November 2008

Top Rated Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) Research Team Cut At Citi. – [COMMENTARY] “Industry sources said they had been told that the SRI team, which earlier this month scooped the award for the best European SRI broker firm in the Thomson Reuters Extel/UKSIF
2008 Socially Responsible Investing & Sustainability Survey, is being cut.” Apparently, it’s all part of Citibank’s downsizing.
Axe to fall on top-rated Citi SRI research team, by Hugh Wheelan, November 28, 2008, Responsible Investor, UK.

HSBC Climate Change Poll Shows Environment Tops Economy. – [COMMENTARY] “The environment remains a top concern for people around the world despite the financial crisis, according to a global poll by the HSBC Climate Partnership, which includes HSBC, The Climate Group, Earthwatch Institute, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and WWF. The new poll… finds that 43 per cent see climate change as a bigger problem than the economy.” This is good news for green stocks which have taken a beating recently.
Surveys call for Unity to Combat Climate Change, November 27, 2008, UNEP, Kenya.

Environmental Groups Propose Massive Green Spending In Major Report Delivered To President-Elect Obama. – [COMMENTARY] “It [the report] calls for the creation of jobs in the renewable energy sector, building weatherization, a retooled auto industry, investment in infrastructure like public transportation, and major improvements to the electrical grid. The guidelines also detail what can be done in every executive branch agency, department, and office on a number of other environmental issues.”

It will be fascinating to see exactly how the new US president reacts to this report. Obviously, his reaction and that of his new administration, could have a dramatic effect on the fortunes of green-ethical stocks and bonds.
Transition talk: A 391-page green gorilla in the room, by Kate Sheppard, November 25, 2008, Grist, USA.

Updated Greenpeace Guide To Greener Electronics. – [COMMENTARY] The ’greenest’ top four electronics companies according to their report are: Nokia, Sony Ericson, Toshiba and Samsung. If you are looking for green-electronics stocks that are good to invest in, this Greenpeace ranking is a good place to start.
Guide to greener electronics, November 2008, Greenpeace.

Joan Bavaria, Socially Responsible Investing Pioneer, Passes On. – [COMMENTARY] Joan was one of the greats in socially responsible investing. Among her accomplishments: she co-founded the US Social Investment Forum in 1981; became chairman of CERES–the corporate environmental organization; started Trillium Asset Management; and played a key role in developing the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)–a reporting methodology that numerous companies use in their environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting.
Ceres Honors the Life of its Visionary Founder Joan Bavaria, November 25, 2008, CERES, USA.

2008 Asian Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Awards. – [COMMENTARY] “This year’s awards attracted 170 entries representing 120 companies from 15 countries.” The winners include Microsoft Philippines, Johnson & Johnson Philippines, and Bharat Petroleum Corp. Ltd. BOOND India.
Announcing the Winners of the Asian CSR Awards – Asia’s foremost CSR Awards programme, November 24, 2008, China Newswire, China.

Economist Intelligence Unit Report Says Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Can Be A Winning Formula For Companies. – [COMMENTARY] The advantage of using corporate social responsibility to promote corporate activities and to potentially improve financial results is cited in this new report.
Corporate citizenship: Profiting from a sustainable business, November 2008, Economist Intelligence Unit, USA.

Longer Environmental Reports Win Awards. – [COMMENTARY] “Companies that publish longer environmental reports tend to earn more awards, companies in low carbon-intense sectors put out longer reports and almost all companies fail to define key sustainability terms, according to a study of corporate reports…. [The study by] Spada hopes its white paper, Environmental Reporting: Trends in FTSE 100 Sustainability Reports, spurs further research and discussion on sustainability reporting.” For my thoughts on corporate social responsibility reporting see my editorial: We Need Mandatory Corporate Social Responsibility Reporting.
Longer Sustainability Reports Win Awards, Carbon-Intense Companies Report Less, November 18, 2008, UK.

Ontario, Canada, Will Likely Join The UK, France, Germany, Sweden & Belgium In Requiring Pension Funds To Reveal Their Handling Of Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) Issues Concerning Their Investments. – [COMMENTARY] This is continuing great news for all of us advocating the integration of ESG issues into mainstream investment analysis and portfolio management. As a result, the prospects for ethical stocks and bonds look great over the longer-term.
Ontario releases pension report, confirms importance of ESG considerations, November 20, 2008, SHARE, Canada.

Lack Of Trust In Traditional Banks Spurring Interest In Ethical Banking. – [COMMENTARY] Traditional banks, particularly in the USA and Europe, have lost the confidence of many of their customers who are increasingly switching to ethical banks.
RPT-FEATURE-Not promising the earth, ethical banks win custom, by Ingrid Melander and Lorraine Turner, November 20, 2008, Reuters, Belgium/UK.

Canada’s Ten Most Admired Corporate Cultures. – [COMMENTARY] See the following press release by Waterstone Human Capital for the ten winners.
Announcing Canada’s 10 Most Admired Corporate Cultures(TM), 2008, November 19, 2008, CSRWire, Canada.

Prince Charles Working On ’Pension Plan For The Planet.’ – [COMMENTARY] “… as part of the Prince′s Rainforests Project… an international agency to raise funds by offering 15-year rainforest bonds with competitive returns. The bonds would be guaranteed by developed nations and the interest and principal could be repaid from a share of income from future carbon markets, potentially including rainforests, by prior agreement with rainforest-nation governments.” The Prince has always shown a keen interest in the environment and it is most welcome to see him lead on this front!
Prince Charles to propose ‘pension plan for the planet,′ by Hugh Wheelan, November 19, 2008, Responsible Investor, UK.

FORTUNE & AccountAbility List Their Top Ten Companies. – [COMMENTARY] “Fortune partnered with AccountAbility, Csrnetwork and Asset4 to rank the world’s 100 largest corporations by the quality of their commitment to social and environmental goals.” The ten companies that most understand and utilize the advantages of using corporate social responsibility, according to this analysis, are: Vodafone, General Electric, HSBC, France Telecom, HBOS, Nokia, EDF, Suez, BP, and Royal Dutch/Shell.
10 most ’accountable’ big companies, November 14, 2008, FORTUNE, USA.

FTSE & IMPAX Expand Their Offerings Of Environmental Indices. – [COMMENTARY] “[They] include benchmarks tracking the performance of investments in water technology firms, waste and pollution management companies, firms specialising in energy efficiency, and renewable energy developers.” One idea behind the new indices is for investors to more easily determine which subsectors of cleantech perform best over time. They also might help ethical investors find the best individual environmental stocks that are good to invest in too.
FTSE debuts nine new environmental indices, by James Murray, November 17, 2008, BusinessGreen, UK.

UK Journalist Ruth Sunderland Lists Her Best & Worst Companies In Guardian Newspaper. – [COMMENTARY] Always insightful, this annual review is worth looking at for anyone interested in ethical investing. It comprises a series of articles.
The Observer Good Companies Guide, by Ruth Sunderland, November 16, 2008, The Observer, UK. (On list, go to her November 16, 2008, articles.)

World Bank Begins To Issue Environmental Bonds. – [COMMENTARY] “The bond is the first product of a wider Bank effort, in collaboration with large institutional investors, to direct large-scale institutional money to tackling climate change. The Bank has raised around $300 million in Swedish krona-denominated six-year bonds, sold by Swedish bank SEB to Scandinavian institutional investors.” Many groups around the world are advocating for such bonds and socially conscious banks everywhere are likely to begin issuing them.
World Bank issues first ‘green′ bond, November 12, 2008, Environmental Finance, UK.

Heated Debate About Shariah Finance Continues In US. – [COMMENTARY] Advocates speak of Shariah finance as a form of ethical investing. Opponents are concerned that it could be controlled by, as well as provide financing to, terrorist organizations. Shariah finance now involves about $1 trillion in assets and growing by as much as 15% a year. It is now a force to be reckoned with and both the UK and USA authorities want their respective financial markets to be open to it.
U.S. Interest in Shariah Finance Opens Dangerous Doors, Critics Say, November 13, 2008, Fox News, USA.

Switzerland’s Bank Sarasin Confirms Positive Impact Of Sustainability On Share Performance. – [COMMENTARY] “Based on data provided by Bank Sarasin, statistical analyses performed by the Centre for Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability at the University of Zurich (CCRS) in cooperation with the Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich and the Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW) Mannheim, Germany, confirm that sustainable investment is a winning strategy.” Sustainability has definitely become a key component in the ethical stocks and bonds paradigm.
Green investing proves a winning strategy – study, by Martin de Sa’Pinto, November 13, 2008, Reuters, Switzerland.

EIRIS Report Finds Most Large Companies Fail To Understand & Account For Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) Risks. – [COMMENTARY] “The report categorizes companies according to risk in the areas of human rights, labor standards in the supply chain, environment, climate change, and bribery and corruption. With the exception of management of environmental risks, in which over 50% of high-impact companies demonstrated a good management response, high-risk companies have largely failed to mitigate risks in any area.”

It seems that the boards of many companies still have their heads in the sand. I believe that as our financial system evolves with ESG factors and the evolution of corporate social responsibility reporting become increasingly important to analysts and investors, corporate boards will need to get more engaged to understand their full risk profile. Otherwise, investors will price-in those indeterminate risks and the company’s stock price suffers!
Report Finds That Most Corporations Fail to Address Risks That Threaten Long-Term Profitability, November 12, 2008, by Robert Kropp, SocialFunds, USA. For actual report: The State of Responsible Business in 2008: Implications for PRI signatories, October 2008, EIRIS, UK.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) To Thrive Under Obama–Survey. – [COMMENTARY] “… nearly nine out of 10 survey respondents believe U.S. President-Elect Barack Obama will have a positive impact on advancing the corporate responsibility agenda.” A few weeks ago I carried a link to a study that found CSR flourishes more under Democratic administrations than Republican ones. This obviously seems to be believed by US business leaders today.
Nearly 9 Out of 10 Business Leaders Believe U.S. President-Elect Obama will Help Advance the Corporate Responsibility Agenda, press release, November 10, 2008, Business for Social Responsibility, USA.

78% Of US Voters Support Clean Energy Investments To Revitalize The Economy. – [COMMENTARY] “Fifty-seven percent of all age groups surveyed said it was important to them in this election to back candidates who supported reducing greenhouse-gas emissions, compared to 49 percent in 2006. And 60 percent said they wanted their elected officials to make global warming a high priority, compared to 58 percent in 2006.” The poll by Zogby International was commissioned by the National Wildlife Federation. From this poll — and others — it is clear that President-elect Obama has significant public support for a green energy infrastructure stimulus package.
Poll dancing, by Kate Sheppard, November 9, 2008, grist, USA.

FairPensions Says F&C, Insight, Hermes, and Aviva Investors Lead In UK Responsible Investment Practices. – [COMMENTARY] “The bottom five, starting with the poorest ESG performer, were Credit Suisse, Artemis, Scottish Widows, State Street and Goldman Sachs. FairPensions said bottom of the table managers often gave no indication of any coherent approach to ESG and some failed to meet industry best practices such as the UK combined code on corporate governance.” This is an extremely insightful look into responsible investment policies and environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues as they are dealt with among UK investment firms.
ESG improvements, but ‘striking′ disparity between best and worst UK managers: FairPensions, by Hugh Wheelan, November 10, 2008, Responsible Investor, UK. Click here for asset managers rankings. And for the FairPensions Investor Responsibility report, UK.

Survey Says Bank Bailouts Significantly Increasing ’Moral Hazard.’ – [COMMENTARY] “The global response to the credit crisis has actively encouraged moral hazard – the belief that financial services companies will take more risk if they think that governments will step in and bail them out – according to 64% of respondents from the institutional investment industry to a survey by the Network for Sustainable Financial Markets (NSFM)… As a result, just 7% of the investment specialists who answered the open survey during October said they believed the response to the crisis should come from government.”

These are fascinating results representing the views of investment professionals in the green/ethical investing industry. They certainly contrast markedly with those of the mainstream financial elites who begged for government bail-outs!
Bank chiefs more responsible for credit crisis than governments: investor survey, by Hugh Wheelan, November 10, 2008, Responsible Investor, UK.

Organic Food Industry Growth. – [COMMENTARY] This review of the organic food industry in the USA and Europe shows impressive growth numbers. However, growth in the USA has stalled recently due to the recession. Still, ethical investors interested in this subject will want to see this press release from BioFach, the world’s largest organic foods fair exhibitor. The next fair is to be held in Germany, February 19-22, 2009 with 2,900 exhibitors!
Constant growth of worldwide organic markets, press release, BioFach, Germany.

Citi Investment Research, Société Générale, and Cheuvreux, Rated Tops In Europe For Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) Research. – [COMMENTARY] “The [Thomson Reuters Extel/UKSIF 2008 Socially Responsible Investing & Sustainability Survey]… is considered an industry benchmark in European buy-side and sell-side developments, represents the views of over 300 investment professionals from 19 countries.”
Thomson Reuters Extel names Europe′s best SRI research and fund management houses, November 6, 2008, by Hugh Wheelan, Responsible Investor, UK.

Green Investing Can Prevent Severe Recession Says Deutsche Bank. – [COMMENTARY] I believe President-elect Obama really understands this message and that with his influence the US will spend massively on green energy and infrastructure. In my opinion, his promised $15 billion a year for this is just a start. Governments all-over the world will see such investment as giving them a potential lead in what is likely to be one of the world’s biggest future industries.
Deutsche Bank: “Green Investment Can Prevent Severe Recession,” November 4,, USA.

United Nations Principles of Responsible Investment Sees Big Funds Signing-Up To It’s Six Principles. – [COMMENTARY] “In the past month alone, owners representing more than $1,500bn (£914bn, €1,160bn) of assets have signed up to the six principles of better long-term equity ownership, bringing the total above $18,000bn.” Increasingly, huge institutional investors are backing ethical investing principles. This will make ethical stocks and bonds even more attractive over the long term.
Investors sign up to a better world, by Sophia Grene, November 2, 2008,, UK. (Site may require you to sign-up for free subscription.)

KPMG Says US Companies Issuing Sustainability Reports Have Doubled Since 2005. – [COMMENTARY] “Of the top 100 U.S. companies by revenue, 74 percent published corporate responsibility (CR) information in 2008 either as part of their annual financial report or as a separate document, up from 37 percent in KPMG International′s 2005 research. Globally, 80 percent of the Global Fortune 250 companies now release CR data, up from 64 percent in the last KPMG International analysis in 2005.” Apparently, the primary driver behind companies issuing sustainability reports is ethics! In 2005, economics was the driver. If you have not done so, I recommend you read my editorial, We Need Mandatory Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Reporting.
KPMG Analysis Shows Number of U.S. Companies Reporting Sustainability Data Has Doubled Since 2005, October 27, 2008, KPMG, USA.

Ethanol Investments Taking A Hit. – [COMMENTARY] “The ethanol producers’ lush, green fields are turning into Death Valley. An industry that should never have thrived is getting its comeuppance.” The journalist covering this story reports on a number of big stock busts among companies in the industry. Bill Gates has experienced big losses in one of these producers as well.
Ethanol producers’ unworthy heyday finally over, by Eric Reguly, November 3, 2008, The Globe & Mail, Canada.

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