May 2016

Investors and Their Financial Advisors Need More Education, More Communication about Responsible Investments — TIAA Global Asset Management Survey. “Over three quarters (77 percent) of affluent US investors say that they want their assets to have a positive impact on society. Many may see investing as an extension of their focus on social issues, with 86 percent of respondents tending to recycle every day, 71 percent preferring reusable bags, and 61 percent shopping for brands that adhere to sustainable business practices.

Yet with interest in social impact growing, and the availability of more responsible investment options than ever before, greater than one in three investment advisors (36 percent) concede that they are not able to adequately evaluate performance of responsible investments, and two in five affluent investors (40 percent) report they are unsure if they currently own responsible investments within their portfolios.”

[COMMENTARY] It’s good to have the numbers but there’s nothing really new here. All of us engaged in ethical investing have understood for many years the reality described by this survey. Thank you, TIAA for providing the numbers though.
Investors and Their Financial Advisors Need More Education, More Communication about Responsible Investments — TIAA Global Asset Management Survey, press release, May 31, 2016, TIAA Global Asset Management, USA.

The (UK) Guide to Sustainable Investment May 2016. “Once again, [UK] sustainable funds in our universe of funds have demonstrated outperformance of the relevant benchmarks. This is partly due to the avoidance of resources and oil stocks that have been weak in recent years, and this may reverse at some point, with this tailwind becoming a headwind. However, it is nevertheless encouraging to see so many sustainable funds proving the point that decent performance can go hand in hand with a sustainable investment approach.”

[COMMENTARY] This is a great guide for UK ethical investors produced by a very reputable organization.
The (UK) Guide to Sustainable Investment May 2016, Blue & Green Tomorrow, UK.

BlackRock, World Bank team with scientists to assess climate risk (for investors). “Norwegian scientists have teamed up with some of the world’s leading investment firms to assess the financial risks associated with global warming.

The new Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research (CICERO) Climate Finance initiative will bring together climate scientists and investors, including BlackRock and the World Bank, to develop tools to help investors more effectively incorporate climate risk into long-term investment decisions.”

[COMMENTARY] The establishment of CICERO with major institutional investors could present a new era for investors wanting to know how to assess investments in light of climate change risk. Hopefully, the results of their findings will not be proprietary but open for all to use. Perhaps with the involvement of the World Bank that will be ensured.
BlackRock, World Bank team with scientists to assess climate risk, by Madeleine Cuff, May 25, 2016, BusinessGreen, USA.

Influencing climate policy. “The British non-profit Influence Map has released new research quantifying how much money is spent each year by leading oil majors and trade associations attempting to block climate change policy. It found that ExxonMobil spent an estimated $27 million (U.S.) in 2015, followed by Shell at $22 million. The American Petroleum Institute and two other key trade organizations spent a combined $74 million during the same year.

When extrapolated out to encompass oil majors and other trade associations, Influence Map estimated that global spending could be as high as $500 million a year.”

[COMMENTARY] Actually, it’s unsurprising that the fossil fuels’ industry is spending such sums attempting to protect their profits. It is also good that Influence Map has done the sums. Investors can now make more informed opinions about fossil fuel investments, particularly as many of these companies are now starting to increase their activities in renewables.
Influencing climate policy, May 19, 2016, Corporate Knights, Canada.

Bloomberg Financial Services Gender-Equality Index (BFGEI). “For investors who prioritize gender equality, new market data tools are emerging to help them assess a company′s efforts on this front. This week, Bloomberg launched an index that scores financial-service companies on how well they treat women and whether they are promoting gender equality.”

[COMMENTARY] We all know that more women on boards and in management help companies perform better. Thus, this index could be useful in determining which financial firms are better investments for ethical investors.
Bloomberg Financial Services Gender-Equality Index (BFGEI), by Bouree Lam, May 5, 2016, The Atlantic, USA.

When markets ignore vital warning signs. “MSCI was not the only company highlighting governance concerns about VW at the time. At Sustainalytics, which rates companies based on ESG factors, VW ranked in the bottom quartile of businesses globally when it came to governance. Vigeo, the French agency that provides corporate responsibility analysis to investors, also ranked VW far below its peers before the scandal broke.”

[COMMENTARY] The information here demonstrates the importance of governance and ESG ratings in helping ethical investors avoid possible disasters in their portfolios.
When markets ignore vital warning signs, by Attracta Mooney, May, 8, 2016, FT, UK.

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