New York City Retirement Systems has completed divesting $48 million in private prison companies. City Comptroller Scott Stringer said, “Our criminal justice system has failed a generation of Americans because, for decades, we built bigger prisons instead of greater schools, and we were ‘tough on crime’ instead of ‘smart on crime.’ Society used mass incarceration as an economic development strategy at the expense of communities of color. Today, we’re taking action.”
Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google are among hundreds of U.S. businesses joining an effort to support the Paris climate agreement as part of a public campaign announced Monday. Dubbed “We Are Still In,” the launch of the initiative comes just days after President Trump said the United States would withdraw from the international accord, stunning much of the world and breaking with a broad host of industry executives who supported the deal.The campaign’s participants, which also include hundreds of investors, universities, local officials and state governments, have pledged to support the Paris accord and “pursue ambitious climate goals,” according to an open letter the campaign released.
VEA Vice Chair Nell Minow interviewed the State Street executive who guided the company in meeting its environmental goals ahead of schedule, and wrote about it for Huffington Post:
Corporate executives and shareholders are increasingly aware that as a matter of strategy and branding they must play an active public role in addressing environmental risks. ExxonMobil’s Peter Trelenberg wrote to President Trump to ask him to meet the US commitments on the Paris accords. Occidental Petroleum shareholders voted in favor of a climate change shareholder resolution by an almost two-thirds majority. And State Street has announced that it has exceeded its environmental goals set for 2020, three years ahead of schedule, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions and water use by 20 percent per person and diverting 90 percent of waste sent to landfills. In an interview, Rick Pearl, Vice President, Corporate Citizenship at State Street Corporation, explained why this issue is so vital for State Street and how concerns about environmental risk are examined in operations and in evaluating investment risk and return in their portfolio decisions.How were the environmental goals set and what was the baseline?The environmental goals are set by our environmental sustainability (ES) committee and approved by State Street’s Executive Corporate Responsibility committee. The ES committee evaluates company environmental data against contemporary international standards to determine its targets. The 2020 goals were established against a 2012 baseline for CO2 emissions, water usage and waste diversion from landfill. The new Science-Based Targets are set against a 2015 baseline with a 10-year time horizon (2025). They were established in accordance with the Science-Based Target Initiative’s sectoral decarbonization approach which aims to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels.We think of environmental issues as being important for fossil fuel companies or manufacturing companies. Why does State Street consider this a priority?Environmental issues are of increasing importance to our stakeholders, including employees, the communities in which we operate, clients and shareholders. From a business standpoint, more clients are expecting their financial service providers to offer products and services that address environmental issues and State Street’s asset management arm, State Street Global Advisors (SSGA) – has several (low-carbon ETF, green bonds, etc.). In addition, we have launched a program in our Global Exchange division that will help support clients in Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) analysis and quantification of their investments. Both clients (through the RFP process) and shareholders (through ESG indices) are expecting companies such as State Street to have strong operational approaches to environmental sustainability. It’s about helping out clients to do financially well, while doing good for the environment.Does State Street factor environmental concerns into its assessment of investment risk or analysis of issues on corporate proxies?Our shareholder engagement team at SSGA screens companies in client portfolios against a range of issues that could impact performance over time, including environmental factors such as climate change, water and energy consumption.There is a popular conception that meeting environmental standards is expensive. Did you find that to be true? Were there cost savings?State Street’s Environmental Management System is designed to capture efficiencies in its approach. As a result, the business case can be cost neutral or there may be cost savings in the short and long term. At this time, environmental factors have become part of our normalized decision-making processes (along with cost, etc.) in real estate, procurement and IT, to name three key areas.What factors led to achieving the goals ahead of schedule? What’s next?Investments in new technology, designing new buildings that are more green and efficient, and creating greater awareness amongst our employee base are several of the factors that led us to achieve our 2020 goals three years ahead of time schedule. As a result of our success, we are now moving to a Science-Based Target which is the new industry standard following the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in 2015.
Investors today sent a strong signal regarding their growing concerns about climate risk with a majority vote at PPL Corp. in support of a shareholder proposal calling on the company to conduct two degree scenario analysis on its full portfolio of power generation assets and planned capital expenditures through 2040. The proposal calls on the company’s board and management to analyze the company’s business plans and practices against a range of scenarios including one where global temperature rise is limited to no more than 2 degrees Celsius, consistent with the global transition to a new clean energy economy.
“Investors understand that the transition to clean energy and a lower carbon economy is inevitable and well underway. We need to know what companies are doing to adapt and succeed in this new environment,” said New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli who filed the resolution, which also was supported by CalPERS among others. “We need to know that the company has a comprehensive strategy, not just a piecemeal approach. We look forward to working with PPL to make progress.” The New York State Comptroller is also one of the lead filers of a similar resolution that will go to a vote at ExxonMobil on May 31.
Most institutions (80%) have an environmental, social and governance (ESG) component as part of their investment strategies, according to a survey of 475 global institutional investors in the United States, Europe and Asia Pacific, including some of the largest pension plans, endowments and foundations, commissioned by State Street Global Advisors.
More than two-thirds (68%) of respondents say integration of ESG has significantly improved returns. In addition, 69% say pursuing an ESG strategy has helped with managing volatility.ESG implementation is driven by a no-compromise approach: three-quarters have the same performance expectations for ESG as they do for other investments.
The depth of ESG exposure within portfolios remains low: only 17% of respondents have more than 50% of assets with exposure to ESG factors, and 44% have less than 25%. One-third of this group has between 25% and 50%.
There are some challenges that inhibit greater adoption of ESG investments. Benchmarking is seen as one of the greatest challenges, the survey finds.
Recent years have seen a surge of investor interest in integrating environmental, social and governance (ESG) information into financial analysis and investment decisionmaking.
Signs of this trend include continued growth in the volume of managed assets
that incorporate ESG research, increasingly sophisticated investor tools, more ESG information providers, more ESG information gathering frameworks, more indices incorporating ESG data, and the use of ESG factors across asset classes, including fixed income and alternatives. According to data collected by the Global Sustainable Investment Alliance, ESG investment strategies, broadly defined, currently account for USD 22.9tn in managed assets worldwide, up from USD 13.3tn in 2012.
The report outlines the “typology” of ESG investing with “six prevailing types” of approaches.
Within this dimension, the two key differentiators for distinguishing approaches to ESG integration are:
a) the degree to which functions and responsibilities related to ESG integration
are centralized in an organization, and
b) the extent to which a firm or investment team has processes in place to
The report also examines the scope of research and the difference between “top-down” (the development and execution of an investment thesis based on a general view (as opposed to a view derived from fundamental analysis) of how ESG factors may create investment risks and opportunities) and “bottom-up” (the integration of ESG factors into security-specific fundamental analysis in the context of security valuation and selection) applications.
During the discussion on the effects of climate change on investments, Butterfield said that Harvard’s natural resources portfolio will not likely invest in the fossil fuel industry in the future because those funds do not perform that well financially.“What I can tell you is, from my area, I could honestly say that I doubt—I can’t say never, because never say never—but I doubt that we would ever make a direct investment with fossil fuels,” he said. “But that’s more of an Investment Committee decision, and I cannot talk on their behalf.”Butterfield added that Harvard does indirectly invest in fossil fuels through outside funds. Members of the Harvard Corporation indicated in October that the University was moving away from investments in coal because they were not profitable.
President Trump views environmental and financial deregulation as main tools to stimulate economic growth and job creation. The EOs issued to date have focused upon Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules and the repeal or revision of the Dodd-Frank Act. CCSFR is governed by securities laws worldwide, and in the U.S., Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) regulation, which implements and enforces the U.S. securities laws, is the controlling authority. CCSFR is not legally impacted by EPA rules or the Dodd-Frank Act. The SEC has not yet issued any final or proposed rules on CCSFR, but the “materiality” principle inherent throughout the SEC regime applies to all issuer SEC filings. The SEC issued an “Interpretative Release” on Climate Change Guidance in 2010, which identified four main areas of climate-related risk that issuers should consider, but this release does not have the force of law.
Neither President Trump nor his Cabinet or agency officials have mentioned CCSFR, even in the context of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, and the substantive linkage between CCSFR and economic growth/job creation is attenuated at best. The new SEC Chair appointee, Jay Clayton (Senate confirmation pending), in his March 2017 nomination hearing testimony to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, supported the 2010 SEC Climate Change Guidance in response to a direct query from Senator Jack Reed: “public companies should be very mindful of that guidance as they are crafting their disclosure.”
Lucy P. Marcus writes:
US President Donald Trump may seem like a dream come true for business. A businessman himself – as he so often reminds us – Trump is eager to please companies with extensive deregulation. But, if companies aren’t careful, they will come to regret what they wished for.
Just as Trump governs by id, he wants to allow business leaders to manage their companies the same way. It is certainly tempting for some. Indeed, companies are lining up to take advantage of rollbacks of data privacy, environmental rules, worker protections, banking regulations, consumer rights, and rules regarding conflict minerals. Many are keen to see how far they can push an administration that, so far, seems willing to agree to just about anything.
But, contrary to Trump’s rhetoric, this approach is not really pro-business. By pursuing radical deregulation, the Trump administration is practically begging businesses to harm consumers, the environment, and, in the long run, themselves. Indeed, as the consequences of companies’ actions are exposed, public trust in those businesses – not to mention in the government that was supposed to regulate them – will be decimated. Boards of directors’ risk committees should be sounding the alarm.
The expectation on business to act responsibly, tackle social and environmental problems, and deliver positive societal impact is only increasing. It’s a tough ask. The sheer complexity of the sustainability issues business has to wrestle with is astounding. No single person or company can do this alone but, if you want to last, you can’t just sweep them under the carpet and walk away. So to make a real difference, we need to align the core business strategy [commercially and financially] to macro social needs and come together [internally and externally] to co-create alliances towards the same goal. If we are to deliver social purpose and impact, and gain trust we need to drive positive social transformation and improve company’s reputation. That’s what Ethical Corporation’s Responsible Business Summit will deliver on. We’re doing things differently and we really want to move your business towards the genuine impact you are looking for. Our agenda topics will help you to overcome obstacles and uncover the potential for responsible strategies and opportunities to drive social purpose, profit and change with quantified impact and empirical justification.