Weekly News Round-Up: July 21st, 2017

New Resources & Opportunities
 
  • After years of talking about it, investors are finally starting to put their money behind this approach. According to US SIF, U.S. investments incorporating ESG principles, in whole or in part, increased from $1 trillion to approximately $9 trillion between 2012 and the beginning of 2016. This report explores the multiple factors driving this growth.

Job: Senior Associate, Sustainable Investing l World Resource Institute

  • WRI’s Sustainable Finance Center focuses on shifting public and private capital toward low carbon and climate-resilient development and away from activities that harm people and the environment. As Senior Associate, you will help lead and manage the Sustainable Finance Center’s research agenda, with a special focus on our work greening private finance.
Upcoming Events
  • The Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) invite investors for several launch events for a new research entitled: "2 degrees of separation: Transition risk for oil & gas in a low carbon world". The report is produced by the Carbon Tracker Initiative in partnership with Legal & General Investment Management, AP7, FRR, PGGM, PKA, and the Principles for Responsible Investment.
The SRI Conference l November 1-3, 2017, San Diego, CA
  • The SRI Conference – on Sustainable, Responsible, Impact Investing serves thought leaders and investment professionals working in the ESG, Shareowner Engagement, and Impact Investing space. Together, we are catalyzing the shift to a more socially equitable and environmentally sustainable future. We deliver education and inspiration — in between legendary networking opportunities.
 
 
Sustainable, Responsible, Impact & ESG Investing
Bloomberg Brief l Sustainable Finance
  • This week's Bloomberg Brief highlights how Bain Capital is betting that mission-led investing can deliver returns on par with its standard private equity pools; Vanguard's votes on climate change are up for their own vote; Big oil is waking up to EVs; and Deloitte is beginning to shift away from traditional approaches built around gender, race, or sexual orientation.
Aiming to Do Good, Not Just Well l The New York Times
  • If you want to invest in companies that are not just making a profit but are also doing good in the world (or, at least, doing no harm), you may find yourself overwhelmed by confusing choices. This kind of investing is known as ESG investing, or sometimes simply as “socially responsible investing.” These labels encompass a wide array of options and criteria, which have been used for years among mutual funds and exchange-traded funds, or ETFs, focused on companies in the United States. This article explores the recent uptick in the space as well as fund offerings.
  • Beginning in 2013, the ESG research team at MSCI, a provider of market indexes, repeatedly flagged Volkswagen for its risk exposures and management practices. In September 2015, the U.S. EPA accused Volkswagen of installing computer software in 482,000 American vehicles to conceal nitrogen oxide emissions up to 40 times above the legal limit. The company subsequently acknowledged that up to 11 million cars worldwide had been fitted with a similar “defeat device.” From April to October 2015, VW stock sank by 64%, wiping out $40 billion in market value. That episode, combined with other corporate calamities, has driven investors toward U.S. companies that meet positive standards for sustainability, social impact and sound governance.
Ford Foundation, ACA Convene Push for Impact Investing in Nigeria l Business Day
  • Ford Foundation and the African Capital Alliance (ACA) have held an advocacy convening to sensitise corporates and high net worth individuals in Nigeria about the need for impact investing in sustainable development and capacity building in Africa’s biggest economy. Impact investing connotes investments in firms, funds, and organisations, with the dual purposes of generating social and environmental impact and earning financial return; it entails leveraging private capital for social good.
  • Human trafficking, essentially modern slavery, is a large and growing practice, although most people are unaware of its existence and extent. Pope Francis has called it a plague on humanity. The NGO Human Rights First notes that Human trafficking is the world's fastest growing criminal enterprise, earning exploiters an estimated $150 billion annually. Elaborating on this, Amy Sobel, Vice President, Anti-Human Trafficking Campaign, says that modern slavery is occurring in the vast supply chains that fuel our global economy, causing human tragedy and damaging some of the world's most trusted brands. An article, Inside the Scarily Lucrative Business Model of Human Trafficking, in Time shows that it is a very profitable business. This article explores how companies can lead the fight against this industry.
  • In recent years, investors have shown a greater interest in ESG disclosures. This heightened interest is likely due to an increased awareness of how disclosing this information can impact the financial sustainability of companies. ESG issues, ranging from climate change to diversity to board effectiveness, can show investors how forces outside of normal market variables can affect a company’s operations and revenues. This blog examines issues related to climate risk disclosures.
Does the HLEG Need to Define Sustainability? l Investment & Pensions Europe
  • The European Commission-appointed High Level Expert Group (HLEG) on sustainable finance should come upwith a definition of sustainability in time for its final report, it has been suggested. Commenting on the group’s interim report – published last Thursday – Filip Gregor, head of responsible companies at law firm Frank Bold, said defining sustainability was “indispensable for developing effective policies”. Such a definition was missing from the HLEG interim report, and the group should be encouraged to address it in its final report, he said.
  • Investing for good can also be a good investment. A number of the mutual funds that take environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) into account when making investing decisions have proven to be stellar performers. Two of our top 10 ESG funds—selected using a formula that takes 1, 3 and 5-year total returns into account—beat the S&P 500 over all three periods. Investors are taking notice: Investments in these funds are up33 percent in the U.S. since 2014, to $8.7 trillion. That’s 22 percent of all professionally managed U.S. assets. Harvard Management Co., which oversees Harvard University’s $36 billion endowment fund, recently announced plans to make sustainability the driving factor in selecting new investments for its natural resource portfolio.

Best ESG Communications: Why PKN Orlen Won l IR Magazine

  • With investors upping their focus on ESG issues, companies are rethinking their communications approach to better explain the links between financial and non-financial performance. For those looking for inspiration, a good place to start is the integrated annual report from Polish oil major PKN Orlen: the company won best ESG communications at the IR Magazine Awards – Europe 2017. ‘The main strategy was to create a single, transparent document with all necessary information, so that [readers] would find all the data they require from one source,’ explained the company in its awards submission. ‘It contains a number of interactive tools facilitating access to contents, an interactive GRI Indicators Table, a glossary of economic and industry-specific terms, and an online survey.
Morningstar, MMI Launch Sustainable Investing Initiative l Wealth Management
  • The Money Management Institute (MMI) announced today a joint initiative with Morningstar called The MMI/Morningstar Sustainable Investing Initiative, aimed at educating advisors about sustainable investing and how to better incorporate it into their practices.  “Clients are clearly interested in discussing ESG with their financial advisors," said Jon Hale, Morningstar’s Head of Sustainability Research. "But the majority of advisors need more professional education and practical insights on incorporating sustainable investing into their practices to feel comfortable having those conversations."
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) News
 
The Impact of the SDGs on Sustainability Reporting l Ethical Corporation
  • This 9 page briefing outlines the role the SDGs have to play in sustainability reporting and how leading brands are incorporating them into their reporting and communications strategy. 
  • Businesses and companies are continuing to make contributions to the SDGs.The UN Global Compact has established a Corporate Action Group for ‘Reporting on the SDGs,’ which is part of a comprehensive Tool Box to help companies achieve sustainability and contribute to the SDGs. In addition, the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) is partnering to make cities more sustainable, the insurance industry is helping to advance the SDGs, the Partnership for Action on Green Economy (PAGE) is encouraging investments in the green economy, and Dutch fund managers are developing a standard for SDG investments.
  • A report published by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) Innovation Facility finds that innovation and emerging technologies are increasingly changing how international organizations are investing to realize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The report showcases how UNDP’s innovation investments have led to more effective development solutions and to new service lines to government partners.
General Higher Education Endowment News
 
Endowment Managers Still Upbeat on Economy, Survey Says l The Chronicle of Philanthropy
  • Managers of nonprofit endowments were upbeat about the state of the U.S. economy in 2017’s first quarter but slightly less so than in the final quarter of last year. This article explores the results of NEPC's Endowment & Foundation Q1 2017 Survey.
  • According to David Swensen, the head of Yale's endowment, exchanges such as Nasdaq and New York Stock Exchange pay brokers billions of dollars to send trades to their venues. Wall Streeters and government officials are calling on the SEC to ban so-called rebates because they view them as inefficient for markets.
Historically Black Colleges Try to Catch Up as Rich Schools Get Richer l Bloomberg
  • The wealthier a school’s endowment, the more money it has both to attract students and to provide them with the funding and academic services to get them to graduation. Howard’s endowment means it has just under $58,000 for each of its 10,000 students. By comparison, Nashville’s Vanderbilt University has about $300,000 per student. Of the 90 schools with billion-dollar endowments, not one is an historically black colleges and universities, also known as HBCUs.
Climate Risk, Science & Regulation
 
With Thursday’s Vote, Climate Finds ‘Bipartisan Majority’ Support in Congress l Citizens' Climate Lobby
  • Last week, dozens of House Republicans joined Democrats to vote down an anti-climate amendment and sent a strong message that the military should prepare for and fight climate change. This article explores the details of the vote.
California Legislature Extends State's Cap-and-Trade Program in Rare Bipartisan Effort to Address Climate Change l LA Times
  • California lawmakers voted Monday evening to extend the state’s premiere program on climate change, a victory for Gov. Jerry Brown that included unprecedented Republican support for fighting global warming. In a break with party leaders and activists in California and Washington, eight Republicans joined with Democrats to continue the cap-and-trade program, which requires companies to buy permits to release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The legislation would keep the 5-year-old program operating until 2030, providing a key tool for meeting the state’s ambitious goal for slashing emissions. Cap and trade also generates important revenue for building the bullet train from Los Angeles to San Francisco, another priority for the governor.
Clean Energy
 
  • This article explores NRG's attempt to transform itself from brown to green — how it started, where it went off the rails and, now, how it is ending.
Fossil Fuel Divestment
 

Cape Town Commits to Divestment l 350 Africa

  • The town of Cape Town has committed to divest from fossil fuel assets and companies in favour of greener and cleaner investments. In a press release, the mayor stated: "We are going to instruct investors looking after our money not to put our money into fossil fuel-related companies or for it to be used to fund the development of dirty and unsustainable projects. We want our investments to be aligned with our principles of resilience and sustainability."
CU Divestment: Growing Momentum l Boulder Weekly
  • In 2015 the University of Colorado’s Board of Regents voted against divesting its endowment, citing their preference for “institutional neutrality” in social and political matters. The vote came as a response to student activism, which has continued since. This year brought another wave of protests — in April the student group Fossil Free CU held a week-long sit in at the Chancellor’s office. Regent Linda Shoemaker, the board’s vice chair, says that a fall 2017 vote is possible. But she is doubtful about it passing, pointing to the fact that no fundamental changes have occurred in the Republican-controlled board since 2015’s 7-2 decision upholding the existing investment plan. Lior Gross, one of Fossil Free CU Boulder’s leaders, is more hopeful. “We are in the best position we’ve ever been to get a win from the regents and to get a vote for divestment,” Gross says, pointing to recent community support. “It’s not that I’m optimistic, it’s that I know that we can’t have a livable future if we continue to operate this way.”