Fr. Mike Crosby receives ICCR Legacy Award

On September 28, Fr. Dan Crosby, O.F.M. Cap., accepted ICCR’s Legacy Award on behalf of his brother and SGI’s founder, Fr. Mike Crosby, O.F.M. Cap., together with Sr. Patricia Daly, O.P., Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment.  The event was held at New York’s historic Riverside Church.  Fr. Dan Crosby accepted his brother’s award with humility and gratitude in the same way Mike approached his work. “The corporate executives whom Mike engaged always respected him because he was never trying to attack them,” he said. “He was just trying always to speak the truth in love.”

ICCR informed Fr. Crosby that he was receiving this year’s Legacy Award shortly after he began hospice treatment last June.   Fr. Mike shared at the time, “I want to finish my remarks with a word to the young people in the audience. You are the ones that inspired me to do this work. It was for you and future generations that inspired me. It is now your turn to carry this work forward to bring good news to the poor and God’s creation. God bless you all.”

We Are Still In

Frank Sherman, Executive Director of Seventh Generation Interfaith

This month, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt announced the Administration’s intent to repeal the Clean Power Plan. This was President Obama’s signature policy to curb greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions from electrical power plants, the cornerstone of the US plan per the Paris Climate Accord.

Shortly after the EPA announcement, the We Are Still In coalition announced that the US will be represented by a robust delegation at the upcoming 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23), including a US Climate Action Centre and a US Delegation of Climate Leaders as an indication of support for the UN climate talks. The We Are Still In movement is a coalition comprised of approximately 2,500 mayors, governors, state attorneys, business leaders, investors and other prominent climate actors who declared that they will continue to support climate action to meet the Paris Agreement. The coalition represents $6.2 trillion of the US economy and more than 130 million Americans, i.e. approximately 40 percent of the US population.

This Clean Power Plan (CPP) was passed by the Obama EPA to meet the requirements of the Clean Air Act. Repeal of the CPP will be fought in the courts. In the meantime, the We Are Still In coalition believes the US can still meet the GHG reduction targets in spite of the repeal of the CPP. GHG emissions in the US are down over 11 percent since 2005, with the power sector down 24 percent. Over the same period, US GDP was up 12 percent, proving that economic growth and GHG emissions can indeed be decoupled.  With natural gas prices depressed, declining renewable energy cost, aging coal plants, increased availability of electric vehicles, and growing public support for climate action (e.g.  the Yale Climate Communication Center reports that over 60 percent of Trump voters support regulating GHG and over 70 percent support renewable energy), this trend will continue.

Christiana Figueres, former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, has declared:

Paris is everyone’s deal. It belongs to cities, businesses, nongovernmental organizations, and all of global civil society as much as it belongs to nation-states. So when President Trump attempted to destabilize the process by announcing his intent to withdraw, there was no domino effect of despair. Instead, he unleashed an inspirational counter-movement in support of the Paris Agreement, which is embodied so beautifully in the We Are Still In Campaign.

Ring the bells that can be rung

The Board of the ​Seventh Generation ​Interfaith CRI gathered at my mother house, the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, in La Crosse, Wisconsin last month to reflect on both the challenges and opportunities we face and to map a path forward. The day was facilitated by Marlene Weisenbeck, FSPA, ​with presentations ​by Frank Sherman, Executive Director of Seventh Generation Interfaith, and Seventh Generation Interfatih Board members Peg Groth ​and ​Mark Peters.

Sister Marlene’s opening reflection on the loss of our founder, Fr. Mike Crosby, O.F.M. Cap. was both moving and a spur to “ring the bells that can still be rung,” as Leonard Cohen urged us in his song Anthem. We spent time in breakout groups discussing the external and internal ​trends impacting our mission and vision. We agreed on a SWOT analysis (strengths, weakness, opportunity and threats), a vision of what success would look like, measurable goals and objectives to get us there, and an understanding of who would be responsible for achieving them. After this discussion, we discerned what would be a possible organizational model and funding strategy to facilitate it.

I found the workshop to be both challenging and energizing. Fr. Mike Crosby left us a 45-year legacy of shareholder engagement. Despite the headwinds of a challenging political environment and the changing demographics of our members, the group came away feeling that this ministry has been a catalyst for change and compelled to continue in Mike’s footsteps to bring good news to the poor and God’s creation. I look forward to working in coalition with other SGI members to ring the bells that can be rung.

Sr. Sue Ernster, F.S.P.A

Voting your proxies

Frank Sherman, Executive Director (Seventh Generation Interfaith, Inc.)

Shareholders have partial ownership of the companies they hold in their portfolios. They rely on a Board of Directors to act on their (as well as other stakeholder’s) behalf to oversee the management of the company. Shareholders are given the opportunity, typically annually, to voice their opinions by electing the Board Directors and voting on various proposals included in the company’s proxy statement. For responsible investors, this is more than an opportunity – it’s a responsibility.

Asset owners, asset managers, hedge funds, and asset service providers typically rely on proxy service companies to recommend how to vote on company proxies based on their research and guidelines. The two largest proxy service companies are Institutional Shareholder Services Inc. (ISS) and Glass, Lewis & Company (GL). Ceres ​recently published guidelines that indicate how these proxy service firms will typically issue their recommendations on various ​environmental, social and governance (​ESG​)​ resolutions​. Shareholders ​that propose resolutions to companies ​can influence the proxy service company recommendations by meeting with their analysts to explain / support ​their proposal.

Typically​,​ asset manager​s​ ​(e.g. Merrill Lynch, Fidelity, CBIS, etc.) ​will ​vote your proxies for you based on their proxy service firm’s recommendations unless you give them specific instructions to do something different (which they may or may not follow). You have an option to ​tell them that you want to ​vote your own proxies.

On the other hand, if you ​own mutual funds or ​exchange traded funds (​ETF’s​) rather than individual equities​, you forfeit your right to vote ​company​ proxies to the fund management company​ who often vote with management’s recommendations​​. You also lose the right to ​fil​e shareholder resolutions​.​ A responsible investor will consider the social and environmental profile of the ​mutual ​fund​ or ETF, as well as the fund management company​ which will be voting your proxies. Some of the better ones are ICCR members! In any event, investing in mutual funds or ETF’s is an impediment to direct corporate engagement. You may want to dedicate a portion of your portfolio for holding individual equities to facilitate this strategy.

As socially responsible investors, SGI members understand that their investment portfolio is a catalyst for change. We should ensure we use all the tools available to us to make that change.​

The truth about socially responsible investing

Frank Sherman, Executive Director of Seventh Generation Interfaith

CNBC reviewed years of Morningstar data on the performance of socially responsible funds versus traditional funds and benchmarks and found that there is no significant performance drag. Similar research done in 2015 using meta-analysis covering 85 studies reached a similar conclusion: ESG funds result in neither a big cost, or financial benefit, to investors. However, they found that funds designed to exclude certain “sin” stocks or sectors, such as tobacco, alcohol or guns — don’t tend to measure up. “The ESG performance of companies appears to be something that can be used to generate value in a portfolio; traditional exclusion can be a drag,” said Jon Hale, head of sustainability research at Morningstar.

Todd Rosenbluth, director of mutual fund and ETF research at CFRA, commented that  “getting comparable performance and feeling better about socially responsible investments is a win for investors.” This confirms the view that you can do good while doing well financially.

You can find tools and research on ESG funds on our Resource webpage.