Thursday, December 8, 2011

Cleantech investment seen falling in 2012

Cleantech research and advisory firm Kachan & Co. predicts a decline in worldwide cleantech venture capital investing in 2012.

“There are eggshells across the sector for 2012,” Kachan notes in its year-end report. “Global economic uncertainty in particular is leaving some skeptical about the chances for emerging clean technologies.”

Kachan points to a slowdown in China’s economic engine as well as conflicting government policy signals as potential negative factors for the cleantech sector. “Don’t expect cleantech-friendly U.S. policy leadership in 2012, an election year.”

On the plus side, oil prices are forecast to rise in 2012, corporations are expected to take an even stronger leadership role and investment in solar innovation projects is “still strong and has remained so for years, while other clean technologies have risen and fallen in and out of investment fashion.”

Kachan called for an increase in global cleantech venture investment in 2011 when some others were predicting a cleantech collapse. “We were right. At this writing, total investment for the first three quarters of 2011 is already $6.876 billion, with the fourth quarter to report early in 2012. Given historical patterns, we expect 2011 to close out at a total of $8.8 billion in venture capital invested into cleantech globally. That’d be the highest total in three years, and second only to the highest year on record: 2008.”

“All in all, if you’re a cleantech entrepreneur seeking capital, our advice is brush up that PowerPoint and work the system now… while there’s still a system to work.”

Kachan’s predictions are available here.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Standard Life offers SRI funds for group plans

Investors looking for SRI options in their company pension plans have had precious little to choose from. Standard Life aims to fill that void, announcing that it will now offer four Meritas SRI funds for group savings and retirement plans.

“Employers and their advisors can include these investment options immediately as part of a customized plan or, starting at the end of 2011, through the new Monitored Avenue Portfolio Program™ - Socially Responsible Investment options (MAPP-SRI options),” the insurer said in a release. “Standard Life chose funds for the MAPP-SRI options to provide long-term returns that aim to meet the needs of socially responsible investors and proper diversification amongst asset classes. “

A recent survey conducted for Standard Life found that one-third of Canadian investors said they are "very" or "somewhat" interested in SRIs, and 55% indicated that they would consider SRIs if the return was "as good or better" than other investments.

In September, Standard Life added three Meritas SRI Funds to its family of retail segregated funds.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Caisse invests $25M in Québec wind farm

The Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec has announced a $25 million contribution to the Seigneurie de Beaupré Wind Farms project. The consortium - providing $725 million in financing to the project - includes Boralex, Gaz Metro and Valener. The cash will be used to construct and operate a 272MW wind farm in Québec, one of the largest wind energy development sites in the province.

“This financing enables us to support established business partners and offers us a long-term opportunity ideally aligned to our investment strategy,” said Marc Cormier, executive vice-president, fixed income, the Caisse. “With our investment in this project, we are contributing to a renewable energy initiative in Québec while generating a return that meets the objectives of our depositors.”

The first phase of the project will consist of 126 wind turbines, scheduled for start-up in December 2013.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

He blinded me with science...

Speaking to a packed house at U of T's University College yesterday, David Schindler presented scientific data to back up claims of the devastation wreaked by oil sands development.

A noted limnologist and environmental activist, Dr. Schindler's presentation, entitled The Oil Sands: Economic Saviour or Environmental Disaster, was filled with results of experiments and slides of PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons). As someone with limited knowledge of chemistry and biology, I couldn't keep up with the details so I will give you what I took away as the big picture conclusions. Dr. Schindler kindly offered to send the presentation deck out to those who were interested, so you can contact him for a copy.

  • oil sands development has been too rapid for monitoring or regulation to keep up. Cumulative Effects Assessments need to be done in a more thorough manner to document what is really happening.
  • Cancer incidence is higher in Fort Chipewyan. Check out the related article in This magazine .
  • an experiment he conducted melting snow from the frozen Athabasca River and analyzing it showed that contaminants were usually much higher in sites impacted by industry.
  • tributaries in watersheds that were more disturbed had higher element concentrations than tributaries in less disturbed watersheds.
  • it is possible that land around the oil sands can never be properly reclaimed, oil company claims notwithstanding. This one really got to me and I will try to follow up. Dr. Schindler believes that the type of planting being done, wooded fens, will not be sustainable over the long term due to the salinity of the soil and water.
  • He suggested some logical next steps. First, a detailed study of fish health and effects of contaminants on reproduction and survival. Second, a detailed health study of people living in the area. And finally, better monitoring, to be done by Environment Canada, the only agency with the capacity to do an effective job.

    Dr. Schindler stated there is very little possibility that nothing (meaning no contaminants) is flowing into the Athabasca, and ended with the question, 'Why do we have to proceed with development much faster than we know what we are doing?'

    Friday, October 28, 2011

    Are companies responsible for creating jobs?

    From today's Wall Street Journal. Check it out on the web for a video and a lot of right wing comments. Maybe add some balanced comments?

    For anyone stepping gingerly through the encampment of Occupy Wall Street in Manhattan, it might be easy to dismiss the protest as just a living diorama of a 1960s Happening. That is, were it not for its intriguing challenge to American business, and Milton Friedman.

    Let's stipulate that the demonstrators have a fuzzy agenda. It's a smorgasbord of gripes ranging from income inequality to poor housing to executive pay—viewed as out of touch with executive value, which maybe we should stipulate too. The protest is diffuse, and young, and cohabitating under tarps. A passerby guiding his three children through the thicket of tents is overheard saying to his wife: "Let's get outta here before the kids see something they shouldn't."

    But what about one of the group's chief beefs: that business is falling short of its social responsibility, including creating jobs at home? Some politicians have given a nod of legitimacy to the protests. A CNN poll found that 32% of Americans favor the demonstrations while many others are still making up their minds.

    Milton Friedman, the Nobel laureate economist, blasted the very idea of corporate social responsibility four decades ago, calling it a "fundamentally subversive doctrine." Speaking for many capitalists then and now, he said, "there is one and only one social responsibility of business—to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game."

    Companies shouldn't spend profits on unrelated job creation or social causes, he said. That money should go to shareholders—the owners of the companies. Pronouncements about corporate social responsibility, he added, are the indulgence of "pontificating executives" who are "incredibly shortsighted and muddleheaded in matters that are outside their businesses." And that indulgence can lead to inefficient markets.

    What then to make of Howard Schultz, the chief executive of Starbucks, who in a letter earlier this month to fellow business leaders asked them to help "get Americans back to work and our economy growing again."

    He described Starbucks's own growth and hiring plans—a net of several thousand new jobs—and announced a $5 million donation by the Starbucks Foundation to a group that helps finance local businesses. Starbucks will also encourage customers and employees to donate. He's calling the program "Create Jobs for USA." Occupy Wall Street would like this.

    In a blog post last week, Mr. Schultz elbowed aside Mr. Friedman's triumph of profit: "Companies that hold on to the old-school, singular view of limiting their responsibilities to making a profit will not only discover it is a shallow goal but an unsustainable one," the post on the Harvard Business Review website read. "Values increasingly drive consumer and employee loyalties. Money and talent will follow those companies whose values are compatible."

    Occupy Wall Street has challenged American companies to create jobs, not just profits, and that appeals to some CEOs. Is this just window dressing, a new spin on PR and marketing? A group of CEOs and executives from large companies, including Exxon, Cisco and McDonald's, echo Mr. Schultz's view, though perhaps with a tighter link between largess and corporate self interest.

    The group, through their New York-based Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy, highlights projects such as Wal-Mart's effort to reduce packaging in its supply chain (good for the environment, good for Wal-Mart's costs); IBM's "Service Corps," which sends young executives to help developing countries (good for the countries, good for scouting for future IBM business) and PepsiCo's program to train corn farmers in Mexico (good for the farmers, good for PepsiCo, which needed an improved supply of corn).

    To do it right, the group says, companies should pick issues that "are integral to the achievement of larger business goals...issues that drive growth or reduce costs" and also help society. That's a higher bar than pure charity.

    John Mackey, co-chief executive of Whole Foods, goes a bit farther. In a duel with Mr. Friedman in an issue of Reason magazine in 2005, he wrote: "From an investor's perspective, the purpose of the business is to maximize profits. But that's not the purpose for other stakeholders—for customers, employees, suppliers and the community. Each of those groups will define the purpose of the business in terms of its own needs and desires, and each perspective is valid and legitimate."

    In that exchange, Mr. Friedman acknowledged the value of corporate goodwill in a community—and tending to it—and counseled business to stick to a tight definition of shareholder interest.

    Mr. Friedman died the following year, but clearly his ideas on the subject didn't. Economic growth creates jobs, not the other way around, his adherents say. And it helps if government regulates less.

    "Jobs are an input, not an output; they're a cost of doing business, not a goal of doing business," says William Frezza, a Boston-based venture capitalist and fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
    "From the perspective of defending capitalism, if you accept the premise of your opponent that business has to give back to society, you've already lost," he says. "To put sack cloth and ashes on—you've delegitimized capitalism, which is the goal of the protesters. Businesses give back to society every day by pleasing their customers and employing their employees. There's nothing business owes other than selling the best product at the best price."

    Down at the demonstration, they've broken out the incense and are starting the drum-athon again.

    Over at Starbucks, Mr. Schultz is counseling his fellow CEOs that "business leaders have to step up and do our part."

    And across America, the 14 million unemployed are waiting for someone to be right.

    Write to John Bussey at

    Thursday, October 27, 2011

    Investors need more information on SRI: survey

    A new survey reveals that only 10% of Canadian investors have made a socially responsible investment. Just 15% of those surveyed by Ipsos Reid for Standard Life said they knew a lot or a fair bit about SRI. Four in ten investors reported they had never heard of SRI and 43% said they were aware of SRI, but knew little about it.

    "SRIs can become a much more important part of investing for both investors and advisors alike, but first investors must have more information and better accessibility to this type of investment,” says Standard Life’s Anna del Balso. “Advisors who take the time to understand their clients' environmental and social values and provide investment opportunities that align with those beliefs may achieve sales and reputational gains."

    Despite the lack of awareness, investors are generally favourable to SRI, the survey suggests. One third said they were very or somewhat interested in SRI and 55% indicated that they would consider SRI if the return was "as good or better" than other investments.

    For those already invested in SRI, satisfaction levels are high. Ninety-two per cent said they were satisfied with the performance of their responsible investments and 70% said they were equally satisfied with the performance of their SRIs compared to their other investments.

    Eighty per cent of advisors said they were satisfied with the performance of SRIs under their management. The majority of Canadians (54%) who have discussed SRI with their advisor raised the topic themselves.

    “Despite not raising the topic of SRIs more spontaneously with investors, once the subject has been raised, in only 15% of instances does it result in a negative commentary from the advisor, and 61% of cases result in both a positive commentary and a recommendation to purchase,” the survey notes.

    Ipsos Reid surveyed 1,029 adults and 537 advisors in August and September of 2011.

    Wednesday, October 26, 2011

    Anothe female CEO

    News that Virginia Rometty is slated to become the new CEO of IBM has made headlines.
    'A new record has been set for female leadership: More women are slated to take the reins of Fortune 500 companies than ever before.' trumpets USA Today.
    'In naming female CEO, IBM passes gender milestone' says the San Francisco Chronicle

    The sad truth behind these claims is that with the addition of Rometty, a mere 17 Fortune 500 companies will be led by women.

    According to a recent Catalyst report, in Canada things are no better. Twenty six of the Financial Post 500 companies are headed by women, but this includes government entities and private companies. And still, this is only 5.2%.

    Last year, the Globe and Mail ran a series of articles on women and power, and concluded 'Canada is a laggard when it comes to promoting women as leaders of organizations. This should not be seen as a women’s issue, but as a matter of competitiveness and innovation. By shutting out more than half the population, Canadian companies, government agencies, businesses and institutions are robbing themselves of talent.'

    You hear that, guys?

    Watch these videos for advice from 10 Canadian women in power on how to get to the top.

    Monday, October 24, 2011

    SRI Monitor Weekly News Update

    Top U.S. court to hear Shell human rights case from more

    Ceres:Proxy voting for more

    Vinod Khosla Prepares To Implement His "Fail Strategy' With New $1 billion more

    Starbucks concerned world coffee supply is threatened by climate more

    ‘Changing the Game’ in Petrochemical-based more

    and watchProtei, Open Hardware Oil Spill Cleaning Sailing Robot

    Monday, October 17, 2011

    SRI Monitor Weekly News Update

    Alberta divests itself of investments viewed as unethical by Norway's more

    Getting the Most Out of GRI and Sustainability more

    Will new LEED standards allow for clearcut timber? more

    The green jobs more

    CEOs Need to See Through more

    compiled with the assistance of Nick Searle

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011

    Canadian corporations addressing carbon challenge: report

    Canada’s largest corporations are paying greater attention to carbon-related issues, such as climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Carbon Disclosure Project’s annual report on Canada.

    The CDP sent its annual investor information request form to 200 of Canada’s largest corporations – 108 firms responded. Three-quarters of respondents reported having integrated climate change into their overall business strategy, “confirming a commitment to long-term, sustainable growth amidst regulatory uncertainty and the physical effects of a changing climate.”

    In addition, over 85% of reporting companies are disclosing climate change and GHG emissions performance either via their annual reports or other communications. “These results indicate climate change is an important consideration in Canadian companies’ future strategic planning,” the report states.

    Despite the increased disclosure, only one-third of companies have set active GHG reduction targets and only 30% report having dedicated budgets for energy efficiency or emissions reduction activities.

    Ninety-one of the 108 companies reported a cumulative 425 emission reduction activities that were either underway or completed, demonstrating that companies are planning and implementing energy reduction initiatives to reduce this growing operating expense, the report said.

    More than 85% of respondents reported that senior managers or board committees have responsibility for climate change, up from 75% in 2010 and indicating an increasing trend in senior management engagement in climate change governance.

    Monday, October 3, 2011

    SRI Monitor Weekly News Update

    Barrick’s Tanzanian project tests ethical mining more

    Mining is Congo’s best hope of prosperity but also its biggest more

    The Toxic Gold Mining Industry Goes more

    SRI in the Rockies happening now. Watch and listen to more
    Shared Value Capitalism: A Socially Responsible Way To Improve Quality And Retain more

    Half of Multinationals to Choose Suppliers Based on CO2 more

    compiled with the assistance of Nick Searle

    Wednesday, September 28, 2011

    Sustainalytics partners with Korean firm

    SRI research firm Sustainalytics is moving into the Korean market, today announcing a strategic partnership with Sustinvest, an investment research and consulting company.

    Together, the two firms will provide responsible investors in Korea with a global environmental, social and governance analysis that is informed by knowledge of local markets, Sustainlytics said in a news release.

    "Korea is a vibrant market for responsible investment," said Michael Jantzi, Sustainalytics CEO. "We welcome the opportunity to align ourselves with the market leader. Our clients will benefit by having enhanced coverage and analysis of Korean securities through the Sustainalytics' platform and direct access to ESG analysts in the region."

    "We are very pleased to enhance our working relationship with Sustainalytics. The ESG market in Korea is growing and we are glad to be able to provide enhanced global coverage to responsible investors here," added Sustinvest CEO Youngjae Ryu.

    In addition to enhanced research capabilities, Sustainalytics and Sustinvest will be exploring new products and services for the Korean market, including an ESG ranking of Korean companies that will be published in 2012.

    Sustinvest is the first SRI research and consulting firm established in Korea.

    Tuesday, September 27, 2011

    Fund firms file class action against Sino-Forest

    Northwest & Ethical Investments and Comité syndical national de retraite Bâtirente inc. have launched a class action suit against Sino-Forest Corporation.

    The suit, which seeks $5.8 billion in damages, was filed on behalf of investors who purchased Sino-Forest shares or notes from 2004 to 2011.

    “NEI Investments has a fiduciary duty to protect the interests of our investors and in commencing this action we believe we are acting strongly to uphold the integrity of the investment industry,” said Bob Walker, vice-president, Ethical Funds, NEI Investments in a statement. “In our longstanding history of engaging with companies to promote responsible corporate governance practices, this is the first time NEI Investments has taken this last-resort approach to protect investors.”

    “When our members suffer losses in their retirement plan and those losses result from the type of misconduct alleged in the statement of claim, it is our duty to assist in seeking remedies from those who bear responsibility,” added Batirente’s Daniel Simard.

    Sino-Forest’s shares have been frozen amidst allegations that the Chinese forestry company exaggerated its revenues and timber holdings in China.

    Monday, September 26, 2011

    SRI Monitor Weekly News Update

    Bill Gates backs financial transaction tax to aid more

    Siemens to quit nuclear more

    Oil-sands workers press MPs to oppose ‘wrongheaded’ Keystone more

    Ikea: Stock Market Pressures Hinder more

    Elements of Islamic more

    compiled with the assistance of Nick Searle

    Thursday, September 15, 2011

    Fracking Under Pressure

    This new report by Dayna Linley, global energy sector lead for Sustainalytics, clearly outlines what’s going on in the world of fracking today, and what responsible investors should be aware of. Fracking is the colloquial term for hydraulic fracturing, that is, pumping fluids (usually water and chemicals) into a geologic formation at high pressure to release the natural gas (shale gas).

    The report begins with some background on global energy demand, which is constantly increasing and driving the shift to unconventional oil and gas. ‘Due to restricted access to known reserves, many public companies are shifting their operations into higher risk areas and into unconventional oil and gas deposits. High-risk regions are generally characterized by social volatility or environmental sensitivity, while unconventional deposits are those that either contain heavier or more contaminated oil or gas, or that occur in less accessible reservoirs or rocks.’ This is followed by an explanation of the potential impacts of shale gas extraction on air emissions, land and water.

    What should the socially responsible investor do? Investors should be aware of the risks, primarily reputational risk, regulatory risk and litigation risk, and should engage with companies to encourage the adoption and ongoing development of best practices. ‘Oil and gas companies, working with their energy service providers, should evaluate local conditions and regulatory frameworks to determine locally appropriate best practices to limit impacts to the environment, local populations and the bottom line.’

    The section on best practices details some best practices: transparency, baseline water testing, use of green products, process changes regarding fluid management and minimization, GHG and air emission reduction and well integrity testing, contractor management and community engagement. Included are examples of corporate initiatives in each of these areas.

    A final caveat - ‘…responsible investors should view shale gas development in the context of the broader need to shift our economy away from dependence on fossil fuels. Shale gas development, even with best practices in place, does nothing to contribute to this shift. Therefore, while pushing for best practices, responsible investors should push even harder for investment in renewable, sustainable forms of energy and for regulatory environments that incentivize such investment.’

    See the sidebar for more stories on fracking.
    Read the full Sustainalytics report here.

    Wednesday, September 14, 2011

    Teachers becomes UNPRI signatory

    The Ontario Teachers Pension Plan has signed on to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment. Teachers joins a number of other major Canadian pension plans which are UNPRI signatories, including the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, the British Columbia Municipal Pension Plan and OPSEU Pension Trust.

    More than 200 new signatories have joined the UNPRI in the last 12 months, raising the total number of signatories to 900, managing assets worth nearly US$30 trillion.

    A recent survey of UNPRI signatories found that 94% of asset owners and 93% of investment managers have a responsible investment policy, pointing to what the UNPRI calls a “growing commitment to responsible investment.”

    Teachers has more than $107 billion in assets and is the largest single-profession pension plan in Canada, administering the pensions of nearly 300,000 active and retired Ontario teachers.

    Dr. James Gifford, Executive Director, UN-backed Principles for Responsible Investment, in conversation with Teachers CEO Jim Leech.

    Tuesday, September 13, 2011

    What's in a name?

    The SIO Board is considering options related to branding of the SIO, and of the term Socially Responsible Investment. The term SRI has been debated and discussed extensively in Canada and abroad for many years. Some members and potential members of the SIO have raised concerns about the term SRI, and have argued that SIO should move to rebrand the concept. At the same time, the name of the Social Investment Organization itself, with its brand rooted in the concept of social investment may no longer be the best label that reflects the work they do and the member companies they serve.

    Over the past few years, the SIO's American sister organization has moved from being the Social Investment Forum to Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment. Similarly Eurosif is the European Sustainable Investment Forum and UKSIF is now promoting 'sustainable and responsible finance'.

    The term 'social' is now more often used in areas like social finance, social enterprise and other types of impact investing that are not necessarily focused on publicly traded companies. But the social issues addressed by SRI have not disappeared. They are reflected in the increased use of ESG (environmental, social, governance)as a way of quantifying SRI.

    The SIO is sending out a survey today to members asking them for their thoughts on the name and branding of the SIO. But I believe this is a discussion that the broader SRI community can, and should, also engage in.

    What do you think of the term 'social'? Are it's connotations positive or negative? How should we sort out all these various terms? Is there something to be said for consistency?

    Solutions? Ideas? Let us know what you think.

    Monday, September 12, 2011

    SRI Monitor Weekly News Update

    TSX proposes shareholders vote for each director (and leapfrogs over OSC) more

    Civil Disobedience goes more

    Oil industry backs more rules for fracking (really!) more

    Google discloses carbon footprint for the first more

    How Howard Buffett will use his grandfather's recipe for riches to disrupt more

    GDP is dead. Will the world be happier without it? more

    compiled with the assistance of Nick Searle

    Thursday, September 8, 2011

    Results of the DJSI Review 2011

    Changes are being made to the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes (DJSI) as a result of the 2011 annual SAM Corporate Sustainability Assessment.

    SAM performs an integrated assessment of economic, environmental and social criteria with a strong focus on long-term shareholder value. A key criteria change for 2011 is water related risks; this new criteria was introduced for the first time in the 2010 assessment. Based on SAM's analysis of water consumption, 13 sectors have been identified as potentially exposed to water-related risks. The questions in the criteria seek to assess whether companies are able to measure their exposure to water-related risks and whether they have appropriate risk management systems in place to mitigate risks around quantity/quality of water, regulatory changes or stakeholder conflicts. Based on data collected on water-related risks during last year’s assessment, they have further developed the water risk methodology, mainly through the reinforcement of a balanced consideration of the company’s exposure to risks and its management of those risks. Other key changes include social and environmental reporting and Media and Stakeholder Analysis (MSA) methodology.

    In the DJSI World, the top 3 additions, by free float market capitalization as of July 15th 2011, are Medtronic, Schneider Electric and Societe Generale. Kinross was also added, coming in at number 9. The top 3 deletions were Coke, HP and Encana.

    The DJSI North America saw more Canadian companies dropped. The top 3 deletions are Microsoft, Coke and Goldcorp, with Enbridge and National Bank also in the top 10. The top 3 additions are Goldman Sachs, EMC and CMX.

    Pepsi is definitely making strides in the Sustainability Face Off, having been named the supersector leader in Food and Beverage.

    All changes will become effective with the opening of the stock markets on September 19th, 2011.

    Wednesday, September 7, 2011

    Standard Life adds Meritas to seg fund line-up

    Standard Life announced today that it has added Meritas SRI Funds to its line-up of retail segregated funds.

    Ideal Meritas Balanced Portfolio, Ideal Meritas Growth & Income Portfolio and Ideal Meritas Income & Growth Portfolio will become part of Standard Life’s Signature Series of segregated funds, along with offerings from Dynamic Funds.

    “The new Meritas SRI Funds in Standard Life's offering provide Canadians who would like to invest in a socially responsible manner with the option of some downside protection,” Standard Life said in a release. “Research indicates that interest in ethical investing by retail investors is on the rise and that investors want to know more about the social and environmental performance of companies in their investment portfolios.”

    Tuesday, September 6, 2011

    SRI Monitor Weekly News Update

    Magna, Ontario to invest $400-million in R&D for electric more

    Driving the electric Volt in the real more

    The Human Cost of more

    Ernst&Young: 2011 Proxy Season more

    Raising the bar for sustainability rating agencies
    What the GRI is more
    and some new work from more

    compiled with the assistance of Nick Searle

    Monday, August 29, 2011

    SRI Monitor Weekly News Update

    Keystone XL pipeline gets go ahead from US State more

    OK, climate sceptics: here's the raw data you more

    PepsiCo to launch global ethical-farming more

    8 Of The Most Exciting Green Building Projects On The more

    compiled with the assistance of Nick Searle

    Monday, August 22, 2011

    SRI Monitor Weekly News Update

    some fun
    S&P Downgrades Planet Earth citing unbalanced carbon budget, reckless political debates and role of 'deniers' it now

    an update Puma responds to Greenpeace Detox it now

    and two longer pieces that are well worth your time

    Jeremy Grantham - Resource Limitations 2: Separating the Dangerous from the Merely it now

    Can CSR rating help improve labour practices? it now

    compiled with the assistance of Nick Searle

    Monday, August 15, 2011

    SRI Monitor Weekly News Update

    What with Nick's and my summer holidays, Weekly News Update has not exactly been weekly of late. We'll be back to a more predictable schedule after Labour Day.

    First up: A must watch video where Alex Steffan shows us that the solution to climate change is not about switching from dirty energy to clean energy but lies in 'reweaving the urban fabric'.

    As Venture Capitalists bow out of cleantech, corporations step more

    Oil sands expected to undo carbon more

    Can Matt Damon bring clean water to Africa? more

    Infographic: Locavorism vs. Globavorism - fodder to help you convince people to patronize the fantastic farmers markets out there at this time of year.

    compiled with the assistance of Nick Searle

    Wednesday, August 10, 2011

    The Sustainable Investment Professional Certificate

    I am considering taking this certificate program, and the webinar I participated in last week was very helpful. Who are they looking for? The recipe they offered is 'one part capitalist, one part idealist. Stir well.'

    The David O'Brien Centre for Sustainable Enterprise of the John Molson School of Business, Concordia University, in cooperation with the Finance and Sustainability Initiative Montreal (FSI) has created the Sustainable Investment Certification Program. The program will offer basic sustainability training to investment and corporate professionals culminating in the Sustainable Investment Professional Certificate (SIPC). It is a self study program modeled on other professional certifications.

    There are 6 modules, each with learning material and reading. That's expected to be about 80 hours of work. In addition, at the end of each module there is a case study type assignment, which should add about 20 -30 hours to the total time expected of you. The SIPC instructional approach is based on the fundamental values of practicality and applicability. The idea is not to test overall knowledge through traditional examination but rather to evaluate the student's ability to apply the knowledge learned from the modules in a practical setting. Research skills, critical thinking, creativity and decision making are the most important objectives throughout the evaluation.

    At this point the material is in English only, although you may submit your assignments in English or French. They are working on having the program be fully bilingual by next year.

    The modules are:

    • sustainability overview

    • governance

    • ethics

    • social sustainability

    • environmental sustainability

    • sustainable investing

    The SIPC program was developed with the help of the Finance and Sustainability Initiative (FSI). The FSI is a Montreal based not for profit organization that encourages and promotes sustainabilty as a best practice in the financial sector.

    The SIPC program's curriculum was developed by faculty at the John Molson School of Business and the program is guided by a Business Advisory Council consisting of practitioners in the fields of sustainability and finance. The program is led by Dr. Paul Shrivastava, currently the David O'Brien Distinguished Professor and Director of the David O"Brien Centre for Sustainable Enterprise. He also serves on the Steering Committee of the Finance and Sustainability Initiative and as Senior Advisor on Sustainabilty at Bucknell University and the IIM-Shillong, India, and leads the International Chair for Arts and Sustainabile Enterprise at ICN Business School, Nancy France.

    For more information on the SIPC, register for upcoming webinars on Thursday August 11th, Thursday August 18th and Thursday August 25th.

    Tuesday, August 2, 2011

    Why Women are Investing Green

    Thanks to Bob de Wit of GreenAngel Energy for giving us permission to post this. Read the GreenAngel Energy blog here.

    Our recent GAE shareholder report shows that a significant portion of our new retail investors are women (or at least have traditionally female names!) which has led us to wonder what it is about cleantech investments that is driving this increased interest among women. We decided to do some primary research to validate our hypothesis that women are investing in companies that are focused on a smarter future. We looked to both mainstream media and published literature on the subject as well as reached out to a popular parenting blog for insights from its followers.

    In their Handbook of Consumer Finance Research, Tahira K. Hira and Cäzilia Loibl discuss investing behaviour of both men and women, highlighting some of the compelling differences between the genders. According to their research women tend to be more “buy and hold”-type investors, while men are more likely to move their money around and change the amount held in investment more frequently than women. Women also tend to be more risk averse and focused on the long-term strategy. If there is any correlation between this and why women are investing in GreenAngel it could be good news for our investors. Angel investment is usually thought to be risky, and GAE is an angel fund, so what is it that these women see that maybe others do not? Although it is perceived as risky, it is still a long-term investment, highly diversified, and in an industry that will set to see high growth and big demand for many years to come. Perhaps these factors cancel out the high risk perception for some, as the overall industry is a mere fraction of the size it is likely to become.

    In the June 2011 Toronto Star article entitled: “Women shifting to online investing to control their financial destiny”, Suzanne Wintrob discusses the overall rise in female investors which could also speak to our observed increase in female shareholders. She reports that women prefer the freedom and ease of investing online because it allows them to research the companies they are interested in and take immediate action to invest in them. The article quotes Connie Stefankiewicz, President and CEO of InvestorLine, who believes that women are more interested in “building a portfolio, managing it and really taking a disciplined approach to doing that” which obviously became more feasible with online investing. Stefankiewicz believes that it is due to the availability of online investing that has driven women to invest more for themselves. Beyond online investing, the article also discusses issues around females not feeling like advisors take them seriously and their preference for the internet because they can learn how to invest without any judgment. So maybe more women are investing in GAE because of the ease of purchasing GAE stock online.

    According to Steven J. Schueth in his article “Socially Responsible Investing in the United States”, he has observed “as women have filled the ranks of MBA programs and law schools, climbed corporate ladders, started their own companies, and assumed roles as fiduciaries, they have brought an affinity for socially responsible investing along with them”. This statement leads us to question whether if for some GAE is an avenue which can be used for socially responsible investing.

    We were curious about our many hypotheses and wanted some real feedback from a group of women and parents. We engaged with “Multi-Testing Mommy”, a popular parenting blog to administer a survey. The site’s author (a parent herself) posted a survey for us and asked her followers to participate and help us see what it is about green technologies that is so attractive to the female investor. With the hopes of winning a $10 gift card to Tim Horton’s, we received 41 responses and derived some valuable insight.

    Of our respondents, 75% indicated that they are totally in control or equal participants in the decision process for their family’s investments. It is clear that with the overwhelming majority of women saying they are at the very least somewhat involved in their family’s investment decision we can conclude that female-centric approaches to investing are occurring in the market that could speak to our observations. Our data also indicated that women are still risk averse and prefer to take either a little risk or none at all when choosing their investments. We also saw that women, while still focused on overall return, also consider the industry and practices of the companies they are investing in. When asked specifically what it is about green technologies that they find attractive the following themes were present in their responses: they are concerned with the future for the sake of their children; they are concerned about depleting resources; they see green as the future and they don’t want to be left behind; they are not only concerned with the environment but believe that cleantech will also provide them with returns; and it makes them feel better about themselves that their money is going to a good cause.

    After doing this research we realized there are an infinite number of reasons why GAE is an attractive investment vehicle for women or any savvy investor. From the ease of purchasing online, the diversity and growth potential of the fund, to the ethical benefits of investing in a greentech fund, GAE can certainly be seen as great choice for forward thinking investors.

    We would love to hear your thoughts on the subject and for you to provide us with your own hypothesis as to why we have seen a spike in female investors in the recent months. Join the conversation and leave us a comment below!

    For a related story, check out The Top 12 Women of Cleantech.

    Thursday, July 28, 2011

    Sustainability linked to business competitiveness

    A new report from Sustainalytics concludes that corporate responsibility performance in the mining sector is linked to business success. The SRI research firm says that a strategic focus on sustainable performance is aligned with mainstream business purpose.

    “When an organization’s most significant environmental and social issues are addressed, business value is created,” says the report, the first of three looking at the link between sustainability and business performance in the natural resources sector.

    “Sustainability concerns and evolving stakeholder expectations are having a greater impact on the business environment than ever before,” the report states. “The business case is likely to strengthen in coming years, as stakeholder expectations continue to increase.”

    Sustainalytics studied the influence of nine environmental and social factors on business competiveness relevant to the mining sector. For example, responsible community relations are particularly important for mining companies operating in emerging markets with weaker regulatory environments and human rights records.

    Four areas of sustainability were found to be the most material to mining companies’ financial performance: society and community; employee relations; operations; and climate change.

    Sustainalytics notes that some of the strongest linkages identified in its analysis cannot be captured in a simple payback or return on investment calculation. “Links that support reputation are difficult to monetize. Links that mitigate risk are hard to quantify. It is interesting to note that the environmental and social areas that generate the most business value do so through their impact on multiple business drivers. “

    Tuesday, July 26, 2011

    SRI Monitor Weekly News Update

    Summer – maybe its not so busy at work, you have time to mull over the following ideas…

    The Argument for a Single Bottom Line…read more

    Gore launches new Climate Reality Project…read more

    The End of the Engineer…read more

    The Future of CSR Reporting: Coca Cola Enterprises Releases Video Report…read and watch

    compiled with the assistance of Nick Searle

    Wednesday, July 13, 2011

    Real estate companies urged to set social standards

    A new report by SHARE concludes that the majority of companies in the commercial real estate sector are reluctant to adopt policies going beyond the bare minimum of legally mandated labour standards.

    Largely absent so far from the policies evaluated are commitments to responsible contracting, prevailing or fair wages, and freedom of association, SHARE stated in a press release accompanying the report.

    The report calls for, among other recommendations, improved disclosure of contracting and procurement policies. “Overall, sustainability reporting by commercial real estate companies is relatively weak in Canada when compared to leading commercial real estate companies internationally.”

    The report also suggests that companies incorporate the principles contained in the Responsible Property Services Code into current policies and procedures. “Responsible contractor policies have emerged as an institutional mechanism to address the potential risks posed by precarious work in the property service supply chain.

    “Similarly, major commercial property tenants have begun to incorporate social considerations into their procurement processes including in their procurement of property services such as property management, janitorial, maintenance and security services,” the report states. “Through the development of sustainable procurement policies, companies are moving beyond simply price and quality to include environmental and social criteria when purchasing products and services.”

    “We are pleased with the efforts of companies that have established responsible contracting policies,” says Shannon Rohan, SHARE's Director of Responsible Investment and author of the report. “Since engaging with commercial real estate over the past four years, we have seen several companies begin to incorporate principles of responsible contracting into corporate policies.”

    Nine Canadian commercial real estate companies and five major commercial property tenants were selected for inclusion in this year’s report.

    Monday, July 11, 2011

    SRI Monitor Weekly News Update

    Seeds of bad governance are sown in good more

    Huge Potential for Clean Energy Projects Spotlighted at Africa Carbon more

    Green plan spurs $20B in investment: Ontario Take that, Tim Hudak! more

    Lufthansa to become first airline to run regular biofuel more

    When Do Consumers Say “No” to Green? Good follow on from Marc Stoiber's presentation in Victoria last more

    Five Merits of Sustainability Reporting for more

    Compiled with the assistance of Nick Searle

    Monday, July 4, 2011

    SRI Monitor Weekly News Update

    Canada Makes Big Bet on Carbon Capture and more

    Where Canada shines: Water more

    Google says delaying clean energy will cost the US more

    Water shortages threaten renewable energy more

    GE Supports Ruggie more

    4 themes to watch in food more

    Compiled with the assistance of Nick Searle

    Friday, June 24, 2011

    Canadian Responsible Investment Conference: Mitigating risk through SRI

    This story was initially published on

    Mary Jane McQuillen has been described as a rock star in the world of socially responsible investing. The New York City-based fund manager heads up the ESG (environmental, social and governance) division of Clearbridge Advisors, which was recently appointed to sub-advise the Meritas U.S. Equity Fund. McQuillen was in Victoria this week, speaking at the Canadian Responsible Investment Conference.

    Clearbridge, with $55 billion in assets under management, does the majority of its research in house, with a team of 20 fundamental analysts. For funds with a socially responsible mandate, ESG factors are integrated into the research.

    “All the stocks are researched with ESG in mind,” McQuillen explains. “We decide what’s in and out at the stock selection process.” Standard screens, as requested by Meritas, are applied, such as alcohol, tobacco, weapons and pornography.

    “Our clients are committed but they’re also very practical,” McQuillen says. “It’s important to look at the mission as well as performance. We seek best in class all the time but that doesn’t seem to happen in the world today. We acknowledge that sometimes you’re not going to find best in class. So we might pass on the industry or we might actively engage with companies.”

    Clearbridge has approximately 1,000 meetings a year with companies and conducts regular on-site inspections. McQuillen believes this allows Clearbridge to drill down to the culture of companies. “A lot of companies are very good at filling out surveys—but you want to see a translation of what they put on paper to the operation of the business.

    “There are a lot of companies with great compelling stories that are below the radar. We think it’s great to invest in those companies as well.”

    The strategy for the Meritas fund is to invest mostly in large-cap stocks, about 45 names, with a long-term approach. “It’s not trying to be high risk and high return; it’s higher return with less risk.”

    “We’ll usually be in line with the benchmark when times are good,” McQuillen notes. “When the market tanks, we tend to lose less.” In 2008, the Clearbridge portfolio was down 25% while the S&P 500 lost 37% over the same period.

    Similar to many ESG specialists, Clearbridge faces challenges in the advisor channel. As in Canada, many U.S. advisors don’t understand SRI or have misconceptions about it, McQuillen says. In a survey, Clearbridge advisors pointed to myths such as underperformance or the so-called moral agenda of SRI funds. McQuillen says the solution is education. “Many advisors simply don’t know what the current situation is.”

    Thursday, June 23, 2011

    Canadian Responsible Investment Conference: Ambachtsheer wins Lifetime Achievement Award

    Jane Ambachtsheer has won the SIO's annual Lifetime Achievement Award, presented on Wednesday night in Victoria at the organization's annual conference.

    Ambachtsheer heads Mercer's global responsible investment team and is an adjunct professor at the University of Toronto where she teaches a graduate course on SRI.

    The other nominees for this year's award were Deb Abbey, Tessa Hebb and Bob Walker.

    Michael Jantzi, CEO of Jantzi-Sustainalytics, won the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010.

    What a start to the Conference!

    Robert Bateman opened the 2011 Responsible Investment Conference with an inspirational speech that was at times amusing, at times informative and always thought provoking.

    Although, as would be expected from a renowned naturalist, his themes come from nature, those themes resonate in the world of SRI. Notably, thinking about the cost of things that today we deem free and the long term impacts of today’s often short sighted decisions. Mr. Bateman quoted Chief Seattle, ‘Man does not weave this web of life. He is merely a strand of it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.’

    He effectively used his paintings to illustrate points, beginning with Driftnet, showing a dead Pacific White-sided Dolphin and Lysan Albatross. ‘These drifting "walls of death" captured untold numbers of dolphins, whales, pelagic birds (birds of the open ocean), sharks and turtles, along with the targeted species.’ Shrimp is one of the worst offenders when it comes to bycatch, with an estimated ratio of about 6:1. This unfortunate fact led to many of us feeling too guilty to eat the shrimp at the reception later that evening. It is possible to reduce that bycatch ratio, but we would have to pay more for our shrimp. ‘Is it worth it?’, asked Mr. Bateman rhetorically, ‘Is it worth it to pay a little more for the future of our planet?’

    ‘You can pay now or you can pay later, but if you pay later, it’s going to cost a whole lot more. What if the land for Stanley Park had not been set aside, imagine the cost if you tried to buy Stanley Park today.’

    However, no matter how dire the situation of planet Earth, Mr. Bateman doesn’t lose sleep over it, ‘It’s a sin against creation to worry about it. Do a simple three breath meditation, and then go outside and thank a tree, or even a dandelion.’
    And then do something to make things better. Be a hummingbird. Mr. Bateman told us this story, popularized by Wangari Maathai. A terrible forest fire broke out one day, and all the animals fled their homes. But one hummingbird zipped over to a stream, got some water in its beak, and rushed back to the raging fire. The little hummingbird tried to douse the flames with a few drops of water, then back to the stream it flew to retrieve more water. The other animals watched in disbelief. They asked the hummingbird what it was doing – one tiny bird would not make a bit of difference. The hummingbird replied, “I'm doing the best I can.”

    A fantastic grab bag of a speech: art, history, environmentalism, economics, humour and hope, even a verse of Big Yellow Taxi, you couldn’t ask for more.

    Wednesday, June 22, 2011

    Canadian Responsible Investment Conference: Switching to SRI

    Transitioning your practice to SRI can be a painless process, according to one advisor who made the move successfully. Gail Taylor of Gail Taylor and Associates at CIBC Wood Gundy in Edmonton has a $100 million SRI book and more than 100 clients.

    Speaking at the Canadian Responsible Investment Conference in Victoria this week, Taylor says she built her practice the traditional way and had worked her way up to $80 million by the early 1990s. But she was unhappy and went to a business coach for help.

    The business coach told Taylor that she had to find a way to build passion into her business. Taylor decided to switch to SRI, but was worried about what her clients would think. “My clients didn't hire me to be a do-gooder,” she said. “I expected a 20% haircut.”

    Instead, the opposite happened. Taylor got no push back whatsoever. “Clients told me that it was great and asked why I didn't make the move sooner. It's easy to transition to SRI and it's important work.”

    Taylor says advisors who make the switch offer a unique value proposition. “The number of advisors doing SRI is still relatively small,” she says. Taylor describes herself as an “anomaly” in the CIBC office, since she's the only one offering SRI. “Our industry is at the early adapter stage. It's at the cusp of moving exponentially. My organization is going to get SRI in the future.”

    Tuesday, June 21, 2011

    Canadian Responsible Investment Conference: Canada’s Oil Industry and Investor Engagement

    by Travis Strain

    This session was very informal and structured in a Q + A format. The Facilitator was Susan Enefer of BC Investment Management Corporation and the industry representatives were Bob Walker of NEI Investments and Gordon Lambert of Suncor Engery.

    The session explained, from two different angles, how shareholder engagement works and how it could be better in the future. There were 3 main points that came out of this presentation.

    1) The future of corporate engagement for the oil sands from Bob’s perspective revolves around developing a measuring stick by which progress gets measured. Currently there is no easy way to judge the progress of the industry and this needs to change.

    2) From Gord’s perspective, successful corporate engagement comes from the creation of “creative tension” between the two opposing parties. There is a fine line between creative tension and what he calls emotional tension. Emotional tension is detrimental and causes the two parties to become deadlocked with neither party seeing progress. This is what happens often when NGOs attempt to engage companies with media tactics.

    3) In order for progress to be made on the company side, the two parties must come to the table to find solutions. They must come with the idea of having a solution oriented discussion. Communication between the two opposing parties is essential to ensure that the best possible solution is found. There also needs to be adequate conversation regarding how the energy companies will be judged on their progress and the expectations.

    The final part of the session discussed a question from the floor about the people living along the Athabasca River and the problems that have arisen there. Gord used this part of the discussion as an example of how two parties can come to a complete gridlock due to extreme polarization between views. Gord stated that in order to solve this gridlock, both parties need to build trust amongst each other and come to the table to find the best solution.

    Monday, June 20, 2011

    Canadian Responsible Investment Conference: Green Marketing Misses the Mark

    Green marketing is over, says branding expert Marc Stoiber. Speaking on the opening day of the Canadian Responsible Investment Conference in Victoria, Stoiber says it's time to move on to new methods of promotion for the green movement, including SRI, since it's clear the traditional approach has missed the mark.

    Mainstream consumers have not been willing to vote with their dollars, Stoiber pointed out. “We're preaching to the choir.” The problem is that green is perceived as both expensive and suspicious, he says. A survey suggests that even Fortune 500 companies can't do green marketing correctly.

    As for SRI, “it's wide but it's not deep,” Stoiber stated, noting that what started as a retail movement has become more institutional. And the belief is that large investors, such as pension funds, are investing relatively small amounts of money into SRI so they can check off a box.

    Make green normal, Stoiber suggests and “lose the crunchy granola. The mainstream wants to blend in.” Make green better and make it less confusing, he adds. The terminology doesn't matter, Stoiber says, pointing to the often-confusing array of names attached to SRI, including ethical and sustainable investing. “Don't tell me you're green, call it innovation. And don't talk about green, talk about performance.”

    Wednesday, June 8, 2011

    Wholesalers not interested in SRI

    I recently came across a news item that said HSBC will wind up the HSBC Global Climate Change Fund. The decision to close the fund was based on the small fund size and relatively small number of unitholders.

    This surprised me for two reasons. First, that in the current environment there was no interest in a Climate Change fund (?!%?), and second that I, presumably a member of one of the target markets for this fund, had never heard of it.

    I asked other professional members of the SIO about the fund. Across the board, no one had heard of it, been contacted by HSBC or received any marketing material. Little surprise then that it failed to attract assets.

    Mainstream fund companies recognize that investors want SRI funds. They launch the funds, often with fanfare. And then they languish. Primarily, I believe, because wholesalers don’t offer them to advisors. Please note that the following comments apply to fund companies that have a few SRI products in their line up, not to companies like Meritas that specialize in SRI.

    Fran Goldberg, an established financial planner in BC and long time member of the SIO, has this to say “My practice is to not see wholesalers unless I request a meeting. Every time a new one is assigned to me, they call and try to offer me the newest, best practice that will make me a better planner. They have no historical information as to who I am, tenure in the industry, etc. All they see are assets under admin. Never once have any of these newbies even mentioned SRI offerings. In fact, they never talk about SRI at all. I’m certain my experience is not unique.”

    Numerous advisors chimed in to agree that they never hear about SRI unless they ask. And sometimes don’t get much information even when they do. “Recently I asked a Franklin/Templeton rep if the tradition of excluding tobacco companies at Templeton was extended to all the funds. The answer I got was something like ‘Why would you care?’....” comments Sara Gooderham, a Quebec based planner

    Where does that leave the many advisors who are interested in SRI but not yet committed, who want to offer it to at least a portion of their client base, and are open to wholesalers raising the topic? Nowhere.

    Margot Willmot at Family Wealth Advisors in Ottawa sums it up nicely ‘As for the mainstream companies, although they are very supportive of my non-SRI business, they are not helpful whatsoever in supporting me with the few SRI investments that they provide. I think that it is mainly due to their discomfort and lack of knowledge in SRI products. It is discouraging but I think with time, as more and more clients demand SRI products, the mainstream companies will wake up!’

    Meanwhile, fund companies remain asleep at the wheel, SRI funds continue to stumble along and we keep getting told the palpable untruth that no one wants SRI.

    Tuesday, June 7, 2011

    SIO Conference Preview: Measuring the Transition to a Green Economy

    by Tim Nash

    Hazel Henderson has been advocating for a greener economy since she served as Chair of Citizens for Clean Air in 1964. A futurist at heart, she’s always been decades ahead of her time. Her 1981 book “The Politics of the Solar Age” discussed the fallacies faced by conventional economists in their shallow attempts to understand and incorporate environmental externalities into their models. She contrasted the economics of solar versus nuclear energies, and called for a paradigm shift away from a disposable culture into one that embraces renewable resources.

    Hazel’s latest project is called the Green Transition Scoreboard®. The Scoreboard is an attempt to aggregate private investments in the global green economy. The latest update (Feb, 2011) pegs the figure at $2,005,048,785,088. It includes figures across five sectors: renewable energy; smart grid; efficiency and green construction; corporate R&D; and cleantech.

    Several reports, including WWF’s The Energy Report and the UNEP’s Towards a Green Economy, show that our global society can shift away from a dirty fossil-fuel based economy towards a clean renewables-based one. Kick-starting this transition will take approximately $1 trillion of investments every year until 2020. Indeed, Mercer’s Climate Change Scenarios - Implications for Strategic Asset Allocation suggests that 40% of institutional money should be switched into “climate-sensitive assets” to hedge against carbon pricing risks and to profit from economic opportunities resulting from this transition. The Scorecard is designed to measure the extent of this transition, and to show investors that the bandwagon is leaving.

    Hazel Henderson is a guest speaker at this year’s Social Investment Conference: Creating Value, Making a Difference in Victoria, B.C. June 20-22.

    Timothy Nash has been dedicated to sustainable investing for over seven years. In 2008, he founded Strategic Sustainable Investments. He earned his M.Sc. in Strategic Leadership towards Sustainability from the Blekinge Institute of Technology (Karlskrona, Sweden) and his B.A. in Economics from the University of King’s College (Halifax, Canada). He has completed the Canadian Securities Course, and is a Senior Research Advisor to Ethical Markets Media (USA and Brazil). He leads the research team for the Green Transition Scoreboard®, which has found more than $2 trillion of private investments flowing into the global green economy. He currently lives in Toronto, Canada and is often found at the Centre for Social Innovation.

    Friday, June 3, 2011

    NEI calls for “effective and credible” oil sands monitoring

    NEI Investments, owner of Ethical Funds, has released its submission to the Alberta Environmental Monitoring Panel, a team of experts asked to recommend principles and objectives for a world-class environmental monitoring system, beginning with the oil sands region.

    “Awareness has been increasing among investment institutions that the environmental and social impacts of oil sands development could pose risks to the long-term value of the companies involved,” NEI says in its submission letter. “Establishing an effective and credible monitoring system is a key public policy intervention that can help to mitigate these risks and create greater certainty for investors.”

    “A world-class environmental monitoring system should produce credible information, backed by a credible process. It is imperative that all stakeholders should have confidence in the quality of the data being gathered, and confidence in the body responsible for gathering it.”

    Later this month, the panel will issue its initial report and recommendations.

    The NEI comments were submitted on behalf of companies representing over $1.2 trillion in assets under managements, including Batirente, the BC Investment Management Corporation, Calvert Investments, Meritas and Vancity.

    A copy of NEI’s submission letter is available here.

    Monday, May 30, 2011

    SRI Monitor Weekly News Update

    Major UN Global Compact and Accenture Study on Sustainability as an Engine for more here

    India wants market to curb more here

    Sustainable business market to hit $60bn by more here

    The Energizer bunny goes more here

    A turning-point we miss at our more here

    CSRHUB Releases Sustainability Ratings Widget to be Hosted on the Huffington more here

    Compiled with the assistance of Nick Searle

    Thursday, May 26, 2011

    SRI Conference Preview: Marc Stoiber on SRI Branding

    Creative director and brand strategist Marc Stoiber believes the SRI industry is stuck in clichés, bogged down by uninspiring language and lame acronyms.

    Stoiber will speak on SRI branding at this year’s Canadian Responsible Investment Conference in Victoria.

    “Is green the best way to position a green/SRI brand?” Stoiber asks. “Or should we simply be talking about [SRI products] as more enlightened, more innovative and more forward-thinking?”

    Stoiber says terms like SRI and ESG lack the loft and inspiration needed to carry the industry forward. “Would Martin Luther King have rallied millions of people by saying “I have a socially responsible idea?” Right now, I fear the industry is stuck in clichés when it comes to describing the inspiration.”

    “My main point is that we’re moving forward one tame increment after another,” Stoiber says. “This is a guarantee for sameness. It’s time to re-examine what SRI promises, see it from the consumers’ point of view and make it as exciting and inspiring as it needs to be.”

    Although Stoiber is negative towards SRI as a brand, he certainly believes that SRI products have a future. “I believe SRI products will futureproof client portfolios and therefore prove superior.”

    Marc Stoiber is VP Green Innovation at ad agency Maddock Douglas. He has spent nearly 20 years in advertising and design, specializing in building brands.

    The Canadian Responsible Investment Conference will be held in Victoria, BC from June 20 to June 22. This year’s theme is Creating Value, Making a Difference. Marc Stoiber will speak on Monday, June 20 at 3pm on SRI Branding, What’s Working and What Isn’t.

    If you're interested in blogging about this year's conference, please contact Doug Watt at

    Tuesday, May 17, 2011

    SRI poised for evolution, bank says

    Socially responsible investing has undergone a “spectacular” transformation in recent years and is ready to move to the next level, according to a report from German commercial bank WestLB.

    The 120-page report states that the SRI market continues to grow strongly in both absolute and relative terms. “Based on Eurosif numbers, we estimate that the overall [European] RI volume will increase to about 6,500 billion euros by the end of this year – which suggests that it no longer represents a niche market.”

    Large institutional investors, such as corporate pensions, have taken the lead in setting RI standards, the report notes.

    WestLB divides the growth of SRI in three stages, starting with ethical and/or philanthropic considerations, “basically negative screening,” and continuing with the integration of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into investment-making decisions. “A lot of advances have undoubtedly been made in this area over the last couple of years,” the report states. “The concepts and methodologies used have become smarter, the investment process more rigorous and efficient.”

    The third stage, which West LB says is just beginning, is the move towards a consistent, multi-asset approach to responsible investing. “It is closely intertwined with some of the open questions regarding ESG integration and active ownership.”

    “ESG integration remain the name of the game,” the report states. “Going forward, more specificity is needed with regard to questions about ‘how to do it’ and ‘how to measure added value and impact.’”

    The full report is available here.

    Monday, May 16, 2011

    SRI Monitor Weekly News Update

    Stephen Viederman Says Foundations Don’t Practice What They more

    Keystone pipeline spilled tar-sands oil 11 times in past year. Do we really want to supersize it? more

    Roger Martin-Making the business world all about the common more

    Sharing and caring: the implications of collaborative more

    California’s big utilities are mandated to look at a 10-year road map. Here’s some of what they see going more more

    Compiled with the assistance of Nick Searle

    Friday, May 13, 2011

    Corporate Governance Milestone

    Bill Davis is a long time SRI activist. Bill sent this memo to the SIO listserve, and when I read it, I though everyone should be aware of what he has managed to do. Bill agreed that we could publish his victory on SRI Monitor.

    As an individual shareholder, I filed a shareholder proposal with the CIBC seeking the provision of an abstention option on the proxy ballot. At the annual meeting, held April 28, 2011 in Winnipeg, my proposal received 65.67% support from shareholders.

    I do believe this is the first time in Canada that a proposal from an individual shareholder actually received a majority vote of any size, let alone a significant one.

    I take this as encouraging, in that institutional shareholders obviously took the time to consider an issue and exercise their judgement, regardless of the fact that the issue had not been extensively promoted and was filed by an relatively unknown shareholder. This is a step forward for shareholder democracy.

    The wording of the proposal appears in the CIBC proxy material along with my explanation. Needless to say, media covering the meeting did not notice the historic first.

    To provide a brief sketch of the history leading to the filing, I offer the following.

    As a shareholder, I have encountered occasions when a proposal made sense but seemed awkward to implement, or flawed in some minor way. The management's opposition appeared not to address the intent of the proposal, as much as to dismiss it. I have then abstained to send the signal that more consideration is warranted. While abstention is permissible it has not been clear how it should be done. Proxy circulars from US corporations do provide a box to facilitate abstention. In an increasingly global investment climate, I felt Canadian shareholders deserved the same clarity.

    I began my effort with a question from the floor of a CIBC meeting several years ago and followed this with the same question at the AGM of Manulife Financial. After 4 years of correspondence with both corporations, I decided things would not change without engaging all shareholders through a proposal. I filed first at Manulife, for their 2010 annual meeting and they agreed to provide the abstention box, so I withdrew my proposal. Now that the will of the shareholder body is more clearly defined, I plan to be in touch with a number of corporations over the summer to expand the provision of an abstention box to facilitate those who choose to abstain.

    Thank you Bill!

    Thursday, May 12, 2011

    Sustainalytics announces European expansion

    ESG research firm Sustainalytics is expanding into northern Europe, today announcing the hiring of Liz Wirth as Senior Responsible Investment Advisor, Nordic Region. Wirth will be based in Copenhagen, Denmark.

    “Sustainalytics has long served the financial community throughout northern Europe and Scandinavia,” says Michael Jantzi, CEO, Sustainalytics. “Liz’s presence there continues our commitment to provide clients access to global responsible investment solutions that are informed by the conditions and subtleties of the local markets. Liz’s mainstream capital markets experience, combined with her sustainability background and skill set, position her nicely to support clients who integrate environmental, social and governance factors into their investment decision-making processes and initiatives.”

    Wirth was an economist and commodity price specialist for the Bank of Canada and spent nearly 10 years as a senior economist and financial strategist with the Bank of Montreal. She will be responsible for client services within the Nordic markets as well as Sustainalytics’ stock market indexes, including the STOXX Global ESG Leaders Indices, S&P/TSX Clean Technology Index and the Jantzi Social Index.

    “The Nordic countries are leaders in responsible investment, each with their own signature,” said Wirth in a news release. “I am pleased to be working with investors in the different regions to leverage our global research and expertise to meet their responsible investment objectives.”

    Tuesday, May 10, 2011

    Volunteer bloggers wanted for SIO conference

    SRI Monitor is looking for volunteer bloggers to write previews and on-site articles about this year’s Social Investment Organization conference, to be held in Victoria from June 20-22.

    The theme of this year’s conference is Creating Value, Making a Difference. Topics up for discussion include SRI branding, the future of energy in Canada, renewable energy investment, the Alberta oil sands, corporate governance, conflict minerals and new technology as well as impact investing.

    Guest speakers and panelists include Hazel Henderson, Stephen Griggs, Robert Bateman, Bob Monks, Gord Lambert, Nancy McHarg and Bob Walker.

    The idea is simple – pick a speaker or a session you'd like to write about and produce a short article (250-400 words). Don't have much writing experience? Not to worry, we'll give you some basic training and walk you through the process. Video blogs are also welcome.

    The articles will be published before and during the conference, and distributed on SRI Monitor, the SIO's e-mail Listserve and the SIO website.

    This is the second year SRI Monitor and the SIO have worked together on conference-related social media. In 2010, SRI Monitor posted eight pre-conferences articles and ten articles during the conference itself. We also collaborated on a conference-focused twitter feed.

    If you'd like to take part as a blogger or if you are interested in distributing the content on your website, please contact social media coordinator Doug Watt at

    Monday, May 9, 2011

    SRI Monitor Weekly News Update

    Investment Managers Pushing Companies to go more

    Social and Environmental Shareholder Resolutions Gain more

    Assessing Companies’ ESG more

    Social Responsibility a Low Priority for Canadian more

    Companies Must Court Stakeholders to Accelerate more

    Climate legislation advances in 16 major more

    LinkedIn IPO to List on NYSE: Big Win for Big more

    Compiled with the assistance of Nick Searle

    Thursday, May 5, 2011

    SRI assets hold steady

    Socially responsible assets in Canada dropped marginally to $531 billion as of June 30, 2010, compared with $579 billion in 2008, according to the biennial SRI review, released today by the Social Investment Organization. However, SRI still represents about one-fifth of total Canadian assets under management, about the same level as 2008.

    “SRI has held steady, showing resilience in the face of the unprecedented turmoil in the capital markets brought about by the credit crisis of 2008,” the survey notes. “SRI continues to gain traction as a reliable mainstream tool for value enhancement, risk management and the realization of social and environmental goals.”

    “I think the numbers are encouraging,” said SIO executive director Eugene Ellmen in an interview. “The assets are down somewhat, but the overall market share is about the same, about 20%. Where the significant decline in the numbers came was on the pension fund side, and that’s purely a result of the market declines in 2008.”

    “We’ve maintained our market share through the decline, markets have come back nicely in 2011 and I think that SRI is poised for growth in the future.”

    Assets managed by pension funds make up the bulk of SRI assets in Canada at $453 billion, about 85% of the total. That’s a drop from $513 billion in 2008.

    The survey notes that Canada’s major, publicly-managed pension funds – such as the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, OMERS and OPSEU Pension Trust – have been early adopters of responsible investment strategies.

    SRI retail funds managed on behalf of individual clients gained some ground, rising to $25 billion compared with $22 billion in 2008. SRI mutual funds make up about half the total in this category, at $12.4 billion. Retail funds represent about 5% of total SRI assets in Canada.

    “SRI mutual funds have had some challenges over the last couple of years, but they have bounced back nicely in 2011, and I think they are poised to grow as advisors learn more about socially responsible investment,” Ellmen says.

    Renewable energy income trusts, which invest in a pool of investments focused on the production of clean energy, have grown to nearly $13 billion. There are some fundamental reasons for that, Ellmen explains, such as such as the rising price of oil, which has created opportunities in other forms of renewable energy. At the same time, there have been some key policy changes, such as the Feed-in Tariff program under the Ontario Energy Act.

    Impact investments, such as community loan funds and social venture capital, represent $4.5 billion, or about 0.8% of total SRI numbers. It’s a small, but fast-growing segment of SRI, the report notes.

    “I think impact investing has quite an exciting future because local communities are looking for ways to use investment capital to improve their economies and to create opportunities for disadvantaged people”, Ellmen says. “Social finance is growing tremendously as an alternative to traditional ways of funding non profit organizations and social services. There’s a lot of attention in this area.”

    The review also found that asset management firms investing funds under SRI mandates grew to $46 billion, about 9% of the total.

    Click here to access the full SRI Review.

    This story was originally published on

    Monday, May 2, 2011

    SRI Monitor Weekly News Update

    Not so much news this week, lots of good background pieces.

    Why GE, Coca-Cola, and IBM Are Getting Into the Water Business…read more

    Suncor fined for breaking water plan conditions…read more

    A star Silicon Valley investor puts his money where his mouth is for sustainable ag…read more

    Cadbury's embracing of ethically-made chocolate has changed the market…read more

    Aperio group introduces the first animal rights portfolio designed to track the broad us equity market…read more

    and watch
    China Weighs Environmental Concerns Against Economic Growth

    Compiled with the assistance of Nick Searle

    Monday, April 18, 2011

    SRI Monitor Weekly News Update

    a weekly medley of news and views you might have missed but should be aware of....

    Federal Election: Where do the parties stand on Human Rights? more

    California state senate committee passes conflict minerals billread more

    Impact of Japanese Natural Disaster on Dexia Asset Management Portfolios and Thoughts on the Sustainability of Nuclear the report

    the Top Ten Green Giants for 2011read more

    Pro sports going greener, and why it mattersread more

    and for your viewing pleasure: World Energy ConsumptionThe magic washing machine TED Talk

    Thursday, April 14, 2011

    Universities urged to adopt SRI practices

    A new coalition group is calling on Canadian universities to introduce responsible investment practices. The newly formed Coalition of Universities for Responsible Investment (CURI) says the universities need to address risks affecting over $41 billion in pension funds and endowment investments.

    "We are lagging far behind our American counterparts when it comes to incorporating environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) risks into investment strategies," said Omar Dominguez, CURI chair and co-founder. "If ignored, these risks do more than harm a university's reputation. They endanger the growth of their endowments and pension funds.”

    Dominguez says the financial crisis was a wake-up call for many university investment managers. The total value of U.S. universities' endowments fell by nearly a quarter between July 1 and November 30, 2008 – a decline of about $94.5 billion in assets. "It is now widely understood how, in the months leading to the crisis of 2008, poor corporate governance practices such as the securitization of toxic sub-prime mortgages exposed the entire financial system to excessive risk. Conventional investing strategies were not able to identify and mitigate those risks," said Dominguez.

    In response, more than 40 American universities have since established responsible investment advisory groups. Only the University of Toronto has followed suit among Canadian universities, the coalition noted in a press release.

    “Responsible investing provides a bridge between ethical concerns and financial performance,” the release states. “For years, university communities have used activism and antagonistic campaigns to influence their schools' investment practices. But by inviting their stakeholders along with RI professionals to the board room, universities can avoid the rancour of divestment campaigns and protect the long-term performance of their investments. RI also furthers universities' educational mandates by nurturing a constructive dialogue about complex investment issues.”

    CURI will hold its first national symposium on June 21 in Victoria, in partnership with the Social Investment Organization and its national conference.