Weekly News Round-Up: April 7th, 2017

Upcoming Events
 
 
SRI & ESG Investing at Endowments & Foundations 
  • The Ford Foundation announced this week that its trustees have authorized $1 billion in “mission-related investments” from its $12 billion endowment. The initial investments will be made through private funds targeting affordable housing in the U.S. and access to financial services in emerging growth markets around the world.
  • At a recent meeting of the investment committee of the Board of Trustees of Chatham University, members voted to approve two new investment opportunities that are specifically aimed at excluding fossil fuels and supporting sustainable energy.
 
 
Sustainable, Responsible, Impact & ESG Investing 
Bloomberg Brief l Sustainable Finance
  • This week's Bloomberg Brief highlights how investors seeking sustainable opportunities are finding a natural home in green U.S. municipal bonds, which saw the busiest first quarter for issuance on record and look set to come into full bloom this year; The Ford Foundation commits $1 billion to mission-related investments; and how young women aren't closing the U.S. gender pay gap -- men are sliding backwards.
Why and How Investors Use ESG Information: Evidence from a Global Survey l Harvard Business School
  • Survey data from more than 400 senior investment professionals provides insights into why and how investors use environmental, social, and governance (ESG) information as well as the challenges in using this information. This study also documents what investors believe will be important ESG styles in the future.
Strengthening the Impact Investing Movement l Stanford Social Innovation Review
  • It has been 10 years since the term “impact investing” was officially coined at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center. The past decade has seen an industry that started with a few forward-thinking risk-takers, then grew to attract mainstream investors and philanthropists. Segmenting the field to better align expectations of risk, returns, and impact; increasing the rate of adoption with important stakeholders; and stepping up work in the United States—a look at Omidyar Network’s priorities in advancing the movement.
Across the Returns Continuum l Standford Social Innovation Review
  • For many years, the field of impact investing played host to great debates that involved seemingly irreconcilable positions: Was it possible to achieve both market-rate financial returns and meaningful social impact? Could philanthropic funding coexist effectively with commercial investment? Now, as the field reaches a new stage of maturity, leading social finance organizations are developing models that bring greater sophistication to the work of evaluating investment options.
New Report: Sustainable Investments Grow by 25% Worldwide From 2014-16 l National Law Review
  • Globally, sustainable investment assets have increased in value by 25 percent since 2014. According to the Global Sustainable Investment Alliance’s Global Sustainable Investment Review 2016, “there are now $22.89 trillion of assets being professionally managed under responsible investment strategies.”
  • Investors are plowing ever more into ethical funds to back their views on issues such as global warming and gender equality, but such investments can be confusingly similar to standard funds, except for higher fees and 'green halo' marketing. The $23 trillion SRI investment sector has received a rush of money since the Paris climate agreement and, more recently, in protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's plans to slash environmental regulations.
ESG: From Niche to Norm? l Investments & Pensions Europe
  • In this article, Susanna Rust charts the evolution of responsible investment over the past 20 years.
Social Issues to Drive Share Divestments l The Australian Business Review
  • One of the world’s top responsible investment specialists says the rise of millennials and women in the executive ranks of top companies will prompt more controversial decisions to buy or sell shares in listed companies based on environmental and social impact issues. Jens Peers, chief investment officer and portfolio manager at Mirova — a subsidiary of Natixis, the French asset management giant with more than $US900 billion in assets under management globally — said more fund managers were now questioning how they dealt with climate change, carbon and ethical risk in their portfolio.
ESG Pioneer Sees Challenges Ahead l Financial Advisor
  • The $3.3 billion Parnassus Endeavor Fund, which Jerome Dodson has managed since its inception in 2005, delivered nearly twice the return of the S&P 500 last year and has beaten the market over the long term. Dodson worries that the new administration will reverse many regulations designed to protect current and future generations. 
ESG Investing on the Rise but Lack of Standardized Data a Barrier l Environmental Leader
  • Assets under management in funds using an ESG-only approach were up 5.8% at the end of February, from Dec. 31, and up 17% from the end of 2015, according to Morningstar Inc. data (via Pensions & Investments). But the promise of ESG investing is grounded in data transparency and engagement -- a State Street Corporation survey of investors has found that while obstacles to ESG investing are declining, 60% of institutional investors still say a lack of transparent, standardized data is a significant barrier.
As Trump Rolls Back Regulations, ESG Investing Is Poised To Soar l Financial Times
  • The government may find reasons to make fewer investments in initiatives supporting green energy and gender diversity, but that may give investors more reason to focus on wind and solar projects and companies that hire and promote women internally. ESG investing is being driven by clients, not policy. ESG has moved from an investment philosophy coached in naïve ideals to one that addresses financial reality that companies that adopt policies addressing ESG issues tend to perform better over the long term.
Sustainability Spike -- More Companies Seek ESG Reportability l Forbes
  • In this Q&A, Linda-Eling Lee, Global Head of Research for MSCI ESG Research, discusses ESG-related content and research methodology and how more companies are seeking reportable metrics.
 
 
Shareholder Engagement
 
  • Natasha Lamb, managing director of Arjuna Capital, which focuses on sustainable and social impact investing, said Thursday she had filed proposals at six financial companies urging them to prepare a report addressing their goals at reducing the gender pay gap and including the percentage gap between the pay of men and women. The banks and credit card firms targeted are Citigroup, Wells Fargo, American Express, MasterCard, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase.
JP Morgan Updates ESG Statement and Proxy Voting Guidelines on Website l JP Morgan Asset Management
  • A number of investors, led by Walden Asset Management, along with the City of Seattle Employees’ Retirement System and First Affirmative Financial Network, Dignity Health, Mercy Investment Services  and Rockefeller and Company filed a shareholder resolution requesting a review of JPMorgan’s proxy voting process and record of votes on climate change. The shareholder resolution has been withdrawn. JPM indicated in the dialogue, that it was updating its website to provide fresh insights into the ways it believes climate change creates risks and opportunities for companies and also updated the factors used when evaluating shareholder proposals regarding disclosure and risks related to climate change. View JP Morgan's Investment Perspectives on Corporate Engagement & Proxy Voting here.
  • Not only did mutual fund Vanguard’s proxy voting guidelines change the heading of the relevant section of its guidelines from “Corporate and social policy issues” to “Environmental and social proposals”, the wording of the guidelines also changed. Said Vanguard spokesperson Arianna Stefanoni Sherlock, “Essentially, the update to our voting guidelines are intended to better articulate the types of proposals we will consider supporting. Our standard for support is still based on a clear and strong link between the proposal itself and long term value creation at the subject company."
CalPERS Puts Weight Behind Resolutions at ‘Systemically Important Carbon Emitters’ (Subscription) lResponsible Investor 
  • The California Public Employees’ Retirement System is supporting the shareholder resolutions filed by some of its peers demanding from considerable CO2 polluters, so-called Systemically Important Carbon Emitters (SICEs), to assess their transition to 2-degrees Celsius investing scenarios. The proposals are led by a number of investors, ranging from the New York State’s Comptroller, to faith investors such as Mercy Investment Services, as well as Calvert Investment Management or Rockefeller & Co.
Divestment Ineffective in Bringing About Social Change – CalSTRS’ ESG Policy Draft (Subscription) l Responsible Investor
  • A new draft ESG policy from CalSTRS, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, has underlined its belief that divestment is not an effective strategy for addressing “long-term and persistent ESG risks”. “Divestment eliminates our rights as a shareholder to engage with management and raise awareness of long-term risks and encourage change,” it says. The fund’s new Corporate Governance Report (p.33) includes an estimate that the total compounded costs of all its divestments (tobacco, firearms, US thermal coal and geopolitical restrictions) – over time – are $4.8bn compared to a ‘standard’ index return.
Investment Manager News
 
  • MSCI announced today the launch of MSCI ESG Metrics, provided by MSCI ESG Research LLC. This new tool delivers a standardized set of ESG metrics for 8,500 companies globally, that is usable for in-house analytical models or for clients developing their own investment strategies. ESG Metrics was developed to address critical issues with measuring a portfolio’s ESG risk where a lack of standardized data can be a significant barrier today.
Launch of New FundX Sustainable Impact Fund Brings Momentum to ESG Investing l Yahoo Finance
  • FundX Investment Group announced today that it has launched the FundX Sustainable Impact Fund. The new fund seeks to help investors own funds with strong returns and robust environmental, social and governance ("ESG") standards. "We designed the Sustainable Impact Fund to help investors build wealth and a better world," said FundX President Janet Brown. "Our goal is to help investors meet lifelong investment goals and make a difference."
  • With interest in SRI on a tear, UBS Wealth Management Americas has named an executive to lead its efforts in this area: Stephen Freedman will now be head of the firm’s Sustainable Investing Solutions effort, charged with expanding the wirehouse’s products and services in this area. “He will also promote the understanding of Sustainable Investing concepts and solutions among financial advisors in order to develop new business and help clients pursue their sustainable and impact investment goals,” UBS Wealth Management Americas said in a statement.
Swiss Pension-Backed Advisor Ethos Slams Credit Suisse Over Dakota Access Pipeline (Subscription) l Responsible Investor
  • Ethos, the governance advisory firm backed by Swiss pension funds, has advised its clients against granting discharge to the board of Credit Suisse – in part due to the banking giant’s alleged links with the controversial Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL). Under Swiss law, shareholders vote to release board members from liability for their activities during the year under review, the so-called ‘discharge’. Shareholders that grant discharge lose their right to file claims against board members.

General Endowment News

  • How much does investment management cost? Fiduciaries, donors and stakeholders at endowed institutions have a strong interest in finding a good answer to this question, particularly in this era of low returns when costs may occupy a comparatively large proportion of the total return percentage.
Climate Risk, Science & Regulation
 
To Shrink the Trade Deficit With China, Tax Carbon l Bloomberg
  • When President Donald Trump assumes that any policy to curb greenhouse-gas emissions must be bad for economic growth, job creation and U.S. competitiveness, he has things backwards.This miscalculation extends to U.S. trade policy, the central focus of Trump’s meeting this week with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Trump says he wants to shrink America's trade deficit with China, but the best way to do that would be to focus on the subsidies that China provides its companies through lax environmental standards.
  • President Trump’s unfortunate and misguided rollback of environmental protections has led to a depressing and widespread belief that the United States can no longer meet its commitment under the Paris climate change agreement. But here’s the good news: It’s wrong. In this op-ed, Michael Bloomberg explains why, no matter what roadblocks the White House and Congress throw up, the United States can — and I’m confident, will — meet the commitment it made in Paris in 2015 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet.
Cities Must Lure Private Dollars Fast to Meet Climate Goals l Thomson Reuters Foundation
  • Cities must find ways to tap major private investment fast if they are to build the "green" infrastructure needed to help prevent global warming reaching dangerous levels, experts say. The 90 cities in an international network of megacities committed to tackling climate change - called C40 - will need to raise $375 billion by 2020 for low-carbon transport, buildings and other infrastructure, the group says. Even more is needed worldwide to keep global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, as agreed under the Paris climate deal which took effect last year.
  • As President Trump rolls back Obama's environmental legacy, billion-dollar corporations have stated that because climate change is a significant concern for their business, they'll keep on battling carbon pollution regardless of what the government says. Two years ago, 365 companies and investors — including Nestlé, General Mills, Mars, Staples, Unilever, and Timberland and North Face maker VF Corp. — signed a petition to state governors urging them to implement the Clean Power Plan. Signatories to that statement doubled down their support for the plan this week.
Failed Winter Rains, Looming El Nino Challenge India's Factories l Bloomberg
  • A heat wave combined with a lack of rain has companies across southern India bracing for possible water supply cuts and electricity shortages. The affected area represents a fourth of the nation’s manufacturing output, and includes global auto giants, textile makers and technology companies. The culprit is the weather pattern known as El Nino, and could add to the risk factor for India’s growth. Winter rains fell short and there is also the potential for deficient summer rainfall.
  • One of the world's biggest icebergs ever is poised to break off from an Antarctic ice shelf, but scientists say it's still hanging on by a 12-mile "thread." They also aren't sure when the now 110-mile crack will finally break open the rest of the way, creating a massive iceberg larger than Rhode Island. "It is particularly hard to predict when it will occur," said Adrian Luckman of Project MIDAS, a British Antarctic research project that's keeping watch on the ever-growing crack.
  • Jeffrey R. Immelt, General Electric’s chief executive, says climate change is real, a position at odds with the Trump administration. As a member of a White House manufacturing advisory council, he also has President Trump’s ear. And environmentalists are counting on Mr. Immelt, and other executives close to the president, to use that access to argue for policies to combat global warming when the White House is rolling them back.
Will Millennials Support a Carbon Tax? l Yale Climate Connections
  • A new campaign, Put a Price on It, is mobilizing young Americans to support a tax on global warming pollution. In this interview with Chandler Green, a graduate student at American University, Green discusses how when we account for the full costs of fossil fuels – so those are costs that we pay for air and water pollution, costs that we pay from global warming impacts – when we raise the price of carbon to account for those costs, we have then leveled the playing field for clean energy, we encourage growth there, and thus we reduce harmful emissions.
Clean Energy
 
Investors Are Building Their Own Green-Power Lines l Wall Street Journal
  • What if the wind sweeping down the plains of Wyoming could be harnessed to generate enough electricity to power the city of Los Angeles? It soon could, thanks to a $9 billion wind farm and electricity superhighway backed by billionaire Philip Anschutz—one of a series of transmission-line projects that private investors are bankrolling to bring renewable energy from America’s hinterlands to its urban centers. Unlike big transmission projects of the past, these lines aren’t proposed or paid for by utilities that can pass along the cost to customers and take a guaranteed profit. New power plans are privately financed, similar to oil and gas pipelines.
Fossil Fuel Divestment
 
Why Fossil Fuel Divestment Matters Now More Than Ever l The Huffington Post
  • Opinion piece from 350.org highlighting the ability of the divestment movement to drive real action, by taking the fossil fuel industry to task for its culpability in the climate crisis, by naming its singularly destructive influence. It has led to commitments representing US$5.5 trillion in assets under management from over 700 institutions spanning 76 countries. This May they will lead a "Global Divestment Mobilization" with close to 150 events planned across six continents.
Selecting a Fossil Fuel Free Mutual Fund l Divestment Guide
  • This resource, “Extracting Fossil Fuels from your Portfolio,” developed in collaboration with Trillium Asset Management and 350.org offers insight and analysis about the financial viability of eliminating fossil fuel companies from investment portfolios and steps you can take to reinvest in clean, sustainable, and solutions-oriented options.
  • The University of California has reduced its investments in two oil companies with ties to the Dakota Access pipeline. UC spokesperson Claire Doan said in an email that the University has reduced investments in Energy Transfer Partners Sunoco Logistics Partners L.P. and other fossil fuel companies as part of its broader investment strategy, which follows principles outlined in the UC’s sustainable investment framework.
One Year Later: Swarthmore Students' Thoughts on President Smith and Divestment (Opinion) l The Daily Gazette
  • In this opinion piece, two Swarthmore students reflect on their first year at the college, climate action, and progress on divestment.
Swarthmore Faculty Votes in Favor of Resolution Supporting Fossil Fuel Divestment l The Daily Gazette
  • On March 24th, 53 members of the Swarthmore faculty voted in favor of a resolution expressing support for fossil fuel divestment. The resolution was a reaffirmation of a previous 2015 faculty resolution, passed in the midst of Mountain Justice’s 32-day sit-in, which urged the Board of Managers to divest. The faculty chose to reaffirm the resolution, said Associate Professor of Sociology Lee Smithey, due in part to a “renewed momentum around divestment.”
  • In this opinion piece, a group of Seattle-based Bowdoin College reflect on President Clayton Rose’s recent trip to Seattle. These alumni suggested that Bowdoin needs to divest to remain true to Joseph McKeen’s “common good” foundational vision, and President Rose's response was “business as usual.”  He stated that fossil fuel divestment is merely symbolic, and does not have significant transformational value towards society—despite historical evidence to the contrary when one considers the success of the South Africa divestment campaign of the 1980s in breaking the apartheid system.
Dissent: Harvard Hypocrisy in Regards to Fossil Fuel Divestment (Opinion) l The Harvard Crimson
  • In a political and economic era where climate change denialism and deregulation are rampant, it is imperative that the University take a stronger position on the environment. This stance requires more than simply an acknowledgment of climate change to be true; it also necessitates tangible action. That action can only be shown through the unequivocal divestment of fossil fuels. It is, without question, hypocritical that the University continues to support climate change research and scholarship while continuing to hold even a small portion of its endowment in the fossil fuel industry.
For a Carbon-Free Future, Divestment at Harvard is the Wrong Answer (Opinion) l The Harvard Crimson
  • This past week, Divest Harvard prevented administrators from entering University Hall. They urged Harvard to announce a moratorium on investments in coal as well as to hold a University-wide meeting on divestment from fossil fuels in general. In contrast, the University has reiterated its long-standing view that divestment is both ineffective and politically dangerous. President Faust and other University leaders are policymakers, educators, researchers, and administrators. The Editorial Board encourages them to continue to prioritize the practical value of Harvard’s work over the impulse to feel good about our high-minded moralism.
  • Four NYU Divest members visited the corporate office of Board of Trustees Chairman William Berkley on March 31 in order to deliver a letter of demands. Their letter outlines demands for a revote on the board’s June 2016 decision to continue investing in the fossil fuels industry from the fossil fuels industry.

Hundreds of Auckland University Medical Students Call for Fossil Fuel Divestment l Scoop Politics

  • This week, over 100 medical students from the Auckland University Medical Students Association (AUMSA) rallied to call on the University of Auckland to cease investments in coal, oil, and gas companies, to protect public health and reduce the impacts of climate change. The rally coincided with a letter written to this end signed by over 300 medical students and the AUMSA executive, which was delivered to the Dean of the Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, Professor John Fraser.

Behind Closed Doors: Sit-in Negotiations and Penn’s Blatant Hypocrisy (Opinion) l The Daily Pennsylvanian

  • In this opinion piece, a UPenn student expresses how The University of Pennsylvania acted extremely hypocritically throughout the negotiations during the Fossil Free Penn sit-in. On Monday, March 27th, students began sitting in College Hall demanding immediate divestment from coal and tar sands companies and the initiation of a plan for full divestment within the next six months. Throughout the next four days, members of Fossil Free Penn met with three administrators consistently: Gregory Rost, Joann Mitchell and Hikaru Kozuma. In these meetings, the author began to understand the deep hypocrisy that Penn exhibits and its lack of true regard for student opinion or input.

Yale-NUS Students Launch Singapore’s First Divestment Campaign l Eco-Business

  • A group of students at Singapore’s Yale-NUS College has kicked off a campaign calling on the university to divest its S$365 million endowment from fossil fuel companies.
  • Students at the University of Pittsburgh and Chatham University are joining students at universities across the country as they urge trustees at their schools to sell off their endowment investments in fossil fuels — typically classified as coal, oil and natural gas — and pledge to be free of fossil fuel investments in the future.

Private Prison Divestment
 
Editorial: The Importance of Opposing Divestment at Princeton l The Daily Princetonian
  • On March 27, Princeton Private Prison Divest staged a walkout at the Council of the Princeton University Community meeting to show support for divestment from private prisons. The Editorial Board of The Daily Princetonian commends the University Resources Committee’s refusal to back down in the face of intense political pressure and urges the committee to provide no commitment to divest from private prisons.  Princeton University is an educational institution, not a political advocacy organization. Decisions made by the University must further educational goals, not political ends.