October 2010

Nokia, Sony & Philips Ranked Greenest By Greenpeace. Apple Falls to 9th; HP Rises to 4th. – [COMMENTARY] No doubt these rankings will come as a shock to Apple lovers. Nonetheless, Greenpeace does a good research job.
Apple Falls, HP Rises in Latest Greenpeace Toxic Tech Scores, by Danny Bradbury, October 27, 2010, BusinessGreen, USA.

68% Of UK’s Independent Financial Advisors (IFAs) Ask Clients If Interested In Ethical Investing. – [COMMENTARY] “The research [conducted for Ecclesiastical Investment Management] found that 68 per cent of IFAs ask if a client has an interest in ethical investments during their client fact-finding process, while 71 per cent of Isas and unit trust specialists put the same ethical question to clients.” This is good news. However, I believe that the advisors should ask this question to all their existing clients as well.
Ethics considered in factfinds, by Rebecca Clancy, November 1, 2010, Financial Times, UK.

2010 Clean Capitalism Report On Canada’s S&P/TSX 60 Companies. – [COMMENTARY] “The report includes an analysis of the ESG status of S&P/TSX 60 companies, benchmark rankings, and best practice highlights. The intention of the report is to provide companies, regulators and investors with data and analysis to help drive sustainability performance for leading companies in Canada. Data was collected on 13 indicators in 4 categories, Environmental, Social, Governance and Transparency.” The people behind producing this report always do a commendable job. It is worthwhile reading for all ethical investors.
2010 Clean Capitalism Report, by Sucheta Rajagopal, October 27, 2010, SRI Monitor, Canada.

Green Labelling A Big Problem. – [COMMENTARY] “According to a study… more than 95% of consumer products examined committed at least one offense of “greenwashing,’ a term used to describe unproven environmental claims, according TerraChoice, a North American environmental-marketing company that issued the report.” No wonder that consumers are sceptical of green claims and not at all eager to pay more for green products. Manufacturers should be forced to justify any green claims on their products. Ethical investors also need to understand the green-sustainability claims of companies too.
Misleading Claims on ’Green’ Labelling, by Gwendolyn Bounds, October 26, 2010, The Wall Street Journal, USA.

Sustainability Fund Holdings Have Similar Sustainability Risks To Conventional Funds, Says Study Reported In UK’S Financial Times. – [COMMENTARY] “A recent, but as yet unpublished, study by the University of Zurich measured the sustainability of large sustainable funds with the help of the RepRisk-Index (RRI), and compared their RRI scores with those of regular equity funds… Felix Remmers, author of the study, [says] ’The shares that are in so-called best-in-class-sustainability funds overlap to a large extent with the ones we find in regular equity funds. Hence it is no surprise that these specialised funds are statistically not more sustainable than their regular colleagues.’”

This is not surprising to me either. It is to be expected that over time all funds will gravitate to include ’best-in-class’ companies. Nonetheless, I am sure some readers will be surprised by this data. If one can afford it, an individually tailored portfolio that truly reflects ones personal values might be preferable. That way, you at least enjoy some real ’ownership’ of your holdings and are not subject to some fund holdings that might be contrary to your values.
Credibility of sustainable funds in doubt, by Charlotte Jacquemart, March 24, 2010, Financial Times, UK.

Companies With High ESG Scores Suffered Less In Downturn, Says State Street Global Advisors (SSgA) Study. – [COMMENTARY] “SSgA found that, generally speaking, high -scoring ESG corporates did, in fact, suffer less during the down markets… ” (Page 5). This is a very interesting read on the evolution, importance and future of ESG. I recommend it to all ethical investors.
Sustainable Investing: Positioning for Long-Term Success, October 2010, State Street Global Advisors, USA.

Canada’s Northwest & Ethical Funds Targets 50 Companies For Dialogue On ESG Issues. – [COMMENTARY] “Northwest & Ethical Investments L.P. (NEI), through its ESG Services Team, plans to engage in dialogue with over 50 Canadian and international corporations in 2011 to advance environmental, social, and governance issues, reduce portfolio risk and increase shareholder value. The role of stock exchanges in bringing stability and credibility to the capital markets is an important focus in this year’s engagement work.” Congratulations to these firms for this initiative. It is in everyone’s interest that they succeed.
Ethical Funds Releases 2011 Focus List, press release, October 20, 2010, Northwest & Ethical Investments L.P., Canada.

Canadian Mining Abuses. – [COMMENTARY] “The proportion of incidents globally that involve Canadian corporations is very large, according to the report. ’Of the 171 companies identified in incidents involving mining and exploration companies over the past 10 years, 34 per cent are Canadian,’ the Centre [the Canadian Centre for the Study of Resource Conflict] found. It said the high incidence of involvement of Canadian companies is in line with the Canadian industry′s dominant position in global mining and exploration.”

It is no secret that some of the practices of certain companies in the extractive industries, especially when they operate in developing countries, are questionable and controversial. What has to happen is for a body like UNPRI to conduct an independent study of the activities of the extractive industries in the developing world. Otherwise, its game for small poorly funded groups with special agendas to produce critical reports that may or may not be reliable and fair.
Canadian mining firms worst for environment, rights: Report, by Les Whittington, October 18, 2010, The Toronto Star, Canada.

FTSE And ECPI Launch First Responsible Investment Index Series For The Italian Market. – [COMMENTARY] “Award-winning Global Index Provider, FTSE Group (‘FTSE′) and leading independent sustainability research and rating provider, ECPI have today launched the first responsible investment index series for the Italian market. The FTSE ECPI Italia SRI Index Series will enable investors to track the performance of companies listed on the Italian Exchange with leading Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) practices.”

I would have thought that Italy would have had such an index by now, since almost every other European market does. Still, the more such indexes there are the better it is for ethical investing, generally.
FTSE And ECPI Launch First Responsible Investment Index Series For The Italian Market, press release, October 19, 2010, FTSE/ECPI, Italy. Detailed information available at FTSE ECPI Italia SRI Index Series.

NEWSWEEK’s 2010 Green (Company) Rankings. – [COMMENTARY] “NEWSWEEK’s 2010 Green Rankings is a data-driven assessment of the largest companies in the U.S. and in the world. Our goal was to cut through the green chatter and quantify the actual environmental footprints, policies, and reputations of these big businesses.” A quick look at their findings does not reveal anything extraordinary. Nonetheless, it is useful for ethical investors to peruse.
NEWSWEEK’s 2010 Green Rankings, October 2010, NEWSWEEK, USA.

Study Finds European Company CSR Reports Better Than Those Of US Companies. – [COMMENTARY] “In a first-of-its-kind research project, the Sethi CSR Monitor© has analyzed reports by 514 companies selected from a worldwide database of 1,300 companies. ’Our analysis shows a wide range of differences in the content and quality of these reports,’ says Professor S. Prakash Sethi, the principal researcher and founder of the analytical tool, the Sethi CSR Monitor.” The reports’ analysis looks interesting–but at $700 is not for everyone.
Critical Look at How Companies Report on Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability, press release, October 18, 2010, Sethi International Center for Corporate Accountability, Inc., USA.

80% Of UK Investment Advisors Offer Green Investments. – [COMMENTARY] “Over 80% of financial advisers offer green and ethical investments, a survey for National Ethical Investment Week shows. But it says concerns remain over the performance of green and ethical funds. This is despite an October 2009 survey that found 90% of wealth managers reported their responsible investment portfolios performed the same.” Good news continues for the growth of ethical investing in the UK. Again, though, I wonder how much is due to a real desire to invest ethically and according to ones values compared to just investing in what is considered to be the next ’big thing.’
80% of advisers offer green investments, by Samuel Dale, October 18, 2010, Mortgage Strategy, UK.

European SRI Retail Funds Grow 41% In One Year, Says Vigeo. – [COMMENTARY] “The number of SRI retail funds increased to 879 from 683, while assets under management rose 41 per cent to €76bn ($107bn) from €53bn in the 12 months to June this year, according to an annual fund review by Vigeo, a corporate social responsibility ratings agency, and Morningstar.”

This is phenomenal growth. I cannot help but wonder how many investors buying sustainability oriented funds are buying only because they believe it is the next ’big’ thing, or are really buying also out of ethical considerations for the planet’s welfare? This needs to be studied to understand if socially responsible-ethical investing is really gaining ground or not.
SRI funds popular in Europe, by Ruth Sullivan, October 17, 2010, Financial Times, UK.

Mexico Stock Exchange To Develop New Responsible Investing Index. – [COMMENTARY] “Experts in Responsible Investment Solutions (ERIS) announces it is to help the Central American nation develop a new sustainability index, one which will allow assessment of companies according to a range of socially-responsible investment criteria.”

I believe the firm helping the Mexican Stick Exchange if EIRIS, who a few months ago wrote a report on the how stock exchanges need to move forward on environmental, social and governance criteria for their listed companies. Stock exchanges around the world are moving towards implementing ESG reporting for their listed companies.
Mexico embraces socially-responsible investment, October 2010, Kleinwort Benson, UK.

US Companies Too Vague On Political Expenditures. – [COMMENTARY] “A new study finds that while nearly 80 percent of S&P 500 companies have disclosed direct political campaign spending policies, 86 percent have no disclosed policies regarding indirect political expenditures. Additionally, only 20 percent of corporations disclose how much is actually spent and which organizations or causes receive the funds.”

I believe that all corporate political expenses should be banned. At the very least, they should be pre-approved by shareholders and all such donations explicitly listed for public view.
Study Finds 86% of S&P 500 Companies Have Not Disclosed Indirect Political Expenditure Policies, Only 20% Disclose Spending, press release, October 14, 2010, IRRC Institute & Sustainable Investments Institute, USA.

China’s $300 Billion Sovereign Wealth Fund, China Investment Corp. To Avoid Alcohol, Defence & Casino Investments. – [COMMENTARY] “China Investment Corp [CIC.UL], China’s $300 billion sovereign fund, will stay clear of investing in defence-, casino- and alcohol-related sectors, a senior official told a private equity conference on Wednesday.” Increasingly, ethical investing is being utilized around the world.
CIC to avoid defence, casino investments – official, September 30, 2010, Reuters via Responsible Investor, Hong Kong.

Boston College Releases 2010 CSR Index Ranking. – [COMMENTARY] “For the last three years the Boston College Center and Reputation Institute have created a ranking of the top 50 companies in the United States that the public distinguishes for corporate social responsibility… Top companies are Johnson & Johnson, The Walt Disney Company and Kraft Foods Inc.” This is a ’reputational’ index and therefore many ethical investors may quarrel with the findings from their perspective.
Corporate Reputation and Social Responsibility Rankings, October 13, 2010, Boston College Center for Corporate Responsibility, USA.

CleanTech Unveils Its Top 100 Private Global Cleantech Companies. – [COMMENTARY] “The Global Cleantech 100 is unique in that it highlights the most promising private clean technology companies from around the world. The selected companies are the most likely to make the significant market impact over the next 5-10 years, in the eyes of the world′s cleantech experts.” Though companies listed are not public, it might be interesting reading for some ethical investors.
Cleantech Group Reveals Its 2010 Global Cleantech 100 List of the Most Promising Private Clean Technology Companies on the Planet, press release, October 13, 2010, CleanTech Group, UK.

European Responsible Investment Doubles To €5 Trillion (About $7 Trillion) In Two Years. – [COMMENTARY] “The size of the European sustainable and responsible investment market has almost doubled in the last two years, despite the financial crisis, according to the latest survey of the market by the European Sustainable Investment Forum (Eurosif). Its 2010 European SRI study – the benchmark survey of institutional investors on the topic – estimates that total SRI assets shot up to €5 trillion as of December 31, 2009, a significant jump from €2.7 trillion on December 31, 2007 – a growth of 87%, or a compound annual growth rate of 37%.”

This is tremendous growth and indicates a major shift in investor attitudes towards green-ethical investing.
European RI market doubles to €5 trillion in 2 years, despite crisis: Eurosif survey, by Hugh Wheelan, October 13, 2010, Responsible Investor, UK.

Honda, Toyota & Hyundai Are Cleanest Automakers Says Union Of Concerned Scientists. – [COMMENTARY] “For the fifth consecutive time, Honda earned the title of Greenest Automaker for its efforts of maintain low smog and greenhouse gas emissions levels in its fleet.” Ford, GM and Chrysler were ranked the lowest.
Honda Continues Five-Time Winning Streak as Greenest Automaker, October 8, 2010, GreenBiz, USA.

Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) Reports On FTSE 350 Companies. HSBC, Reckitt Benckiser, RBS, Scottish & Southern and Tesco Among Climate Change Leaders. – [COMMENTARY] “According to its latest report, the number of companies in the FTSE 350 responding to the CDP rose to 69% (243 companies) in 2010, from 67% (236) in 2009. This was ’impressive given the context of the economic downturn and uncertainty about the future direction of global climate policy.’”

The CDP performs admirable work and reports on carbon emissions of companies worldwide. It produces very useful information for ethical investors.
Carbon Disclosure Project unveils FTSE 350 climate leaders, by Daniel Brooksbank, October 8, 2010, Responsible Investor, UK.

US Firms Seen Doubling Sustainability Spending By 2015. – [COMMENTARY] “After analyzing over 1,800 companies worth $1 billion or more, Verdantix sees a growth of 11 percent in 2010 in how much companies will spend on sustainability initiatives. That growth is expected to accelerate, to 16 percent in 2011 and 24 percent in 2012. All told, Verdantix predicts that by 2014, the annual amount spent on green projects by U.S. companies will reach $60 billion.” Companies have large hoards of cash and increasingly recognize the financial benefits of green spending.
US Firms to Double Sustainability Spending to $60B by 2014, October 6, 2010, GreenBiz, USA.

42% Of French Want SRI Information On Savings. Friends Of The Earth Says Most French SRI Funds Are “Illegitimate.” – [COMMENTARY] “The survey, commissioned by Eiris, the research group, and carried out by Ipsos, was unveiled on October 5 at the launch in the French National Assembly of the country′s SRI week…  Last week, Friends of the Earth attacked the majority of France′s SRI funds as being ’illegitimate’. The French arm of the NGO, Les Amis de la Terre, said in a report analyzing 89 SRI funds that 71 of them invested in companies it considered as ’controversial’ for ’disastrous’ social and environmental practices.”

It is gratifying to see the increasing interest in socially responsible-ethical investing in France. Friends of the Earth are right to critique the holdings of French SRI funds. However, were they to analyze SRI funds elsewhere they might find some similar concerns.
42 per cent of French want SRI info on savings – Friends of the Earth slams “illegitimate” SRI funds, by Hugh Wheelan, October 5, 2010, Responsible Investor, UK.

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