|by Hank Boerner – Chair & Chief Strategist – G&A Institute
The popular corporate equity “baskets” including the Dow Jones Industrial Index, Nasdaq 100, S&P 500, the Russell 1,000 – 2,000 – and 3,000– in essence consist of the underlying value of the corporate shares in each basket (or benchmark for investors).
Today, there is an ocean of stock indexes for asset managers to license from the creators and then apply process and approaches for keeping track of the companies in the fiduciary portfolio, or to analyze and pick from the underlying issues for their portfolio.
Alternative benchmarks and indexes may be dependent on market cap size and have variations in the index family to fine tune the analysis (think of the varieties of Wilshire, Russell, S&P Dow Jones, etc.).
There has been a steady move by many asset managers from “active management” to passive investment instruments, with this transition key benchmarks become an important tool for the analyst and portfolio manager.
One large-cap index really dominates the capital markets: The S&P 500.
G&A Institute’s Annual S&P 500® Research
Here’s why: The S&P 500 Index is the most-widely-quoted index measuring the stock performance of the 500 largest investable companies listed on American stock exchanges. Asset managers licensees like State Street, MCSI, Invesco Capital and London Stock Exchange Group use this index for their constructing ETFs and other investable products.
This universe of public companies provided for our team a solid foundation for tracking and analyzing the activities of these 500 companies as they began or expanded their sustainability reporting. In 2011, that first year. we found just about 20% of the 500 were publishing sustainability reports.
And here’s the dramatic news:
Tracking the Trends
We charted the broad impact of these market-leading enterprises on such reporting frameworks and standards as the GRI and SASB as those standards evolved and matured and were adopted by the companies in the 500. We saw…
CDP disclosure steadily expanded in structured reports and (stand alone) corporate responses to CDP on carbon emissions, water, supply chain, forestry products.
The adoption of UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by companies as they were in some way conceptually a part of a company’s sustainability strategy (and subsequent reporting).
And more recently, there was the adoption of TCFD recommendations by corporate issuers in the U.S. – that began to show up in reports recently.
Starting with 2010 reporting, the first G&A analysis, we’ve shared the highlights of the research efforts.
Teams of talented, passionate and bright analyst-interns developed each year’s report (you can see who they are/were in G&A’s Honor Roll on our web site). Most of the team members have moved on to career positions in the corporate, investment, public sector and NGO communities.
We’ve organized the deliverable for both quick scanning and concentrated reviewing. Let us know if you have questions about the research results.
Stay tuned to G&A’s upcoming Russell 1000 Index® analysis of 2019 reporting.
This second important index/benchmark was created several decades ago by the Frank Russell Company and is now maintained by FTSE Russell (subsidiary of the London Stock Exchange Group)
The largest companies by market cap companies are available as benchmarks for investors in the S&P 500 (largest cap) and for the next 500 in the Russell 1000.
The ripple effects of the S&P 500 companies and more recently some of the Russell 1000 companies on corporate sustainability disclosure and reporting is fascinating for us to track.
Many mid-cap and small-cap companies are now adopting similar reporting policies and practices. Privately-owned companies are publishing similar reports. All of this means volumes of ESG data and narrative flowing out to investors – and fueling the growth of sustainable investing. We find this all very encouraging in our tracking of corporate reporting.
Here are the details for you:
90% of S&P 500 Index Companies
What is Greenwashing? The Importance of Maintaining Perspective in ESG Communications
New report measures boardroom diversity at top S&P 500 companies
by Hank Boerner – Chair & Chief Strategist – G&A Institute
Over the past several weeks we have been witnessing an important confluence of events, a critical convergence of forces — something we might call reaching a critical inflection point for the sustainability and well-being of our planet, people, plants, and yes, profits going forward. Consider:
The COVID-19 infection has now touched just about every sovereign state on Earth, shutting down the largest economy, that of the United States of America, as well as the economies of many European nations…and of course important parts of the world’s second largest economy, China.
As this was happening, the public conversations about the impacts of climate change and global warming on people, flora and fauna, and planet continued, with the worldwide observance of the 50th Earth Day. Attention on climate change has doubled down even in the face of a frightening disease and resulting economic turmoil.
Numerous conversations among science and climate experts, in media channels, among public sector leaders, and other stakeholders, focused on the possible links between the coronavirus (and other serious infections) and climate change.
Questions are raised: What new diseases might emerge…what new vectors might we see, moving from tropics to temperate climes and carrying unfamiliar diseases. What fate awaits humanity as in some countries we see systematic destruction of rain forests (the “lungs of the Earth”) and as populated cities continue to push farther into wilderness areas? Do we know the effects, short- and long-term, on human, as the arctic tundra warms and releases microbes and other organisms stored there in colder climes for millennia?
As the world’s capital markets were being impacted by the virus crisis and shutdowns of entire economies, the focus on sustainable and impact investing has intensified.
(On one conference call this week, a lecturer pointed to ESG investing trends and explained, look at the more resilient and sustainable companies for opportunity in the crisis and as we emerge. The ESG leaders will be more attractive for investors.)
Early results showed that sustainable investments (especially ESG mutual funds and ETFs) were performing with more resilience than more traditional instruments in the slowdown and in the ongoing adjustments of institutional investors’ portfolios in response to the crisis. (The outflow of ESG ETFs and mutual funds were small than for traditional peers.)
The focus on the corporate sector intensified as the three important sectors of 21st Century economies struggled to adjust to the widespread effects of the virus crisis – that is, public sector (governments), private sector (corporate and business) and social sector (institutions, NGOs, foundations, charities, others, as first defined as the social sector by management guru Peter F. Drucker).
There is considerable public discussion now about what the “new normal” might look like as we emerge from the terrible effects of the coronavirus. The confluence / convergence of recent events as outlined here will help to shape society in the near term — moving into the post-crisis period.
The G&A Institute team has been monitoring and sharing perspectives on the above and more in our usual communications channels. In these newsletters, in our Resource Guides, on our Sustainability Update blog.
You can check out our blog posts here.
We are offering perspectives in the ongoing series, “Excellence in Corporate Citizenship on Display in the Coronavirus Crisis” — #WeRise2FightCOVID-19.
We offer here several features along the lines of the above themes of confluence / convergence of factors for you:
Why we cannot lose sight of the Sustainable Development Goals during coronavirus
Source: World Economic Forum – Our world today is dealing with a crisis of monumental proportions. The novel coronavirus is wreaking havoc across the globe, upending lives and livelihoods.
An Earth Day CEO summit shows how dramatically corporate values have changed
Source: Fortune – This week marks the 50th anniversary of those nationwide environmental celebrations and “teach-ins” that came to be called Earth Day. From the largest 1970 gathering, in Fairmont Park in Philadelphia, to smaller marches and…
The Covid-19 crisis creates a chance to reset economies on a sustainable footing
Source: The Guardian – New Zealand climate minister says governments must not just return to the way things were, and instead plot a new course to ease climate change
50 years later, Earth Day’s unsolved problem: How to build a more sustainable world
Source: MSN/Washington Post – We haven’t quit the fossil fuels scientists say are warming the atmosphere and harming the Earth. Humans use more resources than the planet produces. Society has not changed course.
Excellence in Corporate Citizenship on Display in the Coronavirus Crisis – Post #8
“Corporate Purpose – Virus Crisis” #WeRise2FightCOVID-19
April 1, 2020
By Hank Boerner, Chair & Chief Strategist, and the G&A Institute team members
On Corporate Purpose – Words and Actions – Thoughts From Influentials As The Virus Crisis Deepens Worldwide — the Focus on Purpose Can Help Corporate Generals Lead From the Front
In summer 2019, The Business Roundtable (BRT), the association of the CEOs of 200 firms, revamped the organization’s mission statement to read…
…“as leaders of America’s largest corporations, BRT CEOs believe we have a responsibility to help build a strong and sustainable economic future in the United States.”
This followed the publication of the January 2019 CEO-to-CEO letter of Larry Fink, who heads BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager (and therefore a major fiduciary investing in the BRT companies). He regularly writes to the CEOs of companies that BlackRock invests in to let them know where of the major investors stands.
He wrote at the start of 2019…
…Purpose is not the sole pursuit of profits but the animating force for achieving them. And, profits are in no way inconsistent with purpose; in fact, profits and purpose are inextricably linked.
And again in his January 2020 letter to CEOs, Chair & CEO Larry Fink said:
…“As I have written in past letters [to CEOs in 2019, 2018] a company cannot achieve long-term profits without embracing purpose and considering the needs of considering the needs of a broad range of stakeholders. Ultimately, purpose is the engine of long-term profitability.”
Fast forward to March 2020 and now into April. What is the walk-of-the-talk of the CEOs (181 of them) who were signatories as the coronavirus crisis grips the U.S. and the world — and the actions of the signatories’ firms as stakeholders look for aid, comfort, security, payroll, taxes paid, and more?
And what other companies not necessarily in the Roundtable? What actions are taken leveraging corporate power to help society?
The stakeholders are watching. And a good number of the Business Roundtable companies are responding to address societal needs.
And what are the perspectives shared about all of this? We bring you some of these today. Here are some of the views and advice of experts and influentials.
McKinsey Speaks – On How to Demonstrate Corporate Purpose
So what could company managements be doing when the primary purpose of their efforts is to help the enterprise survive? McKinsey acknowledges this — and provides some advice. This is from their bulletin today.
Questions are being asked, of course, related to survival. How long will the crisis last? What are peers doing? How do we pay our people?
“WIN” – what is important now? (The G&A team has asked and helped to answer that question many times in our three decades of crisis management support for client companies over the years.)
First up, advises the McKinsey team members — understand your stakeholder needs and then with the understanding gained, prioritize your response. There will be tradeoffs among stakeholders – prepare for that.
Then, bring the greatest strengths of the organization to bear – consider, how can you make a difference?
McKinsey advises “collaborate with suppliers and customers and they may identify strengths you didn’t know you had”.
Examples offered: Car makers can make ventilators (GM, Ford etc). Perfume companies can rapidly turn to manufacture hand sanitizer (LVMH and Estee Lauder are doing that today as we’ve reported in these briefs).
As you move forward, test the assumption and decisions you are taking against your stated purpose – communicate – explain (how and why).
Banks have a commitment to lend money in their community. If the bank pulls away – why? The action could help to define that institution in and after the crisis.
Give people something to do! (We also shared this advice a number of times early in the crisis.)
Involve employees in solutions. Give them a sense of purpose. Your team is looking for signals of leadership. And how to help.
And McKinsey says, the positive is that you may in the process be identifying the next generation of your company’s leadership!
Try new ways. Try using “cross-cutting” teams to develop new solutions, new ways to do things.
When in 2005 Hurricane Katrina hit, Wal-Mart Stores asked employees to deliver supplies to areas that were hard to reach. And we remember that the company’s store managers on their own ordered extra supplies and kept the stores open – even as their own homes were being destroyed.
That led to the CEO embarking on a strategic sustainability journey that revolutionized the whole company and in the process formed the Sustainability Consortium!
And like the best of the military leaders, you should yourself lead from the front. Communicate – often, early. Don’t sugarcoat the news. Adapt to changing conditions (and then communicate again). Your enterprise looks to its leaders for guidance.
Things that stand out for us that McKinsey explains:
- Executives are uniquely poised now to bring corporate power, guided by social purpose to aid millions of dislodged and vulnerable lives. Done well, your actions can bridge the divide between shareholders and stakeholders. And leave a lasting, positive legacy.
- Credibility is both essential and fragile element of executive leadership. Authentic actions demonstrate the company’s genuine commitment to social purpose.
Thanks to McKinsey’s Bill Schaninger, senior partner in Philadelphia, and Bruce Simpson, senior partner in Toronto, and their colleagues Han Zhang and Chris Zhu, for the valuable insights and guidance offered to corporate leaders.
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Mark Cuban on COVID-19 – Words & Action
We are often entertained by the antics of Mark Cuban on the courts (he’s owner of the Dallas Mavericks NBA team) and appearances on the hit TV show, “Shark Tank”. He was serious this week in addressing the virus crisis.
On Twitter he advised the federal policymakers: “Dear government, here is why you require companies that receive bailouts to retain 100% of their employees. The cost of the bailout loan – eventual payments will cost taxpayers less than the cost of government assistance programs for fired employees. Case closed.”
“If you run a business, BEFORE YOUR FIRE ANYONE (or any more), you have an obligation to yourself/employees to find every gov loan option available today and those soon to come. Find the time. When the gov loans start you want to be already an expert and in line.”
Mark Cuban then walked-the-talk, setting up a way to pay his team’s venue employees (American Airlines Arena) even though games are cancelled and no one is coming. Then sent $100,000+ to the area’s not-for-profits aiding the Big D residents.
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Investor Coalition Speaks Its Mind on Corporate Purpose
Nearly 200 long-term institutional investors (with AUM of US$4.7 trillion) called on company managements to protect their workers – difficult to do, the investors acknowledge. Board directors are accountable for long-term Human Capital Management strategies (they remind board members on both domestic U.S. and global companies).
The steps companies could take, says the investor group:
- Provide paid leave – including emergency leave) for full-time, part-time and subcontracted workers.
- Prioritize health and safety – meaning, worker and public health safety, and to protect social license to operate. That may include closing facilities as precautionary step.
- Maintain employment levels – your workers are well-trained (we hope!) and will enable the company to ramp up quickly once the crisis is resolved.
- And be on the watch for any moves that may be discriminatory.
- Maintain customer – and supplier — relationships to ensure that you can help stabilize them if necessary (such as financial challenges to suppliers) and to protect your own and other communities and businesses.
- Practice financial prudence – demonstrate, the advisors strongly urge, the highest levels of ethical financial management and responsibility. And, limit executive and senior management compensation during the crisis (not repeating the practices of companies in the 2008 financial practices with money provided by the taxpayer).
Corporate leadership is critically-needed, the coalition stresses, to help society get through the crisis.
Among the investors in the coalition issuing the advice to public company managements: the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) coalition (with 300 institutional members); the New York City public employees pension fund, led by Comptroller Scott Stringer; AFL-CIO fund; the state treasurers of Connecticut, Maryland, Rhode Island, Oregon, Vermont; American Federation of Teachers (AFT); the British Columbia Government and Services Employees Union; Aviva Investors; APG; Boston Common Asset Management; Coalition on Corporate Responsibility in Indiana & Michigan; Cornerstone Capital Group; Communications Workers of America (CWA); Robeco Asset Management; numerous foundations and religious orders and denominations.
All of this is spelled out in the “Investor Statement on Coronavirus Response” being circulated among fiduciaries.
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Believe the Investor’s Urging Will Pay Off?
Bloomberg LP provides us with some of the early answers. Bloomberg Intelligence’s (BI) Shaheen Contractor (ESG Team BI Industry Analyst) in a brief for terminal users noted that an analysis of ESG Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) during the selloff for the week ending February 28 provided a buffer for their investors and outperformed their benchmarks. The data: only 8% of ESG ETFs had outflows while 22% of all U.S. ETFs saw outflows.
This, she writes, suggests ESG is seen by investors as a long-term investment and not a trading strategy.
And the flow to ESG ETF’s suggests that these instruments are “sticky” and less cyclical. Where where the flows to ESG ETFs? BlackRock, JPMorgan, BNP Paribas, Societe Generale, DWS, State Street, and Vanguard all saw inflows during the drawdown.
Good news for investors looking for “proof of concept” of ESG/sustainable investing from Shaheen Contractor – thanks to her and Bloomberg for sharing this good news.
Her email is: email@example.com
The brief: “ESG ETFs See Relative Outperformance, Inflows During Drawdown”
For information, it is on the Bloomberg: https://blinks.bloomberg.com/news/stories/Q6RT29T0G1L2
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Lead from the front. The general who led the effort to win WW II for the U.S.A. and the democracies, General Dwight D. Eisenhower (President, 1953-1961) observed: “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it. You don’t lead by hitting people over the head–that’s assault, not leadership.”
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G&A Institute Team Note
We continue to bring you news of private (corporate and business), public and social sector developments as organizations in the three societal sectors adjust to the emergency.
The new items will be posted at the top of the blog post and the items today will move down the queue.
We created the tag “Corporate Purpose – Virus Crisis” for this continuing series – and the hashtag “WeRise2FightCOVID-19“ for our Twitter posts. Do join the conversation and contribute your views and news.
Send us news about your organization – firstname.lastname@example.org so we can share. Stay safe – be well — keep in touch!