Historic: Rockefeller foundation to divest from fossil fuels.

MONDAY, SEP 22, 2014 02:46 PM EDT

When Standard Oil’s founding family divests, you know their argument is worth hearing out



John D. Rockefeller famously founded Standard Oil in 1870, a company that would become the largest oil refiner in the world as well as the basis for his family’s immense wealth. Now, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the family’s $860 million philanthropic organization, has announced it will completely divest from fossil fuels.

The New York Times’ John Schwartz reports on a growing trend:

In recent years, 180 institutions — including philanthropies, religious organizations, pension funds and local governments — as well as hundreds of wealthy individual investors have pledged to sell assets tied to fossil fuel companies from their portfolios and to invest in cleaner alternatives. In all, the groups have pledged to divest assets worth more than $50 billion from portfolios, and the individuals more than $1 billion, according to Arabella Advisors, a firm that consults with philanthropists and investors to use their resources to achieve social goals…

The people who are selling shares of energy stocks are well aware that their actions are unlikely to have an immediate impact on the companies, given their enormous market capitalizations and cash flow.

Even so, some say they are taking action to align their assets with their environmental principles. Others want to shame companies that they believe are recklessly contributing to a warming planet. Although it is unlikely that divestments will have any measurable financial impact in the immediate future, Stephen Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, says the decision is about more than money: “The action we’re taking is symbolism, but it is important symbolism. We’re making a moral case, but also, increasingly an economic case.”

The decision comes on the eve of the U.N. Climate Summit in New York City.

via Historic: Rockefeller foundation to divest from fossil fuels – Salon.com.

Exxon Press Release by Carbon Tracker

The Carbon Tracker Initiative (CTI), the UK think-tank that has put the risk of “stranded assets” at fossil fuel firms on the investment agenda, has warned ExxonMobil about the damage it might do to shareholder value by refusing to accept that the risk is real. CTI believes that due to tighter regulation of carbon emissions and improvements in fuel efficiency, demand for coal and oil in particular could decrease dramatically. Given such a “low carbon scenario,” firms like ExxonMobil face the possibility of leaving much of their fossil reserves untouched – hence the term stranded assets. However, last March ExxonMobil dismissed CTI’s view, saying there would be no low carbon scenario leaving its assets stranded: “This is because the costs and the damaging impact to accessible, reliable and affordable energy resulting from the policy changes such a scenario would produce are beyond those that societies, especially the world’s poorest and most vulnerable would be willing to bear,” ExxonMobil said in the response, entitled “Energy and Carbon – Managing the Risks.” CTI has hit back at the oil giant in a detailed analysis of its response: “We believe that Exxon uses limited and highly favourable assumptions and definitions to support its conclusions that a low carbon scenario is extremely unlikely. As a result, the company may be seriously underestimating the risk to shareholder value such a scenario poses, ” said the CTI. Such a “business as usual” attitude does not bode well for ExxonMobil as its share has already underperformed the equity market, the CTI says in the analysis. It provides a graphic showing that since 2009 the company’s share price has realised just 60% of the return generated by the benchmark S&P 500 index. The CTI also warns that the underperformance will continue unless ExxonMobil changes its attitude and recognises four facts.

First, it says that the company uses a very narrow definition of “stranded assets” taking them to mean proven reserves that are “unburnable,” says the CTI. It adds: “By contrast, we use a broader definition, understanding a stranded asset as indicating the potential for investments to become uneconomic due to changing market and regulatory forces, including lower oil prices.”

Second, ExxonMobil could be mistaken about its prediction that oil demand will rise. The CTI cited an estimate by the International Energy Agency (IEA) according to which oil demand peaks between 2020 and 2035 and declines thereafter.

Third, ExxonMobil ignores the fact that regulation of carbon emissions is tightening. “Contrary to Exxon’s belief that it is difficult to envision governments opting for a low-carbon path, the share of greenhouse gas emissions subject to national legislation or emission-reducing strategies rose to 67% in 2012 from 45% in 2007,” the CTI said.

The fourth, and final fact that Exxon has not fully grasped is that the prospects for renewable energy are good. “It was recently estimated by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) that doubling global investment in renewable energy could quadruple the share of global energy generated from the source to 36% in 2030 from 9% currently,” the CTI added.

Link to CTI report and to Exxon report

5 Ways To Ensure Your Money Doesn’t Contradict Your Social Values

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5 Ways To Ensure Your Money Doesn’t Contradict Your Social Values

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What has your money been up to lately? Spending time lining the pockets of CEOs whose business practices you find virulent, or maybe helping to pay for the marketing of products you consider dangerous or unsustainable? Or perhaps it’s on another continent, vacationing with a violent regime.  If pressed, could you say what in the world your money is supporting?

Anyone who pays into a retirement fund, invests in the stock market, or holds a bank account has a role, however slight, in shaping our financial system— though most people can say more about what’s wrong with that system than they can about their specific role in it. The real-world impacts of our own investing and banking decisions often seem so abstract that we can convince ourselves we’re not really connected to them at all, removing any urgent need to change our financial practices—or even to understand what we might be able to change, if we cared to.

It is possible to redirect your money’s social and environmental ties, even if a lack of understanding too often obscures that fact. In a recent New Yorker essay about learning the language of money, John Lanchester wrote that “when it comes to discussing money, incomprehension is a form of consent,” adding: “If we allow ourselves not to understand this language, we are signing off on the way the world works today.”

If you’re not  thrilled with the status quo and are wondering what you can do to line up your money’s values with your own, read on.

Smokestacks from a wartime production plant (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1. Take a close look at what you’re invested in, and decide: Are you okay with this?

It’s not just you: Lots of people blindly funnel their money into investments they haven’t thought much about, whether through their company’s 401(k),  an investment advisor or via some other means. A number of campaigns have sprung up in recent years to fight that investor passivity: Unload Your 401k formed after the December 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School to encourage those advocating for enhanced gun control laws to check into whether they have financial stakes in gun manufacturers. 350.org has been making a widespread push for people to get out of their financial holdings in fossil fuel producers as a way to amplify the conversation around climate change.  Investors Against Genocide  seeks to raise awareness about the companies whose funds have been tied to the ongoing violence in Sudan, and suggests ways investors can make their money “genocide-free.”

It doesn’t take much to educate yourself on your own investment holdings. If you’re invested in a mutual fund—either through your company’s 401(k) or through another means—the best way to do this is by opening your fund’s annual or semi-annual report (most can be found online) and perusing the companies listed in the “Schedule of Investments” section. You can also sign up for an annual subscription on Morningstar.com to easily search for your fund and dig through its holdings.

 2. Put your money into a mutual fund that cares about social impact.

You’ll go a step further if you decide to move into a mutual fund that explicitly makes an effort to be socially responsible. This often means its managers are both making an effort to find investments tied to produce positive effects, as well as avoiding whatever is deemed as negative.

Begin by surveying your options: This chart from the Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment lists more than 150 socially responsible mutual funds, with corresponding performance information and details about what is screened out and what positive impacts managers are seeking.

What if you’re invested in your company’s 401(k), and you’re not seeing a socially responsible option listed among your menu options? You’ll have to follow up with your company’s investment committee and request that such an option be added. Jennifer Lazarus, a Durham, North Carolina-based   financial planner whose specialties include socially responsible financial strategies, says one of her clients actually joined her company’s investment committee to have a hand in this decision, and was eventually successful in getting one socially responsible mutual fund option into her company’s 401(k) mix. “This comes from the ground up,” Lazarus says. “It’s not going to come from retirement consultants.”

Green America, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that advocates for sustainability values in the marketplace, offers this free guide for employees eager to add socially focused funds to their employers’ retirement plans.

And fear not, you don’t have to sacrifice returns when you opt for the socially responsible route.

via 5 Ways To Ensure Your Money Doesn't Contradict Your Social Values.

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Green Bonds Merge Investor Goals

Green Bonds Merge Investor Goals


When it comes to investing in the environment, it’s getting easier to be green.

Green Bonds have been around for a while: Washington State sold more than $3 billion worth in 2008 to combat climate change, and Massachusetts sold more than $100 million to improve energy efficiency in state buildings, river revitalization and land acquisition in June 2013.

But the space has grown since then, according to a July report by the Climate Bonds Initiative:

- The total universe of bonds linked to climate-change solutions amounts to $502.6 billion compared to $346 billion a year ago.

- $35.8 billion of that total is composed of green bonds issued by corporations and development banks.

“Investors are concerned about climate change,” Sean Kidney, chief executive officer of the Climate Bonds Initiative, wrote in the report.

“The investment opportunities we find are safe and secure investment-grade bonds. This is a Dull Green Market—just how pension funds and insurance funds like it.”

Green Bonds have underwritten projects that include transportation; clean, renewable energy (solar and wind); energy-efficient buildings and industry; agriculture and forestry; waste and pollution controls; clean water; and “brownfields” redevelopment (the development of land with environmental issues). Toyota, Nissan and Chevrolet have used them to develop electric and hybrid vehicles.

The report indicated urgency for such projects, noting the International Energy Agency has said the world has five to 10 years to avoid reaching “climate tipping points” and “trillions in additional finance will be needed.”

via Green Bonds Merge Investor Goals.

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


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


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.