A New Opportunity For Investing In Productive Farmland | Social(k) client making a difference

A New Opportunity For Investing In Productive Farmland

Creating value by improving the land

by Adam Taggart

Sunday, August 10, 2014, 1:13 PM

Tags:Craig Wichner, farmland, Farmland LP, Organic, real estate investment trust, REIT, soil

Over the past few years, we’ve tracked the success of Farmland LP, a fund created to increase the economic yield of farmland through sustainable farming practices.

Their approach is notable in a number of ways. It seeks to improves the quality of the underlying land. To avoid use of fossil inputs. To increase the yield per acre. To enable the production of vegetables, grains, and meats on acreage that before was monocrop. To employ more farmers per farm. To be more profitable than conventional farming. To improve the food resiliency of the local community. To reduce its dependency on liquid fuel transport by serving local markets. To generate annual returns for its shareholders, plus appreciation on their share of the underlying farmland.

The team believes there is an arbitrage in value that can be unlocked by reversing the damage modern farming has done to the land. After visiting their largest property this spring, I put together a detailed write up of how exactly they’re pursuing this, which can be read here.

Today’s big news is that, while the initial LP fund closed to new investors last year, the same management team has just launched a new fund, this time structured as a real estate investment trust (REIT).

This is notable for several reasons. It’s a larger fund, which should enjoy greater economies of scale than the original one. And, the new REIT structure will eventually enable the fund to become publicly-traded (likely in 5 years or so, depending on key milestones). Once this happens, much smaller investors will be able to purchase shares — finally making the dream of participating in productive farmland an option for all.

Those who would like to learn more about Farmland’s operations and/or new REIT can send a request for more information here. Note that their REIT is available to accredited investors only and that Peak Prosperity has an existing business relationship with Farmland (full details will be provided when opening an account with the Fund or at any time upon request.)

Click the play button below to listen to Chris’ interview with Craig Wichner (24m:50s):

via A New Opportunity For Investing In Productive Farmland | Peak Prosperity.

The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment

SRI Basics

What is sustainable and responsible investing?

Sustainable and responsible investing (SRI) is an investment discipline that considers environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) criteria to generate long-term competitive financial returns and positive societal impact.

 

SRI Assets in the United States: According to the US SIF Foundation’s 2012 Report on Sustainable and Responsible Investing Trends in the United States, as of year-end 2011, more than one out of every nine dollars under professional management in the United States—$3.74 trillion or more—was invested according to SRI strategies. The next Trends report on SRI assets will be published in the fourth quarter of 2014.

  

Motivations: There are several motivations for sustainable and responsible investing, including personal values and goals, institutional mission, and the demands of clients, constituents or plan participants. Sustainable investors aim for strong financial performance, but also believe that these investments should be used to contribute to advancements in social, environmental and governance practices. They may actively seek out investments—such as community development loan funds or clean tech portfolios—that are likely to provide important societal or environmental benefits. Some investors embrace SRI strategies to manage risk and fulfill fiduciary duties; they review ESG criteria to assess the quality of management and the likely resilience of their portfolio companies in dealing with future challenges. Some are seeking financial outperformance over the long term; a growing body of academic research shows a strong link between ESG and financial performance.

 

Terminology: Just as there is no single approach to SRI, there is no single term to describe it. Depending on their emphasis, investors use such labels as: “community investing,” “ethical investing,” “green investing,” “impact investing,” “mission-related investing,” “responsible investing,” “socially responsible investing,” “sustainable investing” and “values-based investing,” among others.

 

What strategies do sustainable and responsible investors use?

Traditionally, responsible investors have focused on one or both of two strategies. The first is ESG incorporation, the consideration of environmental, community, other societal and corporate governance (ESG) criteria in investment analysis and portfolio construction across a range of asset classes. An important segment, community investing, seeks explicitly to finance projects or institutions that will serve poor and underserved communities in the United States and overseas. The second strategy, for those with shares in publicly traded companies, is filing shareholder resolutions and practicing other forms of shareholder engagement. Sustainable investing strategies work together to encourage responsible business practices and to allocate capital for social and environmental benefit across the economy.

 

How large is the sustainable and responsible investing marketplace?

 

The US SIF Foundation’s Report on Sustainable and Responsible Investing Trends in the United States identified $3.74 trillion in total assets under management at the end of 2011 using one or more sustainable and responsible investing strategies.

 

Sustainable and Responsible Investing

in the United States in 2012: $3.74 trillion

 

 

From 2010 to 2012, sustainable and responsible investing enjoyed a growth rate of more than 22 percent, increasing from $3.07 trillion in 2010. More than one out of every nine dollars under professional management in the United States today—11% of the $33.3 trillion in total assets under management tracked by Thomson Reuters Nelson—is involved in sustainable and responsible investing.

Full article via The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment.

Investing in companies that invest in women

paxwrldThe only mutual fund of its kind

focused on women’s leadership

Research shows that when women hold positions of leadership, their companies deliver better performance across a variety of metrics including return on equity, return on sales and return on invested capital. In addition, they also deliver higher returns for their shareholders.

With this compelling research in mind, Pax World Management and Ellevate Asset Management, whose principal is Sallie Krawcheck, launched the Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund (PXWIX). It is the first and only mutual fund in the United States that focuses on investing in the highest-rated companies in the world in advancing women’s leadership.

If you share my belief that investing in companies that invest in women is a compelling investment strategy, I encourage you to find out more about the Fund.

Thank you,

Tom Gainey

via Investing in companies that invest in women – rthomas@socialk.com – Socialk Inc. Mail.

Everence and Praxis invest in inaugural Real Estate Investment Trust green bonds

LEED-Certification

Everence and Praxis invest in inaugural Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) green bonds

Bond purchases continue to expand investments in climate and community

 

GOSHEN, Ind. – Everence and Praxis Mutual Funds continue their commitment to high impact investments, this time purchasing a total of $2.75 million in the first ever REIT green bonds.

 

In May 2014, the Praxis Intermediate Income Fund purchased $1 million in the very first REIT green bond through Regency Centers, a preeminent owner, operator and developer of high-quality grocery-anchored neighborhood shopping centers in the United States. Proceeds of the bond will be used to help fund Regency’s Eligible Green Projects, which include the acquisition, construction, development or redevelopment of LEED certified buildings.

 

In June 2014, on the heels of the Regency REIT green bond, the Praxis Intermediate Income Fund and Everence Association both invested in a green bond offering from Vornado Realty, one of the largest national owners and managers of commercial real estate. Everence and Praxis committed a total of $1.75 million to the Vornado green bond ($1 million through the Praxis Intermediate Income Fund, and $750,000 through Everence Association Inc.), the proceeds of which will also go toward LEED certified buildings.

 

LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environment Design, is a rating system for green buildings. LEED certifications are awarded by the Green Building Council.

 

“This is an outstanding opportunity to open up the REIT sector for the green bond market,” said Benjamin Bailey, Co-Manager of the Praxis Intermediate Income Fund. “These green bonds benefit communities across America. We’re helping to improve the environment and improve the quality of life for Regency and Vornado tenants and customers.”

 

“At Everence and Praxis, we are concerned about both the financial and social impacts of our investments,” explained David Gautsche, President of Praxis Mutual Funds. “As we purchase more corporate green bonds, our portfolios are better positioned to make a positive impact on our communities and our world, and still receive yields that benefit our investors.”

 

Everence and Praxis Mutual Funds have long been leaders in green bond investments. The Praxis Intermediate Income Fund has a history of purchasing bonds that make a social impact. In 2009, the Praxis Intermediate Income Fund became one of the first socially responsible investors to purchase a U.S. dollar denominated World Bank green bond.

 

High social impact investments now make up more than 14 percent of the Praxis Intermediate Income Fund. Beyond REIT green bonds, market rate investments also include bonds in auto industry asset-backed securities, solar and wind installations, affordable housing, vaccines, medical research and community infrastructure. The Fund’s high social impact investments also include community development investments, benefitting disadvantaged communities nationally and abroad.

via [sif] Everence and Praxis invest in inaugural Real Estate Investment Trust green bonds – rthomas@socialk.com – Socialk Inc. Mail.

Calvert Global Water Fund Wins 2014 Lipper Fund Award | Green Money Journal

IMG_5327

Calvert Global Water Fund Wins 2014 Lipper Fund Award

Fund Outperforms Its Peers for 3-Year Period

 

Calvert Investments recently announced that the Calvert Global Water Fund (CFWYX) received a 2014 Lipper Fund Award acknowledging consistent, strong, risk-adjusted performance relative to its peers.

The Calvert Global Water Fund (Y shares) was named the best-performing fund among 105 funds in the Global Natural Resources Funds classification for the 3-year period ended December 31, 2013, by Lipper at a recent New York City awards ceremony.

“Calvert Global Water Fund is designed to access one of the most intriguing long-term investment themes of our time,” noted Natalie Trunow, Chief Investment Officer of Equities for Calvert Investment Management, Inc., going on to characterize the product as “a high conviction portfolio that seeks to capture investment opportunities in the water sector and delivers consistent, less correlated and less cyclical returns across different market cycles.”

The Calvert Global Water Fund is sub-advised by Kleinwort Benson Investors International Ltd (KBI), a global pioneer in environmental investing who is now in its 14th year of managing water equities. Co-portfolio managers Matt Sheldon and Catherine Ryan lead the team responsible for the day-to-day management of the portfolio.

“Water is our most vital natural resource and one without substitute,” said Matt Sheldon. “Demand for water-related solutions to address global growth as well as fix existing aging infrastructure is ongoing, creating above-average growth potential over the long term. It is estimated that water infrastructure alone will require $22 trillion globally over the next several decades.”

The Calvert Global Water Fund is an actively managed all-capitalization fund designed to achieve strong long-term returns by investing in water solutions posed by sustainability challenges. The companies in the portfolio must also meet strict environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria. Portfolio holdings’ main businesses are in the water sector or are significantly involved in water-related services or technologies. The Fund seeks to deliver a new source of alpha to a global equity allocation in a risk efficient manner.

“Winning this award means a lot to our team,” said Ms. Ryan. “While we’ve clearly seen opportunities in new and emerging water stocks, we are investing in companies that have a long history of providing diverse water solutions. The staying power of these companies is a tribute to their business models, their ability to innovate and the demand for their products, all of which we expect to continue well into the future.”

Ms. Ryan explained that the Fund seeks to invest in a wide range of companies and other enterprises that demonstrate commitment toward addressing key corporate responsibility and sustainability challenges, allowing investors the opportunity to apply their capital toward sustainable water-related technologies, services, and solutions.

Calvert Global Water Fund – Performance

Details – www.calvert.com/fundprofile.html?fund=973&fundOwner=&t=2

via Calvert Global Water Fund Wins 2014 Lipper Fund Award | Green Money Journal.

Vice Fund joins Social(k) – Guns and Armaments made a killing in 2013

Can't beat 'em, join 'em

Can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em

Vice Fund invests in companies, both domestic and foreign, engaged in the aerospace and defense industries, owners and operators, gaming facilities as well as manufacturers of gaming equipment, manufactures of tobacco products and producers of alcoholic beverages.

The Vice Fund seeks to select well-performing stocks of tobacco, alcohol, gaming, and weapons/defense companies because we believe that these industries tend to thrive regardless of the economy as a whole. In fact, they may have the potential to perform better when times are uncertain, leading many to view investment in “Vice” industries as a solid strategy during recessionary periods.

The Vice Fund invests in the following sectors: Aerospace/Defense, Gaming, Tobacco and Alcoholic Beverages.

These four sectors were chosen because they demonstrate one or more of these compelling and distinctive investment characteristics:

Steady demand regardless of economic condition
Global Marketplace – not limited to the U.S. economy
Potentially high profit margins
Natural barriers to new competition
We believe that there are numerous investment opportunities in these sectors which have been largely overlooked by other funds. While many of the most widely held and well-known mutual fund families invest in companies doing business in these industries, no other fund concentrates solely on these four sectors.

Our rigorous focus on aerospace/defense, gaming, tobacco and alcoholic beverages has given us experience navigating within them, and provides our investors with maximum exposure to these sectors.

“The revolution is coming and we want our plan sponsors to profit from it.” says Social(k) President Rob “gun runner” Thomas.

Obama, Leading Scientists Focus on Climate | The Allegheny Front

March 21, 2014

This week brought some high-profile attention to climate change. President Obama launched a nifty climate.gov website with maps and info on the topic, and a leading science organization said the changing climate is like riding your bike down a rocky, curvy path, speeding toward the edge of a sharp cliff overlooking churning waters.

They’re trying to make the point that, seriously folks, we’ve got to do something—and fast. 

The Obama administration says climate change is already causing significant damage. In 2012 alone, extreme weather events caused more than $110 billion in damages and claimed more than 300 lives. And so the White House this week announced an effort to use what you might call nerd power to help local governments, private companies, and regular people prepare for climate change. They’ve opened a new website to provide a clearinghouse for all the data currently available.

Josh Knauer, who owns a software company based in Pittsburgh, has been advising the administration on the site, and was in Washington for the announcement of its release. (Eds Note: Knauer is married to Allegheny Front Executive Producer, Kathy Knauer)

“The problem with climate change data that has existed until now is that the data is scattered across many, many different websites and databases.  In the industry, we call that the data silo problem," Knauer says. "What has happened with the climate data initiative is that all of that data is being brought together into a central coordinated location that anyone in the world has the ability to access." 

Knauer says coordination of all this data will help localized data can help the governments and the public understand the risks they face from climate change. Will the public really use a site like this? 

"Now, will my mom log into the website and gain a lot of insight on what she’s seeing there?" Knauer wonders. "That still remains to be seen."

The administration is also working with high-tech companies, such as Google, Microsoft and Intel, to come up with tools to help communities prepare for weather extremes, such as flooding, heat waves and drought. They include computer simulations for people to use and see what would happen with rising seas and other warming scenarios. Companies also plan to design new apps on disaster risk.

Knauer has been working on these kinds of issues since the early 1990s, and he says getting movement from the very top of the U.S. government is a big deal.

"I have to say it was very powerful to be sitting in the White House and hearing John Podesta, and other advisors to the president who are speaking on behalf of the president, talking about the fact that climate change is real, it’s happening right now, and we can feel some of the impacts right now," Knauer says. "And to see that at the highest levels of government after all the years that so many of us have put into this issue and trying to raise the alarm… it was very gratifying, and quite frankly, a little scary at the same time." 

Data folks weren’t the only geeks on the climate change beat this week. One of the world’s leading scientific organizations also put out a rare call to action. The American Association for the Advancement of Science put out a report called ‘What We Know.’ It provides the current state of science and climate, and the risks ahead. There was no new information in their report, but they wanted to drive home that 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate change is happening, that humans are causing it, and there’s much we can do to stem its effects.

via Obama, Leading Scientists Focus on Climate | The Allegheny Front.

Looking Ahead Responsibly

February 2014

Running the Fund:Looking Ahead Responsibly

Jing Wei

Experts anticipate the increasing importance of ESG for plan investors

Ask Adam Strauss, a portfolio manager at the Chicago-based Appleseed Fund, to describe the way he evaluates and selects investments, and he will give an answer similar to that of many active managers.

“We’re stock pickers, so what we’re looking for is to invest in high-quality companies with stocks that are significantly undervalued,” Strauss says. “And we look very closely at balance sheets. If a company experiences a temporary problem in the business but the balance sheet is strong, you’ve got lots of time on your side to turn things around. If it’s weak, then that’s working against you.”

It is only after discussing pricing power and competitive advantage that he brings up the term “sustainability” or “ESG,” short for environmental, social and governance. The term has become shorthand for investment methodologies that consider sustainability factors in assessing risk and return.

ESG considerations can involve anything from an investment’s carbon footprint to its sensitivity to potential resource or energy shortages. Other elements include investment chain alignment, transparency and active asset ownership.

Strauss says the Appleseed Fund incorporates ESG not only to ensure that shareholders own environmentally and socially responsible companies but also as a means of eliminating risk and boosting potential returns.

“Our goal is to beat the market, so we’re very focused on delivering returns and doing it with less risk,” Strauss says. “We’ve beaten the markets by several percentage points per year since starting in 2006, and we’ve also delivered an extremely low beta.”

Interestingly, it is the traditional risk and return factors that will be most important for ESG funds, as they are for all funds, when it comes to penetrating the retirement planning marketplace. That is because the Department of Labor (DOL) has affirmed in a number of advisory publications—especially two issued in 2008 by its Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)—that ESG factors must be considered secondarily to the economics of any investment being contemplated by a plan under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

In other words, according to the DOL, noneconomic factors can serve at most as a tiebreaker when retirement plan fiduciaries are considering investment choices. That holds true even for plans at issue-dedicated nonprofits and other social organizations, where participants may be more willing to consider ethics during the investment process.

Despite the fiduciary hurdle, experts anticipate certain ESG factors—namely, climate risk, energy pricing and resource scarcity—to become significantly more material in long-term investment analysis and therefore to become more important to retirement plan investors in the years ahead.

via PLANSPONSOR.com – Looking Ahead Responsibly.

Foundations Band Together to Get Rid of Fossil-Fuel Investments – NYTimes.com

Foundations Band Together to Get Rid of Fossil-Fuel Investments

By DIANE CARDWELL

Daniel Rosenbaum for The New York Times

Ellen Dorsey of the Wallace Global Fund, which is coordinating foundations’ efforts to sell coal, oil and gas production stocks.

Seventeen foundations controlling nearly $1.8 billion in investments have united to commit to pulling their money out of companies that do business in fossil fuels, the group plans to announce on Thursday.

The move is a victory for a developing divestiture campaign that has found success largely among small colleges and environmentally conscious cities, but has not yet won over the wealthiest institutions like Harvard, Brown and Swarthmore.

But the participation of the foundations, including the Russell Family Foundation, the Educational Foundation of America and the John Merck Fund, is the largest commitment to the effort, and stems in part from a push among philanthropies to bring their investing in line with their missions.

“At a minimum, our grants should not be undercut by our investments,” said Ellen Dorsey, executive director of the Wallace Global Fund, which is practically divested of fossil fuels already and is coordinating the effort among foundations. “If you owned fossil fuels in your investment portfolio, it became increasingly clear to foundations that they own climate change, and they’re potentially profiting from those investments,” at the same time as they make grants to fight the issue.

She said she expected several larger foundations to commit to the effort, which includes moving investments to renewable energy or other sustainability ventures, in the coming months.

Among the largest in the current group is the Park Foundation, with a portfolio worth roughly $335 million, and the Schmidt Family Foundation, with about $304 million, co-founded by Google’s executive chairman, Eric E. Schmidt.

The divestiture campaign is modeled on earlier efforts aimed at ending apartheid in South Africa and ceasing to support tobacco companies. Many groups are involved, but the movement has largely been escalated by a grass-roots organization, 350.org, whose name refers to 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which some scientists say is the maximum safe level, a threshold already exceeded.

In addition to the foundations, 22 cities, two counties, 20 religious organizations, nine colleges and universities and six other institutions had signed up to rid themselves of investments in fossil fuel companies, frequently defined as the top 200 coal-, oil- and gas-producing companies identified in a report from the Carbon Tracker Initiative based in London.

The campaign’s expansion comes as institutions like public pension funds are changing their investment strategies to reflect a calculation of the so-called carbon bubble. That idea holds that most of the coal, oil and gas reserves owned by fossil fuel-based companies cannot be burned without dire climate consequences, meaning that the value of those companies will plummet once governments start strictly limiting emissions.

Some pension funds, like those of California and New York, are looking to pressure conventional energy companies to address the risks of climate change. But in some cities, like San Francisco and Boulder, Colo., officials are urging their pension funds to divest themselves of the investments.

via Foundations Band Together to Get Rid of Fossil-Fuel Investments – NYTimes.com.

World Bank chief backs fossil fuel divestment drive

 

 

World Bank chief backs fossil fuel divestment drive

Last updated on 27 January 2014, 12:05 pm

Jim Yong Kim says levels of carbon dioxide threaten development gains over the past two decades

By Ed King

The head of one of the world’s most powerful financial institutions says governments and business should consider withdrawing funding from oil, gas and coal companies.

“Through policy reforms, we can divest and tax that which we don’t want, the carbon that threatens development gains over the last 20 years,” World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said in an address at the World Economic Forum summit in Davos, Switzerland.

Jim added financial regulators should set this agenda by forcing companies to reveal their exposure to climate-related impacts. He said: “The so-called “long-term investors” must recognize their fiduciary responsibility to future pension holders who will be affected by decisions made today. Corporate leaders should not wait to act until market signals are right and national investment policies are in place.”

World Bank Group vice president and special envoy for climate change Rachel Kyte described his call as “prudent”. It is believed to be the first time he has publically backed moves to cut investments in industries responsible for releasing large quantities of climate warming gases into the atmosphere.

via World Bank chief backs fossil fuel divestment drive.