PODCAST: Top US ESG Companies, Solar Power Breakthrough, Investing Tip


Top 100 US ESG companies for 2019 by CR Magazine. Profitably invest in harmony with your spiritual or religious ideals. Solar power breakthrough—but investing in solar has its perils. A valuable investing tip that really works. Confused who’s best, Uber or Lyft? An analyst compares them. Vanguard launches actively managed ESD ETF. And more.

PODCAST: Top US ESG Companies, Solar Power Breakthrough, Investing Tip

Transcript & Links May 26, 2019

Hello, Ron Robins here. Welcome to my podcast Ethical & Sustainable Investing News to Profit By! for May 26, 2019. Presented by Investing for the Soul. investingforthesoul.com is your site for vital global ethical and sustainable investment resources.

Now to this podcast. And for any terms that are unfamiliar to you, simply Google them!

Also, you can find a full transcript, live links and often bonus material at my podcast page located at investingforthesoul.com/podcasts

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The first item to discuss is CR Magazine’s 100 Best Corporate Citizens of 2019! CR Magazine reviewed 1,000 US companies for their ESG practices. Robbie Lock, a writer for 3BL Association, commenting on the research results wrote that “Owens Corning tops the ranking, followed by Intel, General Mills, Campbell Soup and HP Inc… Twenty-seven companies are new to the ranking in 2019 including Allstate, Delta Airlines and Mondelez International. Biggest gainers include Ball Corp., CBRE, Ford and Xylem, Inc.”

Mr. Lock provides further clarification as to how CR Magazine obtains the rankings. Quoting him again, he says, ”The 100 Best Corporate Citizens ranking uses 134 total corporate disclosure and performance factors in seven categories: climate change, employee relations, environment, finance, governance, human rights, and stakeholders and society.”

Also, that the, “There is no fee for companies to be assessed. To compile this ranking, information is obtained from publicly available resources only, rather than questionnaires or company submissions. Companies have the option to verify data collected for the ranking at no cost.” Close quote.

I like the idea that companies don’t pay to be included in the research and the data compiled is from publicly available sources.

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The 100 Best Corporate Citizens demonstrate various degrees of above average corporate ethics, and ethics is a central theme for those wanting to apply their spiritual or religious beliefs to investing. If you’re interested in applying spiritual or religious values to investing, Meredith Jones just published in MarketWatch a post that could be of interest to you. It’s titled, “Opinion: When your faith guides your investing decisions, can you still beat the stock market?” And she says the answer can be yes.

Ms. Jones reviews the leading ETFs and mutual funds for investors interested in Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and Christian-Bible related ethics and principles.

For Catholics, she likes the Global X S&P 500 Catholic Values ETF, LKCM Aquinas Catholic Equity Fund, and the Ave Maria group of funds.

For those of Jewish persuasion, she says there’s only one for now and that’s the AMIDEX35 Israel Mutual Fund which invests in Israeli companies.

For Muslims, there’s the Imam Fund IMANX the Amana group of funds and ETFs listed on the London Stock Exchange including iShares MSCI World Islamic ETF ISWD and the iShares MSCI USA Islamic ETF ISUS.

And under the umbrella of Christian-Bible offerings, Ms. Jones reviews the Timothy Plan and Guidestone family of funds.

For links to these funds go to my podcast page for this edition at investingforthesoul.com/podcasts.

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In my last podcast, I introduced the research of Tim Nash at Corporate Knights. Well, he’s produced another research report that compares the pros and cons of investing in Uber or Lyft. You can read his full post under the title of Tim Nash’s sustainable stock showdown: Uber vs. Lyft.

Personally, I’m not keen on either company because I believe competition—not just between them but also other entrants including potentially motor vehicle manufacturers themselves—will force them to keep user prices low which will continue to severely restrict profits. Also, their environmental benefits are overplayed as I mentioned in my podcast of April 12.

Anyhow, this is what Mr. Nash says in conclusion, “I’d put Lyft ahead by a headlight in this week’s Sustainability Stock Showdown, but anyone that’s interested in investing in either stock should be ready to fasten their seat belts and brace for a bumpy ride.”

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One big area that I know might interest you is renewable energy. I have several items of news and information that I want to share with you concerning investing in this area.

The first thing you should know is that developments in new products are almost overwhelming. This industry has numerous innovative players and it’s very difficult to know who will eventually be a leader. Sure, you can buy renewable energy ETFs—and a good read on what to buy is an article that appeared recently on Nasdaq, titled, 5 Clean Energy ETFs to Buy for 2019.

But if you’re interested in individual companies, here’s what I’ve seen in the past two weeks.

The New York Times ran an excellent piece reviewing a Danish company called Orsted. They produce massive offshore wind turbines whose energy costs are rapidly declining while already being highly competitive with new natural-gas fired plants.

In solar power, there’s been a tremendous breakthrough in producing new solar panels that appear to be 20-25% more efficient than the best existing panels. A paper outlining the breakthrough appeared in ScienceDaily under the title, Breakthrough in new material to harness solar power. Who will manufacture, market and install such panels wasn’t mentioned.

Incidentally, these panels do have a downside—they contain some lead. I’m sure testing in rainy and humid environments will be needed and manufacturing processes and end-of-life disposal policies will be needed too, considering that most countries will want assurance about the safe removal of lead.

I did a detailed study on solar panel manufacturers a few years ago and discovered that the manufacturing processes themselves can be highly toxic. Furthermore, most countries had no end-of-life policies in place to deal with the safe disposal of the toxic components of solar panels—and that is deeply concerning!

It’s possible that the companies engaged in the manufacturing, marketing and installation of solar panels could at some point be hit with levies or fines in dealing with these issues.

At the time of my research, I was most impressed with SunPower and its environmental efforts.

So, one thing you might want to find out before investing in solar panel manufacturers is how they perform environmentally. A great resource for this is the Solar Power Scorecard produced by the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition. However, their last scorecard is a little dated and I’m hoping to see their new one soon.

Incidentally, Fox Business just reported on the huge growth of solar panel installation in the US in a post, titled, 2 Million U.S. Solar Installations Are Just the Start.

By the way, a tip for checking how investment analysts rate solar companies—or any companies for that matter—is simply to type into Google Search the name of the company followed by Reuters—the name of the media company—after it. Click search and then click the search item that says the company name and the text Reuters quote. Reuters will then bring-up a research report. Click on analysts in the links bar and you can see how analysts rate the stock of the company you’re researching.

By getting the information on how analysts rate the companies you’re interested in can be terrifically helpful in deciding which companies to invest in. It saves you a lot of time and effort. And this is exactly the kind of tip and help you get in my DIY Ethical-Sustainable Investing Pays Tutorial! This tutorial will be the most worthwhile 1-hour you’ll ever spend getting help with your investments!

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Some other exciting new developments that might interest you are the following.

Vanguard, one of the world’s largest fund companies, has launched its first actively managed ESG ETF, called the Global ESG Select Stock Fund (ticker VEIGX). It will officially begin trading on June 4. This is big as ETFs are mostly ‘passively’ managed, that is they pick a group of stocks typically based on an index, whereas active management means selling and buying different stocks as the managers see fit. In recent years passive investing has usually outperformed active investing. However, who knows what the future will bring.

Also, S&P Dow Jones, who have had ESG indices for many years is launching something new. They are launching ESG global indexes based on core regional and country benchmarks. What is especially interesting is that these indexes, and quoting their press release, provide “a return profile that’s consistent with mainstream benchmarks that have been widely followed for years.”

As an aside, what you can do, where possible, is to review the indexes that interest you and see what companies are included in them. You can often get useful ideas for new companies to look at!

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So, these are my top news stories and tips for ethical and sustainable investors over the past two weeks.

Again, to get all the links or to read the transcript of this podcast and sometimes get additional information too, please go to investingforthesoul.com/podcasts and look for this edition.

And be sure to click the like and subscribe buttons in iTunes or wherever you listen to this podcast. That way you can help promote not only this podcast but ethical and sustainable investing globally.

And remember, I’m here to help you grow in your investment success—and investing in opportunities that reflect your personal values!

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about the content of this podcast or anything else investment related. I can’t say I’ll have all the answers for you and some answers I can’t give due to licensing restrictions. But where I can help I will.

Now, a big thank you for listening—and please click the share buttons to share this podcast with your friends and family.

Come again! My next podcast is scheduled for June 7. Bye for now!

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