May 2013

Public Backing for Going Beyond GDP Remains Strong: Global Poll. – [COMMENTARY] “The public around the world remains strongly in favour of replacing GDP  with a broader way of reporting national progress, according to a new global poll released today. The study, conducted by GlobeScan on behalf of Ethical Markets, business think tank Tomorrow′s Company and the ICAEW, surveyed 10,845 adults across 11 countries. It shows that more than two-thirds – 68 percent of citizens on average – in the countries surveyed favour replacing GDP with a  broader indicator embracing health, social and environmental statistics as well as economic ones. Twenty-three per cent would rather retain a focus on money-based economic statistics.”

There are presently a number of good alternative indices. The real question though, is how to wean the global business community away from the ridiculously flawed GDP concept? See my editorial, GDP is a Bad Statistic. Alternatives Coming.
Public Backing for Going Beyond GDP Remains Strong: Global Poll, press release, May 28, 2013, polling by GlobeScan and associates, UK.

Morningstar 2013 Global Fund Investor Experience Survey. – [COMMENTARY] “The Global Fund Investor Experience report was designed to encourage a dialogue about global best practices for mutual funds from the perspective of fund shareholders. This biennial report measures the experiences of mutual fund investors in 24 countries in North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Morningstar researchers evaluated countries in four categories—Regulation & Taxation, Disclosure, Fees & Expenses, and Sales & Media—with greater weight given to factual, empirical answers as well as the high-priority issues of fees, taxes, and transparency.” This survey is worth reading for all investors.
2013 Global Fund Investor Experience by Morningstar, May 31, 2013, Morningstar, USA.

UK Pension Fund Trade Body Launches Responsible Investment Guide. – [COMMENTARY] “The National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF) has launched a guide to responsible investment, which encourage its members to take factors other than financial returns into account when investing.” This guide is not only useful for UK pension funds, but for asset managers everywhere. The guide demonstrates the increasing relevance of ESG/responsible investing.
Pension fund trade body launches responsible investment guide, by Ilaria Bertini, May 23, 2013, Blue & Green Tomorrow, UK.

Thomson Reuters Launches Islamic Finance Indicator. – [COMMENTARY] “Thomson Reuters yesterday launched an Islamic Finance Development Indicator in collaboration with the Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector (ICD), the private sector development arm of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), a press statement said yesterday. The indicator is a numerical measure representing the overall health and growth of the Islamic finance industry worldwide.” The growth of Islamic finance continues apace and it’s only natural that such indicators will be developed.
Thomson Reuters launches Islamic Finance indicator, May 22, 2013, The Peninsula, Qatar.

Survey: Most Would Boycott Irresponsible Company. – [COMMENTARY] “Nine out of 10 consumers say they would boycott companies that are being irresponsible, according to an international “corporate social responsibility” report being released Wednesday. And it’s more than theoretical exercise: More than half of consumers in 10 countries say they have refused to buy a product in the past year because of what they saw as bad corporate behavior, according to the report by marketing and public relations agency Cone Communications, which has specialties in cause marketing and corporate social responsibility.”

Obviously, activist consumers are necessary to hold companies to account. Hopefully, this trend will continue. Ethical investors will benefit greatly from it.
Survey: Most would boycott irresponsible company, by Jayne O’Donnell, May 21, 2013, USA Today, USA.

Shareholders Press Companies To Disclose More About Political Spending. – [COMMENTARY] “As regulators wrestle with whether to force companies to disclose more about their political spending, an increasing number of shareholders are taking matters into their own hands, thrusting the issue before boards of directors at companies across the country. The number of shareholder proposals demanding more transparency in political spending has more than doubled since 2010, jumping from 61 to 128 this proxy season, according to the Sustainable Investments Institute, a research group that tracks the issue.”

It seems obvious to me and most ethical investors that companies should disclose all political contributions. Transparency of all spending should be available to shareholders. Company boards and officers should not be allowed to secretly support their political favourites with company funds.
Shareholders press companies to disclose more about political spending, by Dina ElBoghdady, May 17, 2013, Washington Post, USA.

European Responsible Investment Grown 19% Since 2010. – [COMMENTARY] “Assets under management in European responsible investment funds now total €237.9 billion (£201 billion) – a 19% increase since 2010 – according to a survey by the Association of the Luxembourg Fund Industry (ALFI). The European Responsible Investment Fund Survey, published by accountancy giant KPMG on behalf of ALFI, found that the proportion of responsible investment assets compared to the total had increased by 1.6%.” In time, most of the conventional fund industry will also move towards a responsible-ethical investing approach. They will realize that evaluating investments on an ESG basis simply makes more money.
European responsible investment grown 19% since 2010, by Emma Websdale, May 16, 2013, Blue & Green Tomorrow, UK.

Investor Group Proposes ESG Disclosure Rules. – [COMMENTARY] “The Ceres-led Investor Network on Climate Risk has proposed that companies listed on US and global stock exchanges be required to include a series of environmental, social and governance sustainability disclosures in their annual financial filings.” It’s good that CSR/SRI groups maintain their pressure on regulatory authorities on this issue, as regulators are less likely to make such changes without it.
Investor Group Proposes ESG Disclosure Rules, press release, May 13, 2013, Ceres, USA.

Has Sustainability Become A Risky Business? – [COMMENTARY] “A new report released by Ernst & Young presents a disconcerting paradox when it comes to corporate sustainability efforts. While more companies are concerned about increased risk and proximity of natural resource shortages, corporate risk response appears to be inadequate to address the scope and scale of some of these challenges.”

As in most human activities, it’s only when a crises hits that remedial and proactive action to mitigate future problems are enacted. So, it’s not surprising to find companies poorly prepared to address future material sustainability issues.
Has sustainability become a risky business? By John Davies, May 7, 2013, GreenBiz, USA.

Five ESG Standards Will Awaken Capital Markets. – [COMMENTARY] “Five concurrent ESG standards initiatives that are in play in capital markets … will lead to an ESG mindset in lenders and investors. Following the axiom that ’what interests capital markets fascinates executives,’ this will precipitate an ESG mindset in company executives.” Mr. Willard’s blog post from a few days ago is well worth reading for all investors.
Five ESG Standards Will Awaken Capital Markets, by Bob Willard, May 7, 2013,, Canada.

Report: Half of U.S. Fracking Wells Are Drilled In Highly Water-Stressed Regions. – [COMMENTARY] “A report released last week maps the relationship between water stress and the unconventional oil and gas reserves that have pushed the boom, while outlining actions energy companies can take to improve resource management. Nearly half of the wells drilled in the U.S. in recent years, 47 percent, are located in river basins with high or extremely high risk of water stress, according to the report from Ceres, a nonprofit that works with investors, businesses and credit rating agencies to identify environmental risks in business models.”

Will the fracking boom be cut dry due to water scarcities? It could happen.
Report: Half of U.S. Fracking Wells Are Drilled in Highly Water-Stressed Regions, by Brett Walton, May 10, 2013, Circle of Blue, USA.

Investor Attitudes, Investment Screen Use, And Socially Responsible Investment Behavior. – [COMMENTARY] “We find that four out of five components of the New Ecological Paradigm (NEP) scale, a measure of basic environmental attitudes, are associated with specific attitudes towards environmentally responsible investment. These specific attitudes in turn are positively associated with SRI screen use, and SRI screen use is positively associated with the percentage of investors′ portfolio held in SRIs. There is also a significant direct relationship between specific environmentally responsible investment attitudes and SRI holdings. Our results suggest that there are complex, multi-dimensional relationships between investor attitudes, SRI screen use, and investment behavior.”

Though these are unsurprising findings I do believe this type of research is useful.
Investor Attitudes, Investment Screen Use, and Socially Responsible Investment Behavior, by William N. Dilla and Diane Joyce Janvrin (both of Iowa State University – Department of Accounting and Finance), Jon D. Perkins (Iowa State University), and Robyn Raschke (University of Nevada, Las Vegas), May 2, 2013, USA.

Phil Angelides Wins Joan Bavaria Award For Promoting Sustainable Markets. – [COMMENTARY] “Phil Angelides has been awarded the fifth-annual Joan Bavaria Award for Building Sustainability into the Capital Markets. The announcement was made today, the first day of the annual Ceres Conference, which is running May 1-2 at The Fairmont in San Francisco, CA.” Awards such as these help spur interest in sustainable and ethical investing. That’s why I like to mention them.
Phil Angelides, a Leader in Shareholder Activism and Green Investment, Wins the Joan Bavaria Award, press release, May 3, 2013, Ceres, USA.

Global Women’s Equity Fund A First For Canada. – [COMMENTARY] “In a first for the Canadian investment landscape, the Global Women′s Equity Fund announced today that it is almost ready to launch.’This fund is great for society, great for women and a unique concept that didn′t exist here in Canada’ said Chief Marketing Officer Alexis Klein. The fund will invest primarily in equity securities of companies that have demonstrated their support of women′s causes and are leaders in promoting gender equality in the workplace.” This fund will serve an interesting niche. It’s already known that where women are well represented on company boards, the boards function better and the companies have relatively higher earnings. I wish the find sincere best wishes.
Global Womens Equity Fund a first for Canada, by Sucheta Rajagopal, May 2, 2013, SRI Monitor, Canada.

Most Firms Don′t Report GHG Emissions, Report Says. – [COMMENTARY] “Only 37 percent of the world′s largest companies report their greenhouse gas emissions fully and correctly, according to research from the Environmental Investment Organisation.” Again, not an unsurprising outcome. It’s interesting to see who does report though.
Most Firms Don′t Report GHG Emissions, Report Says, press release, May 2, 2013, Environmental Leader, USA.

FTSE Launches New Environmental Index. – [COMMENTARY] “FTSE has unveiled the Environmental Technologies Index (ET 100), which will assess companies operating within environmental markets.
The ET 100 is the 21st index in the FTSE Environmental Markets series and will include firms involved in environmental technologies such as renewable energy, water, energy efficiency, waste management and pollution control.”
With yet another new ESG related index, it’s obvious that the creators of these indices see a good market for them–and therefore, investor interest.
FTSE launches new environmental index, by Ilaria Bertini, May 2, 2013, Blue & Green Tomorrow, UK.

CSR Just PR Spin – Report. – [COMMENTARY] “According to the 2013 UHNW Investor Changing Attitudes and Behaviors study, these wealthy individuals appear to be increasingly unlikely to become socially responsible and instead invest primarily for financial gain and not to make the world a better place, according to new research from the Spectrem Group.”

The results of this survey–when you read them in the linked article below–aren’t unsurprising really, when you consider how the questions and responses are framed.

Again, I’m sure that if a question was framed, such as, “Knowing that companies who are highly rated on environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors are more profitable and with relatively higher stock prices, how likely are you to invest in them?” The points in this question are factual and would no doubt elicit a very high ’yes’ score. How questions are framed often determines the answer!
CSR Just PR Spin – Report, May 1, 2013, Pro Bono News, Australia.

India’s BSE Launches Broad-Based Islamic Index. – [COMMENTARY] “May 1 (Reuters) – Mumbai’s stock exchange (BSE) has launched an Islamic equity index based on the wide-measure S&P BSE 500 index, providing a new benchmark for Islamic investors in one of the world’s largest stock exchanges.” This index could a real winner, especially in India’s huge Muslim population.
India’s BSE launches broad-based Islamic index, by Bernardo Vizcaino, May 1, 2013, Reuters, India.

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