The Results Are In: Sustainable, Responsible, Impact Investing by U.S. Asset Managers At All-time High — $8 Trillion!

by Hank Boerner – Chairman & Chief Strategist, G&A Institute

We have an important update for you today: The US SIF Report on “US Sustainable, Responsible and Impact Investing Trends, 2016,” was released this week.

The top line for you today: In the U.S.A., sustainable, responsible and impact (SRI) investing continues to expand — at a rapid and encouraging pace.

As we read the results of 2016 survey report, we kept thinking about the past 30 or so years of what we first knew as “socially responsible,” “faith-based,” “ethical” (and so on) approaches to investing, and that more recently we declared to be sustainable & responsible investing (SRI). And even more recently, adding “Impact Investing”).

At various times over the years we tried to visualize “how” the future would be in practical terms when many more mainstream investors embraced SRI / ESG approaches in their stock analysis and portfolio decision-making.

We’re happy to report that great progress continues to be made. It may at times have seemed to be slow progress for some of our SRI colleagues, especially the hardy pioneers at Domini, Trillium, Calvert, Zevin, Walden, Christian Brothers/CBIS, As You Sow, Neuberger Berman, and other institutions.  But looking over the past three decades, always, in both “up and down” markets, and especially after the 2008 market crash — sustainable, responsible and impact investment gained ground!

And so, we in the U.S. SRI community anxiously look forward to the every-other-year survey of U.S.A. asset owners and managers to measure the breadth and depth of the pool of assets that are managed following ESG methods, SRI approaches, etc.

Here are the key takeaways for you in the just-released survey by the U.S. Forum for Sustainable & Responsible Investment (US SIF), the trade association of the SRI community that has tracked SRI in its survey efforts since 1995-1996, and the US SIF Foundation.

2016 Survey Highlights:

• At the start of 2016, ESG (“environmental/social/governance”) factors were being considered for US$8.72 trillion of professionally-managed assets in the United States of America.

• SRI Market size: that is 20 percent / or $1-in-$5 of all Assets Under Management (AUM) / for all US-domiciled assets under professional management (that is almost $9 Trillion of the total AUM of $40.3 trillion).

• This is a gain of 33% over the total number ($6.572 trillion in AUM) in the previous US SIF survey results at the start of 2014.

• Surveyed for the 2016 report: a total of 447 institutional investors, 300 money (asset) managers, and 1,043 community investment institutions. This can be described as a diverse group of investors seeking to achieve positive impacts through corporate engagement -or- investing with an emphasis on community, sustainability or advancement of women.

Drivers: Client demand is a major driver – the U.S. asset owners hiring asset (money) management firms are increasingly focused on ESG factors for their investments — as responsible fiduciaries.

ESG Criteria: Survey respondents in the investment community had 32 criteria to select from in the survey, including E-S-G and product related activities (ESG funds); they could add ESG criteria used as well.

What is important to the investors surveyed?  The report authors cited responses such as:

• Environmental investment factors — now apply to $7.79 trillion in AUM.
• Climate Change criteria – now shape $1.42 trillion in AUM – 5 times the prior survey number.
• Clean Technology is a consideration for managers of $354 billion in AUM.
• Social Criteria are applied to $7.78 trillion in AUM.
• Governance issues apply to $7.70 trillion in AUM, 2X the prior survey.
• Product specific criteria apply to $1.97 trillion in AUM.

The Social criteria (the “S” in ESG) include conflict risk; equal employment opportunity and diversity; labor and human rights issues.

Product issues include tobacco and alcohol; these were the typically “screened out” stocks in the earlier days of SRI and remain issues for some investors today.

Mutual Funds:
Among the investment vehicles incorporating ESG factors into investment management, the survey found 519 registered investment companies (mutual funds, variable annuity funds, ETFs, closed-end funds). Total: $1.74 trillion in AUM.

Alternative Investment Vehicles:
There were 413 alternate investment vehicles identified as using ESG strategies (including private equity, hedge funds, VCs). Total: $206 billion in AUM.

Institutional Investors:
The biggie in SRI, with $4.72 trillion in AUM, a 17% increase since the start of 2014 (the last survey). These owners include public employee funds; corporations; educational institutions; faith-based investors; healthcare funds; labor union pension funds; not-for-profits; and family offices.

Community Investing:
The survey included results from 1,043 community investing institutions, including credit unions; community development banks; loan funds; VC funds. Total: $122 billion in AUM. (These institutions typically serve low-to-moderate income individuals and communities and include CDFI’s.)

Proxy Activism:
SRI players are active on the corporate proxy front: From 2014 to 2016, 176 institutional investors and 49 money managers file / co-file shareholder resolutions at U.S. public companies focused on environmental (E) or social (S) issues. (The number remains stable over the past four years, the report tells us.) The major development was that where such resolutions received 17% approval from 2007 to 2009, since 2013, 30% of resolutions received 30% or more approval.

Methodologies/Approaches:
There are five primary ESG incorporation strategies cited by US SIF: (1) Analyzing, selecting best-in-class companies, positive choices for the portfolio; (2) negative approaches / exclusionary approaches for certain sectors or industries or products by/for the fiduciary; (3) methods of ESG integration — considering various ESG risks and opportunities; (4) impact or “outcome” investing, intended to generate social (“S) or environmental (“E”) impact along with financial return; (5) selecting sustainability-themed funds of various types.

Commenting on the survey results, US SIF CEO Lisa Woll observed that as the field grows, some growing pains are to be expected. . .with the continuing concern that too often, limited information is disclosed by survey respondents regarding their ESG assets. While the number of owners and managers say that they are using ESG factors, they do not disclose the specific criteria used. (This could be, say, criteria for clean energy consideration, or labor issues of various kinds.)

The US SIF biannual survey effort began in 1996, looking at year-end 1995 SRI assets under management. In that first year, $639 billion in AUM were identified. By the 2010 report, the $3 billion AUM mark was reached. That sum was doubled by the 2014 report.

Year-upon-year, for us the message was clear in the periodic survey results: The center (the pioneering asset owner and management firms) held fast and key players built on their strong foundations; the pioneers were joined by SRI peers and mainstream capital market players on a steady basis (and so the SRI AUM number steadily grew); and investors — individuals, and institutions — saw the value in adopting SRI approaches.

Today, $1-in-$5 in Assets Under [Professional] Management sends a very strong signal of where the capital markets are headed — with or without public sector “enthusiasm” for the journey ahead in 2017 and beyond!

There is a treasury of information for you in the report, which is available at: www.ussif.org.

Congratulations to the US SIF team for their year-long effort in charting the course of SRI in 2015-2016:  CEO Lisa Woll; Project Directors Meg Voorhes of the US SIF Foundation and Joshua Humphreys of Croatan Institute; Research Team members Farzana Hoque of the Foundation and Croatan Institute staff Ophir Bruck, Christi Electris, Kristin Lang, and Andreea Rodinciuc.

2016 survey sponsors included: Wallace Global Fund; Bloomberg LP; JP Morgan Chase & Co.; Calvert Investments; TIAA Global Asset Management; Candriam Investors Group; KKR; MacArthur Foundation; Neuberger Berman; Saturna Capital (and Amana Mutual Funds Trust); Bank of America; BlackRock; CBIS (Catholic Responsible Investing); Community Capital Management Inc.; ImpactUs; Legg Mason Global Asset Management / ClearBridge Investments; Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing; Sentinel Investments; Trillium Asset Management; Cerulli Associates; and, Walden Asset Management.

A footnote on terminology: Throughout the survey exercise and reporting, terms used include sustainable, responsible and impact investing; sustainable investing; responsible investing; impact investing; and SRI. These are used interchangeably to describe investment practices.

About US SIF:  This is a three-decade old, Washington-DC-based membership association that advances SRI to ensure that capital markets can drive ESG practices. The mission is to work to rapidly shift investment practices toward sustainability, focusing on long-term investment and the generation of positive social and environmental impacts.  SIF Members are investment management and advisory firms; mutual fund companies; research firms; financial planners and advisors; broker-dealers; non-profit associations; pension funds; foundations; community investment institutions; and other asset owners.

Governance & Accountability Institute is a long-time member organization of the U.S. Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment (US SIF).

As part of the G&A Institute mission, we are committed to assisting more investing and financial professionals learn more about SRI and ESG — especially younger professionals interested in adopting SRI approaches in their work.  G&A is collaborating with Global Change Advisors to present a one-day certification program hosted at Baruch College/CUNY on December 14, 2016.  Details and registration information is at: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/intro-to-corporate-esg-for-investment-finance-professionals-certification-tickets-29052781652

President Elect Donald Trump – What Does it Mean for ESG?

The voters have spoken; their decision is known.  It may not have been the news that was expected, or hoped for, but the Office of the President of the United States of America is now in transition.  What does that mean for advocates of greater corporate and societal sustainability…corporate responsibility…corporate citizenship…a cleaner, lower-carbon economy?  What will happen to the US support of COP 21 goals and objectives?  What about the US low-carbon economy?  What about the SEC views on expanding corporate disclosure to include more ESG information?  What about Dodd-Frank rules now in place – or the rules not yet implemented?

So many questions!  We are now monitoring so many commentaries on these questions and more — and the views offered (very strong, indeed) by experts with deep background in the subject matter.  This week’s Top Stories for you are two views offered by such experts.

Chris Bryant of Bloomberg writes from Frankfurt, Germany in his “Trump Can’t Stop the Energy Revolution.” While President-elect Donald J. Trump can slow down the United States participation in the efforts to constructively address global climate change, he “can tell producers which power generation technologies to buy,” writes Bryant. “That decision will come down to cost in the end.  Right now, coal is losing that battle, while renewables are gaining…”

Coal plants may stay open for longer, thinks Bryant, under a Trump Administration (IF campaign promises are kept); but coal will struggle to compete with cheap natural gas and a large volume of coal-generating [electrical] capacity will be retired by 2030.  This is a terrific piece to share with your colleagues who despair that “coal clouds” will be filling the atmosphere after the new administration comes to office.

Andrew Winston, author of Green to Gold, writing in Huffington Post online, says “Trump Can’t Stop the Clean Economy” in his commentary.  We share his views courtesy of our colleagues at Sustainable Brands in the other Top Story.  “If there is any force greater than whatever propelled Donald Trump to the Presidency,” says Winston, “it is economic.  Nobody, not even a President Trump, can stop all the movement toward the clean economy.  The reason is simple:  It’s now cheaper to cut carbon and use renewable energy than to keep the status quo.”

This commentary also has encouraging content to share with colleagues.  If Donald Trump follows through on what he said he would do on energy and climate, thinks Andrew Bryant, yes, it could have a devastating impact on global political progress on climate change.  He goes on to share his views on clean energy and the competitive pricing for renewables in the USA.  “Renewables have already won,” says Bryant.

We are receiving commentaries from various colleagues in NGOs, investment houses, the public sector, trade and professional associations, and individuals.  We’ll share these over the coming weeks as we move toward the January 20th 2017 transition of power in our federal government.   What are your thoughts?  Share them with us!

 

Top Story

Trump Can’t Stop the Clean Economy
(Wednesday - November 09, 2016)
Source: Andrew Winston Commentary / Huff Post via Sustainable Brands-  If there’s any force greater than whatever propelled Donald Trump into the Presidency, it’s economics. Nobody, not even a President Trump, can stop all movement toward the clean economy. The reason is simple: It’s now cheaper to cut carbon and use renewable energy than to keep the status quo.

Trump Can’t Stop the Energy Revolution
(Wednesday - November 09, 2016)
Source:  Chris Bryant / Bloomberg Commentary from Frankfurt - The planet is warming, dangerously so, and burning more coal will make it worse. President-elect Donald Trump thinks man-made climate change is a hoax and he’s promised to revive the US coal industry by cutting regulation. So renewables are dead in the water, right? Maybe not.

For Finance / Investing Professionals: “ESG” IN FOCUS IN ALL-DAY WORKSHOP Hosted At Baruch College/CUNY – NYC

The interest in sustainable investing continues to rise in the mainstream investment community.  Numerous data & analytics providers, ratings & rankings organizations, and other influentials are busily shaping new approaches in and for the mainstream investment community. Corporate “ESG” factors are an important addition to the ubiquitous Bloomberg terminals, as example (i.e. the ESG Dashboard).  Mainstream asset managers — notably BlackRock, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, State Street, and others — are putting sustainable investment approaches in place and launching new products for clients that are demanding “investable” vehicles for “doing well and doing good” with their assets.

As an investment professional, are you up to speed on these developments?  Need to “be more in the know” about sustainable investing?  Here’s a suggestion:  plan to attend an all-day workshop hosted at the Newman Vertical Campus of Baruch College/CUNY and presented by Governance & Accountability Institute and Global Change Associates (GCA). Participants will receive a Certificate of Completion from G&A Institute and GCA.

Mark the Date:  Wednesday, December 14, 2016
The course begins at 8 a.m. and features a full day of lectures from leaders in the field of sustainable investing and corporate sustainability. A networking lunch is included. The topics to be covered include:

  • What is Corporate ESG & Why It Really Matters to Shareowners;
  • ESG Analysis, Rating & Research;
  • What Investors Need to Know about the Rising Importance of Impact Investing;
  • The Sustainable Accounting Standards Board (SASB);
  • Case Study of Corporate Malfeasance — the VW Case;
  • ESG Equity Fundamental – Data Analytics;
  • About the Baruch CSR-Sustainability Monitor Project; 
  • and, Looking Beyond Corporate Sustainability & Financial Performance.

Presenters include:  Samuel Block, MSCI; Kate Starr, Flat World Partners; Eric Kane, SASB (Healthcare); Hideki Suzuki, Bloomberg LP; Mert Demir, PhD, Weissman Center at Baruch College.  And, there’ll be presentations by the principal organizers: Peter Fusaro of Global Change Associates; and, Hank Boerner, Chairman, and Louis D. Coppola, EVP (and co-founders) of G&A Institute.

We look forward to seeing you there, at Baruch College in December! 

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER for the workshop & for more information on the course offering.

New Training Announcement: Introduction to Corporate Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) for Investment & Finance Professionals Certification

- The Why and How of Applying ESG to Corporate Valuations

New York, NY (November 3, 2016) –  In response to the growing demand for sustainable investing education from asset owners, asset managers, financial analysts and other financial professionals we are pleased to announce a one-day certificate program entitled, “Introduction to Corporate Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) for Investment and Finance Professionals.” The program is organized by Governance & Accountability Institute (G&A) in collaboration with Global Change Associates (GCA) and hosted by the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College/CUNY.

The first all-day certification program will be presented on Thursday, December 14, 2016. The program is being hosted at Baruch College’s Newman Vertical Campus (55 Lexington Avenue) in midtown Manhattan.  The course will begin at 8 a.m. with registration and continental breakfast, leading into a full day of lectures from leaders in the sustainable investing field.  A networking lunch is included.  Participants will receive a certificate of completion from G&A and GCA at the 5 p.m. close of the seminar.

AGENDA

Arrival, Registration & Continental Breakfast

What is Corporate ESG and Why It Really Matters to Shareowners
Hank Boerner, Chairman & Co-Founder, Governance & Accountability Institute

Bridging the Perceived Gap Between Corporate Sustainability & Corporate Profitability: Materiality, Risk Management and How Top and Bottom Lines Are Affected
Louis Coppola, EVP & Co-Founder, Governance & Accountability Institute

Coffee Break and Networking

ESG Analysis, Rating, and Research
Samuel Block, Research Analyst – Investment ESG Risk, MSCI

What Investors Need to Know About the Rising Importance of Impact Investing
Kate Starr (Invited), Founder & CIO, Flat World Partners; formerly Vice President-Capital Deployment, Heron Foundation

Networking Lunch

SASB 101: About the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) and More Effective 10-k Disclosure
Eric Kane, Sector Analyst – Health Care, SASB

Case Study of Corporate Malfeasance:  The VW Emissions Scandal
Peter Fusaro, Chairman, Global Change Associates

Break

ESG Equity Fundamentals Data Analytics
Hideki Suzuki, ESG Group, Equity Fundamentals Department, Bloomberg LP

About the Baruch CSR-Sustainability Monitor Project
Mert Demir, Ph.D. in Finance, Senior Research Associate, Weismann Center for International Business at Baruch College

Looking Beyond Corporate Sustainability & Financial Performance
Louis Coppola, EVP & Co-Founder, Governance & Accountability Institute
Peter Fusaro, Chairman, Global Change Associates
Lecturers include leading experts in the sustainable investing field and the participants will come away with an understanding of why ESG matters, and how to apply ESG to corporate valuations, reputation, risk, opportunity and other aspects of financial analysis.

For information and to register click the link below: 
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/intro-to-corporate-esg-for-investment-finance-professionals-certification-tickets-29052781652

About Baruch College (http://www.baruch.cuny.edu/)
Baruch College is a senior college in the City University of New York (CUNY) with a total enrollment of more than 18,000 students, who represent 164 countries and speak more than 129 languages. Ranked among the top 15% of U.S. colleges and the No. 5 public regional university, Baruch College is regularly recognized as among the most ethnically diverse colleges in the country. As a public institution with a tradition of academic excellence, Baruch College offers accessibility and opportunity for students from every corner of New York City and from around the world.

About Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc. (www.ga-institute.com)
Governance & Accountability Institute is a New York City-based sustainability research, consulting and educational services company working with corporate sector and investment community clients. Typical engagements include preparation of sustainability, CSR and citizenship reports; peer benchmarking on ESG issues and reporting; customized ESG research (environmental, social and governance performance); strategic materiality analysis; sustainable investor relations; corporate communications around sustainability; and assistance with stakeholder engagements. The company is the exclusive Data Partner for the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) for the USA, UK and the Republic of Ireland.


About Global Change Associates (www.global-change.com)
Peter C. Fusaro founded Global Change Associates, Inc. in 1991 to focus on the convergence of energy and environmental financial markets. His insights have earned him the international status of “thought leader” in these markets. His advice to client companies who require expert guidance to navigate their way through the multiple impacts of clean energy, natural gas and water technologies has proven invaluable to them. The focus of GCA today is to assist in raising funds for clean energy funds as a Registered Representative and to assist in the commercialization of new energy technologies. Peter holds the highly successful Wall Street Green Summit (www.wsgts.com) now in its 16th year and held in New York City each spring.

Lots of Important Sustainability Events & Training To Tell You About!

Today we call your attention to a number of events and training initiatives that may be of interest if you are:

  1. A corporate manager with responsibilities in the areas of [corporate] citizenship, sustainability, ESG, responsibility, and related areas, or
  2. Working in the capital markets and want to learn more about these topics, or
  3. Working in another field and would like to join a company or investor organization focused on sustainability and sustainable investing…

An important part of the G&A Institute mission since our founding a decade ago is to help educate, inform and share critical information related to the above topics and positions.  As an example we work closely with Skytop Strategies on many events such as the ESG Summit, 21st Century Company, and Future of Corporate Reporting that educate and inform on these subjects.  We’d like to tell you about a few of our most recent initiatives in these areas.

Introduction to the Importance of Corporate ESG for Investment & Finance Professionals at Baruch College 
Watch for announcements soon about a new program offering we’ve organized in partnership with Baruch University and Global Change Associates (headed by G&A Fellow Peter Fusaro) — this is an all-day “Introduction to the Importance of Corporate ESG for Investment and Finance Professionals.”  We’ll have speakers from Bloomberg, MSCI, Sustainability Accounting Standards Board and other organizations sharing valuable information.  Save the date:  December 14th at the Newman Vertical Campus in mid-town Manhattan.

G&A Sustainability Training HQ Platform & CCRSS Course Offering
The “Certification in Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Strategies” in partnership with Professor Nitish Singh of St Louis University, is the first course offering on the new “G&A Sustainability Training HQ” online training platform.

To learn more about the special introductory G&A Sustainability Training Pioneers Program for this course (including a special discount and extra recognition as a leader in this area), contact Louis Coppola at G&A: lcoppola@ga-institute.com.   Click here for more information and to register for the course.

Join G&A for a Special GRI Standards Launch Event Webinar
We’ve been communicating with you about the important event coming up at Bloomberg Headquarters in New York City– the Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) Sustainability Standards Launch Event scheduled for Wednesday, November 3rd.  We’ve learned that the registration for the in-person event is now full and closed.

You can still learn about the new GRI Standards via the convenience of a lunchtime webinar:  Governance & Accountability Institute invites you on behalf of GRI to join us in celebrating the launch of the GRI Sustainability Standards on an informative one-hour webinar led by GRI’s Alyson Genovese on Thursday, November 10th at 12 Noon Eastern Standard Time (EST).

Whether you are new to sustainability reporting or a seasoned veteran, this webinar is designed to provide you with an interactive, detailed overview of the very latest in sustainability reporting. You’ll be guided through the new GRI Standards, important background and benefits, and you’ll be receiving an excellent overview of the changes from the current G4 Guidelines. You’ll have ample opportunity to ask questions to both GRI and G&A (reminder: we’re the exclusive GRI Data Partner in the USA, United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland, member of the GRI Data Consortium, and a Gold Community Member).

To learn more and register for this free event, please visit: 
https://goo.gl/forms/jVPOVUL19Jzd1WnB3

If you have questions or want to learn more, please contact Louis Coppola at lcoppola@ga-institute.com.