April 2011

Ernst & Young Report Shows Increasing Number Of CSR Related Shareholder Resolutions. – [COMMENTARY] “The report tracks a nearly 40 percent growth in the number of environmental and social sustainability resolutions filed since 2000, and projects that fully half of all shareholder resolutions filed in 2011 will be CSR-related.” These resolutions are also gaining increased shareholder support. And that is good news too!
Trends in Sustainability-Focused Shareholder Resolutions, May 3, 2011, Ernst & Young, USA.

French SRI Assets Up 35% In One Year. – [COMMENTARY] “Today Novethic is releasing the results of its exclusive annual review of the French market for Socially Responsible Investment (SRI). SRI assets under management owned by French clients reached EUR 68.3 billion, representing a 35% increase between the end of 2009 and the end of 2010. This robust growth stems from the conversion of large existing funds to SRI and buoyant employee savings, despite the relatively challenging context for asset management.” More evidence that SR-ethical investing continues to make inroads on the European continent.
Novethic: SRI up 35% in France: Steady Growth Driven by the Conversion of Existing Funds, press release, April 29, 2011, Novethic, France.

Greenpeace Ranks Tech Giants On Their Data Centre’s Coal Dependency. – [COMMENTARY] “The report ranks operators of major data centers — Apple, Facebook, Google, etc. — according to a number of factors, including their source of electricity, i.e. whether the cloud is powered by coal, natural gas, wind, hydro, or other energy sources.” Yahoo! comes out on top, with Apple being the worst. However, there are caveats regarding the quality of the data.
Dirty clouds: Greenpeace ranks tech giants on their data centers′ coal dependency, by Todd Woody, April 25, 2011, grist, USA.

Dow Jones Indexes Named ’Best Shariah-Compliant Index Provider.’ – [COMMENTARY] “Dow Jones Indexes, a leading global index provider, today announced that, for the fourth consecutive time, it was named “Best Shari’ah Compliant Index Provider of the Year” by Global Finance magazine. Dow Jones Indexes has now won this category in each of the four years Global Finance has honoured the ’World’s Best Islamic Financial Institutions’. The award pays tribute to Dow Jones Indexes’ existing market share and index launches across the Middle East region, as well as its contribution to the growth of Islamic finance. All selections were made by Global Finance editors after extensive consultations with bankers, corporate finance executives and analysts throughout the world.”

Shariah-compliant investing is one of the fastest growing forms of ethical investing globally. Congratulations to Dow Jones!
Dow Jones Indexes Named ’Best Shari’ah Compliant Index Provider’ for Fourth Consecutive Year by Global Finance Magazine, April 25, 2011, Dow Jones press release, UK.

European Firms Failing In Carbon Emissions Reporting. – [COMMENTARY] “Less than half of Europe’s top 300 firms are publishing full and verified carbon emission data, with French and Swiss companies ranking worst at greenhouse gas reporting, a study showed Tuesday. British financial services company Aviva placed first in the rankings based on emissions and levels of disclosure and verification, while Polish mining company KGHM came in last, according to the non-profit Environmental Investment Organisation (EIO).” European companies generally lead in carbon reporting, so the reporting problem is probably worse elsewhere.
Majority of European firms fail on carbon reporting: study, April 26, 2011, AFP, UK.

Much US Corporate Political Spending Undisclosed. – [COMMENTARY] “Despite mounting calls for greater transparency, only a few of the country’s 75 leading energy, health care and financial services corporations fully disclose political spending, according to a review of company records and state and federal campaign finance reports.” What a sham. No wonder the US voting public feels so disenfranchised and that the US is declining in stature by almost any measure. And why ethical investors increasingly consider putting funds in non-US investments!
Much corporate political spending stays hidden, by Noam N. Levy and Kim Geiger, April 23, 2011, Kansas City Star, USA.

Bolivia About To Enact A ’Mother Earth’ Law. – [COMMENTARY] “…the law requires the government to transition from non-renewable to renewable energy; to develop new economic indicators that will assess the ecological impact of all economic activity; to carry out ecological audits of all private and state companies; to regulate and reduce greenhouse gas emissions; to develop policies of food and renewable energy sovereignty; to research and invest resources in energy efficiency, ecological practices, and organic agriculture; and to require all companies and individuals to be accountable for environmental contamination with a duty to restore damaged environments.”

Well done Bolivia! This small country might be setting the standard for all other countries to eventually follow as countries everywhere realize the full implications of global climate change.
The Law of Mother Earth: Behind Bolivia′s Historic Bill, by Nick Buxton, April 21, 2011, readersupportnews.com, USA.

UPDATED: Allianz Global Investors’ Study Says ESG Reduces Portfolio Risk. – [COMMENTARY] “The study found the tail risk of an ESG risk neutral emerging market equity strategy defined by the MSCI Emerging Markets Index can be reduced from -64.5 p.a. to -38.8 per cent. The same is true for corporate bonds defined by the Merrill Lynch Global Broad Market Corporate Index, it added, where the tail risk ‒ measured as conditional value at risk (95 per cent) of the default strategy ‒ can be reduced from -8.1 per cent p.a. to -4.9 per cent. ESG risk factors are also important for core asset classes such as developed market equity.” This is highly useful information. Source document now available. Click here.
ESG Strategies Improve Efficiency, April 19, 2011, Benefits & Pensions Monitor, Canada.

55% Of US Corporate Executives Say Their Company Has A Formal Sustainability Strategy In Place. – [COMMENTARY] “Nearly 55 percent of U.S. executives say their organization has a formal sustainability strategy in place, according to the recent KPMG International study, Corporate Sustainability: A progress report. Another 12 percent say they are working on a strategy and an additional 19 percent expect to eventually develop a formal plan. The findings also confirm that U.S. companies are closing the gap with their counterparts elsewhere. More than 62 percent of executives globally say they have implemented a formal sustainability program…” US companies seem to be catching up to European counterparts. That’s good and about time.
Majority of U.S. Companies Report Progress in Adopting Sustainability Strategy; More Programs Expected, Says KPMG Survey, press release, April 18, 2011, KPMG, USA.

Many BP Shareholders Vote Disapprovingly Of Management, Directors. – [COMMENTARY] “25 percent of investors who voted ahead of the AGM — representing 60 percent of shares — voted against the re-election of the head of BP’s safety committee, Bill Castell.” Considering the horrendous damage BP wrought in the Gulf, it would seem that there should have been a change of guard at the company!
BP faces angry oil spill protesters at AGM, by Tom Bergin, April 15, 2011, Reuters, UK.

SolarWorld Earns Highest Green Score Among Top 10 PV Makers. – [COMMENTARY] “German PV maker SolarWorld earned the best environmental grade of the 10 largest manufacturers in the industry with a score of 91 out of possible 100 points for practices in four categories: recycling, green jobs, toxics and disclosure. Trina Solar, based in China, followed in second place with a score of 89. Tying for third place with scores of 87 were two firms among the top 10 largest, REC of Norway and First Solar of the U.S., and another U.S. firm, Abound Solar.” Most investors are unaware that the making of PVs can be quite environmentally unfriendly. So if you’re an ethical investor interested in this sector, you might want to read this article.
SolarWorld Earns Highest Green Score Among Top 10 PV Makers, by Leslie Guevarra, April 12, 2011, GreenBiz, USA.

Nuns Challenge Goldman Sachs Over Executive Pay. – [COMMENTARY] “Sisters of St Francis and members of Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility [ICCR] will attend Goldman’s annual meeting.” Will the GS board be humbled? It would be nice to think so! Wishing all success to the nuns and to the ICCR.
Nuns challenge Goldman Sachs over executive pay, by Dominic Rushe, April 12, 2011, The Guardian, UK.

World′s First Halal Food Index. – [COMMENTARY] “The halal food industry has now become an asset class within the investment community with the launch of the world′s first halal food indices, called SAMI (Socially Acceptably Market Investments) Halal Food Index and SAMI Halal Participation Index… The SAMI Halal Food Index comprises 200 companies listed in Muslim-majority countries with a total market capitalisation of over $100b. Of the 200 companies in the index, almost half (95) are Malaysian with market capitalisation of $53b, while others are from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Indonesia and Nigeria.”

With the huge economic growth of the Mid East and Asia, western ethical investors will want to keep an eye open to possible new and unusual ethical investing opportunities.
World′s first halal food index, April 13, 2011, Emirates24/7, UAE.

Deutsche Börse Launches Information Portal With STOXX Global ESG Leaders Index Family. – [COMMENTARY] “The information portal for sustainable securities is aimed at private and institutional investors. The portal helps investors to make their individual investment decisions according to standard sustainability criteria. The information portal enables investors to develop their own strategies for sustainable investments in a transparent way and to assess the sustainability of existing investments. The portal also enables companies to filter their activities in line with the ESG criteria: environmental, social and governance considerations.” For a number of reasons, German investment in ethical stocks has lagged. This might help improve the situation there.
Deutsche Börse launches information portal for sustainable securities, press release, April 11, 2011, Deutsche Börse, Germany.

Unilever, General Electric, Interface, Wal-Mart And Marks & Spencer, Top SustainAbility’s 2011 Sustainable Leaders List. – [COMMENTARY] “Some 559 sustainability experts from corporations, government, non-government organizations, academia and entities that provide services, such as consultancies, participated in the online survey last month that focused on perceptions of sustainability leadership… conducted by research firm GlobeScan Incorporated and SustainAbility Ltd.” One useful study would be to see if there is any correlation between SustainAbility’s rankings and their relative stock market performances. Nonetheless, it is an interesting survey to review.
Unilever Tops List of Sustainability Leaders, by Leslie Guevarra, April 11, 2011, GreenBiz, USA.

STOXX Launches Global ESG Leaders Index Family In Collaboration With Sustainalytics. – [COMMENTARY] “STOXX Limited… today introduced the STOXX Global ESG Leaders Index family, an innovative series of ESG (environmental, social, governance) indices which is based on sustainability data provided by Sustainalytics, a leading global provider of ESG research and analysis… Based on data provided by Sustainalytics, this index model will, for the first time, allow investors to fully understand which factors determine a company′s ESG rating and their respective importance.”

These new indexes appear very interesting for ethical investors and the ability to tease out what ESG factor(s) go into its rating/performance will be worth watching.
STOXX partners with Sustainalytics and launches Global ESG Leaders Indices, press release, April 11, STOXX/Sustainalytics, Switzerland.

Bloomberg Markets Magazine Ranks World’s Greenest Banks. – [COMMENTARY] “Banco Santander, Spain′s biggest bank, got the first place… Goldman Sachs took the second place and Italy-based holding company UniCredit ranked third.” Unfortunately, for the entire list and commentary a subscription to the magazine is required.
World′s top 10 greenest banks ranked, by Jen Balboa, April 7, 2011, EcoSeed, USA.

Cleantech Venture Capital Investments Way Up. – [COMMENTARY] “This week we released preliminary 1Q 2011 results for clean technology venture investments in North America, Europe, China and India, totaling $2.57 billion across 159 companies. Measured by dollars invested, cleantech venture investment was up 52% compared to the previous quarter ($1.69 billion) and was also 31% percent higher than Q1 of 2010.” Good news for the environment and investors. However, though no breakdown is given, it might well be that China leads the rankings.
A Record Q1 for Cleantech Investment, press release, April 8, 2011, Cleantech, USA.

One-Third Of UK Wealthy Interested In Social Investment, Says Nesta. – [COMMENTARY] “The research… quizzed 505 people with investment assets ranging from £50,000 to £1m on their interest in social investment… Those under 40 years of age were more likely than those over 55 to be receptive to social or ethical investments. The research also found that when considering making social investments, two-thirds (67 per cent) of wealthy individuals are likely to invest in a financial product that benefits society as well as giving a comparable return on their money.”

This research adds to the already significant body of evidence that investors want to invest socially responsible and ethically.
New research shows wealthy individuals are engaged with social investment, by Vibeka Mair, April 7, 2011, Civilsociety.co.uk, UK.

New Proxy Monitor Site. – [COMMENTARY] “ProxyMonitor.org—shedding light on shareholder proposals submitted to publicly traded corporations via the annual proxy process. This site is sponsored by the Center for Legal Policy, part of the non-partisan and non-profit Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.” This is another useful site whereby ethical investors can research to see the results of environmental, social and governance initiatives among the world’s largest companies.
ProxyMonitor.org, USA.

FTSE4Good Launches Corporate ESG Ratings. – [COMMENTARY] “A decade after the launch of the FTSE4Good Index Series, FTSE Group has launched a new FTSE4Good ratings system that is designed to measure environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors. FTSE Group claimed this new data service provides a comprehensive, transparent and objective system to measure ESG practices of over 2,300 public companies worldwide.” FTSE4Good is likely to be a formidable competitor in this space. However, it’s good for ethical investors!
FTSE4Good launches corporate ESG ratings, by Donia O’Loughlin, April 6, 2011, FT Advisor, UK.

Canadian Shareholder Proposals On Women’s Board Representation Voted Down. – [COMMENTARY] “Shareholders of Canada′s major banks are overwhelmingly voting down a proposal to increase the number of women on the boards of the country′s biggest companies, amid sparse support from the financial institutions themselves.” Support for these proposals has been abysmal averaging only about 7% even though the banks in particular have significant numbers of women in various management positions.
Shareholders vote no to more women on bank boards, by Grant Robertson and Janet McFarland, April 5, 2011, The Globe & Mail, Canada.

Alberta Unveils New Oil Sands Environmental Plan That Limits Some Companies’ Growth. – [COMMENTARY] “The Alberta government has unveiled a new conservation plan for the oil sands region on Tuesday that would require the cancellation of about 10 oil-sands leases, set aside nearly 20,000 square kilometers for conservation and set new environmental standards for the region.” Alberta has been subject to huge criticism concerning the environmental impacts of oil sands development. It seems it is just now beginning to take some kind of action to mitigate those problems. However, it may well be a case of too little too late.
Alberta unveils conservation proposal, by Tim Shufelpril 5, 2011, Financial Post, Canada.

Huge Investor Group Asks World’s Largest Companies To Implement Greenhouse Gas Reduction Policies. – [COMMENTARY] “A vanguard group of 34 institutional investors with $7.6trn (€5.3trn) in assets is calling on the world’s largest companies to implement cost-effective greenhouse gas emissions reduction initiatives. The request is being made through the Carbon Disclosure Project’s (CDP) new Carbon Action initiative, which has been launched in response to investor requirements to protect their investments and accelerate company action on carbon reduction activities.”

This is indeed a powerful investor lobby group and perhaps the world’s largest companies might listen to them.
Investor group tells companies to come clean on carbon, by Nina Röhrbein, April 4, 2011, IPE, UK.

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