Written By: Tim Smith, Walden Asset Management
To Colleagues involved in Shareholder Advocacy on Exxon and Alec And Lobbying:
Some of you may have seen the news released yesterday that ExxonMobil had decided to withdraw from ALEC. I enclose three stories below capturing the key points.
There are many investors who have chosen to avoid ownership of energy or oil company stocks like Exxon. Others have chosen to use their shares to put pressure on companies on climate change. All of us are deeply concerned about the power of fossil fuel companies on public policy.
One of the focus points is how companies lobby directly or through trade associations on climate-related legislation. There have been ten years of lobbying disclosure resolutions including to Exxon, Chevron, and dozens of other companies, and each of those resolutions has focused on associations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and ALEC challenging their roles in opposing forward-looking climate legislation and regulations.
ExxonMobil has been a consistent recipient of these resolutions which receive in the 25-28% range of votes. In addition, whenever there have been meetings with management on climate (the most recent was in New Jersey in November 2017, attended by over 25 investors and relevant Exxon management staff), we made sure that once again lobbying and public policy was on the agenda. Walden presented the list of investor concerns about Exxon’s climate lobbying work focusing in part on an upcoming ALEC meeting where (can you believe it?) there was a resolution opposing the official EPA Endangerment Finding that CO2 emissions dangerously contribute to climate change. This resolution was strongly promoted at ALEC by the climate-denying Heartland Institute.
Companies like Pfizer, UPS and Exxon publicly opposed this resolution and Exxon turned out a press release announcing their opposition. The resolution was defeated and conservative groups immediately attacked the companies that opposed it as caving into “green extremists.” At this time and consistently over the last decade, Walden and other investors also wrote and talked to Exxon about the reputational harm of being part of ALEC as well as the fact that their funding and reputation contributed to ALEC’s destructive work on climate and many other issues. At the November climate meeting with Exxon, this was a central theme investors aggressively pushed on.
Earlier companies like Pfizer and Exxon had agreed that each year they would review their trade associations and the value and benefits (or problems) they caused. It seems that during the Exxon review of ALEC in June they decided not to renew their membership. Over 100 companies have cut their ALEC ties including oil giants like BP, Shell, ConocoPhillips, Occidental and now Exxon.
News reports tell part of the story but as investors active on climate change, lobbying and many other ESG issues I thought you would be interested in additional background about how your voice and shares were involved in contributing to this specific and important shift by Exxon. Certainly, Exxon’s decision puts additional pressure on ALEC as well as the other companies that continue to actively support and defend their ALEC memberships.
- Exxon Mobil Joins Exodus of Firms From Lobbying Group ALEC l Reuters
- Koch-Backed Business Group Splinters in Climate-Change Dispute l Bloomberg
- Exxon Quits Koch-Backed Business Group After Climate Change Row l Bloomberg
Nearly four decades before they were even allowed to vote, women in the U.S. were placing their bets within the financial markets. In 1880 Mary Gage opened the first stock exchange in Manhattan for women – prior to this, women depended on men to invest in public equities on their behalf. Fast forward to the 21st century, the financial markets and companies more broadly only recently started to realize the value of female representation. The gender lens discussion was further fueled by the United Nations in late 2015, when it listed gender equality among its 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
Nevertheless, some market practitioners have long understood the importance of gender lens investing, and in particular, its impact to the bottom line. The Intentional Endowments Network (IEN) approached thought leaders within the Gender Lens Investing space to get their outlook on the associated risks and opportunities, real-life examples of such risks and opportunities and perspective on how gender lens investing relates to environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors, including the gender-climate nexus. IEN approached:
Suzanne Biegel, Founder, Catalyst At Large
Natasha Lamb, Managing Partner at Arjuna Capital
Lawler Kang, CEO and Founder, League of Allies
IEN thanks our respondents for their insights on how gender lens investing is critical to all areas of a healthy society, from reducing poverty to promoting the health, education, protection and the well-being of girls and boys. More resources on gender lens investing are available on our site here, and if you are interested in joining IEN's new working group focused on gender lens investing, please reach out to Nicole at email@example.com.
This week, Barron's released a Special Report on Sustainable Investing containing 8 articles on topics ranging from how to get started in sustainable investing, the 20 most influential people in ESG investing, and a cover story on BlackRock's work in the space, highlighting CEO Larry Fink's 2018 annual letter to companies emphasizing 'positive contribution[s] to society.'
“Short-termism has been captured by the tick-tock of reporting, that’s why I’m trying to create a louder dialogue about long-termism, or the idea that a long-term Warren Buffett-like process will lead to greater sustainable returns,” Fink reports in the article. “ESG risks are going to be a formidable component of investing over a sustained period of time. We want ESG risk management to be a tool that every manager is looking at as a reference point.”
See the links below to read each article in the Barron's Special Report:
- Cover Story: Larry Fink: The New Conscience of Wall Street?
- Does Sustainable Investing Lead to Lower Returns?
- Getting Started in Sustainable Investing
- ESG Roundtable: Great for Society, Good for Investors
- The Trump Bump and Sustainable Investing
- Could ESG Become the Wrapper for All Investing?
- The 20 Most Influential People In ESG Investing
- How Jeremy Grantham Is Taking On Climate Change
- Letter From the Editor
- ESG Glossary
The Crane Institute of Sustainability - Home of the Intentional Endowments Network - Expands Board with Two Key Additions
We are pleased to announce that the Intentional Endowments Network (IEN) has broadened its executive team with the addition of two new members to the Board of Directors of The Crane Institute of Sustainability (Crane), IEN's organizational home.
Both Sandra Urie, chairman emeritus of investment advisory firm Cambridge Associates, LLC, and Anthony Rust, chairman of the investment committee at the Warren Wilson College, joined Crane’s Board in June. Collectively they bring nearly six decades of investment management experience and deep experience working with endowments on sustainability, impact, and mission-related investing.
“We are delighted that Sandy and Anthony have joined the Board” said Georges Dyer, co-founder and executive director of Crane and IEN. “Both bring extensive expertise and first-hand experience in helping endowments position themselves for long-term financial success by aligning investments with mission, values, and sustainability goals. Sandy and Anthony will be valuable additions to the Board, providing strong leadership, governance, and strategic direction for Crane and IEN as we continue to grow and expand our positive impact on society.”
For more information, read the full press release.
Partner and Principal, Caribbean Private Equity Partners
Chair of the Investment Committee, Warren Wilson College
Sandra A. Urie
Chairman Emeritus, Cambridge Associates
To see a full list of Crane Board Members, visit Crane's website.
Community impact investing can be a powerful tool to redirect capital into our own backyard. Reinvesting in our communities can generate many benefits especially for anchor institutions such as foundations and endowments, including the creation of prosperous and thriving neighborhoods in which they work and the development of relationships with local communities.
IEN’s half-day roundtable on Community Impact Investing on June 11, 2018 at the Boston Foundation convened more than 70 endowment and foundation decision-makers along with other stakeholders interested in working closer with their local communities. The interactive structure of the roundtable allowed participants to learn not only from distinguished panelists but also from others in the room with years of experience in this field.
Panel 1: What is Community Investing?
In the first panel, we explored the definition of community investing with panelists Deborah Frieze (Founder and President, Boston Impact Initiative) and Elyse Cherry (Chief Executive Officer, Boston Community Capital), facilitated by Tom Mitchell (Managing Director, Cambridge Associates). Discussions centered around the power of community investing in the context of increasing wealth disparity in this country, the possibility of earning a market-rate financial return while generating positive impact in local communities, and the idea of leveraging a spectrum of asset classes to generate social and financial returns investors require.
Panel 2: What Might Community Investing Look Like for a College Endowment?
The second panel facilitated by Kate Dumas (Principal/Consultant, Prime Buchholz) invited Erik Gross (Board Treasurer, UNH Foundation) and John Hamilton (Vice President of Economic Opportunity, New Hampshire Community Loan Fund) to illustrate what community investing might look like for a college endowment. Both gave accounts on how their partnership came to be and how the two institutions are working together to create resilient communities in New Hampshire.
Fireside Chat: The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation Story
Finally, we heard from Michael Wilson, the CFO and Vice President of Finance of New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, who leads the foundation’s impact investing program. Michael Hokenson (Co-Founder and Partner, Community Investment Management) guided the discussion to delve deeper into the specifics of how the foundation has created a portfolio of local impact investments from finding deal flow to creating a model to identify attractive investments.
Each panel was followed by an opportunity for participants to react and reflect on the topic at hand in small groups with peers, experts, and other stakeholders. The program culminated with participants breaking into groups to dive deeper into topics of their choice. The participants self-organized themselves around six groups focusing on areas such as integrating impact goals in municipal bond investments, creating frameworks for assessing financial and impact returns, educating institutional gatekeepers and decision makers on impact investing, bringing more diversity and inclusion in asset management, and identifying key actors in community investment for experienced asset owners.
Some of the opportunities and barriers of community impact investing that were identified by the participants throughout the afternoon include:
- Create collaborative financial infrastructure (like a fund of community investment funds) to make community investing more feasible for institutional investing
- Create a “hypocrisy report” which is a short document that highlights traditional investments that are having negative impacts on the intuition’s impact goals.
- Spread the word when companies engage in impact investing to create a new norm. Similarly, push the idea that impact investing is just investing
- Ask foundations to act as guarantors for placed-based impact investments
- Educate decision makers and have an evolving knowledge base
- Engage the next generation of investors to increase openness to impact investing
- Getting beyond the fear of illiquidity
- Institutional gatekeepers such as trustees or older board members
- Inflexible asset allocation models
- Due diligence required on small investments and having enough deal flow
- Lack of track record and standards for data
- Perceived lack of transparency and fear of making a political statement that may upset donors
- Skepticism on concessionary returns
This event proved to be a valuable opportunity for stakeholders to connect with and learn from one another and take back actionable steps to their institutions to enhance their leadership in place-based impact investing. At IEN, we hope to continue to advance the conversation on this topic through our peer-to-peer learning activities.
We are grateful for our sponsors who made this event possible, including Community Investment Management, Prime Buchholz and Cambridge Associates, and to The Boston Foundation for providing a wonderful venue for the event.
If you would like to learn more about community investing, please take a look at our selection of helpful resources related to sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11).
By: Keith L. Johnson, Heads of Institutional Investor Legal Services, Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren s.c., Member of the IEN Executive Committee, and Chair of the IEN Fiduciary Duty & Policy Working Group
April 27, 2018
Investor fiduciaries should be careful not to overreact to Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) Field Assistance Bulletin 2018-01 on the exercise of shareholder rights and consideration of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors, which was issued by the Department of Labor (DOL) on April 23, 2018. Some are reading it as backtracking on assurance about consideration of material ESG factors and related company engagement practices contained in interpretive bulletins that were issued in 2015 and 2016.
Tone of the Bulletin is definitely harsher. However, a close reading shows it still confirms that ESG factors can present material investment considerations which fall within an investor fiduciaries' primary risk/return analysis and do not constitute collateral social policy goals. The Field Assistance Bulletin restates DOL's prior 2015 and 2016 guidance that integration of material ESG factors into investment and proxy voting policies and decisions is consistent with fiduciary duty. For example, it recognizes:
"The preamble of IB 2015-01 added: 'if a fiduciary prudently determines that an investment is appropriate based solely on economic considerations, including those that may derive from environmental, social and governance [(ESG)] factors, the fiduciary may make the investment without regard to any collateral benefits the investment may also promote.'”
"In making that observation, the Department merely recognized that there could be instances when otherwise collateral ESG issues present material business risk or opportunities to companies that company officers and directors need to manage as part of the company’s business plan and that qualified investment professionals would treat as economic considerations under generally accepted investment theories. In such situations, these ordinarily collateral issues are themselves appropriate economic considerations, and thus should be considered by a prudent fiduciary along with other relevant economic factors to evaluate the risk and return profiles of alternative investments. In other words, in these instances, the factors are more than mere tie-breakers."
However, the Field Assistance Bulletin also recognizes that there are fiduciary duty guardrails which preclude using ERISA funds to give up return or take on added risk in pursuit of collateral social policy goals.Read more
This March The Intentional Endowments Network published an article on 'Investing With Purpose' as well as two institution case studies: 'A Cooperative Path Toward Divestment' featuring IEN Member Lewis & Clark College, and 'Matching Investments to Mission' featuring IEN Member Becker College.
This article and case studies show that smaller institutions are equally equipped to assume a more intentional investment strategy that aligns with institution mission and values. And, they prove that active engagement with stakeholders across the entire campus can help expedite the time required to move boldly in this direction. Follow the links below to read each article.
Investing With Purpose l By: Anthony Cortese, Co-Founder and Principal, Intentional Endowments Network
A Cooperative Path Toward Divestment l By: Carl Vance, CIO, Lewis and Clark College
Matching Investments to Mission l By: David Ellis, CFO, Becker College
By: Anthony Cortese, Co-Founder and Principal of the Intentional Endowments Network, Georges Dyer, Co-Founder and Principal of the Intentional Endowments Network and Tim Carter, President, Second Nature
Second Nature and the Intentional Endowments Network (IEN) held the 2018 Higher Education Climate Leadership Summit February 4-6 in Tempe, Arizona. It was the year’s largest gathering of higher education presidents, chancellors, trustees, and other senior leaders committed to accelerating climate solutions with over 275 participants.
It came at a critical time as society deals with the ongoing and worsening impacts of climate disruption. Working together with business, state and local leaders, the higher education sector can and must shape the future of America’s global climate leadership. After the U.S. Administration’s announcement to withdraw from the international Paris Climate Agreement, hundreds of higher education leaders, many of which are part of the Climate Leadership and the Intentional Endowments Networks, joined other sector leaders to fill the void through the We Are Still In (WASI) initiative. These subnational actors, the scope of which is quantified through the work of America’s Pledge, represent $6.2 trillion of the U.S. economy, including $122 in university endowments and over 4.2 million students.
Why Second Nature and IEN?
The transformation to a low carbon, circular production, and socially just economy is one of the largest and most complex societal challenges in history. For example, to achieve the Paris Agreement goals, approximately $1 Trillion per year in climate solutions investments are needed over the next 20-25 years. The necessary changes in mindset, knowledge, and action must be led by higher education because of its unique role in research, education of society’s professionals and leaders and in modeling sustainable action in operations, community partnerships and investment of its endowments totaling over $600 billion.
Second Nature and other organizations began leading this transformation in higher education about 25 years ago, stepped up the pace in 2007 with a commitment of college and university presidents to make a publicly accountable commitment to carbon neutrality, and expanded that commitment to building resilient and sustainable campuses and communities in 2015. The Intentional Endowments Network was created in 2014 to bring endowments into the conversation of higher education’s leadership on climate and sustainability. Higher education leaders understand that mobilizing capital internally and through investments are critical for campuses to achieve their climate goals and that engagement of the private sector is crucial to mobilizing the capital needed to create a low carbon economy.
Both Second Nature and the Intentional Endowments Network are built on the belief that collaborative action and learning networks support, facilitate, generate and encourage higher education’s climate action in ways that couldn’t happen if campuses were acting in isolation.
Crossing Sectors/Driving Solutions
Building on these principles, the Summit brought together leaders in higher education, business, municipal government, non-profit organizations, and foundations to explore innovative cross-sector learning and partnerships in advancing climate solutions. A highly interactive format for learning, sharing, planning and action helped participants understand the deep systemic cultural, social, political and economic perspectives needed to develop effective solutions.
Well known businessman and author of 8 books on business and sustainability, Paul Hawken, opened the Summit with a stirring talk about his most ambitious work – Project Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming.
Over the last four years, he and a large number of colleagues have developed a surprising set of over 100 solutions for removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere that go well beyond conventional thinking about climate solutions. These strategies help solve some of the broadest health, social justice, economic and ecological challenges we face and go a long way toward achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and a just and sustainable economy. It set the stage perfectly and had a big impact on the discussions and the cross-sector, interdisciplinary and practical outcomes of the Summit.
As you can see from the Summit program, there were several unique focus areas:
- Climate justice and economic revitalization was a recurring and integrated theme. Ideas for role modeling and preparing students to work towards a just and sustainable economy included moving to 100% renewable energy individually and collaboratively across campuses, campus and community resilience, internal and external carbon pricing, and new integrated learning and action strategies for students.
- A major theme throughout the event was aligning endowment investments with their mission and environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals for the benefit of their institution and society. Participants heard stories of various approaches to sustainable investing from several endowments including Pitzer, Cal State, and Barnard; as well as insights from leading investment firms, including BlackRock, Graystone, Mirova, Impax, Change Finance, and more.
- An exciting case study of cross-sector, place-based climate action in Pittsburgh was presented by the Pittsburgh Mayor, the president of a Chatham University, a foundation leader, and a social justice leader, providing a template for climate action work at a city/regional scale.
- Finally, the presidents of five of the largest public universities and systems in the country announced the formation of The University Climate Change Coalition (UC3) – 13 leading North American research universities that will prototype a collaborative model designed to help local communities achieve their climate goals and accelerate the transition to a low-carbon future (UC3 Coalition).
In summary, the Summit was a watershed event in higher education leadership on climate and sustainability solutions. It emphasized unique ways of looking at the opportunities for comprehensive climate and sustainability solutions. It showed how higher education can and must be a comprehensive role model for all of society – and a catalyst, convener and collaborator with all other sectors. It explored how endowment investments can advance a just and sustainable economy while earning strong returns for the institution. In a time of some cynicism about higher education, the Summit showed how critical and relevant the sector is to the future of society. We are pleased to report that Second Nature and IEN will continue to collaborate to accelerate these efforts and partner in hosting the Climate Leadership Summit again next year.
As we reflect on 2017, we are again overcome with a profound sense of hope and gratitude; gratitude for all of the support and engagement from participants in the Intentional Endowments Network, and hope for accelerating progress toward the tipping point for a sustainable future.
When we talk about hope, we often quote author and Oberlin professor, David Orr who is fond of pointing out that “hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up.” Recently our newest team member at Crane, Kristian Nammack introduced us to a similar observation on hope from author Rebecca Solnit: “Hope is not a lottery ticket you sit on the sofa and clutch. Hope is an axe you use to break down doors in an emergency.”
We are indeed in an emergency. Interconnected issues of climate change, the wealth gap, systemic racial and gender discrimination, geopolitical tensions, and resource scarcity represent unprecedented challenges for a global society of 7.6 billion.
On climate change, we’ve seen the harsh impacts here in the US this year with the hurricanes and the wildfires destroying property, value, and lives. Around the world, droughts, floods, and extreme weather events have exacerbated long-standing
challenges and devastated vulnerable populations.
As we look out 40 or 50 years into the future, and imagine the type of world we want for ourselves, for our students, our children and grandchildren, there are certain elements on which we can all agree -- healthy air, water, and soil, a safe and livable climate, opportunity for all people to meet their fundamental needs and lead meaningful, fulfilling lives. If we imagine ourselves in that successful future, looking back to the dawn of 2018, and ask ourselves what we got right, we believe the leadership of higher education, investors and the finance community will be a central component.
2017 brought great signs of hope in our work together. Colleges, universities, and investment firms joined cities, states, business and others to send a clear signal to the world that “We Are Still In” the Paris Agreement, despite the Trump administration’s announced intent to withdraw. Major climate change resolutions passed at big oil and gas companies as large investment firms began to vote against management in earnest. The World Bank and huge investors like AXA and the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund announced they would continue to scale back fossil fuel investments.Read more
Natasha Lamb, Chair of the Board of The Crane Institute of Sustainability -- the 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is home to the Intentional Endowments Network -- has been named one of 2017's Top 50 Most Influential People by Bloomberg Businessweek.
Visit the Bloomberg Top 50 to read more about this honor and watch a video featuring Natasha and the other changemakers helping to shape our society.
Natasha is a Managing Partner at Arjuna Capital and has served as Chair of the Board of Crane since its inception. Her shareholder activism work has covered critical business issues ranging from climate risk to gender pay equity to fake news, and has focused on ensuring that companies are taking a long view and protecting investors from risk.
You can read more about Natasha's work in this press release.
Congratulations to Natasha for this well-deserved recognition -- we are extremely proud and grateful for her leadership of Crane and the Intentional Endowments Network.