Category: February 2014 -The Sustainability Outlook

Whole Foods Market’s Local Producer Loan Program has reached $10 million

 

Whole Foods Market announced in early January 2014 that its ‘Local Producer Loan Program’ has reached the initial goal of funding $10 million in low-interest loans to local and independent food businesses, and has now committed up to $25 million in funding. The Local Producer Loan Program (LPLP) has provided 184 loans to 155 companies since its inception in 2007.

In providing easier access to loans for budding food businesses, the program’s first $10 million in funding has not only enabled growth, but also supported pioneering projects in biodynamic farming, non-GMO animal feed, pollinator health and sustainable packaging.

“Expanding the Local Producer Loan Program is a direct result of the innovations and successes of our loan recipients,” said Betsy Foster, Whole Foods Market global vice president of growth and business development. “By playing a role in advancing new ideas, growing businesses and realizing dreams, Whole Foods Market stays connected with both our neighborhood producers and our global food community.”

With the additional commitment of $15 million in funding, the company welcomes new loan applications from producers seeking to expand their businesses. Whether applicants offer a distinctive artisan food product or a new hydroponic farming facility, Whole Foods Market loan administrators, buyers and local foragers work closely with business owners to drive growth and success.

“The most rewarding part of the loan process is building relationships and sharing ideas for progress,” said Dwight Richmond, Whole Foods Market global grocery purchasing coordinator. “Whether it’s improving the business plan, discussing market trends or connecting people with new partners in our network, it’s exciting to see the results of great teamwork combined with monetary support.”

The most recent loan, pushing LPLP to the $10 million milestone, was awarded to WholeSoy & Co., an independent, San Francisco-based producer of non-GMO, organic, vegan, gluten-free soy yogurt. The company received $400,000 – one of the program’s highest loans to date – to help build their own (dairy-free) yogurt facility after their co-packer unexpectedly closed for business in mid-2013, leaving them without a way to package their yogurt.

“The loan from Whole Foods Market, one of our original and long term retail supporters, gave us access to the resources we needed at a crucial time. After raising most of the funds required, this additional $400,000 will help us realize our dream of having our own dairy-free yogurt facility,” said Ted Nordquist, CEO of WholeSoy & Co. “Whole Foods Market truly cares about our success and worked closely with us to support our re-entry into the marketplace. Their commitment to the brand has been critical in our being able to get WholeSoy back on the shelf for our many loyal consumers in 2014.”

While some loan recipients sell products in Whole Foods Market stores, such as organic vegetable farmers, grass-fed cattle ranchers, natural body care producers and gluten-free bakers, many other recipients operate businesses that support the natural foods industry. Additionally, 43 companies are owned by women and an additional 36 are co-owned by women.

Loan recipients must meet Whole Foods Market’s quality standards, use the funds for expansion and have a viable business plan. Typical loans range from $1,000 to $100,000 and have fixed low-interest rates.

Previous loan recipients have used their loans for purchasing more livestock, investing in new equipment, expanding production facilities, adapting to more sustainable practices or converting to organic production.

 

 

Source: WholeFoodsMarket.com

Wendell Berry on His Hopes for Humanity

A rare television interview with Bill Moyers on Moyers & Company

 

Wendell Berry, a quiet and humble man, has become an outspoken advocate for revolution. He urges immediate action as he mourns how America has turned its back on the land and rejected Jeffersonian principles of respect for the environment and sustainable agriculture. Berry warns, “People who own the world outright for profit will have to be stopped; by influence, by power, by us.” In a rare television interview, this visionary, author, and farmer discusses a sensible, but no-compromise, plan to save the Earth.

In November 2013 on Moyers & Company, Bill Moyers profiles Berry, a man of the land and one of America’s most influential writers, whose prolific career includes more than forty books of poetry, novels, short stories and essays. This one-on-one conversation was taped at Kentucky’s St. Catharine College during a two-day conference celebrating Wendell Berry’s life and ideas and marking the 35th anniversary of the publication of his landmark book, The Unsettling of America.

Berry, described by environmental activist Bill McKibben as “a prophet of responsibility,” lives and works on the Kentucky farm where his family has tilled the soil for 200 years. He’s a man of action as well as words. In 2011, he joined a four-day sit-in at the Kentucky governor’s office to protest mountaintop mining, a brutally destructive method of extracting coal. Moyers explores Berry’s views on civil disobedience as well as his strong opposition to agribusiness and massive industrial farms. They also discuss Berry’s support for sustainable farming and the local food movement.

“It’s mighty hard right now to think of anything that’s precious that isn’t endangered,” Berry tells Moyers. “There are no sacred and unsacred places; there are only sacred and desecrated places. My belief is that the world and our life in it are conditional gifts.”

“We have the world to live in on the condition that we will take good care of it. And to take good care of it we have to know it. And to know it and to be willing to take care of it, we have to love it.”

Wendell Berry: Poet & Prophet is a collaboration between Mannes Productions, Inc. and Schumann Media Center, Inc., headed by Bill Moyers, which supports independent journalism and media programs to advance the understanding of the critical issues of democracy for the benefit of the public.

Calvert Investments Launches Green Bond Fund Meeting Investor Demand for Exposure to This Growing Space

 

Recently, Calvert launched its latest sustainable and responsible investment (SRI) mutual fund. The market for green and environmental social and governance (ESG) investments in the retail and institutional arena has been growing. Very little product to date has been developed for investors to tap into green bonds or the broader category of ESG fixed-income. The Calvert Green Bond Fund (CGAFX) is co-managed by fixed income portfolio managers Cathy Roy, Vishal Khanduja, and Mauricio Agudelo of Calvert Investment Management, Inc. (CIM), part of Calvert’s seasoned fixed-income money management team. Calvert has a track record of managing sustainable bond strategies since 1987. The Fund is an actively managed, diversified, intermediate fixed-income fund that will seek to maximize income, to the extent consistent with preservation of capital, primarily through investment in bonds, with a focus on opportunities related to providing solutions to climate change and other environmental sustainability issues.

“As a leader in sustainable investing, Calvert is at the forefront of the green bond industry,” said Calvert’s Chief Investment Officer Cathy Roy. “Corporate holdings in this fund will meet our definition of green if they derive at least half of their revenues from clean tech or an environmentally beneficial technology, product or service. We’ll also invest in project bonds that achieve goals such as developing smart growth and transit, energy efficiency, pollution prevention, and green real estate to name a few.” The Calvert Green Bond Fund seeks to provide strong relative long-term risk adjusted returns through investment in fixed-income securities. Rigorous fundamental security analysis, value driven portfolio management, proprietary ESG analysis, and green bond expertise are integrated features of the process used to achieve the objective. Learn more about the Fund and investment strategy.

“Our allocation to non-index sectors, markets and issuers increases diversification and enhances the potential for higher returns,” said Calvert’s Co-Portfolio Manager Vishal Khanduja. “Our top down fundamental analysis combined with rigorous bottom-up security selection helps us identify sectors and issuers with the best risk adjusted return potential.”

“Investors are looking for alternatives to align their social values with green investments,” said Calvert’s Co-Portfolio Manager Mauricio Agudelo. “Our ESG integration across Calvert’s experienced sustainability and fixed income research teams will help us identify investments that offer attractive risk/reward profiles. The Fund is designed to capture the investment opportunity from the trillions needed in new capital to address key global sustainability challenges.”

“This strategy is aimed at solving some of today’s most pressing environment and sustainability challenges, like climate change and water, which are very important to us,” said Bennett Freeman, Calvert’s SVP for Sustainability Research and Policy. “Investors are seeking an integration of ESG initiatives in their portfolios. Leveraging Calvert’s outstanding sustainability analyst team more fully across both equities and fixed income is just a natural evolution of our overall focus on ESG integration.”

Calvert’s believes that ESG integration adds value to the investment analysis process and helps protect investors from hidden risks. Learn more about the value of ESG Investing by reading Calvert’s eBook: Creating Shareholder Value With ESG Integration.

Investment Risks

Investment in the Fund involves risk, including possible loss of principal invested. Investing primarily in green investments carries the risk that, under certain market conditions, the Fund may under-perform funds that invest in a broader array of investments. In addition, some green investments may be dependent on government tax incentives and subsidies, and on political support for certain environmental technologies and companies. The green sector may also have challenges such as a limited number of issuers and liquidity in the market, including a robust secondary market.

The Fund is subject to interest rate risk and credit risk. When interest rates rise, the value of fixed-income securities will generally fall. In addition, the credit quality of the securities may deteriorate, which could lead to default or bankruptcy of the issuer where the issuer becomes unable to pay its obligations when due.

For more information on any Calvert fund, please contact Calvert at 800.368.2748 for a free summary prospectus and/or prospectus. An investor should consider the investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses of an investment carefully before investing. The summary prospectus and prospectus contain this and other information. Read them carefully before you invest or send money.

Calvert mutual funds are underwritten and distributed by Calvert Investment Distributors, Inc., member, FINRA, and subsidiary of Calvert Investments, Inc. 800.368.2748

Learn more at – www.calvert.com

Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business 2014

From Trust Across America

 

In January 2014, Trust Across America-Trust Around the World (TAA-TWA), global leaders in organizational trust, has selected 2014’s Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business. These experts can collectively transform the way organizations do business.

According to Barbara Kimmel, Executive Director, “The release of this fourth annual list coincides with the first anniversary of Trust Across America’s Campaign for Trust™, a collaborative initiative to reverse the cycle of mistrust.” More on the Campaign at- http://trustacrossamerica.com/business-essentials-2013.shtml

This year’s recipients hail from around the globe and once again include leaders from the public and private sectors as well as authors, consultants, researchers and academics. Each honoree has made an extensive and positive contribution to building trust in organizations and many have joined Trust Across America’s Alliance of Trustworthy Business Experts (ATBE), a vetted program of global experts who are collaboratively combating the world’s trust crisis. More on the Experts at- http://trustacrossamerica.com/cgi-bin/alliance.cgi

The full list of Honorees along the Purpose and Methodolgy can be found at-
www.trustacrossamerica.com/offerings-thought-leaders-2014.shtml

TAA-TAW publicized and received hundreds of nominations from around the world. The list was narrowed through an extensive vetting and independent judging process.

According to Barbara Kimmel, “The honorees are inspiring organizations to look more closely at their higher purpose…to create greater value for, and trust from, all of their stakeholders. They understand that trust is an asset that can leverage real business gains (www.trustacrossamerica.com/blog/?p=1004 ). We congratulate all of our honorees whose work is shining a spotlight on the importance of trust and providing a roadmap for others to follow.”

Trust Across America-Trust Around the World is a program of Next Decade, Inc., (www.trustacrossamerica.com ) an award-winning communications firm that has been unraveling and simplifying complex subjects for over 20 years. TAA-TAW provides a framework for organizations to improve trustworthy practices, as well as showcasing individuals and organizations that are exhibiting high levels of trust and integrity.

Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business 2014

While there are many “top” lists and awards, none specifically address trustworthy business – perhaps because the word “trust” presents a definitional challenge. For five years Trust Across America has been working with a growing team of experts to study, define and quantify organizational trust.

During the course of our research, we have met with and spoken to hundreds of experts, across a variety of professional disciplines who, when their efforts are combined, help create trustworthy organizations. As our understanding of trust deepens, so does our pool of exceptional candidates. Many of the honorees are well-known CEOs and leadership experts, while others are quietly working behind the scenes as teachers and researchers. We intend to shine the spotlight on both groups, to redirect the focus from the “scandal of the day” to the trustworthy leaders and organizations of the day.

Methodology

What a remarkable year for the 4th Annual Top Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business, published by Trust Across America – Trust Around the World. This year we took a bold step by requesting a small nomination entry fee and limiting the number of applications to 250. This eliminated “ballot stuffing” and enabled us to pay a stipend to a panel of judges who assisted us in selecting our final list of honorees.

After the close of our ten-week nomination period in mid-November, 2013, our team of judges independently reviewed a roster of current honorees and new nominations. The naming or exclusion from the 2014 list required the vote of at least two judges.

The results have been tabulated and we believe the 2014 honoree selection is undoubtedly our highest quality and best yet. We hope you agree.

In the tradition we began last year, we dedicate our 2014 Top Thought Leaders to Nelson Mandela who became the first black president of South Africa in 1994, serving until 1999. A symbol of global peacemaking, he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

CONTACT:

Barbara Kimmel, Executive Director
Trust Across America-Trust Around the World
(908) 879-6625  or  email- barbara@trustacrossamerica.com
Twitter: @BarbaraKimmel

The Truth Behind Sustainability Investing

From RobecoSAM

 

Financial markets are the most powerful mechanism to address pressing sustainability challenges. Essentially, this is the philosophy behind all of what we do at RobecoSAM (www.robecosam.com ). Our recent video, “The Truth Behind Sustainability Investing,” helps debunk some of the most common myths associated with Sustainability Investing, demonstrating that it really is a common sense approach to investing.

Sustainability Investing is often referred to as Socially Responsible Investing (SRI), Responsible Investing, Impact Investing, Ethical Investing, and Green Investing. It is closely linked to Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) topics such as corporate governance, energy and water consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, employee turnover, and waste production.

The video explains the truth behind Sustainability Investing and how it can work for the triple bottom line: people, planet, and profit. This long-term investing strategy provides hope for the finance industry and the short-termism that plagues it.

 

 

Green Investing – More Than Being Socially Responsible

by J. Patrick Costello, CFP and CLU, book author

 

As a Certified Financial Planner™ serving clients in Northern California, I have been queried with increasing frequency about Sustainable, Green, Socially Responsible Investing (SRI).

In response, I have published “Green Investing: More Than Being Socially Responsible,” a book that is both important and unique.

The importance lies in the fact that as people seek to become better-informed consumers and more responsible citizens, investing has not received the attention that has been given to farming, food preparation, personal transportation, waste disposal, home construction, clothing, and power generation.

I talk to investors every day, and this gives me direct knowledge of the concerns they have, as well as a profound awareness of the information they need – both to understand how to implement SRI, and more fundamentally, how to become successful investors, whether or not SRI is the primary focus.

In the book I begin by addressing the two biggest misconceptions about Sustainable and Socially Responsible investing, shared by so many investors:

1.  The erroneous belief that SRI requires financial sacrifice, and/or that it implies reduced investment opportunities for the investor

2.  The mistaken idea that SRI requires additional time and specialized knowledge on the part of the investor

This book is unique because in addition to dispelling those two key misapprehensions about SRI investing, it delivers a great deal of supplemental information critical to an investor’s success in today’s complex investment world, including the following:

•  Descriptions of basic investment vehicles, including mutual funds and exchange traded funds

•  Explanation of the science and software tools used to design personalized risk-adjusted portfolios

•  Discussion of why Wall Street firms and Banks may not be the best way to access SRI

•  Clarification of the meaning of the titles shown on a financial professional’s business card

•  Awareness of the influence of Financial Firm marketing and ubiquitous financial media

•  Definition of industry terms such as Impact Investing, Green Investing, and ESG Investing

Unpacking the Concept of Green Investing

Green Investing, with SRI at its core, encompasses the totality of the individual investing experience.

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The Green investor is an informed consumer who seeks to invest prudently and responsibly; someone who has a basic working knowledge of investment strategy and the broad investing environment. She is prepared to embrace opportunities and navigate past obstacles as she takes ownership of her investing efforts.

For the purposes of this book, Socially Responsible Investing will be defined as the investment-specific core of Green Investing, and will represent the discrete process of selecting investments for your portfolio that show strong growth potential and are compatible with your ethical and moral values.

Green investors will benefit by understanding the principles behind the design of risk-adjusted investment portfolios. Only after an appropriate investment template has been created should the socially responsible investment screening take place.

Successful Green investing requires an understanding of, and familiarity with today’s investing landscape. An important feature of this terrain is the ubiquitous sales and marketing presence of the huge national and multi-national financial organizations.

The power implicit in this omnipresence is wielded daily like an enormous magnet, drawing investors and their hard-earned money into the maw of these firms’ turbocharged sales operations.

Bolstered by an informed awareness of the tactics and objectives of the Big Brand firms, the investor can immunize herself against their immense marketing power and stay focused on her personal objectives.

Green investors should also be aware that the financial media’s obsession with short-term market movements can be a seriously counter-productive influence on anyone striving to build a diversified, risk-adjusted investment portfolio.

Finally, when seeking financial advice, the Green investor should understand the different skill sets and professional obligations of a wide variety of financial professionals including insurance agents, registered representatives, registered investment advisors, wealth managers, financial advisors, and Certified Financial Planners™.

In summary, this book will help aspiring Green investors do the following:

•  Understand the meaning and utility of SRI

•  Develop a simple, practical approach to SRI that can be applied successfully to their own portfolios

•  Demystify the process of creating a high quality, risk adjusted diversified investment portfolio

•  Become better informed while navigating an investing environment filled with marketing propaganda from Big Brand financial organizations

•  Avoid being misled and exploited by people who hold themselves out as financial professionals

•  See past the daily television and internet stream of esoteric financial data points and trader-centric commentary, most of which is of questionable value to the long-term investor

The following is an excerpt from the book itself, to help potential readers get an idea of the tone and subject matter covered:

“Green Investing: More Than Being Socially Responsible” is an essential guidebook for investors who seek a comprehensive approach to Socially Responsible Investing (SRI), and who wish to be prepared for obstacles and opportunities when pursuing an SRI strategy.

In this book, Patrick’s message is that “Green” investors must consider how they invest, and with whom, as well as what to invest in! He explains that knowledge of the investing environment and the financial services industry is critical to the successful implementation of an SRI program.

This book was written for those who wish to align their investment strategy with Socially Responsible values while navigating the realities of today’s investing environment and generating a competitive return. These objectives do not have to conflict – the first may actually enhance the others.

This book explores the concept of “Green” Investing, which has as its key postulate the desire of many investors to direct their investment dollars to businesses that are Socially Responsible, while earning a competitive return.

The first impediment to Green Investing is one of perception. More than a few people are afflicted with the belief that Socially Responsible investors are relegated to a world of sub-par investment performance. They may be admirably following their hearts, the thinking goes, but investors who invest through the prism of social responsibility are nevertheless making a financial sacrifice.

This is demonstrably not the case. Like other instances of faulty conventional wisdom, the canard that Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) inevitably leads to less than optimal investment returns can be quickly dispelled by looking at the facts.

On March 12, 2012, Morningstar, a well-known company that offers investment information and independent mutual fund analysis (www.Morningstar.com ), published an article by David Kathman, a Chartered Financial Analyst, entitled “Social Responsibility and Fund Performance.”

After digesting a substantial amount of statistical research (summarized in the article), Mr. Kathman concludes with the following statement: “In essence, these studies have found that social screening is a ‘free good.’”

In other words, after evaluating the data, he determined that there is no absolute performance “cost” to investors for utilizing socially responsible screening techniques when building investment portfolios.

The investor must still follow sound principles when designing a portfolio and selecting investments, but the addition of Socially Responsible screening, in and of itself, has been shown to have a neutral impact on performance.

Indexes represent the average value of baskets of stocks, bonds and other securities. They are useful tools that help us recognize broad market trends in the midst of a forest of data points. Some indexes measure the value of very specific types of investments, like healthcare stocks, or high yield bonds, while others reflect broader groupings, such as large domestic stocks.

As of January 13, 2012, the Calvert Social Responsibility Index (Symbol “CALVIN”) of more than 600 Socially Responsible companies had a better five year performance record than does the widely followed Standard and Poor’s 500 Index (Symbol “INX”) of 500 conventionally selected companies.

Skeptics may “split hairs” dissecting index composition or debating the relevance of index performance over various time periods, but this simple comparison of indices is illuminating. Clearly investors with a socially responsible orientation do not automatically face a performance handicap.

I encourage the reader to go to www.Calvert.com  and  www.StandardandPoors.com  for more information on the composition of these Indexes.

This Book is a Call to Action!

My goal is to provide you with practical, real world information that will orient you in today’s investing environment.

When you have digested the information provided in this book, you will be able to function as a Green investor and confidently add an SRI component to your investment process.

You will also have the information you need to avoid the pitfalls of exorbitant fees, unnecessarily limited investment options, misleading propaganda from Big Brand financial firms, and compromised advice from so-called financial professionals.

This Book Is For You If:

•  You’re curious about the concept of Green Investing

•  You’d like to incorporate SRI principles into your investment process without sacrificing performance

•  You’re accumulating a nest egg that you’d like to invest for the long term

•  You’d like to know more about the scientific principles involved in building a risk-adjusted diversified investment portfolio

•  You notice a contrast between the financial media’s non-stop coverage of short-term stock price fluctuations, and the relative scarcity of advice about developing a long-term investment strategy

•  You’re skeptical about investment advice offered by the national banks and brand name financial institutions, many of which nearly self-destructed during the economic collapse of 2008

Once the misapprehensions are gone, and armed with the information and knowledge shared in this book, the educated Green investor will be ready to build a strong, diversified, Socially Responsible investment portfolio.

Article by J. Patrick Costello, CFP®, CLU. Find more information on SRI on his website at-  www.GreenRiverFinServ.com  or he can be reached by calling (425) 453-6000 or email him at-  PCostello@ProtectedInvestors.com

 

In Mandela’s Footsteps – The Long Walk Continues

By Donna Katzin, Shared Interest

 

“Eliminating poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice… Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. People have created and tolerated poverty. And it is people who will overcome it.”
– Nelson Rolihlhla Mandela

 

On July 18, Nelson Mandela’s 95th birthday, children with crayons in Kazakhstan draw his face on the sidewalk. At the United Nations, fifteen year-old Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan, who has been shot in the head by the Taliban, says Mandela has influenced her and she forgives her shooters. On December 5, the world mourns and harvests lessons from this monumental man who has taught us so much, and left so much more to do.

In Mandela’s Footsteps - The Long Walk Continues

Nelson Mandela’s Legacy

On a personal level, Nelson Mandela exemplified the heights of human potential. Today we harvest his humility, courage, selfless dedication to justice, his understanding of what is historically necessary — and his capacity to reconcile without bitterness, learn from others and build community. These things challenge us and point us to what is possible.

At the same time, his life and the global groundswell he helped to catalyze and lead underscore larger lessons about changing history. In the investment community, they enlighten our work to build a more equitable, sustainable and peaceful world. Among many other things, Mandela and the anti-apartheid movement taught us the following:

1. In this global economy, transformation requires organizing beyond borders.  South Africa’s struggle to end apartheid wove the work of activists, stakeholders, and “ordinary” people around the world to do extraordinary things. They ranged from the United Nations with its arms embargo and oil embargo campaigners in Norway, sports-boycotters in New Zealand, to communities, congregations, campuses, companies, cities and states that mobilized their resources to exclude South Africa from the family of nations.

2. Sustained catalytic campaigns require more than one lever for change.  They are rooted in collaboration by stakeholders coordinating a spectrum of strategies. For socially responsible investors, effective tools have included dialogues, divestment, boycotts, sanctions, codes of conduct and, ultimately, reinvestment. Since apartheid’s demise, investors and activists alike have applied these strategies to campaigns ranging from climate change to financial inclusion to waging peace in the Middle East.

In South Africa’s case, these strategies were not hatched in a vacuum, but developed in concert and solidarity with activists on the ground – mineworkers and autoworkers, and protesters in Sharpeville, students in Soweto, and the wide web of social justice movements – throughout South Africa and in exile.

3. Historic change does not flow from one man.  Mandela maintained to the end, whether prisoner or president, that he was a “humble servant” of the African National Congress. The wisdom and strength he gleaned from other ANC members – and from their many partners – informed his leadership and enhanced his effectiveness. Mandela was a great man, but knew better than to espouse the “great man” theory of change.

4. Transformation often takes more than one lifetime.  In the U.S. we should appreciate this fact – as we confront entrenched racism more than 150 years after our country’s Emancipation Proclamation. South Africa, which celebrated the ANC’s 100th anniversary last year, and this year the 20th anniversary of democracy, still has a long way to go to translate its hard-won political rights into an equitable economy for all of its citizens. The country’s transfer of political power in 1994 did not transform an economic system that continues to concentrate wealth, maintain exploitative relationships and generate poverty.

In Mandela’s Footsteps – The Long Walk ContinuesThe Unfinished Agenda

Mandela appreciated that his long and continuing walk to freedom began before and would extend well beyond his lifetime – not only because of the viciousness of colonial and apartheid rule, but also because of the deeply entrenched attitudes and economic system that required change. While the new order, rooted in economic and social human rights, is hardwired into the country’s 1996 constitution, it will take at least another generation for it to become a reality for the majority of South Africans.

There is no denying that South Africa has accomplished Herculean achievements since it abolished apartheid and established a political democracy in 1994. A recent study released by Goldman Sachs reports that between 1996 and 2011, functional illiteracy dropped from 34 percent to 19 percent; access to sanitation increased from 50.3 percent to 62 percent of the population, and access to electricity rose from 58 percent to 85 percent. Between 2002 and 2012, the portion of the population that experiences hunger dropped from one in four to one in 10; those with access to tap water and/or plumbing grew from 56 percent to 91 percent of the population, and the share of learners receiving free elementary school education mushroomed from 1 percent to 57 percent. The democratically elected government has provided more than 3 million units of low-cost housing.

Contributing to South Africa’s success have been the increase in its gross domestic product per capita, which rose from $4,300 in 1995 to $6,000 in 2012, and its tax base, which grew from 1.7 million payers contributing $114 billion to state revenues in 1994 to 13.7 million contributing $814 billion in 2012.

But apartheid’s legacy will take many years more to reverse – particularly given setbacks in some of South Africa’s key markets (notably Europe and the U.S.) The country’s booming population has grown from 40 million in 1994 to nearly 52 million today. While the number of employed people has risen between 1996 and 2011 from 9 million to 13.2 million, the ranks of its unemployed have officially increased from 4.7 million to 5.6 million. When we count “discouraged” workers who have given up looking for jobs, the unemployment rate swells to an estimated 40 percent – higher still for low-income youth of color. As township dwellers move into new homes, rural residents in search of jobs and housing often take over the shacks they vacate – replenishing the list of people waiting for government housing and subsidies. In many parts of the country – like many other parts of the world, the income gap between haves and have-nots is actually widening. Today – 20 years after the abolition of apartheid, 87 percent of white South Africans may be classified as middle or upper class. Eighty-five percent of Africans remain poor.

Laying Foundations for the Next Generation

In Mandela’s Footsteps – The Long Walk ContinuesNelson Mandela understood that an equitable economy was not a foregone conclusion, and that it would take many more years to achieve. Acknowledging this reality, a number of non-profits have sprung up to help continue the work. In 1994, one of them, Shared Interest, launched a New York-based socially responsible investment fund, which Mandela recognized. A decade ago he told us, “Your contribution toward making available credit, creating jobs, encouraging small business and providing affordable homes and viable communities for economically disenfranchised South Africans [is] as necessary now as it was in 1994…We look forward to continuing that work which is based on a shared interest.”

Since then, Shared Interest has provided a vehicle for individuals and institutions to turn from disinvestment to reinvestment in South Africa’s economically excluded communities of color. Some would call this community investing, others “impact” investing. With our South African partner organization, Thembani, we guarantee South African financial institutions’ loans to small business owners and farmers, cooperatives, microfinance and affordable housing organizations they would otherwise consider “unbankable.” The goal is for the new borrowers to “graduate” from guarantees, and for commercial lenders to discover this market – and make it a platform for their ordinary business.

Our results have been significant. Not one of our investors has lost a penny of interest or principal. With the capital they lend to us for three to five years, we have guaranteed South African financial institutions’ loans benefiting more than 2.2 million low-income black South Africans.

These are couples like the Mkhungus in KwaZulu-Natal, who purchased a run-down poultry farm from a retiring white family, and have increased their production from 28,000 to more than 900,000 eggs a month. They are young workers at small businesses like One Vision, which makes vegetable chips in the Western Cape in a community where 1,000 jobs were destroyed when another plant closed. They are young women like 28-year old Rofihwa Tsialatshitsa in northern Limpopo, who have more than doubled the hectares of tomatoes they produce for a local company, and are determined to demonstrate that women can succeed as commercial farmers.

But as we celebrate Shared Interest’s 20th anniversary – and that of post-apartheid South Africa – we recognize how far we have to go on the path Mandela and South Africa’s liberation movements created. We also appreciate the continuing relevance of many lessons from the first two decades of South African democracy. These are cornerstones for Shared Interest’s Next Generation Campaign to lay financial foundations for the future, and to educate investors that at least another generation of work will be needed to make a just economy a reality for all South Africans.

A South African street vendor said it best: “Political freedom without economic freedom is not freedom.” The model of peaceful transition, forgiveness and multiracial collaboration runs the risk of unraveling unless it is shrinks the gap between haves and have-nots. We call this the economics of reconciliation.

For our partners, and us this means:Shared Interest Gala 2014

1. We must build broader alliances and coalitions to challenge financial institutions whose practices and systems keep people poor and powerless, and to encourage emerging initiatives for inclusive finance. This is difficult now, in the wake of the world financial crisis that pressed institutions in South Africa (and elsewhere) to focus more on building reserves and protecting depositors’ assets than on providing credit and services to people at the bottom of the pyramid.

2. Building effective local institutions, enterprises and a more just economy call for stronger international partnerships – and all of our support within and beyond South Africa. In South Africa, some of the new “born free” generation that grew up after apartheid are less versed than their parents in lessons and tools for transformation. Young people around the world may labor under the illusion that South Africa’s transformation is an issue of the past, not a challenge for the future.

3. Finally, we recognize that transformation is likely to take longer than our lifetimes. Mandela clearly told us: “It is time for the next generations to continue our struggle against social injustice and for the rights of humanity. It is in your hands.”

 

Article by Donna Katzin, PhD., the founding Executive Director of Shared Interest (www.sharedinterest.org ). From 1986 until July of 1994, she served as Director of South Africa and International Justice Programs for the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. In that capacity she worked with religious bodies, institutional investors and community organizations to exert economic pressure to end apartheid, promote responsible reinvestment after apartheid, and to advance social criteria for domestic and international lending. She holds a master’s degree in Community Organization and Planning, and a doctorate in Human Services Education and Development. She is a board member of the Thembani International Guarantee Fund, Housing for HIV, and the Jewish Funds for Justice.

2014 Outlook for Socially Responsible Investing (SRI)

by Amy Domini, Founder and CEO of Domini Social Investments

 

Amy Domini, Founder and CEO of Domini Social InvestmentsWhat lies ahead for responsible investors during 2014? Certainly new products, particularly those that are cleaner or more local, certainly a more predictable stock market, and probably enhanced interest in the value added by utilizing social and environmental considerations when choosing investments. These trends are already evident. Each is good news for the ethical investor.

New Products

When Corporations Rule the World, Second Edition by David C. Korten was published in 1995, it was rightly viewed as a challenge to buy local, take personal responsibility for sustainability and to invest at least part of your assets into smaller local businesses. The call was powerful and spoke to something in the psyche. It put into words the unease so many had been feeling and gave a blueprint for action.

Since that time the Slow Money movement has put a voice to one aspect of the sustainability effort. It asks us to invest one percent of our assets into businesses that are small and geographically close to us, businesses that enhance life as a core mission. The first beneficiary seems to be the sustainable agriculture field, with dozens of options springing up. In my home region of New England we see the gamut from a small organic pickling company to an integrated farm-to-table network.

Sustainable agriculture has re-introduced an old concept to many. Rather than investing in exchange for ownership in a company, many investors are investing in exchange for a part of the revenues that the business generates. This has the dual benefit of leaving ownership with the entrepreneur and giving the investor a potential for superior returns. It is a common form of reward in starting a restaurant or making a film, but relatively new in its current use as part of the sustainability trend.

The desire for more direct and useful products has, in recent years, led institutional and ultra-wealthy investors to purchase venture capital funds that promise to seek out and invest in segments of the sustainability market, like clean land or hydro-culture, solar power or bottom-of-the–pyramid wealth creation. But these investment vehicles demand long-term commitments with no liquidity. That isn’t for everyone.

Domini Social Investments has, therefore, launched Nia Global Solutions, an equity portfolio that seeks to bring these concepts into the public market. In seeking the very most impactful companies, meeting the very toughest sustainability questions, we started with our own basic universe of 2,800 companies. Only three worked for Nia. We now have a pool of about 43 to work with in managing the portfolio.

This is likely to be a big new effort in the socially responsible investing world. Bringing the concepts of high impact investing into the public equity setting is filled with challenges, but the industry has long heard the call from investors for something cleaner and more consistent with personal values than what they’ve seen to date.

I’d be remiss to leave this point without addressing fossil fuel free investing. It is real and it is going to become an industry standard. The challenges of investing without fossil fuels have been well stated, but they lack moral validity. As a first step in this direction, Domini launched Nia. I do not know when and how step two will take place, but I do know that it must.

A More Predicable Stock Market

The years between 2000 and 2012 were difficult ones for investors and posed special challenges for the responsible investor. We suffered through two market collapses of roughly 50 percent. The period has been marked by the distortions that war creates and by the distortions that an under-regulated investment community creates. For much of the period the forces of extreme voices dominated public discourse, whether in their calls on our government to wage war, or in their hatred of government actions (oxymoronic as that statement is).

During the first half of that period the investor ran from oil stocks to weapons stocks to gambling stocks to gold stocks and then began the cycle all over. None of these ‘hot’ industries were appealing to responsible investors and markets that witness narrow industry movements without broad market trends joining are hard markets to do well in. For many in the industry, these were the most challenging years we have ever faced.

During the second half we witnessed the complete collapse of the housing market and all the financial structures that depend on housing. We also saw spectacular malfunctions in securities trading, with flash crashes and London Whales, Bernard Madoff and AIG’s failure. The Federal Reserve, left alone to protect our economy once Congress was blocked by the Republican Party’s do-nothing stance, used the only tools they had. They reduced short rates to zero or less after inflation and when that wasn’t enough, they entered the public markets and bought long bonds, pushing long rates down as well. These were unprecedented actions and Wall Street by and large did not know how to cope with them. The result was an approach many called, “risk-on, risk-off.” The right way to invest was to go all in or all out, even if you did that daily. It created volatility and uncertainty.

This past year saw a return to relative normalcy. Companies announced good news and their stock prices rose. When the news was poor, the stocks sold off. The chase after the story of the moment and the take-a-risk/don’t-take-a-risk market behavior has faded. This allows old-fashioned fundamental research to lead to more solid results. And nothing is so fundamental to understanding a company as the sort of knowledge we gain by doing a social and environmental audit.

An underlying threat to the market stability remains. The political environment is very uncomfortable. Non-action has become a tactic used daily, and it is used to make the administration look bad, rather than to hold the status quo. It is a testament to the strength of our recovery that in spite of the inaction we have seen GDP growth. When you consider that Standard & Poor’s estimated that the government shutdown alone cost $24 billion dollars, you get a sense of the horrific economic impact of the Republican Party’s efforts. There will be elections this fall that will stir up markets.

Growing Understanding of the Value of ESG research

We are at the tipping point here. Environmental, social and governance evaluations are baked into most research platforms today and some street research. Do you have an account at Fidelity? Click through the research on your portfolio and you’ll see what I mean. Do you rely on Factiva, FactSet or Bloomberg? They all provide this. Even street research occasionally references it in the U.S. and always bakes it into their European reports. This was the core goal of introducing ethics into investment decision making, to influence Wall Street to be a force for good, and we’re seeing it unfold.

We are just moving from the point of this research being available due to client demand to seeing it used by conventional analysts. Wellington Management Company recently published a short article on their work with a Wall Street broker that provides ESG research and found, as each study has, value added. Like many such pieces, it was quick to disavow that this was socially responsible investing, but the subtleties are lost on me. As the recognition of value grows, the feedback to corporations will as well.

In fact we know that corporations have been receiving the feedback. We know because they publish Corporate Responsibility Reports. Corporate Register reports that 7,000 or so companies (private as well as public) report on some aspect and that about 80 percent of these report on a spectrum of issues. As a founder of a company that scoured corporate reports for any indication of interest, this both astounds and delights me. It validates the effort.

The growth of understanding that there is value added to research by knowing the full spectrum of corporate impacts on people and the planet in turn assists those of us who are professionals in the field of socially responsible investing. We will begin to feel the wind at our backs for a change. Many of us have grown weary of the question, “how do you compare to regular managers?” As ESG research gains acceptance, so do we.

2014 – A Good Year

2014 is unlikely to see the spectacular equity returns that we enjoyed in 2013, but it will be a year in which we can manage assets in a logical manner. We will begin to see the development of real products for the public’s new interest in the ideas of Slow Money, Sustainable Agriculture, Fossil Fuel Free investing and High Impact. And these products will themselves spur new interest in our field. 2014 will see the continuance of mainstreaming, particularly in the acceptance of ESG research as an important tool in understanding the company whose stock we are buying.

Although we have some cross currents to navigate, the general thrust of these three points I have been making is toward a good environment for the field. We do not know what the Federal Reserve’s gradual reduction of their actions will be, but they do seem to be moving slowly. This in turn has reduced our concern that growth in emerging markets will be impaired, which would be a negative for our economy. Yes, there are risks. But I argue that this is the beginning of an exciting decade.

During 2013 we saw the start of drivers for truly robust growth begin to emerge. We saw the emergence of Tesla, a major new disrupter in the automobile field, with a battery solution that will drive other industries. We saw the cost of solar equipment plummet and the efficiency soar, and with it, companies that install solar on hospitals or industrial settings. And we saw shifts in disease treatment moving us more to personalized medicine, privacy options, and increased tools in the fight against cancer. This is in a way an even better set of circumstances than the computer revolution brought us. It is a broader base and brings in both low and highly skilled workers. And we saw the emergence of KickStarter and other such group funding opportunities, which support local economies and the emergence of new entrepreneurs.

2014 will see these trends continue, and these are trends that speak directly to the socially responsible investor. Within this context will come the new products, the calmer markets and the growth of acknowledgement that ESG research adds value. This is the environment we have long been waiting for. I look forward to seeing the year unfold.

Article by Amy Domini, who is a partner in the Sustainability Group in Boston where she manages roughly $1 billion in liquid assets for high net worth families. Additionally she is the founder and CEO of Domini Social Investments (www.domini.com ), a New York City based mutual fund family. She is widely recognized as the leading voice for socially responsible investing. In 2005 she was named to the Time magazine 100 list of the world’s most influential people, and in 2009 Time listed her as one of 25 “Responsibility Pioneers”.  In 2005, President Clinton honored her at the inaugural meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative.

Ms. Domini co-authored the groundbreaking book, Ethical Investing in 1984.  Since then she has authored or co-authored several books.  Her articles have been widely published and she is a regular contributor to The Intelligent Optimist magazine.

Ms. Domini serves or has served on several boards.  She is a member of the Boston Security Analysts Society and holds the Chartered Financial Analyst designation.

Ms. Domini holds a B.A. in international and comparative studies from Boston University.  She is the recipient of two honorary degrees: a Doctor of Business Administration, from Northeastern University College of Law and a Doctor of Humane Letters by the Berkeley Divinity School at Yale.

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