Weekly News Round-Up: March 31st, 2017

New IEN Members

Upcoming Events
Face Social Enterprise Through Impact Investing l Boston University Questrom School of Business, April 5, 20174-6 pm 
  • Join a groundbreaking discussion in a 'Face The Nation' format for a conversation with leaders in the Social Enterprise and Impact Investing world.
Impact Investing Forum 2017 l Opal Group, April 23, 2017 - April 25, 2017, Boca Raton, FL
  • The Impact Investing Forum will look at many of the asset classes that encompass this space. Themes of defining impact investing, portfolio construction, asset class opportunities, and the role of the investor will be covered at this event. This conference will exclusively feature dialogue driven panel discussions led by consultants and family offices.
The Impact Capitalism Summit l Big Path Capital, April 25-26, 2017, Chicago, IL
  • The Impact Capitalism Summit is the Largest Convening of Impact Investors Globally. This year at the Impact Capitalism Summit in Chicago we will explore the progress of leading impact investment portfolios, discover the latest innovations across sectors, themes and asset classes, and identify the steps needed to harness the power of capital markets to build a sustainable, fair and just economy where opportunity and prosperity are shared by all.

Ceres Conference 2017: Sustainability is the Bottom Line, Inspiring Action l Ceres, April 26-27. 2017, San Francisco, CA

  • Across the globe, leading investors and corporations are accelerating innovative sustainable solutions that are building long-term value, while protecting the health of our planet and the economy. The Ceres Conference will bring together leaders who are catalyzing the biggest breakthroughs on sustainability issues and recognize that, regardless of political headwinds, sustainability is the bottom line.
Impact Investing Program: Driving Social Purpose Through Measurable Investment Returns l Skytop Strategies, May 24, 2017, Washington D.C.
  • This full day program will deliberate on best practices in impact investing, and how they generate measurable social, environmental and economic results through bridging the gap between purpose and profit. Georges Dyer will be speaking on a panel titled "The Power of the SDG: How It Might Align Performance and Scale Risk Control."

  • The focus on ESG considerations as a means to creating sustainable value is on the rise, and traditional barriers are becoming less pronounced. Yet one question remains elusive: How can we leverage capital markets to improve not just risk-adjusted returns, but our society as a whole? Or, in other words, how can ESG investing help create sustainable value? To answer this, State Street conducted a global survey of 582 institutional investors, who were or were planning to implement ESG investing into their process, and 750 individual investors, including ESG and non-ESG investors. 
Proxy Voting Guidelines 2017 l As You Sow
  • When shareholders demand real change, companies pay attention. If you’re an investor seeking to align your voting with your ESG principles, download Proxy Voting Guidelines 2017 today. You will find recommendations to help you vote your shareholder proxy ballot, covering critical issues such as climate change, environmental health, and executive compensation. The Guidelines are designed to be handed off to your investment advisor or proxy voting service, or you can use them to help you vote your own proxies.

Sustainable / ESG Investing
 
Bloomberg Brief l Sustainable Finance
  • This week's Bloomberg Brief highlights how U.S. states and municipalities are looking to their own green banks to drive environmentally-friendly investment as the administration of Donald Trump pushes the federal government out of that role; Big oil takes a sharper look at offshore wind; and sustainable investments hit $23 trillion.
  • A global survey of both institutional and retail investors sponsored by State Street Corporation found that traditional obstacles to ESG investing are fading, while one significant barrier remains: the lack of transparent, standardized and quality data. The Investing Enlightenment: How Principle and Pragmatism Can Create Sustainable Value through ESG found that nearly all (92%) institutional investors surveyed want companies to explicitly identify ESG factors that materially affect performance, while 60% note a lack of industry standards for measuring ESG performance as a significant barrier to full integration.
  • At the start of 2016, global sustainable investment assets reached $22.89 trillion, a 25% increase from 2014. Europe accounts for over half of these assets (53%), while the United States accounts for 38%, says a report just out from the Global Sustainable Investment Alliance (GSIA).
NY State Common Retirement Further Integrates ESG Within Manager Selection, Risk Frameworks l Chief Investment Officer
  • ESG factors now play a more pivotal role within the manager selection process and the risk management framework for the $178.6 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund (CRF). In its inaugural Environmental, Social and Governance Report, the fund outlines its previous ESG strategies and current objectives regarding sustainability, its methodology in determining material ESG risks, and plans to commit capital to sustainable investments in the future.
ESG-Oriented Millennials May Have Too-High Hopes l Wealth Professional
  • Millennial investors who are concerned about ESG factors may be setting unrealistic return expectations. The assessment was from Courtney Waterman of Schroders, according to Asset Servicing Times. Citing the 2016 Schroders Global Investors Survey, Waterman told attendees at the ALFI European Asset Management Conference that investors aged 35 and under expected an average of 10.2% per year in returns, compared to a global stock market performance of 3.75% at the time of the survey.
Climate Risk, Regulation & Science
 
How Climate Change Battles are Increasingly Being Fought, and Won, in Court l The Guardian
  • Around the world courts are stepping in when politicians fail to act, with South Africa’s government the latest to lose a groundbreaking climate lawsuit with judges ruling against its plans for a new coal-fired power station. Environmental NGO EarthLife Africa challenged the government’s approval of the proposed Thabametsi coal-fired power station on the grounds that it should have been preceded by an evaluation of its climate change impacts. The North Gauteng high court agreed and ordered the government to reconsider its approval, taking into account a full climate change impact assessment.
  • The United Nations is having to make a “step change” to finance the Sustainable Development Goals, says the UN Envoy for the SDGs. Speaking at a high-level conference on the sustainable economy organised by the German government, Macharia Kamau, Special Envoy for the SDGs to the President of the General Assembly and Kenya’s Permanent Representative to the UN, told delegates that the UN has to move beyond its traditional ODA (official development assistance) aid model.
Trump Administration Seeks Halt to Clean Power Plan Review l Bloomberg
  • President Donald Trump took another step toward dismantling his predecessor’s climate-change legacy, asking a federal appeals court to halt its review of carbon-emission rules for power plants. Trump, who famously called climate change a hoax in a 2012 tweet, on Tuesday signed an executive order that starts unraveling a raft of rules and directives to combat climate change. That was followed Wednesday by a bid to place on hold a 26-state suit challenging the centerpiece of President Barack Obama’s environmental agenda -- the Clean Power Plan -- so the new administration can dismantle it ahead of a ruling on its legality.
US SIF Lisa Woll Issues Statement In Response To The Administration’s Executive Order To Roll Back The Clean Power Plan l My Social Good News
  • Lisa Woll, CEO of US SIF: The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment released a statement this week in response to the Trump Administration’s executive order to roll back the Clean Power Plan. The statement begins: “On behalf of our 300 plus members, US SIF believes the Administration should be working aggressively to reduce carbon in the atmosphere and that this executive order accomplishes the opposite." Read the full statement here.
Mayors of Paris and London Announce Car Scoring System to Slash Air Pollution on City Streets l C40 Cities
  • Mayor of Paris and C40 Chair Anne Hidalgo and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan today announced they’re working to create schemes to score new cars based on their real-world emissions and their impact on air quality. The schemes will help consumers make better informed choices about the environmental impact of the cars they drive and prevent car manufacturers from exploiting loopholes in existing labelling schemes.
  • Science organizations spoke out forcefully Tuesday in response to President Trump's executive order to unravel Obama administration climate policies. The order directs the Environmental Protection Agency to rewrite the Clean Power Plan, a federal rule that set targets for carbon emissions targets.  "The EPA has a legal obligation under the Clean Air Act to curtail global warming emissions to help limit the impacts of climate change," said Union of Concerned Scientists President Ken Kimmell. 
Clean Energy
 
SASB Speaks: Sustainability Unhinges Norms in Power Sector Investing (Subscription) l Responsible Investor
  • Investors have traditionally allocated capital to the power sector for its stability in returns. Reliable and affordable electricity is fundamental to an economy’s well-being, indicating dependable demand drivers for power generation, transmission and distribution investments. While the pre-requisite of reliable electricity for an economy’s health will not change, developed countries around the world are seeing a drastic decoupling of electricity consumption from economic growth – which severely impacts the risk profile of investments in the power sector. 
Anheuser-Busch Joins ESG Initiative in Shift to 100% Renewables l Fund Strategy
  • Anheuser-Busch InBev has today joined a ESG initiative backed by Shareaction as it announces it will shift to 100 per cent renewable electricity. According to the announcement, the brewing giant will source all purchased electricity from renewables by 2025 – a move that is expected to reduce its operational carbon footprint by 30 per cent. Shareaction has been coordinating a coalition of pension funds and asset managers to work with companies to switch to 100 per cent renewables by an agreed date.
Despite Trump Move on Climate Change, Utilities’ Shift From Coal Is Set to Continue l The Wall Street Journal
  • The Trump administration’s move to roll back President Barack Obama’s signature climate-change policy may extend the life of some aging coal-fired power plants, but companies and energy experts say it is unlikely to reverse the U.S. utility industry’s shift to natural gas, solar and wind as leading sources of electricity.
General Higher Education Endowment News
 
  • U.S. university endowment performance picked up after losses in 2016 forced some schools to spend more than they earned and consider cutting back. Endowments of all sizes gained a median 4.4% in the six months through Dec. 31, according to Wilshire Trust Universe Comparison Service. Schools said equities contributed to the boost in performance, a move that may be short-lived as stocks turn choppy. The MSCI All-Country World Index rose 6.8% in the period, including reinvested dividends.
 
 
Fossil Fuel & Private Prison Divestment
 
New York's Duty to Divest From Fossil Fuel Companies: State and City Pensions Should Stop Pouring Money into Oil and Coal (Opinion) l The Daily News
  • This opinion piece discusses how New Yorkers have the power, along with other large states, to lead away from climate change and towards an alternative vision of clean renewable energy, good jobs, and environmental justice. If New York State were its own country, it would be the 12th largest economy in the world. That gives it the heft to send a strong signal to the financial markets that have such an outsized influence on global investment patterns. 
  • Asheville City Council's three-member finance committee will hear from city staff this week on a proposal to divest the city's $150 million budget account from Wells Fargo because the bank has played a role in financing the DAPL.
  • The York University Advisory Committee on Responsible Investment (YUACRI) has voted to recommend the University's divestment from arms manufacturers and fossil fuels. YUACRI was established in 2012 to integrate environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) considerations into investment management processes and ownership practices concerning York's $413 million endowment fund.
Swarthmore College Students Cited by College for Sit-In l philly.com
  • Last week, five members of Swarthmore College Mountain Justice, a group of students, faculty, and alumni committed to having the Quaker-founded college divest its fossil fuel investments from the school's endowment fund, received citations after they allegedly failed to leave Amstutz's office. They face sanctions that include a possible warning or probation.
With Sleeping Bags in Tow, 33 Students Begin Sit In Demanding Princeton University Divestment From Fossil Fuels l EcoWatch
  • This week 33 students at the University of Pennsylvania entered College Hall, sleeping bags in tow, to sit in with two demands. These demands were: (1) The immediate divestment of the University's endowment from all companies involved with the extraction of coal and tar sands and (2) The establishment and commencement of a plan for full divestment from all fossil fuel corporations within six months. The students plan to stay until these demands are met and are prepared to risk potential university disciplinary action.
Fossil Fuel Divestment: Harvard Students Blockade Entrance in Protest l Inside Climate News
  • This week, a group of Harvard University students urging university officials to pull the school's investments from fossil fuel companies blocked the entrance to one of the university's main administrative buildings. The group of approximately 20 undergraduate students gathered at the entrances to Harvard's University Hall demanding that the university commit to a permanent divestment from coal companies and hold an open, community-wide meeting on fossil fuel divestment. Harvard currently does not have any investments in coal companies in its $35.7 billion endowment though school officials have said they do not rule out re-investing in coal in the future.
Anti-Intellectualism Against Divestment at University of Pennsylvania is Dangerous (Opinion) l The Daily Pennsylvanian
  • In this opinion piece, University of Pennsylvania student Thomas Lee defends fossil fuel divestment as he discusses endowment risk, returns, and industry examples.
  • Most colleges and universities in the United States are invested in fossil fuel companies— including Harvard University, Stanford University, and Duke University—whether students know it or not. Emerson is no exception. Maureen Murphy, vice president for administration and finance, said the college has a $150 million endowment. The college has no active investments in fossil fuels, but it invests 7% of the endowment in fossil fuels indirectly. 
  • This week Princeton University announced its decision to continue funding for-profit prisons and immigrant detention centers. In this article, members of the divestment movement advocate for 'community members unapologetically make their voices heard'.
Walkout for Private Prison Divestment Disrupts Council of the Princeton University Community Meeting l The Daily Princetonian
  • Princeton Private Prison Divestment held a walkout and rally today at the Council of the Princeton University Community meeting. The protest was in response to the CPUC Resource Committee’s announcement of their decision to reject PPPD’s proposal that the University divest from private prisons.
Investment Manager News
 
NN IP bolsters ESG Investment Decision Process l Investment Europe
  • Dutch asset manager NN Investment Partners (NN IP) has partnered with data provider South Pole Group to strengthen the integration of ESG criteria in its investment decisions. South Pole Group provides information on companies’ carbon emissions, waste and water use. NN IP said this partnership will enable it to gain accurate insights across all asset classes into the emissions intensity of companies and to meet the most detailed information requirements posed by clients.
  • Dutch pension fund PME will expand its sustainable investments as it aims to sustainably invest 10% of its assets by 2021. The pension fund expects it can contribute to, for instance, affordable and sustainable energy, work and economic growth, sustainable innovation and sustainable cities.