“Does the RobecoSAM CSA Deliver Quantifiable Business Returns?” – Find out April 6th in NYC at DJSI How INSIGHTS Inspire Action

As the opening of RobecoSAM’s Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA) draws nearer we wanted to remind you about our upcoming workshop on April 6th at Baruch College/CUNY in New York City. The workshop will be a very intimate discussion with 30 or fewer people with an opportunity to engage with representatives from RobecoSAM, G&A Institute, and your peers.

Participants will also have access to RobecoSAM’s benchmarking & leading practices database for the day. (Access to these databases normally cost 4’990 EUR and 2’500 EUR respectively.)

Click Here to Register & Find Out More Details! 

We’d also like to share with you a collection of video interviews which outline the value of the RobecoSAM CSA for leading companies. These topics and more will be discussed at our workshop.

RobecoSAM interviewed a number of leading companies that are long time CSA participants. Please enjoy… and let us know if you have any questions about the CSA or the upcoming event.

Does the CSA deliver quantifiable business returns?
The CSA results are often used by companies to refine their sustainability strategy, add credibility to sustainability focused RfPs, attract investors, and to motivate employees and increase engagement. Learn first-hand about all the benefits these companies realize. Watch this 2min video with statements from Siemens, AstraZeneca, Deutsche Telekom, Samsung, ABN Amro, and Shinhan Financial Group.

How do you use the results of RobecoSAM’s CSA?
Companies that lead in sustainability use the CSA results in their communication with investors and B2B clients and to motivate employees to name just a few examples. To learn more, watch this 2min video with statements from Deutsche Telekom, AstraZeneca, Samsung, Siemens, ABN Amro, and Shinhan Financial Group.

Please join us on April 6th at Baruch College in NYC!
Click Here to For More Details & To Register! 
We look forward to seeing you there!

Where does RobecoSAM’s CSA fit your overall reporting approach? 
The discussions and outcomes that develop internally at Sustainability leaders from the process of completing the CSA are used as key input for their sustainability reporting strategy. Hear about it from the leaders in this 2min video with statements from AstraZeneca, Deutsche Telekom, Samsung, Siemens, ABN Amro, and Shinhan Financial Group.

Advice for peers: what are the pitfalls first time participants should avoid? 
Watch this short video to learn about the benefits companies realize from their CSA participation and receive expert advice on how to best manage the CSA questionnaire process. Experts from ABN Amro, AstraZeneca, Deutsche Telekom, Samsung, Siemens, and Shinhan Financial Group.

“It’s not rocket science” – Advice for 1st time CSA participants
RobecoSAM asked a number of long time participants in our Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA) what kind of advice they have for first time participants. Watch this 4min video to learn first hand from Axa Group, Philips, Grupo Nutresa, Cementos Argos and UPM Kymene.

Please join us on April 6th at Baruch College in NYC!
Click Here to For More Details & To Register! 
We look forward to seeing you there!

FOR QUESTIONS, contact Louis D. Coppola, Executive Vice President & Co-Founder, Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc. at Tel 646.430.8230 ext 14 or email lcoppola@ga-institute.com.

ING Surveyed Corporate Finance Execs: The Results are Encouraging, as the Respondents Commented on Positive Results of Corporate Sustainability

Take our Top Story today and get it in front of your firm’s finance leaders

So often we hear that “investors don’t ask” or “no one inside seems to care” or “our finance folks don’t believe in” when we talk with corporate connections about corporate sustainability at their firm.  And, inside the company, skepticism can typically be found in the finance offices.

We have some good news “findings” for you today from the ING folks to add to the growing number of research studies demonstrating the sustainability business case.  ING is a leading global financial institution (banking, financial service) of Dutch origin, with a strong European base, serving clients in 40+ countries; it is selected to be among the leaders in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index’s Bank Industry category.

The firm just issued a report — “From Sustainability to Business Value – Finance as a Catalyst” — based on survey results (analyzing the views of 200-plus US-based finance executives in financial services, manufacturing, tech, consumer goods, real estate, industrial engineering, telecom, media, agriculture, infrastructure, chemical, transport, and logistics).

The survey respondents included CFOs, financial controllers, finance directors and senior treasury professionals, with revenues in their firms of from $500MM to $20+ billion.  The survey was intended to help to improve understanding of how financing and lending can support the goal of building a low-carbon, sustainability society.

The findings are encouraging for the most part, and resonated with us.  In our discussion with many corporate managers, the conversation usually includes “encouraging greater Corporate Sustainability is important for me internally, especially with our tough-minded and often skeptical finance folks. So being able to make the strong business case is a critical task…”.

Here’s some help for you from ING: 
The important role played by corporate finance and the benefits that these professionals identified were described in these ways:

“Almost half of the firms responding said that sustainability concerns have some level of influence on their business’s growth strategy…and 40%+ of firms with a mature sustainability framework in place said revenue growth is a main driver for acting.”

Supporting that portion of the business case?

  • 87% of survey respondents in firms with sustainability frameworks (the “mature” firms) said they experienced better revenue,
  • and 65% improved their credit rating.

ING states that it believes that financial institutions have a duty to explore how their financing can help to support energy transition and combat climate change. CEO Ralph Hamer is a “champion”  in the Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders.

An important takeway is the ING CEO’s perspective:

“We are witnessing an important shift in how companies in the United States view sustainability. Our research shows that it is no longer just about cutting costs or creating positive brand awareness ­— sustainability strategies are being deployed as true revenue drivers,” said Gerald Walker, CEO, ING Americas. “The finance function holds the key to unlocking the business value of these strategies, and are crucial to pushing the sustainable agenda in the U.S. as the industry continues to mature.”

There’s more for you in the Top Story, which also has a link to the ING Report:

Research: U.S. Companies Implement Sustainability Strategies To Drive Revenues
(Friday – February 16, 2018) Source: Chem Info News – ING’s sustainability report, ‘From Sustainability to Business Value — Finance as a Catalyst’, published today, finds that revenue growth is the most important factor when deciding to implement sustainability strategies, as 39…

Access RobecoSAM’s Leading Practice & Benchmarking Database For The Day @ DJSI – How Insights Inspire Action

Each attendee will have free access to RobecoSAM’s Benchmarking & Leading Practices Database for the day.Access to these databases normally cost 4’990 EUR and 2’500 EUR respectively.

The aim of this workshop is to increase the participants’ knowledge about the importance of and methodology behind the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI) and the RobecoSAM Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA).

Representatives from RobecoSAM will lead a workshop session on how to utilize these important resources which are summarized below.

RobecoSAM Benchmarking Database (BDB)
A searchable database to benchmark your company against your peers on the criteria level of questions in the RobecoSAM CSA. Includes the ability to filter region, competitors, and do trend analysis including graphical representation of your company score against your competitors. You’ll be able to see the rankings of other companies assessed in your industry as well. With this tool you’ll have the ability to conduct detailed benchmarking analysis to answer internal or external queries about your sustainability performance.More details on the RobecoSAM Benchmarking Database (BDB) can be found here. RobecoSAM

Leading Practice Database (LPD) 
A searchable database of leading companies’ practices in relation to the questions asked in RobecoSAM’s Corporate Sustainability Assessment. The Leading Practice Database puts hundreds of real industry examples and quantitative analyses at your fingertips. Company examples are sourced from over 50 different industries and cover most of the questions included in RobecoSAM’s Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA). The database also includes thousands of industry-specific statistical analysis of individual RobecoSAM CSA results for your particular industry. These examples will inform you about the conditions required in a certain CSA question to score 90 or above, and the percentage of companies in your industry meeting those conditions in a given assessment year. This analysis is provided on a global level.
More details on the Leading Practice Database (LDP) can be found here.

Join us on April 6, 2018 from 8:30AM – 2:00 PM EST  @ Baruch College/CUNY NYC:
Leveraging the Value of the Corporate Sustainability Assessment 
Presented by Governance & Accountability Institute in collaboration with RobecoSAM

EARLY BIRD RATE: $599 (Available until February 23rd. Full Price: $749)
Registrations will be open until April 5, 2018.


For information and to register, click here.

FOR QUESTIONS, contact Louis D. Coppola, Executive Vice President & Co-Founder, Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc. at Tel 646.430.8230 ext 14 or email lcoppola@ga-institute.com.

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 Data Partner for the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) for the USA, UK and the Republic of Ireland.

About RobecoSAM (www.robecosam.com
Founded in 1995, RobecoSAM is an investment specialist focused exclusively on Sustainability Investing. It offers asset management, indices, impact analysis and investment, sustainability assessments, and benchmarking services. Together with S&P Dow Jones Indices, RobecoSAM publishes the globally recognized Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI) as well as the S&P ESG Factor Weighted Index Series, the first index family to treat ESG as a standalone performance factor using the RobecoSAM Smart ESG methodology. As of June 30, 2017, RobecoSAM had client assets under management, advice and/or license of approximately USD 20 billion.

Important legal information: The details given on these pages do not constitute an offer. They are given for information purposes only. No liability is assumed for the correctness and accuracy of the details given. The securities identified and described may or may not be purchased, sold or recommended for advisory clients. It should not be assumed that an investment in these securities was or will be profitable. Copyright© 2018 RobecoSAM – all rights reserved.



Leveraging the Value of the Corporate Sustainability Assessment
April 6, 2018

Presented by Governance & Accountability Institute
in collaboration with RobecoSAM
Hosted at Baruch College/CUNY in New York City

The aim of this workshop is to increase the participants’ knowledge about the importance of and methodology behind the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI) and the RobecoSAM Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA).

A workshop session will also be included on how to utilize important resources offered by RobecoSAM such as the benchmarking and leading practices databases. G&A will also present best practices for organizing a gap analysis, project management, and internal subject matter expert identification for first time responders, or those working to improve their CSA responses.

RobecoSAM and Governance & Accountability Institute expert representatives will contribute to the Meeting overall and in particular present content (including analysis and slide decks). Participants can expect to take away a deeper understanding of:

Participants can expect to take away a deeper understanding of:

The DJSI 2018 – methodology and important takeaways.

  • Effective approaches in assessing established and emerging sustainability topics in the CSA.
  • Rationale, the business case, performance, and results from last year’s assessment, and learn more about major challenges for companies.
  • Best practices, valuable tools and resources available for first time responders as well as those looking to improve their response in 2018.
  • Each attendee will have free access to RobecoSAM’s benchmarking & leading practices database for the day. (Access to these databases normally cost 4’990 EUR and 2’500 EUR respectively.)


(Available until February 23rd. Full Price: $749)

Registrations will be open until April 5, 2018.


For information and to register, click here.

FOR QUESTIONS, contact Louis D. Coppola, Executive Vice President & Co-Founder, Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc. at Tel 646.430.8230 ext 14 or email lcoppola@ga-institute.com.

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 RobecoSAM (www.robecosam.com)
Founded in 1995, RobecoSAM is an investment specialist focused exclusively on Sustainability Investing. It offers asset management, indices, impact analysis and investing, sustainability assessments, and benchmarking services. The company’s asset management capabilities cater to institutional asset owners and financial intermediaries and cover a range of ESG-integrated investments, featuring a strong track record in resource efficiency-themed strategies. Together with S&P Dow Jones Indices, RobecoSAM publishes the globally recognized Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI) as well as the S&P ESG Index series, the first index family to treat ESG as a standalone performance factor using the RobecoSAM Smart ESG methodology. Based on its Corporate Sustainability Assessment (CSA), an annual ESG analysis of over 3,900 listed companies, RobecoSAM has compiled one of the world’s most comprehensive databases of financially material sustainability information. The CSA data is also included in USD 86.5 billion of assets under management by the subsidiaries of the Robeco Group.

RobecoSAM is a sister company of Robeco, the Dutch investment management firm founded in 1929. Both entities are subsidiaries of the Robeco Group, whose shareholder is ORIX Corporation. As a reflection of its own commitment to advancing sustainable investment practices, RobecoSAM is a signatory of the PRI and UN Global Compact, a member of Eurosif, Swiss Sustainable Finance, Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), Ceres and Portfolio Decarbonization Coalition (PDC). As of December 31, 2016, RobecoSAM had client assets under management, advice and/or license of approximately USD 16.1 billion.

A Big Year, 2018 – Tipping Points For Developments in Corporate Sustainability & Sustainable Investing…

by Hank Boerner – Chair and Chief Strategist – G&A Institute

Volume & Velocity!
Those may be well the key characteristics of developments in corporate sustainability and in sustainable in the year 2018.

Linda-Eling Lee, Global Head of Research for MSCI’s ESG Research Group and her colleague Matt Moscardi (Head of Research Financial Sector, ESG) this week described what they are projecting in the traditional early-in-the-year setting out of key ESG trends to watch by the influential MSCI ESG team:

Bigger, faster, more – that’s how Linda describes the “onslaught of challenges happening soon and more dramatically that many could have imagined” in the corporate sector” (including public policy, technology, and climate change as key factors).

Investors (in turn) are looking for ways to better position their portfolios to navigate the uncertainty of the 2018 operating environment in the corporate sector.

As the “heads up” for investors and companies– the five key 2018 trends projected by MSCI’s ESG researchers/analysts:

  • Investors will be using ESG “signals” to navigate the size/shape of the Emerging Markets investment universe to pick the winners for portfolios.
  • The first steps are coming in “scenario testing” for climate change (this is systematically looking at risks emanating from company carbon footprints across asset classes, with short- and long-term transition scenarios).
  • The fixed-income universe will see acceleration (velocity) with the alignment of ESG frameworks by investors across all asset classes.
  • And this is very important for the corporate sector:

Investors are looking beyond the growing volume of corporate disclosure and reporting for data.
Keep In Mind: 65% of a company’s rating by MSCI is based on data sources beyond the corporate reporting!


  • MSCI sees 2018 as the Year of the Human – it’s about human talent, talent, talent!  That is, what companies do to help in the transitioning to new working environments (with the changes brought about by automation, artificial intelligence, robotics) that will be factored into the analysis of public companies by the MSCI ESG team, and measured over time (for outcomes over a 3-year horizon).

Linda Eling-Lee observed:  These are the major trends that we think will shape how investors approach the risks and opportunities in 2018.

Already, at the Davos meetings this week, major global firms in IT are creating an initiative to “tech-reskill” one million people to meet the global skills gap challenge inherent in the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” (firms are Cisco, Accenture, CA Technologies, HP, Infosys, Salesforce, SAP, Tata Consultancy, others).

What we think company managements / boards should expect in the “volume and velocity” context:  many more investors (the volume / especially large fiduciaries) are embracing comprehensive ESG factors in their analysis and portfolio management approaches with a faster uptake of this trend among the mainstream elements of the capital markets players (the velocity).

Voluntary reporting by companies has its limits in providing a full picture of the companies’ ESG risks,” the MSCI ESG researchers note. “In 2018 we anticipate that the disclosure movement reaches a tipping point, as investors seek broader data sources that balance the corporate narrative and yield better signals for understanding the ESG risk landscape actually faced by portfolio companies”

# # #

Buzzing:  The Larry Fink CEO-to-CEO Message for 2018

Speaking of significant influence, the head of the world’s largest asset management firm sent an important CEO-to-CEO letter to stress the importance of companies having “a social purpose”

Background:  BlackRock engages with about 1,500 companies a year on a range of ESG issues, meeting with boards of directors and CEOs, and other shareholders when that is needed.

Each year, CEO Fink reaches out to the CEOs of companies in portfolio to alert them to the key issues in focus for BlackRock (as fiduciary).

For 2017-2018, the key Investment Stewardship priorities are:

  • Corporate Governance / Accountability
  • Corporate Strategy
  • Executive Compensation Policies
  • Human Capital (again — there’s the focus on talent management)
  • Climate Risk Disclosure

Larry Fink is the Founder, Chair, and CEO of BlackRock and heads the firm’s “Global Executive Committee.” BlackRock is about to celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2018.  It now manages more than US$6 trillion (Assets Under Management-AUM).

Of this, $1.7 trillion is in active funds managed by the company.  As one of the world’s most important and influential (and trend-setting) fiduciaries BlackRock engages with company management to drive the sustainable, long-term growth clients need to meet their goals.

“Indeed,” CEO Fink said in his letter to CEOs, ”the public expectations of your company has never been higher.”

“Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose…to prosper over time, every company must show it makes a positive contribution to society.”

“Without a sense of purpose, no company…can achieve its full potential…it will ultimately lose the license to operate from key stakeholders…”

# # #

The Key Word on Responsible Investing Growth is Global, RBC Reported

In October 2017, RBC Global Asset Management (RBC GAM) conducted its second annual global survey of asset managers.  Two-out-of-three respondents said they used ESG considerations, and 25% will increase their allocations to managers with ESG investment strategies to offer in 2018.

Does ESG mitigate risk…or drive alpha?  Answers were mixed.  Some asset managers are increasing their allocation and others are skeptical, especially about the accuracy and value of the available data on corporate ESG performance.

For 2018:  RBC sees responsible investing as a global trend, with many managers incorporating ESG in analysis and portfolio management due to client (asset owner) demand.

# # #

Tracking Company Behaviors – The RepRisk ESG Risk Platform

One of the leading producers of research and business intelligence for the banking and investment communities is RepRisk, based in Zurich, Switzerland. The firm started in 2006 to serve bank clients wanting to be alerted to real or possible risk issues in the corporate sector.

RepRisk developed artificial intelligence and data mining tools, that along with human analysis, “reduces blind spots and sheds light on risks that can have reputational, compliance and financial impacts on a company…”

Today, there are 100,000-plus companies in the RepRisk database (both listed and non-listed, from all countries and sectors). The firm started out monitoring 100 companies for clients.  The daily screening is delivered in 16 languages and about 50 companies a day are added for screening.  Is your company one of those tracked?  What are the risks tracked?

# # #

Does Adoption of ESG Approaches Sacrifice Corporate Performance?

Robeco, one of the world’s leading financial services firms (based on The Netherlands), and a sister company of RobecoSAM, managers of the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes, looked at the question of whether or not the adoption of ESG / sustainability approaches “cost” the company performance.

Adopting sustainability approaches does require investment, but companies with poor ESG performance also have greater risks and “seriously under-perform” their peers.  And investors “win” by investing in the better performers (that reduce risk, strategize around climate change, reduce bad behaviors).

Says Robeco:  “…a growing body of evidence concludes that companies which are progressively more sustainable today will reap the rewards of the future…and it may save their businesses…”

The Company’s positioning:  “Robeco is an international asset manager offering an extensive range of active investments, from equities to bonds. Research lies at the heart of everything we do, with a ‘pioneering but cautious’ approach that has been in our DNA since our foundation in Rotterdam in 1929. We believe strongly in sustainability investing, quantitative techniques and constant innovation.”

# # #

CalPERS, America’s Leading Public Employee System – Corporate Engagement on Diversity Issues

“CalPERS: is the California Public Employee’s Retirement System, the largest state investment fund in the United States with about $350 billion in total fund market AUM.

CalPERS sent letters to 504 companies in the Russell 3000 Index to engage on the issue of diversity on the companies’ boards of directors.

CalPERS request:  the company should develop and then disclose their corporate board diversity policy, and the details of the plan’s implementation (to address what CalPERS sees as lack of diversity in the companies).

“Simply put, board diversity is good for business,” said Anne Simpson, CalPERS’ investment director for sustainability.

Starting in Fall 2017 and into 2018, CalPERS is monitoring companies’ progress on the matter and making it a topic for engagement discussions.  If a company lags in progress, CalPERS will consider withholding votes from director-candidates at annual voting time (at annual meetings).

# # #

The Climate Action 100+ Investor Initiative

 Sign of the times: More than 200 investors supporting action on climate change by the corporate sector are focusing on the board room of such companies as ExxonMobil, Boeing, GE, P&G, Ford, Volvo, PepsiCo, BP, Shell, Nestle, Airbus, and  other  enterprises (the “100” plus companies in focus) to dialogue on their GhG emissions as contributions to global warming.

The 100 corporates are said to account for 85% of the total GhG emissions worldwide – they need to step up, says the Coalition, and develop strategies and take action (and disclose!) to address the issue.  The investors manage more than $26 trillion in AUM, and are coordinating their efforts through five partnerships…

# # #

McKinsey Weighs In – ESG No Longer “Niche” – Assets Are Soaring

The McKinsey & Co. experts studied ESG investing and reported to corporate clients that of the $88 trillion in AUM in the world’s capital markets (in late-October), more than $1-in-$4 (25%-plus) are invested according to ESG principles.  That’s a growth of 17% a year, and ESG has become “a large and fast-growing market segment.”

# # #

Investors Are Not Forgetting – Rana Plaza Still in Focus

One of the characteristics of the sustainable investing market players is having-the-memory-of-the-elephant.  Do you remember the Rana Plaza apparel factory tragedy of five years ago?  Most media reporters and commentators have moved on to other crisis events.

Investors are signing on to a statement – “Investors Call on Global Brands to Re-commit to the Bangladesh Accord for Fire and Building Safety” – with focus on the upcoming fifth anniversary of the statement signed (in May 2013) after the accident that killed more than 1,000 workers in Bangladesh.

Reforms were promised in the Accord by industry participants and trade unions.

# # #

Another Example of Investor Action – McDonald’s

“In a win for the health of the world’s oceans,” began the As You Sow shareholder advocacy group announcement, “McDonald’s Corp. agreed to end the use of polystyrene foam packaging – worldwide! – – by the end of 2018.

The advocacy group had campaigned to have the fast food retailer stop using foam cups and takeout containers.

A shareholder proposal filed by As You Sow in May 2017 requested the company stop using polystyrene and 32% of shares voted (worth $26 billion at the time) voted to support.

# # #

Finally – What a Low-Carbon Economy Looks Like – California Dreamin’

The State of California is the world’s sixth largest economy all by itself!

While President Donald Trump upon taking office fulfilled one of his signature campaign promises – beginning the process of withdrawal from the historic COP 21 Paris Accord on climate change – California Governor Edmund (Jerry) G. Brown, Jr is moving ahead with his state’s plans to move to a low-carbon economy.

The Global Climate Change Action Summit is scheduled for September 2018 in San Francisco, California.

The theme, as described by the governor:  “Sub-national governments” (cities & states), business sector leaders, investors and civil society leaders will gather to “demonstrate the groundswell of innovative, ambitious climate action from leaders around the world, highlight economic and environmental transition already underway and spur deeper commitment from all parties, including national governments.”

Says the governor: “California remains committed to a clean energy future and we welcome the responsibility to lead on America’s behalf…”

# # #

Coming:  ISS QualityScores for “E” and “S” for 1,500 Companies

As we communicated in early January, Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) has expanded its long-term focus on corporate governance to encompass “E” and “S” issues for its QualityScore product for fiduciaries (its client base).  In late-January it is expected that ISS will issue the first wave of scores for 1,500 companies in six industries, expanding to 5,000 companies in additional industries by mid-year 2018.

The first 1,500 companies to be scored are in Autos & Components; Capital Goods; Consumer Durables & Apparel; Energy; Materials; and, Transportation.

The QualityScore is a Disclosure and Transparency Signal that investor-clients are seeking, says ISS, and an important resource for investors to conduct comparisons with corporate peers.

Keep in mind:  ISS serves its 1,700 clients with coverage in 117 global markets.

# # #

There’s much more information on this and other critical 2018 tipping points for corporate managers and investment professionals in the comprehensive management brief from the G&A Institute team posted on our G&A Institute’s “To the Point!” platform for you.

We’re presenting here more details on the MSCI trends forecast, the BlackRock CEO-to-CEO letter about Social Purpose for the Corporation, California’s move toward a low-carbon economy,  RepRisk’s focus areas for corporate behavior…and a host of additional important developments at the start of the year 2018 that will shape the operating environment throughout the year – and beyond! Read the brief here!

The Important Group of ESG Rankers for Institutional Investors Expands to a Significant Player — Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS)

Traditional Corporate Governance Focus Expanding to Encompass  ISS Environmental & Social QualityScores for 1,500 Public Companies Coming in January… Expanding to 5,000 Companies in Q2…

by Hank Boerner – G&A Institute Chair

A significant new player is now entering the mix of the growing number of organizations providing institutional investors with ESG rankings and data.

At G&A Institute, we’ve been tracking the growth of these organizations (such as MSCI, Sustainalytics, RobecoSAM, Bloomberg, Thomson Reuters, and others) and work with our clients to help managements understand, optimize and utilize these important intelligence points coming from the rapidly-growing number of investors considering ESG.

Founded in 1985 as Institutional Shareholder Services Inc., ISS is the world’s leading provider of corporate governance and responsible investment solutions for asset owners, asset managers, hedge funds, and asset service providers. Institutional investors today rely on ISS’ expertise to help them make informed corporate governance decisions, integrate responsible investing policies and practices into their strategy, and execute upon these policies through end-to-end voting.

Among the issues monitored, analyzed and perspectives and opinions offered to the investors by ISS:  board room makeup; qualifications of individual board candidates standing for election; CEO compensation; separation of the posts of chair of the board and chief executive officer; proposed transactions such as merger or acquisition; shareholder rights; transparency and disclosure of board and C-suite activities; “over-boarding by directors”…and more.

Over the decades ISS has been a powerful and very visible force in annual corporate proxy voting issues, offering advice to the client base to help the institutions exercise their fiduciary duties, including the mechanics of the voting process during the annual electoral season.

Consider the influence of ISS in the capital markets:  117 global markets covered; 40,000 corporate meetings reviewed; on behalf of 1,700 global institutional investor clients.

Now, “E” and “S” along with “G” issues are coming into sharp focus for ISS – due to the demand of its institutional clients – and included in the QualityScore process.

Tune in now to an important development that significantly expands the influence of ISS and communicates new dimensions of “G” (governance) into the ESG space (E=environmental, S=social, societal issues).  The E and S QualityScore builds on ISS’s market-leading Governance QualityScore, which provides a measure of governance risk, performance, disclosure and transparency in Board Structure, Compensation, Shareholder Right, and Audit & Risk Oversight.

The E&S QualityScore, says ISS, provides a measure of corporate disclosure practices and transparency to shareholders and stakeholders.  This is the Disclosure and Transparency Signal that investor-clients seek, and is a resource that enables effective comparison with company peers.

ISS had been an independent organization, then was acquired by MSCI, and later divested, becoming a unit of the P/E firm Vestar Capital; it was purchased by Genstar Capital in October 2017.  To rebuild the firm’s ESG capabilities lost as a result of the 2014 spinoff from MSCI,  ISS in September 2015 acquired Ethix SRI Advisors, one of Europe’s leading ESG analytics and advisory firms with offices in Scandinavia.

In January 2017, ISS also acquired IW Financial, one of the leading ESG analytics firms in the United States (based in Maine), and in June of 2017 acquired the climate investment data unit of Zurich-based South Pole Group.

ISS’s initial expansion beyond “G” to include Environmental and Social issues in the QualityScore, which will be announced on January 18, covers companies in six industries:  (1) Autos and Components; (2) Capital Goods; (3) Consumer Durables & Apparel; (4) Energy; (5) Materials; and, (6) Transportation – roughly 1,500 companies in all.

Public company managements have been invited to respond to the new “E&S” data verification process for their company (the period ends January 12th).

In 2Q the program expands to include 3,500 more corporate entities in other industries (the total corporate universe in focus by mid-year will be 5,000-plus public companies).

These ratings will be a critical part of a company’s ESG profile for the rapidly expanding number investors with Assets Under Management (AUM) that are considering ESG in their investment decision-making.  This number, as of the latest 2016 US SIF survey includes US$8.72 trillion out of $40.3 trillion total AUM in the United States.  This is now $1-out-of-every-$5   in the U.S. capital markets –and globally the numbers are even more striking with the latest GSIA report showing even larger percentages and rapid expansion in every other part of the world.

The G&A Institute team will be communicating much more detail about this important new initiative by ISS in the weeks ahead, through our various communications channels.  For more information, contact EVP Louis D. Coppola at: lcoppola@ga-institute.com or ISS at ESGHelpdesk@Issethix.com

There are details here on the ESG QualityScore:

For those interested in the Quality Score for Core Corporate Governance Practices in Focus:https://www.issgovernance.com/file/products/1_QS-2017-Methodology-Update-27Oct2017.pdf

Information on ISS Corporate Solutions is here:  https://login.isscorporatesolutions.com/galp/login

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High Water Women’s 2017 Investing For Impact Symposium

By Laura Malo –  Sustainability Reports Data Analyst, G&A Institute

On November 30th the High Water Women organization’s 5th Annual Investing for Impact Symposium in New York City drew a record crowd; I was pleased to attend as a G&A Institute representative (G&A was a sponsor of the event).

Background:  In 2005, High Water Women organization was founded by a group of senior women involved in the funding world and working for investing communities.

The concept was to advance ideas and principles that encouraged women employed in or planning to be part of the financial services sector.

Over the years since, HWW members have working at the mission and have achieving very encouraging results throughout different components of the capital markets.

Today, there are more than 3,500 members working in the financial services sector as well as in allied firms and organizations (such as non-profits and in public sector agencies).  This provides the organization with a large volunteer network collaborating to achieve justice and equity for women across both the investing and business communities.

The 2017 Symposium

At the symposium, a really complete and quite interesting agenda assembled by HWW brought together outstanding experts participating in panels and workshop sessions; I thought the speakers were highly qualified and outstanding thought leaders in their fields.

The day began with Valerie Rockefeller, board member of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund being interviewed by Debra Schwartz, Managing Director of Impact Investments, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Ms. Rockefeller presented powerful arguments about the role of females in investing activities.

This was followed by two plenary sessions, focused on “Taking Action: Removing Obstacles to Change,” and, “Fighting for a Better World: Women in Impact Investing.” These sessions brought into focus the crucial question:  Why should it be necessary to democratize the access to the impact investment field.

Investor/board member  Valerie Rockefeller and interviewer Debra Schwartz at HWW NYC Symposium 2017

Another session was focused on “Taking action — the key challenges that companies need to focus on:

  • Transparency
  • Risk reward
  • Insufficient diversity
  • Investing washing

…and how companies need to evolve to face the new challenges, such as adopting and using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in strategy and tactics.

Taking Action session: “Removing Obstacles to Change” with Susan Hammel, President, Cogent Consulting as session moderator.

For a breakout session I chose “Environmental and Climate,” where the discussion was focused on the environmental opportunity and climate risk into investment portfolios. The conversation  among participants was about the role of the corporation; the need for more specific standards and metrics for women;  the importance of creating non-biased investment portfolios; the specific of ESG approaches for analysis; and, the consequences of having the portfolio companies which don’t advocate for the environment protection.

Also discussed: the challenge of developing business models which contemplate climate change risk as one of the important considerations for company managements.

There were four afternoon breakout sessions and plenary sessions.

One featured Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, who was interviewed by Imogen Rose Smith, Investment Fellow, University of California. We also had two very informative panel sessions:: “Impact Investing in the New Age of Social Activism”; and, “Go Big or Go Home”, which was about the bold ideas driving impact investing today.

Fireside Chat with Governor Deval Patrick being interviewed by Imogen Rose-Smith

High Water Women is an organization for activists and thought leaders; they advocate for greater impact philanthropy.  The symposium attracts individuals, organizations and companies already involved in, or, seeking to explore the field of values-based investing.  This creates an ideal atmosphere for the networking all through the day. (Be sure to attend next year!)

The HWW grand ambitions made even more sense to me after attending the panel presented by Sara Brand, General Partner, True Wealth Ventures.

She shared critical data which makes for more understanding of the necessity in encouraging more women’s participation in financial issues in a more productive way — from the household unit to the board rooms in companies.

The data demonstrated that:

  • Women make 85% of the consumer purchasing decisions;
  • and 85% of healthcare decisions
  • We learned that companies with a female founder work 63% better than companies with an all-male founding board.

However, the current environment in the workplaces leaves women in second place in the business world.

  • Today, only a 1% of partners at firms making investment decisions are women;
  • and less than a 3% of the CEOs in USA are women.

These quantitative data sets are enough proof from the fact that markets should be assessed from a different perspective in which women play a more significant role.

Ms. Brand also talked about the problem and exposed solutions to fix it based on the endorsement of:

  • Women Entrepreneurs
  • Women General Partners
  • Women Limited Partners

Spotlight: Women Investors are the solution to the World’s problem, Sara Brand

The line up of brand name sponsors for the HWW event included: The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, BlackRock, Deutsche Asset Management, KKR, Treehouse Investments, Trillium Asset Management, Calvert Investments, Columbia Threadneedle, Community Investment Management, Dalberg Global Development Advisors, Impax Asset Management, Microvest, oekom research, Tara Health Foundation, and Tideline.

For me as a first-time attendee, it was really inspiring to listen to achievers who are working at important foundations, investment firms and other organizations to develop more interest in impact investment programs – and to push companies forward for greater, faster change.

I heard about creating new business models leveraging the ESG approach to address challenges and opportunities and to support of diversity and gender empowerment that were breaking new ground..

Thanks to the current rise in the CSR strategies performance and the well-established networking of connectors, sustainers and factors, HWW provides women with the education needed and support required to overcome the societal obstacles — and to be able to strengthen the leadership of women in driving the emerging field of Impact Investment.

This brought to mind for me the words of the Mexican folk painter, Frida Kahio:  “At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.”

North Sea Oil & Gas – Fueling Great Accumulations of Wealth for the Long-Term Benefit of Norway’s Future Generations

The foundation for the significant progress made in so many spheres of society in the 20th Century was…Oil!  The oil-producing nations of the world amassed great wealth with the marketing of oil and petroleum-derived products; those products enabled fantastic progress to be made in industry, government, agriculture, the consumer sector…throughout our modern society.

A number of formerly categorized as “still developing nations” of the early 20th Century years became quite wealthy when oil deposits were discovered or exploited on their lands — especially countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Emirates, and Kuwait and Iran and Iraq.

North Sea oil and gas exploration would bring great wealth to certain western nations in the second half of the Century.  One of these was Norway, with significant reserves identified (and exploited) beneath the often storm North Sea waters.

A strategic decision was reached internally in 1990 — a stream of “surplus” revenues would be directed toward the country’s Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF), officially “the Government Pension Fund” – this inflow began in 1996 and since, the SWF has become the largest Sovereign Wealth Fund in the world. (There is a separate internal fund also receiving funds for domestic investment.)

The Norway SWF invests in 77 countries; the portfolio allocation is in equities (62%), fixed-income (34%) and real estate (3%). The return on investment in 2016 was almost 7%.

The Fund states that it is a “Responsible Investor,” with a mandate to integrate responsible investment activities into the management of the fund.

Sign of the times:  In the flow of news reports and commentaries about the trend to minimize or dis-invest shares of fossil-fuel companies in investment portfolios, comes news from the Nordic nation [the advice] that the Norway SWF should scale back or drop investments in oil & gas stocks.

The Norges Bank, which manages the SWF’s US$1 trillion in AUM, advised that such a step would make Norway less vulnerable to a permanent slide in Oil & Gas prices.  About 6% of the AUM is now in the sector (in such companies as Shell, BP, ExxonMobil). Shell contributed the most to the fund’s return in 2016.

Important note:  There were holdings in about 9,000 public companies in 2016; the average holding in the world’s listed companies was about 1.3% to 2%, and up to 5% in 28 companies. (Nestle is the largest holding in a single issuer.)

In North America, holdings are in 2,268 companies; 2,107 bonds from 582 issuers; and in 400 (office & retail) properties. Oil and Gas performed best in 2016, Norges Bank reported (29%).  One investment of note is Florida-based NextEra Energy, a U.S. company “driving the transition from coal-based power to clean electricity.”

All of this is sort of inside baseball; the SWF is owned by the central government for the benefit of future generations; the Norges Bank operations are part of the government; the Finance Ministry will review the suggestions.  We will likely see important decisions taken by June 2019, according to the BBC.

It will be interesting to watch as the world’s largest Sovereign Wealth Fund and one of the world’s key responsible investors — all integral parts of one of the world’s important oil & gas countries — make decisions on fossil fuel investments going forward.

BBC highlights of the latest developments are in our Top Story this issue. And there is more detailed information for you in the Norges Bank Annual Report for 2016.

Story This Week…

Norway’s state fund ‘needs to drop oil and gas investments’
(Friday – November 17, 2017) Source: BBC – Norway’s government has been told its state-run fund should drop its investments in oil and gas stocks.


Seven Important Trends From Textile Exchange Conference Summed Up: The Industry Gets It on Sustainability

“Sustainability is front and center in the apparel sector” — so writes Tara Donaldson in the November 5th feature story in the Sourcing Journal in covering the Textile Sustainability Conference in October. Seven major trends were discussed at the meeting of industry execs.

Considering such things as reducing microfibers polluting our oceans or using more materials with less environmental impact or other factors, the industry focus on sustainability is creating a new vision for the apparel industry, including for brands that had not yet been on board.  Because: the consumer and industry now demand this.

And there are seven trends that illustrate the paradigm shift in the industry, with details set out by the Journal for each:

Embrace of Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) – more companies are taking a close look at how their businesses align with these, and the October conference in Washington, DC focused on exploring what SDGs mean to the apparel sector. The SDGs provide a common vocabulary for the industry.  And the manufacturing centers are taking a closer look — like China, India, Bangladesh and El Salvador.

Better raw materials in products – slowly but steadily, brands are building products with sustainable materials; the trend is up for the year, according to the 2017 Preferred Fiber & Materials Report.

Circularity/Circularity/Circularity – companies are gearing up for more circularity (circular value chains that is!), with about one-quarter of firms developing such a strategy and more than half with a strategy being implemented.  For example, making a silk-like fiber out of orange peels.

Actions on Climate – for many firms, climate change is a major issue and more than 200 companies have set carbon reduction targets. Luxury products marketer Kering Group plans to reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2020, for example.

Leveraging Technology for Sustainability – DNA tech is one of the “big things” with the ability to provide greater transparency and traceability for fiber (the technique is using DNA-based tags embedded in raw materials such as organic cotton).

Water — Being Better Stewards – apparel companies are “water guzzlers,” with 14-plus liters to make one cotton suit (as example).  Companies are figuring out how to go “waterless” or really cut their water usage over time in the production of apparel.

Investors and Long-Term Viability – and yes, the industry leaders acknowledge that investors “are paying heed” to sustainability and long-term business viability. A Bloomberg LP analyst laid out the importance of sustainability to the conference attendees.

There’s more for you in the Top Story on the above seven major trends.  And we include in our wrap up this week another report — about investors now paying greater attention to sustainability efforts in the apparel industry.

Note:  for the Sourcing Journal – a subscription is required — a “Free” registration will allow you access to this story, with a limit of 5 articles per month.

Top Stories This Week…

The Top 7 Sustainability Trends Coming Out of Textile Exchange
(Monday – November 06, 2017) Source: Sourcing Journal – Whether it’s circularity, reducing microfibers polluting the world’s oceans or using more materials with less environmental impact, sustainability is front and center in the apparel sector, and brands that hadn’t been on board…

Morningstar Now Informs Investors About ESG/Sustainable Mutual Funds — And The Good News Is That ESG Funds’ AUM Continues to Grow

The authoritative voice for many investors on the always expanding mutual fund universe is the Chicago-based Morningstar organization.  The company tracks mutual fund’s in- and outflows, performance, focus and other aspects of [mutual fund] activities.

The firm began adding ESG analysis to its legendary and comprehensive analytical work last year.  About 200 mutual funds with ESG criteria were initially being monitored by Morningstar, with analysis provided by Sustainalytics. **

Now here’s an important update for you:  we are apparently on pace for a record year for ESG funds this year.  In 3Q 2017, the universe of ESG funds (equity and fixed-income) continued to grow; there were five new fund launches and net flow (funds in) that “…keep the group on track for record year of attracting new assets.”

Morningstar explains that “Sustainable Mutual Funds” experienced continued growth in assets and heavier inflow through 2016 and into 2017; Assets Under Management were about $60 billion through September.  New launches were by Brown Advisory, Essex, iShares and NuShares (four were bond funds and one, equity-focused).

Notes Morningstar:  Because many of these funds are “young,” with almost 100 lacking three-year track records, they remain small (below $50 million AUM). But the good news is that with continued new fund launches and flows in continuing, sustainable funds continue to gain traction in 3Q 2017, offering investors more choices who are focusing on ESG / sustainable portfolios.

The addition of ESG / Sustainable investing data and information to the influential Morningstar suite of services for investors was an important development, and a solid sign of ESG investing coming of age in the USA for the company’s customers.  Shortly after adding the ESG features, Morningstar made a strategic investment in Sustainalytics buying 40% of the firm earlier this year – another good sign for the sustainable investing community.

There’s good information for you in our Top Story.

There’s more news about sustainable investing here in this week’s Highlights — read on!

Keep watch: We will soon be sharing news about our new “To the Point” corporate management briefing service.  This new platform on launch will have lots of good, timely, actionable information about ESG players that influence the capital markets — and public company access and cost of capital.  For advance information, send an email to:  info@ga-institute.com

**Footnote:  Morningstar defines the ESG universe as fund that incorporate ESG criteria into their investment process (or) pursue a sustainability-related theme (or) seek measurable sustainability impact along with financial return.

Top Stories This Week…

Sustainable Funds Universe Continues to Expand
(Thursday – October 12, 2017)
Source: Morningstar – The universe of sustainable funds in the United States continued to grow in the third quarter, with five new fund launches and positive estimated net flows that keep the group on track for a record year of attracting new assets.