Weekly News Round-Up: June 9th, 2017

New IEN Member

Upcoming Events

Breakfast Briefing: Environmental, Social & Governance Investing l Fund Intelligence, June 15, 2017, New York, NY
  • The US Breakfast Briefing, a free to attend event, featuring a panel-led discussion and informal networking. Join for an in-depth discussion with representatives from foundations, endowments, and asset management firms on socially responsible investing.
  • There are now 1,700 PRI signatories, from over 50 countries, with assets approaching US$62 trillion, committed to incorporating ESG issues into investment analysis and decision-making. This webinar will explore how SASB standards can help PRI signatories fulfill their commitments and adhere to the values that undergird the PRI principles.
Impact Capitalism Summit - Nantucket | Big Path Capital, July 19-20, 2017, Nantucket, MA 
  • This Summit will focus on key factors that are changing the impact investing landscape. IEN will be partnering with Big Path, Ceres, and others to host a pre-Summit event focused on opportunities for investing in clean energy and climate solutions.
 
Opportunities for Action
 
Grand Coalition Statement on Paris Agreement l Second Nature
  • The Administration announced that the United States is withdrawing from the Paris Agreement. It is clear that higher education, in alignment with a grand coalition of other vital sectors of the US economy, must continue to lead the nation’s climate actions. Join mayors, governors, and business leaders in demonstrating our national commitment to the principles and targets of the Paris Agreement. This joint statement is the first time that these sectors have joined together publicly in a strong show of support for climate action that is so vital to the future of our country.
  • IEN is pleased to support The SRI Conference Student Scholarship. The scholarship is run by a group of First Affirmative Financial Network alumni and longtime affiliates to bring qualified young people to The SRI Conference. Their goal is to insure that the culture, commitment, and competence of the pioneer SRI movement be sustained into the next generation. Applications are accepted through September 11thclick here to apply. Winners are announced in late September.  For questions or additional information on this program, please contact SRIscholarship15@gmail.com

 

Sustainable, Responsible, Impact & ESG Investing
 
  • The National Geographic Society announced Wednesday it will invest $50 million of its $1.2 billion endowment in impact investments. "At National Geographic, we are committed to changing the world through science, exploration, education and storytelling," said Gary E. Knell, president and CEO, in a news release. "We recognized the opportunity to double down on our ability to make an impact — contributing to a better society not just through the grants we make, but by making investments that deliver both financial and societal returns."
Bloomberg Brief l Sustainable Finance
  • This week's Bloomberg Brief highlights how  U.S. municipalities are expected to ramp up issuance of green bonds even as President Donald Trump plans to exit the Paris agreement on global warming, according to the Climate Bonds Initiative; The market for renewables in Africa is drawing strong investor interest, says African Infrastructure Investment Managers CEO Jurie Swart; and the U.S. House of Representatives moved ahead this week on a plan to consider a bill that would block all but the largest investors from putting proposals up for consideration at a company's annual meeting.
ESG: You Don't Need To Give Up Performance To Invest In A Sustainable Way l Forbes
  • In this Q&A with Janet Brown, President and CEO of FundX Investment Group, Brown explains what ESG is, trends in the space and opportunities for investment.
Private Real Asset Funds on Par with ESG Investments l Chief Investment Officer
  • Funds that invest in private real assets, such as timber, real estate, and infrastructure, can offer similar objectives and returns as environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investments, according to a report from nonprofit organization Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN). The “Financial Performance of Real Assets Impact Investments” report analyzed the financial performance of private real assets impact investment funds in three sectors: timber, real estate, and infrastructure.
  • The International Trade Union Confederation Global Poll this year reveals that 85 percent of the world’s people say the world would be a better place if their government were more committed to action on climate change. In order to have a chance to stay as far below the 2°C limit as possible, emissions must be reduced to zero as soon as can be achieved. Entire economic sectors must transform their carbon footprint to reach that goal. If we are to live within planetary boundaries, all economic activity has to contribute to realizing a circular economy – one that reduces waste, reuses, and recycles.
Impact Investing Entering the Mainstream: The impact on Asia l Asia Asset Management
  • Impact investing, according to a canonical definition developed by the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) and Cambridge Associates, means investing “made into companies, organizations, and funds with the intention to generate a measurable, beneficial social or environmental impact alongside a financial return”. This article discusses what the characteristics and growth opportunities are of impact investing and how far they are appropriate and already implemented in Asia.
  • This formerly niche corner of investing has become increasingly mainstream, partly because it offers a tantalizing opportunity to target millennial customers. Big-name players are getting involved, such as Morgan Stanley, which has created an Institute for Sustainable Investing and recently raised more than $125 million for a global impact fund. The prominent venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz is backing OpenInvest, which matches people with socially responsible investments. All the new entrants are bringing more credibility to the field, but they’ve also coincided with some growing pains.
Shareholder Engagement
Why is the Business Roundtable Working So Hard to Destroy Shareholder Proposals? l Huffington Post
  • Co-authored by Tim Smith, Director of ESG Shareowner Engagement, Walden Asset Management, this piece discusses how earlier this year, the Business Roundtable (BRT) sent a letter to the Administration highlighting 16 regulations that the organization thought were “of most concern” to its members, noting that the regulations “directly and negatively impact economic growth.” One of those was the shareholder proposal process, which the letter described as “activist investors with insignificant stakes in public companies make shareholder proposals that pursue social or political agendas unrelated to the interests of the shareholders as a whole.” What is motivating the BRT, an organization with almost 200 CEO members, to try to essentially eliminate this fundamental right of shareholders?
  • Facebook shareholders have once again rejected a proposal for Facebook to prepare a gender pay equity report to assess pay between men and women across race and ethnicity. A stockholder proposal called for Facebook to prepare a report by December 2017 around the company’s policies and goals to reduce the gender pay gap. Shareholders rejected a similar proposal last year. Facebook, whose board of directors recommended a vote against the proposal, argued that it has already been reviewing compensation fairness to ensure pay equity for years. However, as noted on Facebook’s annual shareholder call today by Natasha Lamb, managing partner at Arjuna Capital, a 2014 Glassdoor study found that female software engineers at Facebook make $5,949 less than their male counterparts.
A Big Climate Change Vote aAgainst Exxon Mobil, With Some Heavyweight Investors Behind it l CNBC
  • On the same day the news broke that President Trump will reportedly opt out of the Paris climate change deal, preliminary voting results showed that Exxon Mobil shareholders won a battle against the oil and gas company's management to finally require a report on climate change. A big voice hidden in the victory for Exxon Mobil shareholders, according to one report, was the votes of the world's largest asset managers and ETF companies. The Washington Post reported that BlackRock, State Street Global Advisors and Vanguard Group all voted against Exxon Mobilmanagement and required that the company report on climate change.
  • Forget President Donald Trump's planned Rose Garden announcement Thursday of his policy on the Paris climate accord. The more important decision happened in a Dallas concert hall, with far less fanfare, the previous day. More than 60 percent of shareholders in Exxon Mobil Corp. backed a resolution calling for the world's biggest publicly traded oil company to disclose how technological advances and action on climate change could affect its portfolio of assets. Most significant were some of the major investors reported to have supported the proposal, which was opposed by Exxon's board. BlackRock Inc. voted in favor, while State Street Corp. and Vanguard Group likely did the same, the Washington Post wrote Wednesday.
  • Norway's $960bn sovereign wealth fund is to start pushing banks it has invested in to provide much greater disclosure on the climate impact of their lending, according to reports.
Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals News
 
  • At most of the nearly 120 colleges and universities whose presidents had signed a pledge Friday to meet the goals laid out in the Paris Climate Agreement, the signatures won’t lead to a sea change. These are institutions, by and large, that have already committed to reduce their carbon footprint. But in joining a coalition of business leaders, mayors, and governors set on helping the United States meet international targets for greenhouse-gas emissions, the institutions are attempting to send a clear message: Now that President Trump has pulled the United States out of the climate accord, we’ll fill a leadership void on a global issue. Or, as the pledge’s headline puts it: "We Are Still In."
Withdrawal From Paris Accord Will Spur Interest in ESG, Advisers Say l Investment News
  • President Donald J. Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord and renegotiate its terms won't lessen the need for environmental, social and governance investing, financial advisers say. Rather, it will increase it. In the United States, at least $7 trillion was focused on ESG in 2016, according to The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment. That's up from $3.7 trillion in 2012 and $639 billion in 1995, according to Envestnet PMC. "My first reaction is that it's  bad day for the planet, a sad day for the economy, but a great day for sustainable investing," said Andrei Cherny, CEO of Aspiration, an ESG advisory firm. "ESG will matter more than ever before."
  • Investors have said that President Trump's decision to turn his back on the Paris Climate Agreement ignores the economic benefits that renewable energy brings. Trump’s decision to remove America from the Paris Climate deal, a non-legally binding pact made between members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to curb global warming, was met with widespread condemnation domestically and abroad.  While the move was not an off-brand for the 45th president, many noted it was a poor choice for the US economy. That is because investment into renewable, clean energy has been on the rise in the US and around the globe.
US Withdrawal From Paris Accord no Threat to ESG Investing l Pensions Expert
  • US president Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord will not affect the UK’s growing implementation of environmental, social and governance criteria on investment strategies, experts have said.
Paris Pullout Pits Chamber Against Some of Its Biggest Members l Bloomberg
  • As President Donald Trump mulled whether to exit the Paris climate accord, companies as varied as Dow Chemical Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp. and Citigroup Inc. prodded him to stay in. But when Trump announced his decision, he cited research from one business behemoth that’s issued a steady stream of criticism to the Paris deal, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that counts all three companies as members. That disconnect between corporate executives and the nation’s top corporate lobbying force is reviving pressure on the Chamber -- and on the companies that remain members despite their differences over climate policy.
  • Many have sounded off on President Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. This article offers a roundup of the most interesting assessments, including Tesla and Disney CEOs distancing themselves from the Trump Administration.
Bloomberg Commits $15 Million to UN Climate Change Framework l Philanthropy News Digest
  • In response to President Donald Trump's decision to pull the United States out of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, Bloomberg Philanthropies has announced a $15 million commitment to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Executive Secretariat.
  • Writing for Fast Company, Ben Paynter offers an update on how impact investing relates to the United Nations’ 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Paynter references the Global Impact Investing Network’s 2017 Annual Impact Investor Survey in making his point that the SDGs are serving to advance and shape this relatively new form of philanthropy. At least, this was the case for the 209 impact investing groups surveyed, which together have at least $114 billion under management. These investors (fund managers, banks, foundations, pension funds, etc.) committed $22.1 billion to 8,000 impact investments in 2016.
  • Donald Trump's announcement that the U.S. will not honor the Paris Climate Accord is a move that damages the international effort to confront global warming and yanks American policy and leadership back a generation. This article outlines how this affects risks and opportunities in the sector.
Climate Risk, Science & Regulation
 
  • Monday, a grand total of 1,219 governors, mayors, businesses, investors, and colleges and universities from across the U.S. or with significant operations in the U.S., representing the broadest cross-section of the American economy yet assembled in pursuit of climate action, declared their intent to continue to ensure the U.S. remains a global leader in reducing carbon emissions. Signatories include leaders from 125 cities, 9 states, 902 businesses and investors, and 183 colleges and universities. Participating cities and states represent 120 million Americans and contribute $6.2 trillion to the U.S. economy.
  • Just a few years ago, the world watched nervously as India went on a building spree of coal-fired power plants, more than doubling its capacity and claiming that more were needed. Coal output, officials said, would almost triple, to 1.5 billion tons, by 2020. Rather than building coal-fired plants, it is now canceling many in the early planning stages. And last month, the government lowered its annual production target for coal to 600 million tons from 660 million. The sharp reversal, welcome news to world leaders trying to avert the potentially deadly effects of global warming, is a reflection both of the changing economics of renewable energy and a growing environmental consciousness in a country with some of the worst air pollution in the world.
Carbon Dioxide Set an All-Time Monthly High l Climate Central
  • With May in the books, it’s official: carbon dioxide set an all-time monthly record. It’s a sobering annual reminder that humans are pushing the climate into a state unseen in millions of years. Carbon dioxide peaked at 409.65 parts per million for the year, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Clean Energy
 
China Looks to Capitalize on Clean Energy as U.S. Retreats l The New York Times
  • China is capitalizing on the leadership vacuum left after President Trump said last week that he would pull the United States out of the Paris accord to limit climate change. China has already started an expensive campaign at home and abroad to solidify its considerable hold on solar, wind and other energy-saving businesses. If successful, China would win the economic and diplomatic spoils that the United States and some European countries have long enjoyed from dominating businesses like software, computer chips and airplanes.
Governor Cuomo Announces Major Climate and Jobs Initiative in Partnership with the Worker Institute at Cornell University ILR's School and Climate Jobs NY to Help Create 40,000 Clean Energy Jobs by 2020 l New York State
  • Governor Andrew M. Cuomo recently announced the Clean Climate Careers initiative following the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord. The initiative is a multi-pronged strategy to grow New York's emerging clean energy economy and prepare the workforce for the long-term careers associated with this industry. In partnership with the ILR School's Worker Institute at Cornell University and Climate Jobs NY, this initiative focuses on accelerating energy efficiency and renewable energy growth to make New York a magnet for new energy technologies and creating 40,000 new, good-paying clean energy jobs by 2020.
General Endowment News
 
  • Endowments and foundations have turned to passive investments after hedge funds disappointed with high fees and poor performance. Now, the plan is to stay put for the next 12 months, according to a survey. More than 40 percent of business officers said they increased passive investment strategies in the past three years, according to the survey released June 5 by NEPC, a Boston-based consulting firm with 109 endowment and foundation clients with assets of $60 billion. More than 50 percent of 74 endowments and foundations questioned said they plan to maintain their strategy in the next year.
  • Robert Wallace, the head of Stanford University’s $25 billion endowment, urged caution when investing in private equity and venture capital, saying that an excess of capital is driving some company valuations higher. Wallace, who trained at Yale University under David Swensen, said that while the two asset classes offer the best opportunities for outsize market returns, or so-called alpha, investors need to be selective in choosing managers.
Fossil Fuel Divestment
 
CalSTRS Takes Action to Divest of All Non-U.S. Thermal Coal Holdings l Globe News Wire
  • The Teachers’ Retirement Board recently announced the decision to divest the fund of all non-U.S. thermal coal holdings, effective July 1, 2017. The board’s action aligns with CalSTRS’ long-term global perspective and its fiduciary duty, including consideration of environmental risks – both current and those projected over the next 10 to 25+ years.
  • This article explores how, when we live in a globally integrated economy where national governments are often unwilling or unable to control corporations, governments, trade unions or environmental groups can protect people and environments from exploitation or abuse. It specifically focuses on 'shaming campaigns', divestment, and next steps.
Hundreds of Lawmakers call for NY State Pension Fund to Divest From Fossil Fuels l Times Union
  • Elected officials from across New York state are strengthening their call for the state pension system to divest from fossil fuels. Citing the environmental, economic and political ramifications of President Donald Trump's pullout from the Paris climate accord — as well as the perilous effects of inconsistent weather and more intense storms that have already befallen their cities and counties — more than 200 New York officials on Monday called on state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to divest the state Common Retirement Fund of companies that contribute to man-made climate change.
NY State Comptroller: Divestment not the Answer to Cleaner Energy l Press Republican
  • Under pressure from environmental activists to phase out billions of dollars in investments in fossil fuel companies, State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli said Tuesday that he is in a better position to nudge companies to come up with cleaner energy solutions by holding onto the shares in them. "We believe in engagement with companies, and at this point we have no plans to divest completely," DiNapoli said in an interview. "But we have been moving more of our money into companies that are working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."
  • A study from an oil and gas trade group suggests it would be a bad idea for New York state to end its investments in fossil fuel companies. The report was co-authored by a University of Chicago law professor and underwritten by the Independent Petroleum Association of America. It concludes that divesting from fossil fuels would reduce the diversification of pension investments, decrease returns and increase risk.
  • Yale’s responsible investments committee will not recommend divestment from Exxon Mobil, dealing a major blow to campus activism surrounding the issue. “Exxon does not appear to be engaging in any conduct or activity that would warrant divestment,” chairman of the Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility Jonathan Macey LAW ’82 told the News on Friday, less than a day after President Donald Trump withdrew from the Paris climate accord.
Maryland Schools Must Divest (Opinion) l The Baltimore Sun
  • With President Donald Trump's recent announcement that he will pull the United States from the Paris climate agreement, it is more important now than ever that academic institutions demonstrate their commitment to climate action through investments in clean renewable energy and divestment from fossil fuels. Despite the University of Maryland's commitments to carbon neutral emissions and renewable energy power, the system is profiting from the major emitters of greenhouse gases and is even making a profit from companies that help dirty energy companies evade environmental compliance regulations.
UPenn Reaffirming its Commitment to the Environment Smells like Hypocrisy (Opinion) l Philly.com
  • With the University of Pennsylvania continuing to heavily invest in the fossil fuel and coal industries, you couldn’t help but notice the hypocrisy when Penn president Amy Gutmann signed a pledge with 11 other university leaders on Monday reaffirming its commitment to the environment. Penn Fossil Free, a student group spearheading the campaign for divestment, estimates roughly $300 million of the university’s endowment is invested in fossil fuel assets based on the university’s most recent financial report in 2014. Ever since this report was published, the student body has campaigned for the university’s divestment from fossil-fuel companies – a struggle that continues today.
Private Prison Divestment
 

NYC's Pension Fund Becomes First In Country To Divest From Private Prisons l Gothamist

  • New York City's pension fund is the first in the nation to fully divest from private prisons, according to Comptroller Scott Stringer. Trustees of the city's pension fund voted unanimously to divest in mid-May, and have since pulled $48 million of stocks and bonds from three companies: GEO Group, CoreCivic, and G4S.