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.

The New York TImes examines low-carbon investments

Last week, The New York Times published an article, Funds That Can Put Your Investments on a Low-Carbon Diet, that examines low-carbon investments. Like SGI in our resource page, the article highlights Fossil Free Funds, a resource from As You Sow. The article highlights some of the investment funds that provide low-carbon alternatives. It also includes a general assessment from an industry leader, Jon F. Hale of Morningstar, on the risks and performance of these funds.

As the NYT is behind a paywall after ten monthly free articles, here is a PDF version of the article without the photos or links: Funds That Can Put Your Investments on a Low-Carbon Diet – The New York Times.

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.​

2018 Filing Deadlines

Here are links to documents with the 2018 Corporate Resolution Filing Deadlines (XLSX) (PDF).

Please, remember that, by the close of business on or before the company’s filing date, mail or overnight to the Corporate Secretary:

    • Your cover letter
    • The resolution
    • Verification of your stock ownership

Ideally, send the letter via FedEx, UPS or other sign upon-receipt delivery, so that there is a record of who at the company signed to receive your letter. You should retain this receipt in the rare case the company argues your letter did not arrive by the deadline. For more information, visit ICCR’s helpful resource: “How to File a Resolution.”

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.

Businesses and Investors Need to Act on Climate Now

Alicia Seiger writes in The Stanford Social Innovation Review:

The business case for acting on climate change has never been stronger, and the need to act has never been more urgent. For the past three years, worldwide carbon emissions from fossil fuels have stayed flat while gross domestic product (GDP) has grown, demonstrating that emissions and economic growth aren’t inextricably linked. Decoupling emissions and growth is just the first step. To stay within the carbon budget for 2 degrees Celsius warming—and avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change—global emissions have to start falling by 2020. While the President of the largest economy in the world blows headwinds at progress, business leaders and investors must act to bend the emissions curve.

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Greenwashing a ‘Very Serious Issue,’ Leads to Poor Decisions, Says CEO of GRI

As reported by Jennifer Hermes in Environmental Leader, “Ninety percent of the 250 largest companies in the world are reporting sustainability performance, but greenwashing is “a very serious issue,” says the new chief executive of the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), Tim Mohin. In the early days of sustainability reporting, greenwashing could result in bad PR and a loss of consumer confidence. But that is no longer the worst that can happen….”

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