Tag: Featured Articles

My Journey on the Road Less Traveled by Elizabeth di Bonaventura-Domini Inestments

My Journey on the Road Less Traveled

By Elizabeth di Bonaventura, Domini Impact Investments

Domini logoThe road less traveled has always been the path I’ve found myself on in life, whether intentionally or not. As a young girl, I did not grow up believing that I would have a career in finance. I was beguiled by misconceptions that the field was too difficult and the bar for entry too insurmountably high. Even more daunting was the lack of representation of women within the financial sector.

Prior to the onset of my professional career, I chose to attend the University of St. Andrews, a Scottish university located in a small town nestled on the North Sea. I found myself in a new culture, surrounded by people from different backgrounds with fresh points of view. While the rigorous academics and people I met at St. Andrews greatly shaped both my personal and professional trajectory, I did not pursue a ‘classically finance-oriented’ degree, majoring instead in International Relations. Through this area of study, I followed my interests in political theories, governing bodies, and matters of foreign policy. In my senior dissertation, I dug deeper into the structural inequities that result from these systems and the implications for marginalized populations in Latin America. From this vantage point, I began my career in finance. Somewhat accidently, I stumbled into the realm of impact investing, but was ultimately compelled by the principles of this investment thesis.

I was fortunate enough to find my way to Domini Impact Investments, an SEC-registered investment advisor with an exclusive focus on impact investing. Domini is a women-led and founded firm, often seen as a rarity in the mutual fund world. In fact, as of the close of 2020, the firm was made up of over 60 percent women. This representation includes four of the top six executives, with our CEO and Chair also listed as the named co-portfolio managers on a number of our products. While a women-led environment has shaped my personal experience in the sector, it’s far from the norm.

At the end of 2019 as well 2000 14% fund managers were women-courtesy of Morningstar
photo courtesy of Morningstar

In a 2020 article, Morningstar reported that the representation of women among fund managers globally has stayed largely stagnant over the course of the last twenty years, stating:

“At the end of 2000, 14 percent of fund managers were women. At the end of 2019, 14 percent of fund managers were women”.

Statistics such as Morningstar’s serve as cogent reminder that financial firms like Domini remain rare enclaves of change within an industry with much progress still to make. With that said, there are signals of coming growth and evolution. With investors calling for greater diversity and inclusion, I believe that we will soon see a systemic shift of women in leadership positions at financial institutions. As a young woman in finance, I am energized to be a part of a financial firm that positions women within roles of executive leadership.

In my capacity leading the firm’s Institutional Client Relationships team, I’ve had the opportunity to serve and interact across our institutional client and intermediary channels. In working closely with such financial professionals and sharing the advantages that impact investing can have on our portfolios, planet and society, I find great purpose in my role and hope my efforts contribute to pushing the field forward. The entities we work with range across a wide spectrum – many at the initial precipice of their search, just beginning to integrate ESG & impact strategies into their client offerings. Others have dedicated long-term efforts to building renowned in-house impact institutions. But across this spectrum of impact integration is the resounding client encouragement to align their portfolios with their own personal values and contemporary issues of interest.

With the allocation of capital increasingly deployed into the purview of millennials, this sentiment will continue to expand. Morgan Stanley’s Institute for Sustainable Investing reported in 2019 that of the millennials polled, 95 percent were interested in sustainable investing.1  Millennial investors are clearly interested in the impact of their investments, both positive and negative. This may be due to a myriad of contributing factors, but I would be remiss not to broach the current state of our world.

As a millennial myself, I find my generation faced with the challenge of tackling humankind’s greatest existential crisis: climate change. Growing up under the specter of a rapidly warming planet, our generation has decided that the cost of chasing unlimited profit may not be worth the payoff and the corresponding destructive social or environmental consequences. But this does not need to be a zero-sum game, and the lens of investing has broadened so that positive social and environmental outcomes can be coupled with lucrative returns. 2020 has resolutely cracked any assumptions that our hyper globalized, interdependent world was too big or too complex to break. As a generation that came of age during the 2008 financial crisis, millennial adults learned young the lesson that unfettered markets and limitless growth are not poised for lasting success. We as investors in an interconnected global society need to consider the long-term ramifications of our investment decisions, not just the short-term payoff.

In asking for greater disclosure, reporting and transparency from their investments, millennials are congruently considering these same metrics and integration from their investment managers to ensure more intentional impact. With rising interest in diversity and inclusion both concerning their investments and the individuals managing their portfolios, younger generations will have the ability to shape the faces of the financial sector. With this generational shift well on its way, maybe one day young women aspiring to be fund managers will not be viewed as taking the road less traveled.

 

Article by Elizabeth di Bonaventura, Senior Institutional Relationship Associate, Domini Impact Investments. She leads the firm’s institutional client relationships team and serves as its primary point of contact for all financial professionals. In 2019, Elizabeth was named to the inaugural SRI Conference “30 Under 30” list. She holds a Scottish Master of Arts (Honours) in International Relations from The University of St. Andrews.

Footnote:
[1]  2019. Morgan Stanley, Institute for Sustainable Investing. “Sustainable Signals: Individual Investor Interest Driven by Impact, Conviction and Choice”.
DSIL Investment Services 02/21

Featured Articles, Impact Investing, Sustainable Business

Tech-Savy Millennial Investors Positioned to Thrive in Roaring 2020s-by David Weinstein-DANA Investments

Tech Savvy Millennial Investors Positioned to Thrive in the “Roaring 2020s”

By David Weinstein, Dana Investment Advisors

Dana-Investment-Advisors-LogoWhat a time to be a millennial investor. A chaotic 2020 offered both investment pitfalls and rich opportunities. 2021 should trend toward a more “normal” environment, but disruptive companies, elevated volatility and information everywhere will continue to define the investment landscape. These three themes have millennials positioned to thrive.

Disruption

I define disruption as technology-enabled change with profound effects on legacy business models. 2020 brought us disruptive upstarts like Zoom Video and Peloton. Both burst onto the investment scene and became household names. Combined, these two stocks added $120 billion of value through the year. Stalwarts like Amazon.com, Netflix and PayPal grew by leaps and bounds as consumers spent more time online. All three are big and getting bigger. Speaking of big, Tesla claimed the undisputed throne of a white-hot electric vehicle industry.

Why should disrupters continue to win?

Consider the global advertising industry twenty years ago. The highest impact event was the Super Bowl. It brought a little more than 100 million viewers. Today, an advertiser can reach 2.5 billion global users across Facebook’s platform of apps (which includes Instagram).

Oh, and Facebook can offer this reach every single day, not just one Sunday in early February. Oh, and Facebook is just one of a host of digital advertising behemoths that includes Google, YouTube, Amazon, Snapchat, Pinterest and TikTok. Oh, and these digital advertisers seem to know us better than we know ourselves. Oh, and… you get the point.  These companies are profoundly changing the advertising industry. This change is enabled by disruptive technologies like the internet, smartphones and super-fast connectivity.

The pay-TV industry is another example. Comcast, AT&T and Charter are the largest pay-TV providers in the US with a collective 55 million video subscribers. These companies spent billions on cable and fiber infrastructure to “own” the video feed into the home, building successful monopolies.

Then Netflix came along, enabled by the internet, smartphones and widespread connectivity. Netflix will end 2020 with 200 million global subscribers. Amazon Prime Video and Disney Plus will together exceed 200 million subscribers. More than 400 million subscribers will pay for the top three streaming services! 55 million pales by comparison. Meanwhile, the streaming services grow double digits as they add content and expand internationally.

Millennials are a tech savvy generation. We are often the prime customers of these disruptive companies. We “get” them. This lends an almost instinctual understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. Familiarity is an underrated first step toward making good investment decisions.

Embracing Volatility

Millennials are an open-minded bunch tolerant of change and well-equipped to handle volatility. We grew up with MTV and The Matrix, embraced Call of Duty and iPhones, and graduated to Amazon Prime and Instagram. In 2020, flexible investors did exceptionally well as stock prices fluctuated wildly. This will be a persistent theme of the next several years. Disruption creates winners and losers. The sociopolitical environment is strained. Monetary and fiscal policy sails uncharted waters. Successful investors will balance high conviction with a willingness to admit mistakes and move on.

I see signs of millennials’ adaptability as investors. Bitcoin’s popularity as a digital store of value is one example. Why buy gold when bitcoin is available with the swipe of a fingertip, 24 hours a day, with easy storage (it’s just bits), transferability and security? Why invest in an index fund when thematic ETFs and active ESG strategies are available? If we can customize our investments to our areas of interest, personal preferences and values, why wouldn’t we?

While index funds are the right choice for many people – including some millennials – they are aircraft carriers with limited ability to quickly change course. Passive investing is the rage today, but I expect that to change as millennials embrace the rich opportunity set of the current market.

Information Everywhere

Millennials naturally assume that most questions will have readily available answers (the “Google effect”). This information democratization extends to the investment industry. Companies aren’t just the sum of their financial statements. They are people, products, culture, strategies and execution, shaped and informed by leadership, industry trends, oversight and historical arcs. As investors, we can know more about products, services, companies and CEOs than ever before – more than earnings reports, SEC filings and third-party research have historically offered.

At Dana Investment Advisors, we spend considerable time examining new information sources. Social media is a powerful information tool. Curated Twitter feeds access the daily thoughts of industry experts. In January, J.P. Morgan hosts the industry’s premier healthcare conference with hundreds of companies. Clinical trial data comes fast and furious for a variety of highly specialized therapies. I follow a list of biopharma experts on Twitter for their unique insights. CEOs increasingly utilize Twitter and other forms of social media (Elon Musk is famous in this regard), providing a window into their character, competence and credibility. Podcasts with industry executives are more popular than ever.

For company culture, glassdoor.com is a great tool. Studies have shown that the highest rated companies on glassdoor.com outperform the lowest rated companies. While my experience is anecdotal, I have found that it especially pays to avoid companies with a particularly negative string of recent reviews. Similarly, LinkedIn offers employee turnover data and job posting trends.

The proliferation of product and service reviews and tutorials is also helpful. Understanding the what, how, and why of a software application, for example, has become much more accessible over the last decade. Expert blogs, online forums like reddit.com and YouTube can be valuable sources of information. Curious about Datadog and the fast growing “observability and monitoring” space? Fire up a few YouTube videos and you’re quick to grasp a conceptual framework.

Millennials are more comfortable than older generations engaging with these formats. This can provide an investment edge.

The “Roaring 2020s”

Moving into the “roaring 2020s,” millennials are well positioned to succeed. They are tech savvy, open-minded and naturally curious. It will be important that they develop a sense of comfort and trust with whatever investment strategy they pursue. They should seek out transparency, credibility and a personal connection. This applies whether they decide to invest in individual companies or use a money manager, and it is especially important as investment choices proliferate.

My best advice? Trust your gut, stay flexible and maintain a sense of optimism about the future. These are exciting times full of opportunity.

 

Article by David Weinstein, JD, Senior Vice President, and Portfolio Manager. David joined Dana Investment Advisors in May 2013. He is the Lead Portfolio Manager for Dana’s Unconstrained Strategy and co-Portfolio Manager of Dana’s Social ESG, Catholic ESG and Large Cap Equity Strategies.

He graduated from the University of Notre Dame with an Honors Program degree in Political Science in 2005. David graduated cum laude from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law in 2008 and served as Managing Editor of the Law Review. He returned to Notre Dame and received his MBA in Investments in 2012, graduating magna cum laude.

Featured Articles, Impact Investing, Sustainable Business

When it Comes to Divergent Generational Perspecitves-Can Compromise Drive Profits? by Tami Kesselman-LOHAS Advisors

When it Comes to Divergent Generational Perspectives, Can Compromise Drive Profits?

By Tami Kesselman, LOHAS Advisors

(above) Tami speaking at the UN Capital Markets Leadership Roundtable 2019

Lohas Advisors-logoMany families face an ongoing tension between the decision-maker “Patriarch” perspective and the younger “NextGen” perspective on how to approach investing and whether alpha should have primacy in investment decisions — with social, educational, justice, environmental, and other impact goals being served predominantly philanthropically — or if the two should always be approached as an integrated whole, regardless of asset class.

Whether you are a family member in endless contentious investment committee meetings or a wealth manager attempting to align disparate client priorities, differing intergenerational perspectives frequently create challenges. Oftentimes the gap between prioritizing achieving better financial returns versus prioritizing greater social or environmental impact seems insurmountable. I’m here to tell you: integrating the two perspectives is easier than you realized and probably a better strategy for both alpha and impact than either generation is creating with their tunnel-vision approach.

Though the success model of previous generations reflected a clear separation between generating financial profit and supporting philanthropic endeavors, (an approach that one of my favorite people in the impact space, Ross Baird, describes as “two-pocket” thinking is his book The Innovation Blind Spot), that strategy doesn’t work in this decade. When allocators begin moving money en masse away from oil and gas companies that don’t have a plan to migrate toward renewables over the next decade, as has already begun to happen, investors who are backwards-thinking in their approach to “what has always worked” are likely to get caught flat-footed with stranded assets on their balance sheets. And those who don’t pay attention to lack of diversity in the leadership or boards of the companies they invest in are also going to be penalized as more forward-thinking capital continues to accelerate its exodus post-George Floyd.

On the other hand, the next generation saw An Inconvenient Truth in middle school and climate negotiations on the world stage since high school. They innately recognize the realities of climate change and its threat to survival. They see the wealth disparity that has grown every year of their lifetime and nearby inner cities that never benefitted from ‘trickle down’ economics. They’ve had the internet for their entire adult lives and see constant news feeds on human and planet suffering in a way that no prior generation has. Investing in fossil fuels while also investing in solar energy just does not make sense to this generation because the harm of one would cancel out the benefit of the other. Instead, they lead fossil fuel divestment campaigns and champion progressive agendas, with impact often having urgency and primacy.

But each perspective is shortsighted. On the one hand, the actions of BlackRock’s Larry Fink — and other money managers — highlighting the importance of climate change on company performance are going to lead to further repricing of assets with large carbon footprints, regardless of whether family patriarchs support (or even believe in) the underlying causes or not. On the other hand, if everyone were to jump on the divestment bandwagon tomorrow, all planes would be grounded immediately, most houses wouldn’t have access to electricity, and the world would essentially stop. That is clearly not a sustainable plan.

But when you marry the two, something magical happens. Paying attention to both profit and purpose — as data for ESG & sustainability indices have each proven out — leads to results that actually slightly outperform the market.

MSCI ACWI All Cap Index VS. MSCI ACWI Sustainable Impact Indext Nov.2015-March-2019-LOHAS Advisors

This trend of greater returns for socially responsible investments has only accelerated during the COVID pandemic.

Greater returns for socially responsible investments has accelerated during the COVID pandemic-MSCI World Index-LOHAS Advisors

Notably, the financial performance of impact investments has been even more pronounced in the private markets where real impact (and often more attractive returns) is delivered through private sector investments (in companies, funds, and projects).

The good news is that attractive social enterprise investment opportunities are abundant across health-tech, education, fin-tech and renewables, delivering market-rate or better returns while concurrently generating substantial social or environmental benefits.

More in line with the demands of the next generation, racial equity considerations — of the production and use of the product/service as well as hiring and compensation within the company staff and leadership team — have also become important considerations for investment evaluations. And, on the direct side, much like I wrote about last year, in GreenMoney, regarding untapped investment opportunities for women-founded or led companies and funds, investing in minority-led enterprises is also proving to offer above-market-rate returns as evidenced by the tremendous work of groups like FVLCRUM Funds, which is creating generational wealth in minority communities while creating substantial value for investors.

I can’t end this article without sharing three of the most innovative trends we are seeing at LOHAS Advisors for 2021 for forward-thinking investment committees and investment advisors focused on engaging parties across generations with new approaches to integrate alpha and impact. The first trend that’s begun to generate significant interest is Social Impact Entertainment. As a means to build bridges, families (often through their family foundations) have coalesced around a specific cause (e.g., animal welfare, human trafficking, environmental conservation, etc.) but in the past have disagreed on how to address it (i.e., investment versus philanthropy). Innovatively, more and more often families are recognizing the power of film and television to generate greater awareness (and resulting action) for their causes while also capturing attractive financial returns.

The second trend we see continuing to grow in 2021 is on the philanthropic side, where many traditional nonprofits come back to donors year after year with the same size (or larger!) grant request without permanently fixing anything. The alpha on that investment is 100 percent loss of capital annually, and the impact may be less than optimal as well, often focusing solely on patches for symptoms while neglecting underlying issues. In 2021, one of the hottest innovative intergenerational trends that’s continuing to grow is investing in for-profit social enterprises via donor-advised funds (“DAF”) as part of the family’s philanthropic strategy – funding solutions for causes the family cares about while believing that revenue-returning ventures are better positioned to tackle some of society’s most endemic problems. As a bonus, when those social enterprises do return a profit, that just keeps growing the investment capital in the DAF that continue in a virtuous cycle to be reinvested. At LOHAS, we are helping parties use their donor-advised funds to invest in for-profit social and environmental impact companies, funds, projects, and productions more than we ever have in the past.

Lastly, even beyond DAFs, we are seeing a variety of up-and-coming nonprofit leaders recognizing that they need sustainable business models and must stop relying on donation-dependent models that put undue stress on organization management annually. We have crafted new approaches to help grow nonprofit revenue through the strategic structuring of hybrid, customized “partner” for-profit ventures which directly support the nonprofit’s mission and funding needs while also engaging in related profitable endeavors.

After the chaos and divisions of 2020, I look forward to celebrating your successes as you seek out and find common ground across generations and hope that you, like us, maintain a continued commitment to innovation that bridges the divides and builds a better future through investment strategies that support the family’s and individual members’ values while equally generating attractive financial returns and prosperity for all.

 

Article by Tami Kesselman, partner, LOHAS Advisors

Tami Kesselman is a creative and analytical family office strategy advisor, global expansion expert, and leader at expanding financial and impact success within complex systems. A Harvard-educated strategist and former Bain consultant, she is a pioneer and thought leader in impact investing who has spent the past two decades working at the intersection of the highest levels of corporate, intergovernmental, entrepreneurial, and investor communities globally.

As a Partner at LOHAS Advisors, along with helping drive the firm-wide growth strategy, Tami also works directly with ultra-high net worth clients seeking to migrate portfolios to impact alignment without sacrificing financial returns. With an innate ability to help clients shape portfolios in ways that resonate across generations, she has become highly sought after as increasingly more wealth is transitioning.

Tami annually lectures at Harvard Business School on the complex intersection of capitalism, sustainability, public policy, business management, and geopolitics, and keynotes at investor conferences globally on the shifting fiduciary demands as global standards evolve. She has facilitated board-level strategy sessions for clients on six continents, annually chairs Opal’s Private Wealth Impact Investing Forum, and serves on the Steering Committee for the NEXUS Impact Investing Working Group and the UN-NEXUS Small Island Resiliency Braintrust. In 2019, Tami also became the worldwide president of Harvard Alumni in IMPACT (Investment – Measurement – Policy – Advocacy – Climate action – Tech4good), a global alumni organization with nearly 1,000 members from 60+ countries, coming from Harvard College and every Harvard graduate school.

Tami’s passion is working 1:1 with individual investors and single-family offices, helping them identify and accelerate the positive ripple effects of allocating capital more effectively to improve the world while protecting their portfolio returns over the next decade and beyond.

Featured Articles, Impact Investing, Sustainable Business

GreenMoney Interviews Liesel Pritzker Simmons-with Cliff Feigenbaum

GreenMoney Interviews: Liesel Pritzker Simmons

By Cliff Feigenbaum, GreenMoney Journal

Welcome to the latest “GreenMoney Interviews.” For this issue I spoke with Liesel Pritzker Simmons of Blue Haven Initiative, where she oversees an impact investing portfolio structured to generate financial returns and address social and environmental challenges.

The portfolio spans asset classes, from traditional equities and private equity to philanthropic programs. A longtime advocate for informed, conscientious investing, Liesel co-founded Blue Haven, a single-family office, with her husband, Ian Simmons. Their family office is considered to be one of the first to have been created with impact investing as its mission. She works closely with numerous organizations that support and advance the field of impact investing.

CLIFF:  In your July 2014 article for GreenMoney you talked about your experiences as a millennial investor and called on the financial services industry to stop talking about trade-offs, broaden their definition of risk, and understand that young people want to create real value. How have you seen progress on these fronts in the past six and a half years?

LIESEL:  I think there has been a big shift, at least in the rhetoric. There is no doubt that impact investing is here to stay. Financial performance of ESG has been pretty solid, both in market corrections and bull runs, so the knee-jerk “BUT THERE ARE TRADE-OFFS!” position becomes more and more hollow. In terms of risk, every major financial institution has at least published a white paper on climate risk, which is quite something. And the #MeToo movement and Racial Justice conversations have mobilized employees and customers of major companies to clamp down on toxic and discriminatory cultures. These are all positive developments, I think. Are things happening fast enough? Of course not.

I think my hottest take in my 2014 piece was that this generation of investors is not convinced by Milton Friedman’s shareholder primacy doctrine. And I’m even more sure of that now. Trickle-down economics is not working. Time for something new: more accountability.

CLIFF:  You and your husband, Ian Simmons, are co-founders and principals of Blue Haven Initiative. You’re aligned in many ways, but how have you structured your family office and portfolio to reflect your individual interests?

Blue Haven Initiative-logoLIESEL:  Ian and I were both interested in impact investing and aligned when it came to structuring a portfolio that was dedicated to it. But when forming our family office, we wanted to make sure to reflect our individual interests and impact-focused activities beyond investing. For example, I’m extremely interested in supporting startups in sub-Saharan Africa. Our direct investment portfolio focuses on early-stage energy, fintech, logistics and human capital ventures there. We’re really excited to help build the talent pipeline in Kenya and East Africa. In early-stage companies we saw how recruiting and empowering talent is one of the most import things to build to scale – and really see it as one of the biggest opportunities to accelerate impact.

In addition to impact investing, Ian has also focused on civics, especially policy and accelerating civic engagement policy solutions. I think there’s an argument to be made that our most important work on climate has been in engaging more Millennial and Gen Z voters to show up and vote for a clean energy future these last two elections. That kind of structural change, along with good policy and a healthy democracy—something that we’ve seen we can’t take for granted—are essential for markets over the long-term. And the way we’ve structured our family office incorporates all of that.

CLIFF:  How has your approach to impact investing evolved, as the industry has evolved? How have your expectations and even definition of ‘impact’ evolved?

LIESEL:  Early on we really focused on “knowing what we own” and making sure our investments were aligned with our values. But increasingly we’ve focused on how policy, philanthropy and investing are interconnected.

2020 helped show how much we take for granted in terms of how important norms and democratic foundations are to our society. I think more and more people are coming around to the idea that long-term investing isn’t just about investing in assets that have a long duration or long-view manager, but also doing things that are healthy for investors over the long term and for future generations.

That encourages us to keep pushing things. Whether it’s practices within Blue Haven or evaluating who is managing our money, we’ve been focused on upgrading our practices, insisting on higher standards for managers and evaluating hiring policies, particularly around issues of racial and gender equity. It’s not so much about saying, “Look at us”—we still have a lot to do and learn—but we want to show that it’s possible to adopt higher standards.

CLIFF:  Why is it important for business leaders to pay attention to the impact investing movement?

LIESEL:  The single biggest reason to pay attention to the ideas around impact investing is that it is absolutely essential for recruiting talent of any caliber to your organization. Kids these days want it all—they want to work for a thoughtful organization that has a purpose and treats stakeholders (including the planet) with respect. And it needs to be authentic. People can see through the pithy platitudes and actually want to see if there’s any follow through.

CLIFF:  What advice do you have for other millennials who are just starting their impact investing journey? And do you have any advice to those who want to address climate change and environmental changes on how to take effective action?

LIESEL:  Ultimately, the impact investing journey starts with being curious about what’s going on with money around you. In my early investing days I learned that a vehicle manufacturer company I was investing in was supplying the Sudanese government during genocide. I was surprised—and disappointed—but I sold the stock.

No matter how much you have in a bank account, you can learn more about the business practices of what, say, your bank is doing—who they’re lending to and so forth. Check in on what your college endowment is investing in. Wherever you are, you can have an impact, and you can engage others to do the same.

I like to say perfect is the enemy of the good, and that definitely applies here. It’s not about getting things exactly right the first time around. Just get started. And it’s okay to start small!

CLIFF:  Coming full circle from 2014: What advice do you have for the financial services industry in 2021 and beyond?

LIESEL:  If I were in the leadership of a financial services firms —or any large firm, for that matter, I’d develop a hypocrisy index. How much does my firm say that is in direct opposition to what it does, meaning how it allocates capital? Easy examples are around climate change. Take Larry Fink and BlackRock. On one hand they talk about stakeholder capitalism, but at the same time they still vote at a relatively low percentage on climate resolutions as a stockholder. But things get much more interesting when you look at lobbying efforts and government relations—what’s going on over there? If you’re supporting candidates or initiatives who are instituting policies that are actively undermining your bold statements, you should not get credit for your bold statements.

So, get proactive about issues like climate and racial justice and corruption, and figure out ways to integrate them into your brand and business model. If you do it quickly enough, there’s a competitive advantage. It’s never too early to show leadership.

 

Biography:  Liesel Pritzker Simmons is Co-Founder and Principal of Blue Haven Initiative, where she oversees an impact investing portfolio structured to generate financial returns and address social and environmental challenges. The portfolio spans asset classes, from traditional equities and private equity to philanthropic programs.

A longtime advocate for informed, conscientious investing, Liesel co-founded Blue Haven, a single-family office, with her husband, Ian Simmons. Their family office is considered to be one of the first to have been created with impact investing as its mission.

Liesel works closely with organizations that support and advance the field of impact investing. She was a co-founder of The ImPact, a network of families committed to the conscientious stewardship of wealth. She also serves on the board of Toniic, which provides tools for investors to evaluate impact investments, and on the board and the investment committee of ImpactAssets.

Note to Readers: Read Liesel’s article An Open Letter to the Financial Services Industry From a Concerned Millennial that she wrote for GreenMoney in July 2014.

Energy & Climate, Featured Articles, Impact Investing, Sustainable Business

SRI and ESG Investors Advocacy-US SIF Foundation

SRI and ESG Investors Advocacy

From the US SIF Foundation

 

From 2018 through the first half of 2020, 149 institutional investors and 56 investment managers collectively controlling nearly $2.0 trillion in assets at the start of 2020 filed or co-filed shareholder resolutions on ESG issues. See Figures B and I.

Figure B-Sustainable Investing Assets 2020-Fig B-US SIF Foundation

  • As shown in Figure J, below the leading issue raised in shareholder proposals, based on the number of proposals filed, from 2018 through 2020, was corporate political activity. Investors filed 270 proposals on this subject from 2018 through 2020. These resolutions focused on company contributions aimed at influencing elections or on corporate lobbying to influence laws and regulations. Many of the targets were companies that have supported lobbying organizations that oppose regulations to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

Fig-I-Types of Investors Filing Shareholder Proposals 2018–2020-US SIF

  • Fair labor and equal employment opportunity issues also rose to the top, with shareholders filing 228 proposals between 2018 and 2020, which included several resolutions calling for gender pay equity.
  • A surge in shareholder proposals on climate change that began in 2014, as investors wrestled with the prospects of “stranded” carbon assets and US and global efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions, has continued: 217 proposals were filed from 2018 through 2020.
  • The proportion of shareholder proposals on social and environmental issues that receive high levels of support has been trending upward as well. During the proxy seasons of 2012-2014, only two shareholder proposals on environmental and social issues that were opposed by management received majority support, while 26 such proposals received majority support in 2018 through 2020.
  • Investors are engaging in other ways than filing shareholder resolutions. A subset of survey respondents, including 44 institutional asset owners with more than $1 trillion in total assets and 77 money managers with $7.8 trillion in assets under management, reported that they engaged in dialogue with companies on ESG issues.

Figure J–Leading ESG Issues 2018_2020 by Number of Shareholder Proposals Filed

SRI Trends Report 2020-US SIF-Cover

Order a copy of the Report on US Sustainable and Impact Investing Trends 2020 from the US SIF.

Energy & Climate, Featured Articles, Impact Investing, Sustainable Business

ESG Incorporation by Institutional Investors

From the US SIF Foundation

The US SIF Foundation also conducted research on 530 institutional asset owners with $6.2 trillion in ESG assets, equivalent to 51 percent of the $12.01 trillion that money managers identified as institutional assets. Because money managers do not disclose information about their institutional clients, the data received from our direct research of institutional investors shows how and why they incorporate ESG criteria into their investment analysis and portfolio selection. The institutional ESG incorporation trends revealed through this research should be understood as representing the most transparent institutional investors in the United States. The group included institutional asset owners and plan sponsors such as public funds, insurance companies, educational institutions, philanthropic foundations, labor funds, hospitals and healthcare plans, faith-based institutions, other nonprofits and family offices.

Fig-F-Institutional Investor ESG Assets by Investor Type 2020-US SIF

Of this $6.2 trillion in institutional ESG assets:

  • Public funds represented the largest share — 54 percent ($3.4 trillion) — as shown in Figure F.
  • Social criteria were applied to more than 92 percent. The assets managed in accordance with social criteria increased 9 percent since 2018, as shown in Figure G, above.
  • Investment policies related to conflict risk affected $2.7 trillion, as shown in Figure H, making it the single most prominent ESG criterion among institutional investors, in asset-weighted terms.
  • Continuing a trend that began in 2012, criteria related to climate change and carbon emissions remained the most important environmental issue for these institutions, affecting $2.6 trillion.
  • Tobacco remained in the top five specific ESG criteria for institutional investors, although slightly decreasing from 2018 by 3 percent to affect $2.5 trillion in assets in 2020.
  • Fig-H-Top Specific ESG Criteria for Institutional Investors 2020-US SIF
  • Board issues were the most prominent governance criterion reported by institutional investors, incorporated into the management of $2.3 trillion in assets, a 32 percent increase from 2018.
  • Sustainable natural resources and agriculture ranked as the second most heavily weighted environmental issue for institutional investors, affecting almost $2.2 trillion in assets, a 95 percent increase since 2018.

SRI Trends Report 2020-US SIF-Cover

Order a copy of the Report on US Sustainable and Impact Investing Trends 2020 from the US SIF.

Energy & Climate, Featured Articles, Impact Investing, Sustainable Business

ESG Categories Incorporated by Money Managers 2018-2020-Fig D-US SIF Foundation

ESG Incorporation by Money Managers

From the US SIF Foundation

 

The US SIF Foundation identified 384 money managers and 1,204 community investing institutions incorporating ESG criteria into their investment analysis and decision-making processes. The $16.6 trillion in ESG incorporation assets they represent is a nearly 43 percent increase over the $11.6 trillion in such assets identified in 2018.

Of this 2020 total:

  • $4.6 trillion were managed on behalf of individual investors, and $12.0 trillion were identified as managed on behalf of institutional investors as shown in Figure B.

Figure B-Sustainable Investing Assets 2020-Fig B-US SIF Foundation

  • $3.1 trillion — 19 percent — were managed through registered investment companies such as mutual funds, exchange-traded funds, variable annuities and closed-end funds, as shown in Figure C.
  • $716 billion — 4 percent — were managed through alternative investment vehicles, such as private equity and venture capital funds, hedge funds and property funds. 
  • $266 billion in assets were managed by community investing institutions. 
  • $985 billion in money manager ESG assets were managed through other commingled funds.
  • The majority — $11.5 trillion, or 69 percent — remains largely opaque as they were managed through undisclosed investment vehicles and the managers for 60 percent of these undisclosed vehicles — $6.9 trillion — also did not disclose the specific ESG factors that they consider, reporting only that they consider ESG in general.

Figure C-Money Manager Assets-by Type-Incorporating ESG Criteria 2020-US SIF

In terms of assets, money managers incorporate ESG factors fairly evenly across environmental, social and governance categories, as shown in Figure D, above.

  • Overall, in asset-weighted terms, money managers incorporated social factors slightly more than environmental and governance criteria. Social criteria incorporation by money managers increased 49 percent from 2018 to $16.1 trillion.
  • Environmental criteria as a whole grew faster than social or governance factors over the past two years, increasing 57 percent, from $10.1 trillion to nearly $16.0 trillion.
  • Among all specific ESG criteria, governance factors related to executive pay saw the greatest growth, increasing 122 percent since 2018 to $2.2 trillion, as shown in Figure E
  • However, climate change remains the most important specific ESG issue considered by money managers in asset weighted terms. The assets to which this criterion applies increased 39 percent from 2018 to 2020 to $4.2 trillion, also shown in Figure E
  • Fig E–Top Specific ESG Criteria for Money Managers 2020-US SIF
  • Anti-corruption was the largest governance criterion, with growth of 10 percent from 2018, affecting $2.4 trillion in money manager assets.
  • Board issues also ranked high among the top specific ESG criteria for money managers, affecting $2.4 trillion in assets under management, a 66 percent increase from 2018.
  • Sustainable natural resources and agriculture grew by 81 percent to $2.4 trillion in assets under management.
  • Conflict risk was the largest social criterion at $1.8 trillion assets under management, although this was a decrease from 2018 of 22 percent.

SRI Trends Report 2020-US SIF-Cover

Order a copy of the Report on US Sustainable and Impact Investing Trends 2020 from the US SIF.

Energy & Climate, Featured Articles, Impact Investing, Sustainable Business

SRI 2020 Trends Report-Exec Summary-US SIF Foundation

SRI Trends Report 2020: Executive Summary

From the US SIF Foundation

 

Sustainable investing in the United States continues to expand at a healthy pace. The total US-domiciled assets under management using sustainable investing strategies grew from $12.0 trillion at the start of 2018 to $17.1 trillion at the start of 2020, an increase of 42 percent. This represents 33 percent, or one in three dollars, of the $51.4 trillion in total US assets under professional management.

Overview

Since 1995, when the US SIF Foundation first measured the size of the US sustainable investment universe at $639 billion, assets have increased more than 25-fold, a compound annual growth rate of 14 percent. The most rapid growth has occurred since 2012. (See Figure A. above)

Through surveying and research undertaken in 2020, the US SIF Foundation identified, as shown in Figure B:

Figure B-Sustainable Investing Assets 2020-Fig B-US SIF Foundation

  • $16.6 trillion in US-domiciled assets at the beginning of 2020 held by 530 institutional investors, 384 money managers and 1,204 community investment institutions that practice “ESG incorporation” — applying various environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria in their investment analysis and portfolio selection.
  • $2.0 trillion in US-domiciled assets at the beginning of 2020 held by 205 institutional investors or money managers that filed or co-filed shareholder resolutions on ESG issues at publicly traded companies from 2018 through 2020.

Order a copy of the Report on US Sustainable and Impact Investing Trends 2020 from the US SIF.

 

Energy & Climate, Featured Articles, Impact Investing, Sustainable Business

Tree planting at a World Tree farm with investors-World Tree USA-GreenMoney

Swing Out Sister: How Women Founders Can Shine in 2021 and Beyond

By Dr. Cathy Key, World Tree USA

Above: A tree planting event at a World Tree farm with investors: (from left to right) Michelle Bonsu, Marlene Lewis, Kevwe Omologe, Emily Lewis.

Dr.Cathy key-World Tree USA“Sisters are doin’ it for themselves,” sang Aretha Franklin in 1985. “We’re standing on our own two feet and ringing our own bell.” That powerful call to women to stop hiding in the shadows of men is now thirty-five years old. Yet, it is still as relevant today as it was then.

While many women have come out of the kitchen and into the boardroom, there is still a long way to go. While women represent 40 percent of entrepreneurs1:

  • Female founded start-ups received only 2.7 percent of venture capital in 20192
  • Women entrepreneurs received only 9 percent of the investment overall3
  • Only 12 percent of venture capital decision makers are women4
  • Only 7 percent of Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs5
  • Women make $0.82 for every dollar that men make6

These are pretty gloomy statistics, especially when women-founded companies have a proven track record for performance:

  • Investments in companies with female founders perform 63 percent better7
  • 70 percent of the most successful funds have female partners8
  • 80 percent of purchasing decisions are made by women9

So, what’s a girl to do? How do women founded companies make their mark in what is still very much a man’s world?

This year World Tree became the highest funded female-founded company on Wefunder. We raised over $2 million and became the third most funded company on the platform ever. Here are three things I’ve learned on our investment journey.

Prepare to Knock Their Socks Off

I joined World Tree as Chief Operations Officer in 2015, alongside founder Wendy Burton. Our vision was to transform forestry with a fast-growing tree that we would give to farmers for free, train them to grow, and harvest for profit.

It never occurred to us that gender would impact our ability to attract investments and build the business. In retrospect, that was naive. We were disrupting the bluest of blue industries — forestry — with a business model focused on cooperation, sustainability, and profit-sharing.

Our tree even had heart-shaped leaves and a female name: The Empress.

Wendy would come back from meetings shaking her head, “They didn’t even listen,” she would say after talking to rooms full of foresters (all men).

We started doing pitch events, with audiences that were 95 percent men in suits. We prepared like our lives depended on it. Our materials, pitch decks, financials, and offering documents were first class. We knew our stuff and it showed.

It was common to walk into a room at 9 a.m. and be totally ignored. We would pull our shoulders back, walk to the front of the room, and start talking. After a few minutes you could hear a pin drop: we had their attention.

Heart-centered Business is Good Business

Our core mission at World Tree is to “Elevate, Educate, and Innovate for the Planet.” We value people and we value Mother Earth. Our business is designed to address big issues like climate change, poverty, and deforestation. We value our team, our farmers, and our investors as real people and part of our mandate is that our employees love their lives.

In Aretha’s day this focus on people and the planet would be called fluff and nonsense. Today, it’s called good business practice. Sustainable, regenerative businesses make more profit, have better performance and more robust share prices than their counterparts.10

Running a heart-centered business comes naturally to most women, and this is a strong suit that will continue to help us make an impression in the market.

Surround Yourself with Good People

As a female founder, your most important role is to maintain the company’s vision. This is easy at the start, but gets harder over time especially when you are in the crunch of raising capital.

If you are a woman who is good at multi-tasking and someone who is reliable at getting things done (most women entrepreneurs are) then sooner or later your vision is likely to get lost in the mix. You will be burning the midnight oil working on contracts, offering documents, and marketing materials. Things you could hire other people to do at least as well as, if not better than, you.

Hiring good people to take care of the day to day will be critical for you to keep the vision alive. Save your energy for meetings that will really bring the company forward.

Conclusion

Last year 21 female-founded tech companies broke through the $1 billion evaluation mark. These “unicorns,” along with thousands of other successful women entrepreneurs, have been leading the way for our next generation of women in business.

Across North America there are accelerators, pitch events, and angel networks set up purely to focus investment dollars on women owned businesses. Women are supporting each other and the more we do that, the closer we will get to a level playing field. As Aretha said:

“Can you see, can you see, can you see,

There’s a woman right next to you…ho ho… ”

 

Article by Dr. Cathy Key, President of World Tree USA LLC, an agroforestry company that grows trees for the purpose of carbon drawdown and timber production. Dr. Key oversees the Company’s operations in 5 countries.

With a PhD in Anthropology, specializing in the economics of cooperation, Dr. Key brings a unique perspective to the way we can do business. She  has presented World Tree to Canadian and US audiences on the stage of conferences including the Social Finance Forum and Sustainatopia, as well as investment groups in cities throughout North America.

Energy & Climate, Featured Articles, Food & Farming, Impact Investing, Sustainable Business

Advancing Women Through Sustainable Investing-by Jennifer Coombs-College for Financial Planning

Advancing Women Through Sustainable Investing

By Jennifer Coombs, College for Financial Planning

Jennifer Coombs-College for Financial PlanningAlthough we are two decades into the 21st Century, there is still not much discernible difference between the demographics of the financial services sector compared to forty years ago. One could argue that the main difference between now and then, is why women are taking a far more active role in the financial services space, both as advisors and investors. The rise of sustainable, responsible and impact investing strategies, has led many firms and their investors to seriously question the importance and prominence of gender diversity in leadership positions. Although the financial services sector is still very much a male-dominated industry, considerations regarding environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues have provided an avenue to bring more women to the table.

The Sustainable Finance “Wedding Cake”

Much of the focus regarding ESG factors is fixated on the “E” component, which makes perfect sense. Human rights and equality, which constitute the bulk of the issues with the “S” component, are often overlooked because they are sometimes difficult to measure and justify. However, a strong society where all participants are treated fairly and equally is essential before a country can truly realize a strong and sustainable economy. Dutch professors Dirk Schoenmaker and Willem Schramde of the Rotterdam School of Management and authors of Principles of Sustainable Finance,1 frequently describe the fundamentals of sustainable finance as a wedding cake: the bottom layer represents the environment, the middle layer represents society, and the top layer represents the economy.

The top layer cannot exist without the bottom layers to support it; so an economy cannot exist without a properly functioning society, and society cannot exist without a thriving environment. However, many still overlook the fact that a strong, thriving economy cannot exist in a scenario when half of society is being marginalized. Therein lies the issue that needs to be addressed for women in 2021 and beyond: how much more optimal would our economy be if all members of society could benefit equally?

Advancing Women Makes Economic Sense

While it should not be too shocking that a society where all participants can actively contribute to the economy will grow and thrive, there are still quite a few skeptics as to what kind of importance gender diversity would provide for corporate profitability.

Many research studies have been conducted in recent years making the business case that providing a level playing field and expanding employment and leadership opportunities for women not only improves societies but also drives a more sustainable economy. US SIF, The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment,2 cited a number of these studies in their 2020 report, Investing to Advance Women, and among these studies were:

  • McKinsey’s 2018 whitepaper, Delivering Through Diversity, which confirmed their original findings from a 2015 study noting a statistically significant correlation between the diversity of leadership teams and financial performance. In fact, the top 25 percent of companies with the most gender diverse executive teams were 21 percent more likely to be more profitable and 27 percent more likely to contribute greater value to the firm.
  • In 2015, MSCI ESG Research found that companies listed in their MSCI World Index with strong female leadership – denoted as three or more women on their board of directors or representation above the national average in the country of origin – achieved higher returns on equity and stronger stock valuations.
  • A 2014 study from The Peterson Institute for International Economics found that a company that went from having no women in corporate leadership to a 30 percent proportion, saw an increase in corporate net margins of one-percentage point, or in other words, a 15 percent increase in corporate profitability.

As much as we would like to think that definitive proof of the importance of equality would be reflected across our society, we are far from this reality. US SIF also notes in this report that in 2018 only about 26.9 percent of CEO positions are held by women despite the fact that women held about 46.8 percent of the civilian workforce. Also in 2017, at all levels of education, full-time employed women earned only about 80.5 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earned, which is only slightly better than the 77 cents in 2012. In other words, there is still a lot of ground to cover in order to achieving meaningful gender equality.

While 2020 should have been a year to continue this advancement, COVID-19 has resulted in a major setback which ultimately hit working women harder than working men. Women are far more likely to work in industries hardest hit by the pandemic, work in occupations that do not easily allow for telecommuting, and unlike times of national strife, like World War II, access to childcare has dwindled, leading many women to choose between staying home with their children and helping with schooling, or continuing their work.3 This hole that COVID-19 has caused for women has resulted in a setback, but recognizing the shortcomings can lead to meaningful change in 2021 and beyond.

Rights are not Pie

Actively seeking equality should not be a revolutionary idea, and yet there is this misconstrued assumption that somehow human rights are like a pie: the more people who come to the table to have dessert, the smaller each person’s piece becomes. The simple truth is human rights are not pie. Human rights are like air. Rights, like air, exist in abundance and nothing is lost if you help more people get to a place where they can easily breathe.

Far more women advisors are seeking to help women investors in the sustainable investing space, which is quite apparent in my interactions with students in the Chartered SRI Counselor (CSRIC) designation program. Sustainable investing, which includes screening investments for positive environmental factors and focusing on human rights is no longer a way to simply feel good; it makes logical sense from a business perspective.

Don Phillips, managing director at Morningstar, summed up the use of ESG quite nicely when he said “ESG is a great and powerful movement, not because it rights some wrong inherent in business, but because it removes obstacles that keep people from investing.” 4 If you want to bring more investors to the table, you simply make the table longer. By encouraging women to invest in a manner that advances important causes, this in turn will lead to a far more equitable society and subsequently a far more efficient economy.

 

Article by Jennifer Coombs, associate professor at the College for Financial Planning and the founder of the financial blog, GradMoney. She is the creator, lead author, and lead instructor for the Chartered SRI Counselor™ (CSRIC™) designation program, and serves as a subject matter expert on a number of the College’s investment courses.

Prior to joining the College, Jennifer worked for several different Wall Street firms in such varied roles as technical and fundamental analysis, equity research, trading, and portfolio management. The knowledge gained in these roles has led to her passion for educating the public. To this end, Jennifer has given TED talks on the topic of sustainable and responsible investing: “Investing for a Better World: Using Wall Street to Implement Social Change” (November 2015 at TEDx Jersey City), and “Stopping the Rebuttal: Millennial Investors and the Future of Sustainability” (April 2018 at TEDx Clarkson University). She has also given presentations and interviews on “Dollars & Change” Wharton Business School Radio on Sirius XM, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch Wealth Management, Garrett Planning Network, Society of Financial Services Professionals (FSP), The CFA Society of New York, US SIF Annual Conference, SRI Annual Conference, and Advisor Group. Jennifer is also sought out for her expertise on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) analysis for sustainable investing, and has been quoted in The New York Times, The Associated Press, MarketWatch, Investment News, Wealth Management, Financial Advisor IQ, RIABiz and Proactive Advisor Magazine.  

Jennifer earned her Master of Science in Finance (MSF) from the College for Financial Planning, and graduated with distinction (cum laude) from Clarkson University, where she earned a Bachelor of Science with majors in financial information analysis and political science, and minors in economics and law. In addition to her degrees, Jennifer holds the Chartered SRI Counselor™ (CSRIC®), the Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor™ (CRPC®) designation, the Financial Paraplanner Qualified Professional™ (FPQP™) designation, and is a Certified Financial Education Instructor (CFEI) through the National Financial Educators Council. Jennifer is also a proud member of US SIF and the Financial Plan

Contact information
Email: jennifer.coombs@cffp.edu
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jennifernicolecoombs/
Twitter: @JNCoombs

Featured Articles, Impact Investing, Sustainable Business

Signup to receive GreenMoney's monthly eJournal

Privacy Policy
Copyright © GreenMoney Journal 2021

Global Events Calendar

View All Events

february

05febAll DayPositive Investor Forum by Novethic - Paris (postponed)

09febAll Day11GreenBiz Forum 21 – virtual

17febAll Day18Sustainatopia Conference 2021 - virtual

X