Weekly News Round-Up: October 21st, 2016

New Resources

Food and Beverage Benchmark Findings Report l KnowTheChain 
  • The October 2016 KnowTheChain Food & Beverage Benchmark assesses how 20 of the largest companies address forced labour in their supply chains. The benchmark found that the food and beverage sector is showing a growing awareness and commitment to addressing forced labor risks, however the average score of 30 out of a possible 100 makes it clear that there is still far more to be done, with a significant disparity between a few leading brands and the rest. 
Climate Risk, Science & Regulation
 
  • With more than 30 additional countries ratifying the Paris agreement during the UN Paris Climate Change Agreement Ratification Ceremony, it is once again reaffirmed that institutions, governments and individuals should divest from fossil fuels.“Fiduciary duty is no longer an argument against divestment,” highlighted Yossi Cadan,350.org Global Senior Divestment Campaigner. “While many universities and pension funds in the past argued that this was a reason not to divest from fossil fuels, the high fluctuations in the fossil fuel markets and the exposure to worsening climate change impacts are making these investments riskier and more costly day by day. Today the truly responsible decision is to divest from fossil fuels.”
Nations, Fighting Powerful Refrigerant That Warms Planet, Reach Landmark Deal l The New York Times
  • Negotiators from more than 170 countries on Saturday reached a legally binding accord to counter climate change by cutting the worldwide use of a powerful planet-warming chemical used in air-conditioners and refrigerators. The talks in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, did not draw the same spotlight as the climate change accord forged in Paris last year. But the outcome could have an equal or even greater impact on efforts to slow the heating of the planet.

World Heritage Centre and IUCN Call for Relocation of Rampal Power Plant, a Serious Threat to the Sundarbans l UNESCO

  • The Sundarbans in Bangladesh is part of the world’s largest mangrove forests, home to the famous Bengal Tiger and a hotspot for dolphins, turtles, and birds. Millions of people depend on this labyrinth of tidal rivers for food, homes, and flood protection. This week, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN released a report concluding that the proposed Rampal power plant, a 1320 megawatt super thermal power plant located just 65 kilometers from the Sundarbans, poses a serious threat to the site. The report recommends that the Rampal power plant project be cancelled and relocated to a more suitable location.
Insurer Climate Risk Disclosure Survey Report & Scorecard: 2016 Findings and Recommendations l Ceres
  • This report evaluates and benchmarks the quality and comprehensiveness of climate risk disclosures by insurance companies in response to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) Climate Risk Disclosure Survey.
New Web Tool Shows Unexpectedly High Carbon Exposure of Funds l Fossil Free Funds
  • Do mutual funds and ETF providers that talk the talk about being low carbon actually walk the walk when it comes to their portfolio? A first-ever analysis of over $11 trillion in global mutual funds and ETFs shows that a large number of major fund families are "carbon hypocrites" that preach the merits of low-carbon investing but actually have above-average carbon holdings. The results are available at FossilFreeFunds.org, which was created by the nonprofit As You Sow and utilizes data from global sustainability solutions provider South Pole Group and yourSRI.com, which is a leading carbon data analyst and reporting solution provider for responsible investments. The site also highlights 58 socially responsible funds with no fossil fuels and very low footprints.
Sustainable / ESG Investing
 
UK’s Dirtiest Funds Revealed l Financial Times
  • BlackRock’s Emerging Europe fund, which oversees assets of $129m, has a carbon footprint 176 times greater than the UK’s cleanest fund, Royal London’s Sustainable World Trust, and has been named the UK’s dirtiest fund in the first ever ranking to show how exposed investment products are to polluting industries. The Emerging Europe fund's carbon footprint was also 10 times bigger than that of the MSCI Emerging Markets index. The ranking of 1,200 UK funds by As You Sow, a non-profit organization, comes as concerns mount that investors could suffer big losses if companies with large carbon footprints are negatively affected by attempts to tackle climate change.
Sustainability is the Way of Modern Islamic Economy l Saudi Gazette
  • Innovative methods in awqaf, or religious endowments, have been adopted as the first of its kind in the Muslim World by the emirate of Dubai to ensure a sustainable Islamic economy. “We are in the 21st century so we must administer awqaf in a modern way,” said secretary general of the Awqaf and Minors Affairs Foundation (AMAF) Tayeb Al Rais at a media roundtable. The AMAF in Dubai launched several initiatives deemed sustainable that have been pioneers in the Muslim World, according to Al Rais.
Dutch APG Says a Long Term and Sustainable Investment is the Biggest Drive for Returns l PR Newswire
  • Dutch pension fund APG shared insights on long term investment on October 19th during a press conference in Guangzhou, China, indicating its long-term investment oriented strategy and highlighting its partnership with China's E Fund.

  • According to the data from the European Medicines Agency, medicines classified as “critically important in human medicine” by the World Health Organization appear to be in frequent use on farm animals across the major countries of the EU, including the UK. Experts are increasingly concerned by growing evidence that the overuse of antibiotics on farms – which in the EU account for three times the quantity of antibiotics dispensed to the human population – is endangering human health by fostering the development of bacteria resistant to even the strongest medicines.
Finalists Unveiled for Sustainable Investment Awards 2016 l Investment Week
  • Investment Week is pleased to announce the finalists for this year's awards, in categories including Best ESG Fund Management Group and Best Environmental fund. Now in their eighth year, Investment Week's Sustainable Investment Awards are aimed at fund managers and organizations who are at the forefront of facilitating or investing in themes that take into account the environment, ethics, as well as social and corporate responsibility, and whose work promotes a greater understanding of the sector's potential.
A Top Sustainable Fund’s Best Long-Term Stocks l Barron's
  • The Brown Advisory Sustainable Growth fund (BIAWX) was recently named one of Barron’s Top 200 Sustainable Mutual Funds and has a five-star rating from Morningstar. It has beaten both its large-growth peers and the Standard & Poor’s 500 index over the past three years and is No. 6 in its category year-to-date. This article contains a Q&A with portfolio manager Karina Funk, where she describes her investment philosophies and some of the fund's largest holdings.

Looking Inside the Investment “Black Box” l The Reporting Times

  • Mainstream investors are becoming more sophisticated in the way they integrate environmental, social and ­governance (ESG) information in their investment ­process. But they are often failing to explain to companies what ­information matters most to them, how it relates to their broader financial analysis and how it ­impacts ­investment decisions. This article contains insights from Cécile Biccardi, Managing Partner at Contrast Capital.
Bloomberg Brief l Sustainable Finance
  • This weeks Bloomberg Brief discusses Wall Street's CFAs getting a stronger dose of ESG, impact bonds targeting employment for Syrian refugees, and a Q&A with Devin Whatley, Partner at The Ecosystem Integrity Fund.
DC Water, Goldman Sachs and Calvert Foundation Pioneer Environmental Impact Bond l Yahoo Finance
  • The DC Water and Sewer Authority (DC Water) issued the nation's first Environmental Impact Bond (EIB) to fund the initial green infrastructure project in its DC Clean Rivers Project, a $2.6 billion program to control stormwater runoff and improve the District's water quality. This deal offers a new type of financial instrument to fund environmental capital projects.  The $25 million, tax-exempt EIB was sold in a private placement to the Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group and Calvert Foundation. 
  • Asset management giant BlackRock, which manages $5 trillion in assets, recently brought on Deborah Winshel, the former CFO of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the COO of the Robin Hood Foundation, to head a new impact investing initiative. Dina Habib Powell, the head of Goldman Sachs Impact Investing and president of the investment bank’s foundation, explained that Goldman has been thinking about how to approach impact investing for some time. “We don’t see it as pressure, we see it as an opportunity,” said Powell. For example, Goldman Sachs committed $50 million to provide loans to female entrepreneurs. The World Bank then followed on with $300 million in capital committed to the the fund. “This is an example of public and private coming together,” said Powell. “This is the future,” said Powell.
Clean Energy Investment
 
University of Minnesota Buys Community Solar Subscription l University of Minnesota
  • With approval from the University of Minnesota’s Board of Regents last week, the U’s Twin Cities campus will purchase two megawatts of community solar garden subscriptions from Minneapolis-based Geronimo Energy, LLC. “We anticipate significant savings of nearly $800,000 over the 25 year contract while supporting the development of new renewable energy resources in the State of Minnesota,” said Shane Stennes, Director of Sustainability. 
  • The International Energy Agency, which was established as a watchdog of the industry in the wake of the 1973 oil crisis, will “significantly” raise its estimates for renewables when it publishes its annual mid-term market report for the industry at the end of this month, a spokesman for Paris-based organization said. “The IEA has significantly raised its estimates for the deployment of renewables compared with previous years reflecting major changes in energy policies around the world, such as the adoption of the Paris Agreement,” Jad Mouawad, the IEA spokesman, said by e-mail.
Accidental Discovery Could be Renewable Energy Breakthrough l CBS News
  • Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a process to turn carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, into ethanol fuel — a breakthrough with implications for the future of renewable energy. That discovery, which occurred in 2014 and has been replicated multiple times since then in the nanotechnology lab Oak Ridge, Tennessee, is explained in full in a new study published in ChemistrySelect.
Stanford Makes Progress on Solar Expansion l The Stanford Daily
  • Stanford hopes to set the bar for sustainability with the completion of its new solar expansion project in November, the latest milestone in the University’s push toward more renewable energy. The expansion, which includes a solar plant in Southern California as well as 16 new rooftop solar panels on buildings throughout campus, will join existing rooftop panels to produce 53 percent of the University’s energy by the end of 2016.
Shareholder Engagement
 
Trillium Files LGBT Proxy Voting Shareholder Proposal with BlackRock l Trillium Asset Management
  • On October 13, 2016, Trillium Asset Management filed a shareholder resolution with BlackRock asking the company to issue a report discussing its proxy voting on workplace LGBT non-discrimination policy shareholder resolutions. The above link is a press release regarding the filing.
  • Students calling on Harvard to divest from the fossil fuel industry met with two members of the Harvard Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, and discussed Harvard’s move away from coal investments—a reflection of declining profits in the industry. The two Corporation members maintained during the meeting that Harvard will not divest from the fossil fuel industry, however, they did acknowledge that coal investments are not currently financially prudent, and that Harvard does not invest in the coal industry at this time, according to the two student activists.
Fossil Free Mac Demonstrates During Board of Trustees’ Visit l The Mac Weekly
  • On October 7, Macalester’s pro-divestment student organization Fossil Free Mac (FFM) staged a large-scale rally while the Board of Trustees (BoT) was on campus. FFM is currently advocating for Macalester to divest its endowment of all stocks held in the Carbon Underground 200 (the world’s top 200 fossil fuel-related companies), which amounts to approximately $25 million of Mac’s $762 million endowment. At the end of the rally one student said: “I would say that this has been wildly successful and that we are demonstrating to the student body and to the board that even if they have two minutes to talk to us that it is still something.”
Remembering Sandy's Wrath, New Yorkers Demand Massive Fossil Fuel Divestment l commondreams.org
  • Just ahead of the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, a broad spectrum of New Yorkers are asking that the state's public pensions stop investing in the companies causing such climate chaos. In an open letter addressed to New York City comptroller Scott Stringer and state comptroller Tom DiNapoli, 18 individuals representing a wide swathe of New York society—from environment and health to faith and the arts—call on the six city and state public pension funds to divest from the fossil fuel industry and, alternately, prioritize investments in climate solutions.
Divestment 'Not the Best Approach' to Climate Change, Says AMP Capital l Sydney Morning Herald
  • One of Australia's biggest investment companies says dumping fossil fuel assets is not the answer to climate change, despite acknowledging the significant financial risks associated with rising global temperatures. AMP Capital, which has $160.4 billion of funds under management, said the financial risks associated with climate change were "significant" and all asset types needed to be assessed for their exposure.  But the investment giant said divesting from carbon-intensive assets was not an appropriate response, saying it was up to governments to steer environmental policy.

General Endowment News
 
Most Endowment Funds Feel Dreaded Pinch of Negative Returns l Pensions & Investments (Subscription)
  • For the first time in seven years, large U.S. endowments in aggregate produced a negative return after enduring a difficult fiscal year.
Who Gets to Monitor a Public University Foundation? l Inside Higher Ed
  • A proposal to address concerns about transparency and oversight at the University at Buffalo Foundation, which called for adding a faculty member, a professional staff member and a student to the foundation’s board, won’t go into effect after the foundation recently turned it down. “Involving the foundation in internal university matters concerning the Faculty Senate, professional staff senate, the student body and the university administration would be in conflict with the mission of the foundation,” Schneider’s statement said.
 
Higher Education / Academic News
 
Dartmouth College’s New Energy Institute Hosts First Event l Valley News
  • Dartmouth College’s newest initiative in sustainability research, The Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society, the research center that Dartmouth College created last month thanks to an $80 million gift from the chairman of Irving Oil, has sparked a dispute on campus over bias and accountability in academia.The institute held its first public lecture at the Tuck School of Business on Friday with Dan Reicher, a Stanford University professor who served as an energy adviser in the Clinton administration.
  • The United Nationals Environmental Programme’s (UNEP) Greening Universities Toolkit has a goal to transform universities around the world into viable green, sustainable campuses. It is also a perfect fit with the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were the focus of the September UN General Assembly meeting in New York. The Toolkit “is designed to provide universities with the basic strategies and tactics necessary to transform themselves into green, low carbon institutions with the capacity to address climate change, increase resource efficiency, enhance ecosystem management and minimize waste and pollution.”