November 2016

S&P Global COP 22 Report – Aligning 2016 Green Finance Expectations with Green Bond Indices. “Over the past 18 months, a number of industry- and policy-led initiatives have been launched that support the mainstreaming of private-sector capital to address sustainable investment, green finance challenges, and long-term value creation, to mention just a few: the G-20 Green Finance Study Group under the Chinese G-20 presidency, the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures established by the Financial Stability Board, the EU Commission’s Capital Markets Union program of 33 actions to mobilize capital and the Sustainable Stock Exchange’s Green Finance Working Group.”

[COMMENTARY] The following are a great overview by S&P of the green bond markets!
(1) S&P Global COP 22 Report – Aligning 2016 Green Finance Expectations with Green Bond Indices, by Martina Macpherson, November 16, 2016, S&P Dow Jones Indices, SRI Connect, UK, and (2) Green Finance: Scaling Up to Meet the Climate Challenge, S&P Dow Jones Indices, November 2016, UK.

Raising The Bar For ESG Investing Expectations. “Nearly 70% of institutional investors we surveyed said they expect similar returns from ESG portfolios as from traditional portfolios. These were professionals from retirement plans, endowments and foundations and other gatekeepers who collectively handle roughly $500 billion in assets. Even more surprising was that quite a few investors have raised the bar for ESG: among the other 30% of respondents, almost one quarter expected returns to improve.”

[COMMENTARY] I’m not sure whether to continue posting such surveys since the majority of them find similar results. That is widespread acceptance of ESG and the understanding that there’s likely no performance penalty when accounting for it in stock selections. Nonetheless, it’s always satisfying to see these surveys!
Raising The Bar For ESG Investing Expectations, by Linda Giuliano, November 22, 2016, ValueWalk, USA.

New Developments in Social Investing by Public Pensions. “Public pension funds continue to engage in social investing, most recently divesting from Iran and fossil fuels. However, social investing is often not effective, as other investors step in to buy divested stocks. Social investing can also produce lower investment returns, conflict with the views of beneficiaries and taxpayers, and interfere with federal policy. In short, public pension funds should not engage in social investing.”

[COMMENTARY] For ethical investors, this is a provocative report. The concerns expressed in it are the views of many stakeholders and need to be addressed by the responsible-ethical investing community. Also, analysts need to review and critique the report’s findings that SRI funds have lower returns and that an SRI orientation in public pension funds could be a breach of fiduciary responsibility.

Would this report have shown a different outcome if SRI was replaced with an ESG analysis?
New Developments in Social Investing by Public Pensions, November 18, 2016, Boston College, Center for Retirement Research, USA.

Morningstar′s Sustainability Indexes: Portfolio Tilts and Performance Implications. “In his study Unintended Biases in ESG Index Funds, Morningstar analyst Alex Bryan found that methodological differences between ESG indexes cause divergent portfolio exposures across sector, style, region, and market capitalization. These biases impact risk and return. Now that Morningstar has created its own suite of sustainability indexes, we can compare them to their non-ESG counterparts on a portfolio and performance basis.”

[COMMENTARY] Anyone interested in Morningstar’s sustainability indexes should read this. Investors have always known that ethical funds — as compared to the general fund universe — usually have different holdings. Thus, they outperform and underperform the general fund universe depending on what is happening in the economy. This article adds detail to that story.
Morningstar′s Sustainability Indexes: Portfolio Tilts and Performance Implications, by Dan Lefkovitz, November 17, 2016, Morningstar, UK.

Morgan Stanley and Bloomberg Survey Finds Sustainable Investing Has Entered the Mainstream. “Two-thirds of asset managers polled pursue sustainable investing, with 64% believing its adoption will continue to grow.”

[COMMENTARY] It seems like a never-ending stream of the largest financial institutions on the planet touting the importance and relevance of sustainable/ESG investing. Wow, what a difference a few years can make.
Morgan Stanley and Bloomberg Survey Finds Sustainable Investing Has Entered the Mainstream, press release, November 17, 2016, Morgan Stanley/Bloomberg, USA/UK.

Barclays: Sustainable Investing and Bond Returns. “In the first report in Barclays′ Impact Series, our study shows the positive effect that environmental, social and governance investing can have on bond portfolio performance.

[COMMENTARY] This is an important study, one of the first to review the impact of ESG on bonds. Most other similar studies concerned ESG and sovereign debt, whereas, Barclays focused on US corporate bonds. There’s a link at the bottom of the press release to a much more detailed discussion of their findings.
Barclays: Sustainable Investing and Bond Returns, press release, November 17, 2016, Barclays, UK.

Report: Over 70% of Investors See Risk, Investment Opportunities in Climate Change Impact. “This week at COP22, the Global Adaptation & Resilience Investment Working Group (GARI) released its discussion paper, ’Bridging the Adaptation Gap,’ reporting that 70 percent of private investors surveyed see both risk and investment opportunity from the impact of climate change. According to GARI, 78 percent of 101 surveyed investors and other stakeholders thought evaluating the physical risk from climate change was ’very important,’ while 70 percent would consider making investments that supported adaptation to climate change or climate change resilience now.”

[COMMENTARY] Though Donald Trump doesn’t believe in climate change, it’s clear from this and other reports that most of corporate America does. And corporate America wants to profit from it!
Report: Over 70% of Investors See Risk, Investment Opportunities in Climate Change Impact, by Talia Rudee, November 16, 2015, Sustainable Brands, USA.

RBC Global Asset Management survey reveals opportunities and obstacles in ESG investing. “According to a new survey released by RBC Global Asset Management (RBC GAM), most investors lack an understanding of how ESG factors impact their portfolio. Many investors remain unconvinced about ESG as a source of alpha or risk mitigation – creating a perception gap that smart, active investors and managers can exploit in order to gain a competitive edge.”

[COMMENTARY] Congratulations to RBC GAM for conducting this research. Some of its findings are illuminating. For instance, “Only 17 percent of respondents said they were somewhat or completely satisfied with the quality and quantity of ESG-related data from companies, which may contribute to their belief that ESG investing is not a source of alpha.”

I believe this shows some ignorance on the part of the respondents as to what ESG data is available and, also, the need for standardized corporate ESG reporting. There are many more interesting findings in this report.
RBC Global Asset Management survey reveals opportunities and obstacles in ESG investing, press release, November 15, 2016, RBC Global Asset Management, USA.

Sustainable Investments Surged by Third to $8.7 Trillion in 2016. “Sustainable investments surged by more than $2 trillion in the last two years as money managers worked to accommodate U.S. institutions′ demand for assets that meet environmental, social and corporate-governance goals.

The sustainable, responsible and impact-investing category totaled $8.72 trillion at the start of 2016, representing about one fifth of all managed investments, according to a biennial report published by Washington-based US SIF Foundation, the Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment. More than 1,000 investment funds totaling about $2.6 trillion include ESG criteria, the group said.”

[COMMENTARY] Again, terrific growth in responsible investing over the past two years in the US. The results are unsurprising when we see that most asset managers now include ESG factors in their criteria for stock selections.
Sustainable Investments Surged by Third to $8.7 Trillion in 2016, by Laura Colby, November 14, 2016, Bloomberg, USA.

New Report: Investors Finding Innovative Paths to Address Systemic Environmental, Social, Financial Issues. “The new study, Tipping Points 2016: Summary of 50 Asset Owners and Managers′ Approaches to Investing in Global Systems, examines how 28 asset owners and 22 asset managers are beginning to think about the impact of their investments and, in turn, how those investments are affected by global environmental, social and financial systems. This new systems-level thinking is additive to traditional investment scrutiny at the security and portfolio levels.”

[COMMENTARY] This is a fascinating report that most ethical investors will want to scrutinize. IRRC is also offering a webinar on November 15 to review the reports findings.
New Report: Investors Finding Innovative Paths to Address Systemic Environmental, Social, Financial Issues, press release, November 7, 2016, Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute/Investment Integration Project, USA.

Sustainability Reporting Standards: Time to Trade Competition for Collaboration. “Even though SASB, GRI, and IIRC, cater to the same market, sustainability information providers, each company′s biggest end users are different. Nevertheless some, particularly SASB and GRI, behave as if in competition with each other, which does not help either of them, nor the providers nor the final users. Time would be better invested in cooperation.”

[COMMENTARY] I completely concur with Antonio Vives. After 20-30 years of developing CSR/ESG/sustainability reports, I now believe we’re close to understanding exactly what investors and other stakeholders need from these reports. The time is now to develop uniform standards for corporate ESG reporting!
Sustainability Reporting Standards: Time to Trade Competition for Collaboration, by Antonio Vives, November 10, 2016, TriplPundit, USA.

Sustainable Investing Research Suggests No Performance Penalty. “Review of academic studies show sustainable/responsible funds perform on par with conventional funds… the star-ratings results are consistent with the research literature: Socially conscious funds have similar risk-adjusted performance that, if anything, skews positive relative to conventional funds.”

[COMMENTARY] Particularly interesting is the performance review of the funds Morningstar tracks. They’re divided according to their star ratings over the years 2002 to 2016 and then sub divided between socially conscious funds and those of the whole fund universe.
Sustainable Investing Research Suggests No Performance Penalty, by Jon Hale, November 10, 2016, Morningstar, USA.

SRI Research Prize Winner: Impact Investing “Supply” Failing To Meet Demand. “The demand for impact investing alternatives is outstripping the available supply of such choices for investors, according to a new study awarded the 2016 Moskowitz Prize for Socially Responsible Investing during a special ceremony last night at the 27th annual SRI Conference in Denver. The study found the pinch is most acute in Europe where the demand for impact investing (versus traditional investments) is three times higher than in the U.S. and the rest of North America.

Impact Investing is a study of 3,500 limited partners, 5,000 funds, and 25,000 capital commitments results and was conducted by Brad Barber, University of California Davis, Adair Morse, University of California Berkeley and Ayako Yasuda, University of California Davis.”

[COMMENTARY] Congratulations to Brad Barber, Adair Morse, and Ayako Yasuda, for winning the prestigious and most important SRI prize in the world: the Moskowitz Prize! Their research on impact investing is very timely and the potential for this form of investing is enormous. As governments become increasingly stringent in the funds available for social and environmental programs, impact investing offers a unique opportunity to fill much of that void.
SRI Research Prize Winner: Impact Investing “Supply” Failing To Meet Demand, press release, The 2016 Moskowitz Prize sponsors, USA.

Principles for Responsible Investment launches ESG integration guide. “The new guide is aimed at assist asset owners—public and corporate pension funds, superannuation funds, insurance companies, endowments, foundations, family wealth offices—in revising their investment policy and incorporate all long-term factors, including ESG considerations.”

[COMMENTARY] Many organizations who say they’ve implemented ESG into their investment decisions have done so in a piecemeal way. This guide will help them professionalize that process. Thank you PRI!
Principles for Responsible Investment launches ESG integration guide, press release, November 6, 2016, PRI, UK.

Vigeo Eiris 2016 UK & Europe Retail Fund Estimates Show Strong Responsible Investment. “In aggregate, RI funds represented 2% of the overall European retail funds market, a higher percentage than in 2015 (1.7%).”

[COMMENTARY] As in North America, European retail responsible investment funds still form only a tiny share of retail funds assets. But almost everywhere they are growing faster than the overall funds market — and that’s what’s important.
Vigeo Eiris 2016 UK & Europe Retail Fund Estimates Show Strong Responsible Investment, November 2, 2016, by Blue & Green Tomorrow, UK.

(UK) Public Call for Financial ‘Kitemark′ to Help Identify Sustainable Financial Products. “The Good Money Week annual research has highlighted an overwhelming public demand for the introduction of ‘kitemark-style′ label to allow customers to identify which financial products are sustainable/ethical… 69% want a new law requiring financial advisors to ask customers if they′d like to exclude specific sectors or companies. “

[COMMENTARY] The story reveals that UK consumers would like to see some identification mark on ethical investments. Other results from this survey are fascinating too!
(UK) Public Call for Financial ‘Kitemark′ to Help Identify Sustainable Financial Products, November 1, 2016, Blue & Green Tomorrow, UK.

Failing Scores for ESG Raters. “Due to different methodologies and different human bias, disagreement among the scores illustrates a crucial problem that confronts anyone who hopes to measure environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) performance by companies.”

[COMMENTARY] I believe that just as a company might receive buy, sell or hold recommendations from different analysts reviewing the same information, so it’s expected that ESG raters have varying opinions on investments. However, what this articles delineates and the research it describes, is useful information for ethical investors trying to understand the divergence of ESG/CSR opinion research.
Failing Scores for ESG Raters, November 1, TruValue Labs, Lipper Alpha Insight, USA.

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