Weekly News Round-Up: March 2nd, 2018

 
Weekly News Round-Up: March 2nd, 2018

Below please find this week's news round-up.

We are pleased to highlight that this week, The George Washington University announced the creation of a sustainable investment fund, an initiative that will allocate money from the university endowment toward responsible investment vehicles.

We also have several new resources to share, including a briefing on the community investing 'Opportunity Zones' program and an article outlining wealth inequality and the fallacies of impact investing.

Also, be sure to register for next week's IEN Webinar exploring the topic of Long Short ESG Strategies for Endowments, taking place on March 6th.

Have a great weekend,

Nicole

Program Manager
The Intentional Endowments Network

 
Sustainable Investing at Endowments

Student Association and University Leaders Announce the Creation of a Sustainable Investment Fund l GW Today

  • The Student Association, in conjunction with university leaders, announced this week the creation of a new Sustainable Investment Fund. The Student Association-driven initiative will allocate money from the university endowment toward responsible investment vehicles. As part of a larger responsible investment approach, the fund will promote and produce innovation in sustainable practices and seek to avoid investments in the top coal, oil and gas companies.
 
New Reports and Opportunities

Briefing on Community Investing 'Opportunity Zones' Program l US Impact Investing Alliance

  • Included in December's Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was a set of provisions to incentivize investment in low-income communities throughout the U.S. Under the law, governors are given the opportunity to nominate communities to receive a new designation, “Opportunity Zones.”  Recommendations must be submitted by March 21, 2018. For more information on this program follow the link above.

Turing Point: Corporate Progress on the Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability l Ceres

  • Cere's new report, "Turing Point: Corporate Progress on The Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability," looks at how more than 600 of the largest U.S. companies are responding to calls for climate action and positioning themselves for success in a world increasingly shaped by unprecedented environmental and social challenges. The analysis specifically takes a closer look at the progress of more than 600 companies to meet 20 key expectations of sustainability leadership within the areas of governance, disclosure, stakeholder engagement, environmental and social performance, as outlined in the Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability.

The 100 Most Overpaid CEOs 2018 l As You Sow

  • For the past four years As You Sow has issued this report highlighting the 100 most overpaid CEOs among the 500 companies in the S&P500 index. The report’s prime focus is shareholder votes on these pay packages, particularly the votes of large financial managers, mutual funds, and pension funds.

Global Sustain Releases Global Report on ESG Market l Triple Pundit

  • Global Sustain Group conducted and released recently a new ESG/SRI & Impact Investments Market Report and Benchmark Analysis, entitled “ESG Investing. From Niche to Mainstream.” The report provides insights of the ESG market in Europe, in the US and globally, presenting selected and approved leading asset management firms, examining their ESG strategy and investments.
 
Sustainable, Responsible, Impact & ESG Investing

Wealth Inequality and The Fallacies of Impact Investing l BALLE

  • In this article, Rodney Foxworth, the Executive Director of The Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), discusses how if we’re truly motivated to deconstruct the wealth inequalities that have ravaged and extracted wealth from rural, indigenous, and majority people of color communities, then we must rid ourselves of the power dynamics, biases, and culture that got us here in the first place.

City Officials Want Chicago to Become a Responsible Investor l The Wall Street Journal

  • Officials in the nation’s third-largest city want to make a company’s record on issues such as water usage, labor rights and diversity as important as creditworthiness when deciding how to invest its $8 billion operating budget. Chicago Treasurer Kurt Summers is seeking permission from the city council to use ESG factors to inform investment decisions. Legislation proposed Wednesday would amend the city’s current investment policy to allow for the ESG changes.

Bipartisan Bill Gives US Development Finance a Boost l Devex

  • A bill creating a new, expanded United States development finance agency was introduced this week in the U.S. Congress. The Better Utilization of Investment Leading to Development, or BUILD Act, will create a new agency that will combine the several private sector oriented parts of the U.S. Agency for International Development, as well as expand U.S. development finance capabilities. The new agency will have the ability to make equity investments, have a higher spending cap, and have a grantmaking facility for project development and technical assistance.

Bloomberg Brief l Sustainable Finance

  • This week's Bloomberg Brief highlights how Florida teachers reacted viscerally last week to news that their pension fund invests in gun companies; What to watch in the 2018 proxy season; and the CEO-to-worker pay ratio finally sees daylight, bringing changes for shareholders, employees and even consumers, says Sarah Anderson of the Institute for Policy Studies.

Could Sustainable Investing be the Best Way to Tackle Climate Change? l World Economic Forum

  • This article outlines how as individuals, our ability to steer our pensions and savings is a powerful way of solving the climate change puzzle, and describes the reasons the author suspects it is left out of the conversation: because for most people it’s still intangible and not well understood, and because calculations needed to measure the impact of this solution are not easy to come by.

Emerging Sustainability Accounting and Investment Methodologies Dig Deep l Environmental Leader

  • Investors frequently assess companies based on their sustainability data, but corporations currently lack a standardized and widely accepted framework to share that information. As major fund providers like Vanguard, State Street, and BlackRock push for better ESG disclosures, this article explores how new methodologies are emerging.

The Future of Water l March 2018 Green Money Journal

  • Water is a systemic risk to investors, as in many parts of the United States and other areas of the world this precious resource is in danger. Investors and stock market players should be deepening their research and investment process to tackle water risks, often hidden in holdings across all asset classes. This edition of Green Money Journal explores this topic.

Navigating the ESG Maze: How Can Companies and Investors Improve Environmental Disclosure? l Business Green

  • This article explores how even though interest in ESG, climate risk, and TCFD guidelines is growing, many businesses and investors remain unsure over precisely how to coordinate on disclosing crucial environmental data.

Institutional Investors Focusing on Alternative Investments, ESG and Risk Management, Says Natixis Survey l Institutional Asset Manager

  • Volatility finally roared back to abnormally tame markets, but most institutional investors were already bracing for impact; their efforts to diversify and build durable portfolios should now pay off, according to new survey findings released by Natixis Investment Managers.

Social Returns Just As Important for Millennials l Investopedia

  • The Millennial generation includes 75 million Americans and they are projected to have a collective inheritance of $41 million from their Baby Boomer parents. study by the Spectrum Group measuring the scope and influence of impact investing on various generations found that nearly half (49%) of Millennials with a net worth exceeding $1 million identified social responsibility as a major factor in choosing an investment. That compares to 43% for Generation X, 34% for Baby Boomers, and just 27% for seniors.
 
Shareholder Engagement

JPMorgan Joins U.S. Banks Showing Pay Gap for Women of Only 1% l Bloomberg

  • JPMorgan Chase & Co. said Friday that its female employees earn 99 percent of what male employees make globally, making it the fifth large U.S. bank to disclose an adjusted gender pay gap of around one percent. People of color employed by the bank earned more than 99 percent of what white workers made, according to an internal note sent to employees. In addition, Wells Fargo & Co., Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., Bank of New York Mellon Corp.,and  MasterCard Inc. last week reported gender pay gap around 1 percent. Arjuna withdrew its proposals at JPMorgan and Mastercard on Friday following the companies’ disclosures.
 
Firearm Investment News

Mass Shootings Have Made Gun Stocks Toxic Assets on Wall Street l Vox

  • This article highlights how Wall Street firms are coming under fire for investing retirement savings and pension funds in firearm companies, including investor engagement and divestment efforts. As one example, Shareholders at American Outdoor Brands, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Sturm Ruger asked those companies to report on steps they’re taking to improve gun safety and mitigate gun violence. The requests were filed by religious groups linked to the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, which includes 300 institutional investors that manage $400 billion in assets, according to Bloomberg. (Dick’s Sporting Goods on Wednesday announced that it was ending sales of assault-style weapons at its stores.)

University Endowments Are Mostly Mum About Firearms Investments l Bloomberg

  • This article explores how endowments have fewer disclosure requirements that nearly any type of institutions, allowing them to keep portfolio holdings private. While some politicians and teachers, including the Florida Education Association, have urged pension funds to drop gun makers’ shares from their portfolios after the shooting in Parkland, Florida, universities contacted about the issue generally declined to answer questions about whether they owned such stocks.

Don't Count on the Stock Market to Curb Gun Violence l Bloomberg

  • In this opinion piece, the author describes the parallels between the tobacco divestment movement and the current movement by some shareholders to divest from firearm-related stocks, and why they believe it's a misguided strategy.

Are You Invested in Gun Stocks? Read This if You Want to Change That l Marketwatch

  • This article explores what retail or institutional investors can do to assess exposure to gun stocks, and what steps to take to determine strategies to engage with companies or to divest.
 
Investment Manager News

Eastspring Investments Signs Up To PRI l Alpha Week

  • Eastspring Investments, the USD 170 billion Asian investment management arm of Prudential plc, announced this week it has signed the United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), the world’s leading proponent of responsible investment.

5 Europe ETFs With Great ESG Scores l Investor Place

  • While no new ESG ETFs were brought about in 2010, 2011, and 2013, in 2016, 22 ESG ETFs were launched, and new net inflows into the space more than tripled. Another 18 launches followed in 2017. This article cherry-picks five Europe ETFs that have a top-notch MSCI ESG Quality Score. Scores are shown on a scale of 10 with the higher the score indicating a more socially responsible fund.
 
Climate Risk, Science and Regulation

Carbon Pricing is a Smart Approach to Climate Action l Union Leader

  • In this opinion piece, Julia Gorte discusses how there are many risks from climate change and smart investors take those risks into account, including the costs of failing to address climate change are estimated to have an average value at risk of $4.2 trillion globally, representing 6 percent of the current market capitalization of all the world’s stock markets. Gorte also discusses her stance on putting a statewide price on carbon in New Hampshire. 
 
General Higher Education Endowment News

NACUBO and TIAA to Join Forces on Endowment Study l Business Wire

  • The National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) and TIAA announced this week that they are joining forces to create the next evolution of the annual study of college and university endowments. More than 800 institutions participating in the study will have a strong voice in the direction and focus of the reimagined NACUBO-TIAA Endowment Study, which will cover the fiscal year ending in 2018 and will be released in the first quarter of 2019.

Harvard Blew $1 Billion in Bet on Tomatoes, Sugar, and Eucalyptus l Bloomberg Businessweek

  • This article describes the Harvard endowment's investments in various commodities and natural resources, and the risks and rewards from those investments.

Texas Endowment to Review $1 Billion Gold Position, New CEO Says l Bloomberg

  • The University of Texas Investment Management Co. will examine its $1 billion gold position in the portfolio of the largest public university endowment in the U.S. “We’re in no rush to sell but it may not be a long-term strategic hold,” Britt Harris, the new chief executive officer at Utimco, said Thursday during a break at a board meeting in Austin. The endowment is also looking at fixed-income investments because of their poor returns, Harris said.

Ending ‘Mom-and-Pop’ Endowment Governance l Inside Higher Ed

  • Brian C. Mitchell and W. Joseph King, authors of two books released in January,' How to Run a College' and 'How University Boards Work', argue for colleges and universities to evolve, modernizing practices and monetizing assets. They examine major elements of college operations: governance, finance, enrollment advancement, academic affairs, student life and athletics. They support shared governance, but it’s clear they believe the system could work better if all parties refocused on educational strategies and transparency between different leaders.
 
Fossil Fuel Divestment

St. Lawrence Students Protest for Divestment l Watertown Daily Times

  • More than 20 students at St. Lawrence University gathered last week outside of the board of trustees meeting. Waving well-worn signs, the students chanted and marched around the student center and outside, demanding that the trustees divest the university’s endowment from fossil fuel companies.

Fossil Free Stanford Releases New Divestment Petition l Stanford Daily

  • Fossil Free Stanford (FFS) has initiated a petition for an ASSU amendment demanding that Stanford divest from fossil fuels. The petition, published last week, reads: “In accordance with Stanford’s commitment to ethical investment, the University should divest its endowment from fossil fuel extraction companies in order to avert further environmental and social harm caused by climate change.”

Fossil Free American University: President will not Support Divestment From Fossil Fuels l The Eagle

  • American University President Sylvia Burwell told Fossil Free AU members that she will not support divestment from fossil fuels at a Jan. 18 meeting, according to three students at the meeting. Fossil Free AU, a student-run campaign that has pushed AU to divest its endowment from fossil fuel companies, had hoped Burwell might support their efforts to convince the Board of Trustees to divest.

Divest Emerson Calls for End to College Fossil Fuel Investments l Berkeley Beacon

  • Divest Emerson College launched a second attempt at convincing the college’s Board of Trustees to withdraw investments, or divest, from fossil fuel companies. The revitalized effort spurred from concern about the ongoing environmental crisis.
 
Calendar of Upcoming Events

IEN Webinar: Long Short ESG Strategies for Endowments l Intentional Endowments Network, March 6th, 2018

  • In this webinar, participants will explore the idea of incorporating ESG criteria into long-short equity strategies, learn about the process behind incorporating hedge funds into ESG strategies, and hear discussion on implementation, including examples of investment policy statements, asset allocations, risk and return frameworks, and impact and ESG ratings for long short ESG strategies.

Webinar: Proxy Preview 2018: Helping Shareholders Vote Their Values l Proxy Preview, March 8th, 2018, 2:00 pm EST

  • Proxy Preview 2018, now in its 14th year, provides an overview of all ESG shareholder resolutions filed—as well as expert insights into resolutions filed ESG issues investors are raising at companies this year on and off proxy ballots.
8th Annual Practitioners Gathering l Confluence Philanthropy, March 12-15, 2018, Berkeley, CA
  • The Practitioners Gathering is a four-day conference where asset owners and their advisors meet at the cutting edge of mission-related investing. Click here to apply to join the event as a non-member guest.

The Wall Street Green Summit l Global Change Associates, March 19, 2018, New York, NY

  • This year's Wall Street Green Summit will focus on the  Impact Economy-- where main street investors team up with corporations, entrepreneurs and government to solve environmental and social problems while generating financial returns.
Responsible Investment Forum New York l Private Equity International, March 20-21, 2018, New York, NY
  • The Responsible Investment Forum will bring together the most sophisticated LPs, GPs and service providers to discuss why, when, and how your firm should be implementing an effective ESG strategy. IEN's Kristian Nammack will be presenting.