Millennials and Sustainable / Responsible / Impact Investing — A New Force To Be Reckoned With!

We Americans are fond of putting specific age cohorts in neatly assembled descriptors — the Silent Generation; the Greatest Generation; the Baby Boom Generation; Gen X and Gen Y.

Now in focus:  The Millennial Generation, fast approaching the vaunted celebrity status of the post-WW II Baby Boom Generation.  You’ll recall The Boomers were born in years 1946 to 1964 and were some 77 million American women and men in total.  For many years this population cohort dominated trends in education, business, popular culture, entertainment, politics, investing, and other societal activities.

Now we have a new dominant force coming to leadership in those categories. The Millennials are considered to be the last generation of the 20th Century, those born between 1982 and 2004 — estimated at 76 million people, according to demographic experts Howe and Strauss.  (Time magazine puts the dates as 1980-2000; The New York Times, 1976-1990. Whatever the exact years, this is the generation that will dominate at least the first half of the 21st Century.)

Even now, the Millennials are said to be outnumbering the number of Boomers in the workforce of 2017 — they are wielding tremendous influence on “work in America.”

What about their investing and wealth building activities?  The Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing has some guidance for us in the findings of their recent look at 1,000 individual active investors — the Institute’s MS Sustainable Signals survey.

Highlights:  75% of all those surveyed and 86% of the Millennial investors surveyed think of themselves as interested in sustainable investing.  The first MS Institute survey was in 2015; the findings were similar to the 2017 attitudes.  But, the 2017 survey found a significant increase in those Millennials responding as  “Very Interested”, which rose from a level of 28% two years ago to 38% in the recent survey round.

This, the Morgan Stanley Institute surmises is at least partly responsible for the spike in U.S. sustainable, responsible & impact investing between 2014 (established by US SIF survey at US$6.57 trillion in AUM) to $8.27 trillion in 2016 — a dramatic, 33% growth rate.

Audrey Choi, Chief Sustainability Officer and Chief Marketing Officer at Morgan Stanley says:  “As widespread attention to sustainability continues to increase, consumers and investors alike are now more than ever factoring sustainability issues into their investment decisions.”

Note that Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing  “…works to drive scalable investment solutions that seek to deliver positive social or environmental impact alongside the market-rate returns clients expect…”
There’s a link in our Top Story to the 93-page report.

To think about:  In a commentary on TechTarget “WhatIs.com”, the author said:  “Millennials are concerned about social justice and will not support institutions that they see in conflict with social and economic equality.  As such, Millennials are exerting their influence on the world around them…”

Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing is helping to chart that effect in the capital markets.

Top Stories This Week…

Millennials Are Driving Global Sustainable Investment
(Friday – August 18, 2017)
Source: Clean Technica – A new investor survey conducted by leading global financial services company Morgan Stanley has revealed that three-quarters of investors and 86% of Millennial investors are interested in sustainable investing.

Corporate Competitiveness — An Important Consideration for Board & C-Suite, Including the CFO — Here’s Important News From Accenture

In brief:  Profits and growth are only two legs of a three-legged stool, with sustainability just as important, says a new study.

Is corporate growth and profitability “hard wired” to sustainability and trust?  Important question!  The answer (a declarative “yes”) was advanced by Mark Pearson and Bill Theofilou, of the Accenture consulting firm, in a recent white paper.

Now the pair have a new analysis to share — news about their “Competitive Agility Index” — the “CAI”, based on analysis of 5,200 data points on 350 companies across 9 industries.

Leading companies, they say, are quantifying how sustainability generates tangible value and are taking action to reduce waste, improve labor conditions, and invest in causes the customers care about…and that their corporate brands stand for.

The authors leveraged publicly-available data for the dimensions of “growth and profitability,” and for sustainability and trust they developed an algorithm based on trust indices and industry-specific features.

Companies held up as example of leadership in their sectors include Apple, BMW, Inditex (brand: Zara), and Colgate-Palmolive.  The Index shows that the interdependent strategy can yield greater revenue and EBITDA improvement than one focused on just one or two of the dimensions.

This is all explained on the CFO web site, with commentary by David McCann:  “Sustainability is a Key to Future Competitiveness.”  Read this and share it with your favorite Chief Financial Officer — there’s a lot to consider here for the internal discussions about corporate sustainability.

Top Stories This Week…

Sustainability Is a Key to Future Competitiveness
(Thursday – August 10, 2017)
Source: CFO  – Traditional measurements of company value like total shareholder return (TSR) and market capitalization may help identify what companies are presently the healthiest. But, according to a new study by Accenture, they don’t have…

Of Prime Concern to Many Companies: Water! Will Corporate Advertising Claims “Around” The Water Issue Click With Customers?

California….Water:  The place name and the liquid substance are interconnected in the minds of sustaianbility professionals thinking about climate change and the effects that we are already seeing in the American landscape.

The chronic drought in the Golden State has brought the water shortage issue in sharp relief, especially since California is for many crops the “breadbasket” of America, and sufficient water for irrigation and food processing is a critical need.

Water crises in the American West in general are now being seen as possible marketing opportunities by companies in the beverage, clothing and water-dependent products, at least in the claims being made about “sustainable products” to offer to consumers.  Matt Weiser, Contributing Editor, Water Deeply — brings us news about this in a commentary that is our Top Story.

The growing scarcity of water in the west and especially in California is prompting companies to broadcast water use reduction (such as in beverage manufacturing), or using recycled waste water in their apparel manufacturing.

Matt interviewed Kellen Klein, a senior manager at Fortune 500, a Portland, Oregon-based non-profit that “works to find common ground between corporations and environmental groups to help solve global problems.”

A number of companies see water as critical to their brand, says Kellen Klein; this is in many ways the social license to operate, at least in certain geographies.  Coca Cola Company is an example that he advances (he has worked on KO projects); the company has adopted a goal of replenishing water that goes into their products (which are sold in every country but a handful of nations around the world).

Levi’s (California-based for more than a century) sells cotton jeans, which requires water to grow (the crop) and more water for washing.  The company started an education program — “Water-Less” to encourage consumers to use cold water settings and wash their Levi products less often (to conserve energy for hot water production and to conserve water).

Have you heard of Bonnesville Environmental Foundation?  Coca Cola and other companies partner with this NGO in the “Change the Course” program, which has the aim of encouraging consumers to use less water. Consumers sign a pledge; money is then invested in projects to restore 1,000 gallons to critical watersheds.

‘ In the Top Story there is also news along these lines about Cerveza Imperial, the Costa Rican beer company; Fiji Water; Stone Brewing and an Arizona project.

Water, water, water – it’s like location, location, location to Realtors for many companies. The challenge for many companies that depend on water as the basic resource for their products and services.There’s interesting details for you in the Top Story about water and the corporate sector meeting the challenges.

Top Stories This Week…

How Water Became the New Focus of Corporate Sustainability
(Friday – August 04, 2017)
Source: News Deeply – Water crises in the West have pushed some companies to apply sustainability labels to their beverages, clothes and other water-dependent products. Kellen Klein, a senior manager at Future 500, helps sort through the claims.

Broadening Activism Among Institutional Investor Classes on ESG Issues – Here to Stay, Says Proxy Advisor CEO

“Operating under the radar” — that is, various categories of institutional investors getting active in the “investor activist” game?  Bruce Goldfarb, CEO of Okapi Partners, describes a sea change that he sees that is underway, the trend in how large institutions are approaching in the [investor] push for corporate change.  The lens is the annual corporate proxy season and the many campaigns therein, including the 2017 campaign.  Okapi is one of the influential proxy advisors for both investor and companies, working on some 48 campaigns during 2017.

What did the firm’s leader see as patterns?  Well, for starters, large mutual fund advisories and ETF complexes (like Vanguard, Fidelity, BlackRock, State Street) — these organizations with many trillions’ of dollars in corporate holdings in their portfolios, “…have become increasingly intent on holding public company boards and management teams accountable in higher ESG standards,” CEO Goldfarb notes in our Top Story (published on the digital Forbes Investing platform).

As many of us well know, the first iteration of ESG was about the “G” — for several decades, the focus was on corporate governance issues.  (Such as: investors pushing for separation of Chair and CEO, the often described example of a popular campaign in the G space).  Over time, the emphasis on environmental and social issues (“E” and “S”) broadened the approach to the familiar ESG measurements because the E and S issues are tied to share performance and confidence (or lack of) in management.

The CEO in the interview points out that a climate change proposal at ExxonMobil recently was passed by a wide margin (investors supported the demand that the company publish an annual assessment of the impact of global warming policies) while a decade ago a push by investors in proxy campaigning to separate chair and CEO positions and a few environmental proposals failed by a very large margin.  Things are a-changin’ in the proxy arena.

In 2017, there have been (so far) 430 resolutions filed that address “S” and “E” issues, compared to 370 a year earlier.  Investors, says CEO Goldfarb, see the connection between ESG policies and stock performance more clearly now.

In our conversations with corporate managers (at all size enterprises) it is clear that the managers want to press the Investing Case upward to their bosses in the C-suite and board room.  Why should we make the investment in a sustainability effort, the question often goes, and the answer is that among other things, corporate performance and a scorecard of sorts on top management has a proxy, too — that is, the ESG performance of the enterprise!

You’ll find more from perspectives shared by the Okapi Partners CEO in the Forbes interview by staffer Antoine Gara in our Top Story this week.

Top Stories This Week…

An Insider Explains Why Wall Street’s Big Money Focus On Sustainability Is Here To Stay
(Friday – July 28, 2017)
Source: Forbes – When a hedge fund launches a major activist campaign calling for changes at companies here and in overseas markets it’s real news.

COMMIT!Forum is Fast Approaching — New Venue, New Conference Managers, Innovative Approaches, Great Conversations…

The October 2017 Event Will Convene in Washington DC’s Maryland suburbs — New Venue is the fabulous MGM National Harbor.

 

Posted August 1, 2017
By Hank Boerner – Chair & Chief Strategist – G&A Institute

The annual COMMIT!Forum has set the pace for Corporate Responsibility / Sustainability / Public Affairs / Corporate Communications professionals and their peers as “the place to gather” for a decade and more.

This is the longest running CSR / CR event and is part of the range of activities that were put in place and managed by the SharedXpertise Media LLC organization.

In April 2017, 3BL Media Group acquired the COMMIT!Forum — along with management of membership group, the Corporate Responsibility Association (CRA); the CRA webinar series; and publication of the influential CR Magazine.

You probably know the widely-recognized “100 Best Corporate Citizens” rankings — senior corporate management actively pursues this important CR Magazine recognition.

The professional membership CRA will now be managed by a unit of 3BL, the Corporate Responsibility Board.

The good news is that COMMIT!Forum conference is now under the innovative, very savvy management. The theme of the upcoming October 2017 event:

Brands Taking Stands – the Role of the Corporate Responsibility Practitioner as Companies Make Their Voices Heard.

The annual conference brings together CR practitioners, corporate communications officers, heads of foundations, not-for-profit leaders, sustainability pros, and media representatives.

The 2017 conference will feature 10 “issue tables,” to emphasize the value of networking and peer-to-peer sharing — these will be moderated by professional subject matter experts (SMEs):

  • Topic 1: Data Driven Content Strategies; Storytelling that Works
  • Topic 2: NextGen Reporting in a Changing Cultural Landscape
  • Topic 3: Emerging Social Influence on Supply Chains
  • Topic 4: CR Impact on Talent Acquisition and Retention
  • Topic 5: Lead or Follow: Relevance in the E-World
  • Topic 6: Where Are You? Your Company’s North Star on SDGs
  • Topic 7: Risk and Rewards of Taking a Stand
  • Topic 8: Engaging Your Stakeholders in Digital Advocacy
  • Topic 9: Partner Matching: Activating CR Initiatives and the Imperative of Collaboration
  • Topic 10: Materiality Assessments to Supply Chain Management: Digital Platforms that Drive Success

Finalists for the coveted Responsible CEO Award will participate in panel discussions and one-to-one interviews; these provide valuable insight into successful programs at companies where “purpose is integral to culture and mission,” conference organizers note.

The COMMIT! meetings have traditionally been held in New York City; this year the event moves to the MGM National Harbor, just outside of Washington DC and convenient for Amtrak travelers all along the Washington-NYC-Philadelphia-Boston business corridor.

Prestigious brands: CRA member flagship companies include: Marriott; Visa; IBM; Adobe; AT&T; Hess; Sprint; PwC; Gap; Intel; Johnson Controls; Aramark; Smithfield; and many more — representatives of these companies will be at the COMMIT!Forum.

G&A Institute team has enjoyed a long-time partnership with 3BL Media The going back to the days of both companies’ founding and has long been a sponsor of the COMMIT!Forum meetings.

G&A Institute team members — including EVP and Co-Founder Lou Coppola – will be active participants at COMMIT!Forum.

We are offering today to our connections a special offer for Early Bird registration:  10% off early bird pricing for COMMIT!Forum (extends through August 15th for you).

Save an additional 10% using G&A’s discount code “G&A2017CF” when you register at commitforum.com

The G&A Institute team looks forward to seeing you at the conference – -the latch key is out!

About 3BL Media Group
The 3BL team provides a multi-channel news and content distribution platform for corporate clients, including Report Alert, Triple Pundit, CSR Wire, SocialEarth, Just Means, and, of course, 3BL Sustainability Communications platform.

A new business unit is the Corporate Responsibility Board LLC, housing COMMIT!Forum, the CR Association, and CR Magazine. 3BL’s Dave Armon is CEO (before joining 3BL he was COO of PR Newswire).