Weekly News Round-Up: April 21st, 2017

Opportunities for Action
 
Sign-On: Bangladesh Accord for Fire and Building Safety l The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility & Boston Common Asset Management
  • Investors are invited to sign this statement by providing your information on the online form hereThe deadline is close of business, Friday, April 21st.
  • Our Climate, joined by the presidents of Dickinson College, Pitzer College, Swarthmore College, Vassar College, and Wesleyan University, are inviting other college and university presidents to sign a letter calling on national and state elected officials to put a price on carbon. 
Higher Education Backs Low Carbon USA l Second Nature
  • Building on a January letter to the new leadership in DC, Second Nature has worked with partners to create a new public site for this letter that demonstrates its alignment with over 1,000 business leaders under the banner of Low Carbon USA. If your institution would like to participate, please submit via the form on the linked website.
  • The annual Second Nature Climate Leadership Awards recognize innovative and advanced leadership in sustainability, climate mitigation, and resilience at signatory campuses of the Climate Leadership Commitments. 
Upcoming Events
 
New Resources
 

 Make a Clean Break: Your Guide to Fossil Fuel Free Investing l Trillium Asset Management, Green Century & 350

  • This guide provides investors with insights and tools to eliminate fossil fuel companies from their portfolios and reinvest in clean, sustainable, and solutions-oriented investments that are advancing the transition toward a zero-carbon economy. The guide offers specific steps individuals can take to start investing fossil fuel free. Inside the guide, readers will find background information about divestment and fossil fuel free investing, four reasons to avoid coal, oil, and gas companies, how to divest, which offers a suite of online resources to help individuals divest and reinvest fossil fuel free, and an introduction to reinvesting in clean, sustainable investments.
News from IEN Members
 
UMaine System Marks Earth Day With New ESG Investment Policy l Maine Biz
  • Maine's public universities marked Earth Day 2017 by announcing today a new investment policy linked to sustainability. The universities also released a report that shows the seven-campus UMaine System has achieved a 34% decline in carbon emissions over the last decade. In a release announcing the investment policy change, the UMaine System explained that ESG investing models include such factors as environmental sustainability, effect on carbon footprint, the treatment of workers and the transparency of their governing principles.
Sustainable, Responsible, Impact & ESG Investing
 
Bloomberg Brief l Sustainable Finance
  • This week's Bloomberg Brief highlights how U.S. House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling wants to require anyone seeking to put a proposal on the corporate ballot to hold a minimum of 1 percent of a company’s outstanding stock for three years. Currently, shareholders with as little as $2,000 in shares for a year or more can do so. There are also stories inside about how Tesla paid off some SolarCity bonds early; French banks top green bonds league tables; Efficiency-focused indexes are outperforming; Big oil backs the Paris climate accord; Sandberg called 'hypocrite' as Facebook, Google shield pay data; and how Microsoft, Google and Apple are buying renewable energy.
Sustainability Leaders Issue Call-to-Action to CEOs l 3BL Media
  • The leaders of the world's two largest corporate and investor sustainability initiatives today called on CEOs to ensure their corporate pension plans – an untapped sustainability area – adopt responsible investing policies – highlighting concrete benefits including improved investment performance, fulfilling fiduciary duty and managing regulatory risk and boosting corporate sponsor credibility. According to a guide released today by the UN-supported Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) and UN Global Compact, CEOs should ensure plans mirror their own sustainability values.
Sustainable Investing Grows on Asset Owner Demand l Bloomberg
  • Sustainable investing is moving to broader investment analysis from the confines of specialty funds. Pension funds focused on long-term returns, particularly in Europe, are a main driver. Recognition of the financial cost of environmental, social and governance issues, better disclosure of company data and investor demand are among factors spurring the change. Issues such as energy efficiency, water scarcity, safety and diversity are gaining ground with a wider investor base, even without a label.
Value Meets Values - The Rise of ESG in Investing l LinkedIn
  • This article explores how ESG coalesces different areas of concern into a single concept that appeals to both value- and values-driven investors. Disclosure of ESG information can provide a holistic view of a company’s sustainability. The ESG issues reported span a broad breadth of topics including green financing, social responsibility, human capital, workplace diversity, executive compensation, and corporate governance. A key by-product of greater ESG disclosure will be enhanced transparency in investment decisions.
Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development Forum Highlights Value of Private Sector Role in SDGs l IISD
  • The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) held its annual Global Forum on Development with a focus on catalyzing the private sector to support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and explore new avenues of partnership to mobilize the needed resources. The 12th annual Global Forum on Development convened on 5 April 2017, in Paris, France, on the theme of ‘Working together to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDGs).
Trump No Roadblock to ESG Investing Train l Insurance News Net
  • At first glance, a money manager might look at the budget-slashing, executive order-heavy environmental policies from the Trump administration, and think “stay away.” But new evidence (especially larger fund inflows) into sustainable investment reveals an opportunity for advisors to spin some gold out of political flax. According to the U.S. Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment, so-called “impact investing” (also known as environmental, social and governance, or “ESG” funds) attract 20 percent of proceeds invested by U.S. asset managers.
United Nations Convenes SDG Finance Lab to Mobilize Institutional Investment (Subscription) l Responsible Investor
  • The United Nations has convened an initiative called the SDG Financing Lab to mobilize the “vast pools” of capital held by institutional investors to promote sustainable financial systems. It took place at a high-level event at the UN Headquarters in New York this week organized in collaboration with the UN Environment Inquiry into the Design of a Sustainable Financial System.
Here Come The Sustainable Development Goals l The Huffington Post
  • The very latest “Really Big Thing “ to hit the responsible and sustainable investment space is the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), an internationally agreed set of 17 worthy but incredibly ambitious goals which were adopted by world leaders in the fall of 2015, and came into effect in January 2016. While in the first instance adopted by and targeted at countries, it is explicitly expected that the private sector must and will be heavily involved Unlike their UN predecessors, the Millennium Development Goals, the SDGs have attracted widespread interest not only from multilateral corporations, but also from large institutional investors.
Does Sustainable Investing Make Sense? ETFs in Focus l NASDAQ
  • This article discusses whether SRI/ESG investing generates investment benefits. Various studies have proved that sustainable practices have led to lower cost of capital and better operational performance of the firm, which in turn has led to higher cash flow generation. To discuss this further, we will now talk about a few ETF investments in this space.
Your Guide to Sustainable Investing l Morningstar
  • Do you want sustainable, long-term investment returns? Increasing evidence suggests that in order to reach your investment goals the companies that deliver the best returns to shareholders are those which care about ESG. In the past, ethical investing was thought of as a lower-return strategy, investing for people who wanted to put morals above profits. But now evidence suggests that the opposite is true; companies which embrace low-carbon technology for example, are more likely to be future proofed, companies which treat their employees fairly are more likely to have consistent cash flows.
A New Spin on ESG ETFs l ETF Trends
  • Exchange traded funds and other strategies that incorporate ESG are increasingly popular with investors and issuers are obliging with an array of new ETFs adhering to ESG investing principles. Last week, SerenityShares, a unit of SerenityShares Investments, a Washington-DC based registered investment advisor, introduced the SerenityShares IMPACT ETF. The new ETF “aims to identify firms whose activities benefit society and the planet while excluding investments in traditional areas of ESG concern such as tobacco, offensive weapons, and fossil fuel (oil, gas, and coal) exploration,” according to a statement from SerenityShares.
Nearly 50 Years After the Inaugural Earth Day, Impact Investing Arrives lYahoo Finance
  • The first Earth Day was held nearly 50 years ago, on April 22, 1970, as an outpouring of support for environmental reform. It was the rallying cry of a movement that would see, in the following months and years, the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of legislation like the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act. For investors -- and ultimately, for businesses themselves that want to tap the public markets for funds -- impact investing may be just as groundbreaking.

Shareholder Engagement & Fiduciary Duty
  • A top House Republican and one of Washington's most powerful lobbying groups are working to dismantle a tool investors use to challenge companies on issues like climate change: the shareholder proposal process. The "Financial CHOICE Act" — a sweeping bill sponsored by House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) that aims to replace the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act aims to hobble that process. The latest version of the bill would change Securities and Exchange Commission rules to bar any investor with less than a 1 percent stake in a company from filing a resolution, according to a committee memo. At some companies, 1 percent could be tens of thousands of dollars. At others, it could be billions.
Green-Aware Investors Can Do Good — And Well l The Register Guard
  • Are business interests incompatible with climate-change mitigation? Perhaps for some companies — but for others, the hurricanes, droughts and floods associated with climate change represent one of the many risks businesses must confront to be successful. Not surprisingly, a growing number of businesses address environmental risk or make changes with environmental consequences in mind. For investors, incorporating environmental factors into investment decisions is an increasingly smart approach. Consideration of ESG factors has gone mainstream, with investment advisers increasingly using ESG integration. Yet the assumption persists that ESG investing is fiscally imprudent and will result in lower returns. This article discusses why that is not the case.
Green Bonds
 
This Large Money Manager Created a New Way to Invest in Green Bonds l Green Biz
  • Last month VanEck launched the first U.S.-listed fixed-income exchange-traded fund (ETF) for green bonds, the VanEck Vectors Green Bond ETF, which offers investors a new way to invest in projects that help mitigate the impacts of climate change. The ETF allows investors to invest in a diversified portfolio of U.S. and foreign green bonds, and it will track the performance and yield characteristics of the S&P Green Bond Select Index. With asset managers such as BlackRock Inc. and State Street Corp. launching green bond index funds in Europe, how will these funds affect the overall green bond landscape?
General Higher Education & Endowment News
 
Universities Seek to Defend Endowments From Republican Tax Plan l Yahoo Finance
  • Some of the richest U.S. colleges are pushing back against scrutiny by Congress over the tax-exempt status of their endowments. Lobbying disclosure forms show almost two dozen schools such as Princeton University, University of Notre Dame and Cornell University are including endowment tax issues in their federal agenda, along with perennial topics such as student loans and funding for scientific research.
As Interest Grows, Yale Carbon Charge Leads the way in Studying Carbon Pricing l Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition
  • Earlier this month, officials from the Yale Carbon Charge participated in a strategy session at the Connecticut State Capitol with regional legislators interested in developing carbon-pricing policies. Yale also will take part in an upcoming symposium at Boston University with representatives from Microsoft, looking at how private companies and universities such as Yale have gone about creating, testing, and evaluating internal carbon taxes as a way to reduce CO2 emissions. Yale’s carbon charge program applies a $40 charge per ton of CO2. The Yale program uses a market-based, fee-and-dividend model, which experts say is most likely to be the approach used by governments in the United States.
Climate Risk, Science & Regulation
 
Nitrogen Pollution: An Emerging Focus of Campus Sustainability Efforts l The Huffington Post
  • Many colleges and universities are working to transition toward sustainability in their academic programs, operations and engagement with communities. A major emphasis of their efforts has been reducing the environmental harms associated with campus operations. Typical initiatives include reducing emissions of climate changing greenhouse gases. While many of these initiatives can and do reduce nitrogen pollution, this has not been a significant or deliberate focus of college and university sustainability programs. That may be changing. The University of Virginia set a goal in 2013 to reduce its emissions of reactive nitrogen 25% by the year 2025 relative to base year 2009, the first to do so. Another eighteen schools have joined UVA in a research network to study their nitrogen pollution and consider similar policies.
Global Sustainability Leader UC Launches Climate Lab, an Innovative Six Part Video Series in Partnership with Vox on Climate Change Solutions l University of California
  • The University of California and Vox announced this week Climate Lab, a six-episode video series exploring global climate change and UC’s groundbreaking work to mitigate its effects. Hosted by conservation scientist and UCLA visiting researcher M. Sanjayan, the series features eye-opening conversations with experts, scientists, thought leaders and activists about how everything from clean energy to food, religion to smartphones, affects the future of our planet.
 
 
Fossil Fuel Divestment
  • This week, Trillium Asset Management, Green Century Capital Management, and 350.org announced the release of a new guide for investors on fossil fuel free investing titled Make a Clean Break: Your Guide to Fossil Fuel Free Investing. The first version of the guide was launched in 2013 and updated in 2014. The new guide provides investors with insights and tools to eliminate fossil fuel companies from their portfolios and reinvest in clean, sustainable, and solutions-oriented investments that are advancing the transition toward a zero-carbon economy.
  • Since its inception in the fall of 2012, Bowdoin Climate Action (BCA) has been dedicated to pursuing the goal of climate justice, on our campus and beyond. Thus far that has largely manifested in the form of a campaign to divest the College’s endowment from the top 200 oil and gas companies. According to student leaders of the campaign, it is time to shift the tactic. BCA sees Maine’s impending gubernatorial, senate and state legislature elections in 2018 as a ripe opportunity to further our ultimate goal of climate justice. We can be instrumental in making climate change one of the top priorities for the Maine public and politicians alike in this coming election cycle.
  • In 2014, Wellesley students asked the College to divest from fossil fuels and their request was denied by the Board of Trustees and President Bottomly. Instead, they promised the students other sustainable initiatives instead; one of the most importantbeing the creation of the Green Revolving Fund (GRF) or similar fund for sustainable projects. A pilot of the GRF was launched with $500,000 — however, the Office of Sustainability only spent $180,000 before the fund was frozen without notice or explanation. In order to gather support for the GRF, students have organized a student petition to deliver to the administration.
Montclair State University Students Campaign for University Divestment of Fossil Fuels l The Montclarion
  • Students in the Montclair State Environmental Club have taken it upon themselves to convince Montclair State University to divest from the six different fossil fuel companies it currently has corporate bonds for, including BP and ExxonMobil. Members of the Environmental Club executive board are working with the Student Government Association (SGA) to create a poll where students can vote on whether or not they would like their school to divest.

Divest Dartmouth Holds Keystone Pipeline Protest l The Dartmouth

  • Instead of their typical location inside trash bags outside of fraternities and sororities, empty Keystone Light cans were instead arranged in the shape of a pipeline on the front lawn of Parkhurst Hall on Thursday afternoon to protest the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Divest Dartmouth, which organized the protest, called upon College President Phil Hanlon and the Board of Trustees to divest endowment holdings from the 200 “dirtiest” fossil fuel companies, according to a Divest Dartmouth member.
Fossil Free Macalester College Changes Tactics in Fight for Divestment l The Mac Weekly
  • Macalester’s Investment Office estimates that the College’s endowment currently includes around $20 to $25 million invested in fossil fuel-related ventures through a number of mutual funds. Fossil Free Mac will be taking a different approach this time around with their calls for divestment. The group altered their strategy after details about the institution’s investments in fossil fuel companies were unearthed during a meeting last November with Vice President for Administration and Finance David Wheaton: Macalester has $49 million invested in oil and gas limited private partnerships. Recently the Student Government passed an official resolution calling on the administration to “…enact a moratorium on private oil and gas partnerships in order to divorce our endowment from direct funding of fossil fuel infrastructure.”

We Don’t Have a Democracy”: A Response to Chancellor Wrighton at Washington University (Opinion) l Student Life

  • On April 14, Fossil Free WashU met with Chancellor Wrighton for the second time this semester. For the past four years students have been asking Washington University’s administration to divest from the top 200 dirtiest fossil fuel companies. Fossil Free has finally been refused outright. Students spoke with the Chancellor and his chief of staff, and while they may have received our answer, it was behind closed doors. Following this meeting, the students decided to release insights that reach beyond their campaign. As a group dedicated to voicing student concerns about the endowment and its implications, Fossil Free WashU shared the following considerations with the greater University community.
Amherst Area Activists Hold Demonstration Outside Bank of America Protesting Investment in Fossil Fuel l Mass Live
  • This week, With props of money, cigars and an oil-like substance, a group of area residents staged a nearly hour-long demonstration in front of the Bank of America to inspire customers to divest from banks supporting fossil fuel.  

University System of Maryland Foundation Won’t Commit to Fossil Fuel Divestment Deadline l The Diamondback

  • Almost a year after a University System of Maryland Foundation committee created formal recommendations to divest from fossil fuels, it hasn't committed to a deadline and has refused to release its progress to the public. The foundation, which oversees investments for the University System of Maryland's 12 institutions and 11 other institutions affiliated with the system, formed an ad hoc committee in May 2016 to evaluate a proposal created by the student group Fossil Free MD to divest from fossil fuels.
Johns Hopkins Forum Explores the Pros and Cons of Fossil Fuel Divestment l JHU Hub
  • John Hopkins University invited four experts to share perspectives on the issue of fossil fuel divestment as it engages in its own discussions of whether to end private investments in fossil fuel companies. Nearly a third of the university's $3.8 billion endowment is privately invested. The Johns Hopkins divestment proposal is under consideration by the Public Interest Investment Advisory Committee, a panel of students, faculty, and staff appointed to advise the university on the social impacts of its investments.
Does the University of South Florida Invest in BP, Big Tobacco, Weapons and Prisons? l PolitiFact Florida
  • University of South Florida students, faculty and alumni are revamping their efforts to have more say in how the university invests its money. A new video called "#HeyJudy" from the USF Divest coalition urges USF administrators to stop investing in a number of industries that they don’t support, such as private prison operators, tobacco companies, oil companies and weapons manufacturers.
Harvard Students Say Action is Needed: Divestment, Politics, and Morality (Opinion) l Harvard Political Review
  • Divest Harvard is a student activist group. On February 21st, they asked the administration that divestment from coal begin by March 10. Disappointingly, they received in return only another letter claiming that divestment is not in line with the University’s mission. But Harvard’s lack of action is irresponsible and risky. This opinion piece outlines why.
MU Student Groups Want University of Missouri System to Divest Interest in Fossil Fuels l The Missourian
  • Representatives from MU student government organizations are calling on the University of Missouri System to discontinue allowing its endowments to fund fossil fuels. The Missouri Students Association passed a resolution Tuesday night asking the UM System to divest from funding fossil fuel companies through the system's $1.5 billion Endowment Pool by 2022. The resolution also asks the system to provide financial support to the green energy sector
Private Prison Divestment
 
Princeton University Evasion Tactics: The Politics of the “Apolitical” (Opinion) l The Princetonian
  • This article discusses The Princetonian Editorial Board's recent article characterizing divestment as a “political end” which would damage the University’s educational capacities. In doing so, it argued against the prevailing campus consensus in support of private prison divestment, demonstrated by a successful faculty petition and vast majorities of undergraduate and graduate referenda participants. Ironically, the Board makes its own political agenda clear when it claims that “the contracting of certain government services ... can have negative, even disastrous effects,” but still fails to be “inherently immoral.” Inflammatory editorials, however, are far less harmful than the diversions from institutional accountability favored by administrators.

New Harvard University Group Calls for Private Prison Divestment l The Crimson

  • Students have launched a new effort urging Harvard to divest—this time taking aim at the University’s holdings in private prison stocks. The new undergraduate-led initiative, called the Harvard College Project for Justice, disseminated a petition over some House lists last week calling for Harvard to divest from “direct and indirect investments in private prison stock, as well as publicly commit to a moratorium on such investments in the future.”