest in, need to be aware of how climate change can have a major bearing on investment returns. This extraordinary report covers the effects of climate change ’on six industry sectors: Aluminium, Automotive, Beer, Building insulation, Consumer electronics and Oil & Gas.’ To obtain the report, register, which is free, at the Carbon Trust website in the link below, then download the PDF 4166 KB report.
Climate change – a business revolution? September 22, 2008, The Carbon Trust, UK.

’Say On Pay’ Movement Grows. Swiss Pension Funds Demand A Say On Executive Compensation At Switzerland’s Largest Banks & Companies. – [COMMENTARY] “… [Swiss funds and ethical organization, Ethos, have] filed a resolution for the 2009 annual shareholder meetings of ABB AG, Credit Suisse, Nestle SA, Novartis AG and UBS requesting shareholders have ’a UK-style advisory vote’ on remuneration reports.” The concerns around extraordinary executive compensation are not just a US problem.
Swiss funds demand say on pay at UBS, top firms, reporting by Cecilia Valente, editing by David Holmes, September 23, 2008, Reuters, UK.

Half Of Greentech Venture Capitalists See Capital Spending To Increase 20% Over 2008, KPMG Survey. – [COMMENTARY] “In polling 301 venture capitalists, corporate executives, entrepreneurs and bankers, KPMG found that 91 percent of respondents indicated they expect venture capital activity in the greentech sector to continue rising in 2009, compared to only 76 percent who indicated the same the previous year. In fact, some 50 percent of respondents say investment activity in greentech will increase by 20 percent or more over 2008 levels, while another 34 percent expect investment levels to increase by 10-19 percent range.” This is great news, considering all that is happening in the financial world today.
Venture Capital Community Not Worried About Greentech Investment Bubble, See Significant Increase in 2009 Funding, KPMG Study Finds, September 23, 2008, press release KPMG LLP, USA.

KLD’s Environmental Ratings Promoted Improved Environmental Behaviour Among Companies With Low Scores. – [COMMENTARY] KLD is one of the top US socially responsible ratings’ organizations. This is the first study to show that socially responsible ratings can impact corporate behaviour. It indicates the clout that socially responsible ratings’ organizations can have on corporate behaviour and performance. This kind of research is important for the SRI industry and for all ethical investors.
Social reponsibility: Do outside ratings affect companies? By Harvey Schachter, September 22, 2008, The Globe & Mail, Canada.

UK’s The Sunday Times Publishes Its Best Green Companies. – [COMMENTARY] “The 50 companies listed in this report are all pioneers — enterprising, enlightened and fizzing with new ideas. They vary from Greencare H2O, a business employing just 50 people distributing watercoolers, to the banking giant HBOS, which has a staff of 74,000.” The newspaper claims to have excellent selection criteria. It also surveyed the employees of the companies being reviewed! Positive reports like this continue to demonstrate to companies the advantages of using corporate social responsibility.
Best (UK) Green Companies Rankings, by Richard Caseby, September 22, 2008, The Sunday Times, UK.

Interbrand Publishes Its Best Global Brands List. Says Managing Sustainability Issues A Key To Brand Success. – [COMMENTARY] The top ten companies — Coca-Cola, IBM, Microsoft, GE, Nokia, Toyota, Intel, McDonalds, Disney and Google — all spent more time than average in dealing with sustainability issues. Environmentally conscious major corporations do seem to win out in the branding game.
Green Cred is Essential to Brand Strength: Report, by James Murray, BusinessGreen, September 22, 2008, UK. Actual report: Best Global Brands, Interbrand, September 22, 2008, UK.

Aluminium And Auto Companies Could See Further Massive Declines In Value If They Do Not Prepare For Low Carbon Economy, Carbon Trust. – [COMMENTARY] “Companies in the aluminium and automobile sectors could see up to 65% of their value wiped out in the coming years if they do not prepare for the transition to a low carbon economy, according to a report published today (Sept 22) by the Carbon Trust, an independent company set up by the UK government in response to the threat of climate change.”
Poor prep for low carbon economy could slash sector values by 65 per cent, by Hugh Wheelan, September 22, 2008, Responsible Investor, UK.

Chinese See Environment As Higher Priority Than Consumers In The USA Or UK. – [COMMENTARY] According to WPP Agencies, “The surveys found that 31 percent of Chinese consumers said that the environment was a higher priority than the economy, as against 28 percent in the UK and 17 percent in the US. In addition, 69 percent of the Chinese respondents said that they expected to spend more on environmentally friendly products in the next year.” This is great news and gives hope that China will not only be buying more environmentally friendly products, but that it will also begin to seriously participate in global climate change initiatives.
China: Consumers see environment a high priority, September 21, 2008,, UK.

Greenpeace Publishes Its 2008 Guide To The Greenest Electronics Companies. – [COMMENTARY] The top three are: Nokia, Samsung and Fujitsu Siemens. Some on the list are considered to be among ethical stocks that are good to invest in. Check with your advisor though.
Guide to greener electronics, September 2008, Greenpeace, USA.

Ten Of The World’s Largest Pension Funds & World Bank Exploring Green Investments. – [COMMENTARY] “Dubbed “P10,” the pension funds hail from Australia, China, Western Europe and the U.S., including the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) and California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), according to California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer.” Obviously, big money from institutions such as these is needed to spur the world to dealing with climate change.
World’s Largest Pension Funds and World Bank Exploring Green Investments: Lockyer, September 19, 2008,, USA.

Study Says US Political Views Affect Firms’ Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). – [COMMENTARY] “Companies with a high CSR rating tend to be located in Democratic states, while companies with a low CSR rating tend to be located in Republican states… Amir Rubin of Simon Fraser University analyzed the 2004 presidential election results of communities in which corporate headquarters are located.”
Political views affect firms’ corporate social responsibility, September 17, 2008, Source: Wiley, published in, USA.

UK Ethical Funds Start Campaign To Get Shell & BP To Scale Back Oil Sands Development. – [COMMENTARY] “Co-operative Asset Management, a leader in the U.K.’s fast-growing ethical funds sector, revealed plans on Sunday to campaign against oilsands and other “unconventionals” as a too-risky investment given the financial and ecological drawbacks, as well as looming anti-climate change regulations that would drive up costs even farther.” This is going to be a very interesting fight! The second article below reveals F&C and others getting involved in this effort as well.
U.K. ethical investment fund wary of oilsands push, by Richard Boswell, September 14, 2008, Canwest News Service, Canada. Also, Investors press for disclosure of tar sands’ climate risk, by Terry Macalister, September 15, 2008, The Guardian, UK.

Biofuels Facing Challenges Says Report. – [COMMENTARY] “Research report says biofuels could make up 10 percent to 15 percent over the next 10-20 years, but reaching those levels will be more challenging than previously thought.” Investors interested in this debate should read the article below.
Global biofuels market faces challenges, by Lee Bruno, September 9, 2008, Cleantech, USA.

UK’s Ethical Investment Association Publishes Transparency Award Winners. – [COMMENTARY] The gold level winners are Henderson Global Investors, Insight Investment, Jupiter Asset Management and Standard Life Investments. The award is for UK funds “…  that best adhere to a set of socially responsible investing (SRI) reporting guidelines.” This particular guideline is known as the ’European SRI Transparency Guidelines’ and something similar needs to come into use around the world to help serve ethical investors everywhere.
Asset managers awarded gold SRI standard, by Richard Harris, September 10, 2008, citywire, UK.

The €267bn Norwegian Government Pension Fund Blacklists Rio Tinto. – [COMMENTARY] Rio Tinto is “… accused of severe environmental damage at world′s largest gold mine in Indonesia… The fund alleges that the Grasberg mine discharges approximately 230,000 tonnes of tailings – a mix of ground rock, uneconomic metals and chemicals – directly into a natural river system.” It seems that some companies still need to understand the advantages of using corporate social responsibility!
Norwegian fund sells 600m euros of Rio Tinto shares following government ban, by Hugh Wheelan, September 9, 2008, Responsible Investor, UK.

Plenty Magazine Lists 20 Businesses That It Says Will Change The World. – [COMMENTARY] “Plenty′s second annual list honoring (in no particular order) 20 dynamic individuals and 20 pioneering companies that are bettering the planet, plus 10 innovative ideas that will revolutionize how we live.” Such lists are always useful to get new ideas for stocks that are good to invest in. However, it is important to understand how they are put together and what biases they may have. So remember, just because a company’s name appears on a list like this it does not always make it a great investment. But sometimes it just might be.
Plenty Magazine recognizes 20 businesses, 20 people, and 10 ideas that will change our world, September 4, 2008, LOHAS online, USA.

US Wind Turbine Market To Be Worth $60.9 Billion By 2013, Says BCC Research. – [COMMENTARY] By comparison, the market for wind turbines in 2007 was valued at $7.9 billion. Wind turbine stocks have been among the best socially responsible stocks to invest in. It looks like they will continue to attract a lot of attention with reports like this.
US Wind Turbine Market to be Worth $60 Billion in 2013, Report Predicts, September 1, 2008, Clean Edge News, USA.

Innovest Warned Investors In March About Food Safety Risks At Maple Leaf Foods’ Meat Operations. – [COMMENTARY] “Innovest Strategic Value Advisors’ March 2008 profile of Maple Leaf Foods specifically warned clients: “MLF has not developed a robust safety policy that addresses the food safety risks of meat packaging.” Maple Leaf Foods Inc. (MFI-TO) has issued a massive recall in response to a Listeria bacteria outbreak linked to its products. The outbreak has already resulted in 15 deaths and 29 other confirmed cases across Canada, with 31 more cases under investigation. These numbers are expected to rise.” In response to the outbreak though, Maple Leaf Foods has responded responsibly. It is terrible that such an incident had to take place at all. Well done Innovest in warning ethical investors about this problem. Watch out for an editorial I am writing in the weeks ahead on SRI rating organizations and their ability to analyze and predict corporate misdemeanours. There is some fascinating new research on this topic.
Innovest Warned of Maple Leaf Safety Concerns in March, press release, September 5, 2008,, USA.

Dutch Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) Assets Grow 816% In Two Years. – [COMMENTARY] “SRI assets under management in the Dutch market have increased by a massive 816% in just two years from €47bn ($68bn) in 2005 to €435bn in 2007, according to VBDO, the Dutch sustainable investment organisation. The huge rise in SRI assets, it said, was due to growing public concern about the environment and awareness of social injustice, but more pointedly to the impact of March 2007′s documentary on pension fund investment made by Zembla, the Dutch current affairs programme. Zembla discovered that some large Dutch pension funds were invested in companies that polluted heavily, were involved in child labour or produced controversial weapons like landmines or cluster bombs. The programme caused uproar amongst scheme members and politicians in the Netherlands.” The trend towards ethical stocks and bonds continues everywhere.
Dutch SRI assets bloom: 816% rise in 2 years, by Hugh Wheelan, September 4, 2008, Responsible Investor, UK.

Sustainable Business Publishes Its Top 20 Global Sustainable Stocks. – [COMMENTARY] The list includes Canon, Electrolux, Green Mountain Coffee, Vestas Wind Systems and Whole Foods Market. This is their seventh year publishing the list. I think it’s great that lists like this get published. But you always have to really examine the criteria to see if it works for you. Also, the companies in this list may be great from a sustainability perspective, but one needs the advice of a professional advisor to determine if they make sense financially.
Global Top Twenty Sustainable Businesses Announced, by Chris Milton, August 26, 2008, The Inspired Economist, USA.

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