New book blends stories of five successful companies – Nike, Interface, Inc., PAX Scientific, Sharklet Technologies, and Encycle – which partner with nature by deploying biomimicry.
Could a shark help you gain a new market sector? Could a lily or a bee help tame your energy needs? These biological champions have inspired strategies enabling companies to boost profits while helping people and the planet as well. The Biomimicry Institute was pleased to announce a new book which was released in late October, and the author has generously offered half of the proceeds to support our organization’s mission in furthering biomimicry education and application.
Margo Farnsworth’s Biomimicry and Business: How Companies are Using Nature’s Strategies blends snapshots of five successful companies — Nike, Interface, Inc., PAX Scientific, Sharklet Technologies, and Encycle — which decided to partner with nature by deploying biomimicry, the practice of observing then mimicking nature’s strategies to solve business challenges. The book details how the five companies discovered the practices, introduced them to staff, engaged in the process, and measured outcomes.
“Biomimicry and Business is exactly what the movement needs right now—examples of people successfully practicing biomimicry to help heal their part of the world,” said Janine Benyus, Co-Founder of the Biomimicry Institute. “This book represents the next step and will be important in the annals of this emerging discipline.”
By revealing the stories of each professional’s journey with lessons they learned, then providing resources and issuing a challenge and pathway to do business better, this book serves as a tool for entrepreneurs, seasoned professionals, and students to emulate nature’s brilliance, apply it at work, and contribute to a healthier, more prosperous world.
“When I learned about what the Biomimicry Institute was doing, I realized how I could help my MBA students launch companies that could make gains for nature and humanity, while still having a profitable business,” said Farnsworth. “In writing this book, my goal was to help business partners who want to do well by doing good in an impactful and lasting way. This book is a map for those around the world who are passionate about biomimicry and are looking to get the practice into their business.”
Biomimicry offers a path to healthy profit while working in partnership, and even reciprocity, with the natural world. If you’re looking at new ways to conduct business—look to nature for your next business partner.
You can also watch a recent webinar with Margo Farnsworth and special guest Dr. Anthony Brennan, founder of Sharklet Technologies, one of the companies featured in the book.
In 25 years of reporting on sustainable business, I have become fascinated by the pivotal relationship between capital and innovative solutions to climate-related issues.
Over the past few years, I have engaged with organizations, companies, conferences, webinars, and workshops about several varieties of values-based investing, especially the increasing number pointed toward ESG, impact investing, and SRI strategies and practices that address climate change. Each of these variants contains its own sub-categories, variously defined by institutional and individual investors, research firms, financial advisors, analysts, and academics. These, in turn, are connected to a rapidly growing range of products being introduced to activate the concepts, from green bonds to target-specific impact funds and ESG ETFs.
This unprecedented activity is among the most exciting developments in a time that could use more good news. It can also get confusing — fast. As a field, climate finance is a pioneering effort, based on analysis of data and science to generate new methodologies but by definition, one that creates new, uncharted paths within the financial sector.
As a field, climate finance is a pioneering effort that creates new, uncharted paths within the financial sector.
“Finance that aims at reducing emissions, and enhancing sinks of greenhouse gases and aims at reducing vulnerability of, and maintaining and increasing the resilience of, human and ecological systems to negative climate change impacts. This definition represents finance for climate change in its broadest form as it relates to the flow of funds to all activities, programs or projects that support climate change-related projects, whether mitigation or adaptation, anywhere in the world.”
This expansive mandate is being filled to the brim with concrete action. Some selected recent examples:
ESG funds forecast to outnumber conventional funds in EU by 2025, says PwC
137 financial organizations managing $20 trillion AUM have urged 1,800 of the biggest greenhouse gas-emitting companies to set targets aligned to the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi).
The Net-Zero Asset Owner Alliance, a group of funds and investors managing $5 trillion in assets, set an “unprecedented” 1.5º C emissions target.
How to make sense of this exponentially expanding field of activity?
Our newsletter is one answer. Climate Finance Weekly, or CFW, provides a concise yet comprehensive weekly digest of news and insights about investing with climate-related capital, curated for context.
At Climate & Capital Media, we believe CFW is a vital link between climate-finance activity and the growing audience of financial professionals who want to know more to advance their practice. Its voice is journalistic in tone and draws on experience in the field. CFW fills a gap between the occasional coverage in the mainstream financial media and the deep data of trade publications and white papers.
As a best-practice guide in evaluating support for budding entrepreneurs, there is a strong case to be made for looking closely at capital that filters for solutions to climate change. That’s the general mission of Climate&Capital and the specific focus of CFW, which will look at climate-finance activity in detail.
There is a strong case to be made for looking closely at capital that filters for solutions to climate change.
“What gets the money gets done.” That’s how one prominent ESG investor put it in a recent seminar, replying to a question as to why investment in climate change solutions is a worthy idea.
Indeed, climate finance is seeing record inflows of capital. Globally, $71.1 billion globally was recorded between April and June of this year, pushing worldwide sustainable assets under management to a new high of more than $1 trillion. Sustainable fund flows in the U.S. for the first half of this year totaled $20.9 billion, nearly as much as the record $21.4 billion set in 2019 for the entire year. And 2019’s flows were four times the previous record for one year. These are large numbers that can make a big difference.
As for that “why now” question, the simple answer is to take a look at recent heat records. This past summer — June through August — ranked fourth hottest and among the driest one-third of all summers. The last five years rank as the hottest on record, according to NOAA, and the organization’s scientists predict that each year in the next decade will be among the top ten warmest years globally.
Last month was the hottest September on record. Earth’s average temperature was 0.05ºC warmer than the previous record, set last September. We’re two-thirds of the way to the 1.5º C that the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says will irretrievably change life as we know it by 2030. The future of global warming is now.
Our work at Climate&Capital and in the CFW newsletter is to help you navigate all this; to avoid and manage the rapidly escalating risks of global warming while acting on opportunities in the new climate economy.
Article by John Howell – a writer, editor, and broadcaster who oversees the Climate Finance Weekly newsletter and advises on communications and media strategy. He was co-founder, editorial director, and chief of thought leadership for 3BL Media, for which he managed all original editorial content, wrote, and edited newsletters, and created the Brands Taking Stands initiative. He has worked as an editor and contributor for Elle, Artforum, and High Times magazines, developed new media for Hearst Magazines, and created communications for Calvin Klein, Polo/Ralph Lauren, and The Body Shop. He lives and works in New Hampshire and Maine.
Above: A tree planting event at a World Tree farm with investors: (from left to right) Michelle Bonsu, Marlene Lewis, Kevwe Omologe, Emily Lewis.
“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.
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.
(Above – Julie Tanner at the Vatican attending the Address of his Holiness Pope Francis during The Congress on Child Dignity in the Digital World that was held in November 2019.)
Faith investors have long engaged companies and governments on exploitative practices involving child labor. They have also weighed in on negative infant formula marketing, violent video games, and obesity impacts from junk food over the past four decades. In fact, faith investors are typically the first shareowners to flag negative business impacts on children.
However, children are increasingly affected by corporate practices extending far beyond labor and other traditional focus issues. It is critical for faith investors to take the lead in highlighting the full range of harms facing young people, and build broad coalitions to work with companies and governments to advance children’s rights.
At Christian Brothers Investment Services (CBIS), we have focused on protecting children from sexual exploitation online since 2016. Our work on this issue has revealed a larger problem: Too often, children are not considered in corporate dialogues on human rights, or the due diligence companies conduct before launching a product or service. We hope that by working together, investors can help change that dynamic.
When CBIS became the first investor to engage tech, social media, and telecom companies on child sexual exploitation four years ago, few businesses were discussing this growing threat. We drew inspiration from Pope Francis’ sense of urgency on the issue, and Catholic social doctrine that implores us “to engage in a battle… against the violations of the dignity of [children] caused by sexual exploitation.”
At the time, there wasn’t much research to make an investment case for change. We were driven by a moral conviction that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) companies needed to tackle the escalating spread of child sex abuse material online. When we surveyed our Catholic investors on 40 issues related to human dignity, economic justice and environmental stewardship, child sexual exploitation online emerged as a top concern.
In 2017, CBIS conducted interviews and learning sessions to a broad range of experts on preventing child exploitation. We also began working with child welfare advocates to refine our requests of ICT companies. In addition, CBIS performed due diligence on U.S. and international legal frameworks that compel or prevent companies from taking appropriate action. We discovered that U.S. law compels several types of ICT companies to report child sex abuse content when found, but not to actively seek it out. With that revelation, we knew we needed to raise awareness among fellow investors and build alliances to amass enough influence to convince companies to rethink their core strategies.
Today, CBIS is part of a growing coalition of investors pressuring them to do more to protect children online from sexual harm and broader exploitation. In collaboration with issue experts, we seek to convince ICT companies to improve their practices to more effectively identify, disrupt, and prevent child sexual grooming and abuse on the internet.
Our work focuses not only on eliminating certain activity, but addressing the fact that the entire ecosystem around internet technology is not “fit for purpose” to keep children safe. We now ask companies to assess child rights and risks across their enterprises to truly evaluate their impacts on their most vulnerable stakeholders. We have also raised the issue of “safety by design,” asking ICT companies to consider user and child safety at the start of the process of designing a new device, service, or app.
Beyond moral arguments, we now know there is a strong investment case for these engagements. ICT companies are now widely held components of many investor portfolios. However, without effective practices to protect children from sexual exploitation online, they face brand, reputational, and legal risks. Companies may also feel direct financial consequences in the form of advertiser boycotts. In fact, in addition to engaging the ICT sector, CBIS seeks to exert indirect influence by educating online advertisers to push for higher child safety standards when deciding where to spend their marketing dollars. CBIS has also encouraged data plan and device sellers to ask device makers to consider child protection during the design process.
Since beginning our work with ICT companies, CBIS has seen progress on multiple fronts:
Apple Corporation implemented a policy in 2017 of removing apps from its App Store, and reporting the companies to authorities, if they are found facilitating human trafficking or child sex abuse. In 2019, Apple revised its user policies to indicate it was pre-scanning user materials in the iCloud to identify child sex abuse imagery.
Facebook has launched a child sexual exploitation video detection tool. After plans for more widespread encryption drew concern from observers, Facebook launched a multi-year plan to detect grooming and child sex abuse through metadata analysis of user information and other tools.
Alphabet platform YouTube announced new restrictions on users’ abilities to post comments after family videos received unwanted attention from pedophiles. YouTube also removed hundreds of accounts over these incidents in 2019.
Verizon and AT&T agreed to conduct a child rights and risk impact assessment across their businesses in 2020. Both also recently launched internal Online Safety Committees, and now report to their boards on online safety and child exploitation issues.
Six of the companies CBIS has engaged have committed to reporting metrics around preventing child sexual exploitation online. All companies we have engaged thus far increased their involvement in initiatives such as child protection groups, abuse reporting hotlines, improved detection tools, and awareness-building campaigns.
In 2019, Pope Francis proclaimed that investors and asset managers must hold ICT companies accountable for eradicating child sex abuse activity from their platforms and products. Now more than ever, investors must galvanize to heed this call to action—and fulfill the the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals to drive down violence and exploitation facing children worldwide.
Together, we must demand better performance and disclosure from companies, identify leading practices, and help spur industrywide cooperation on child protection. With 800,000 children going online for the very first time every day, we are called upon to take responsibility for our investments in the ICT sector by calling for an internet that works for children.
Ms. Tanner leads the development and implementation of CBIS’ Catholic Responsible Investments SM Program and oversees a team responsible for Catholic investment screening, engagement and proxy voting activities. In addition, she crafts substantive agreements and strategic initiatives with boards and senior management in order to positively influence corporations and their impact on society. She is a member of the governing board of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) and is a member representative of Partners For The Common Good, which provides critical financial products and services to low-income people and communities.
Prior to joining CBIS in 2002, Ms. Tanner spent ten years in the financial services industry, most recently with JPMorgan Chase, before moving to lead the Finance and Environment Program at National Wildlife Federation. Ms. Tanner holds a B.A. from Rutgers University, an M.B.A. from Pace University, and an M.S. from North Carolina State University.
The securities identified and described do not represent all of the securities purchased, sold or recommended for CUIT Funds, CBIS Global Funds and separate managed accounts. For a complete list of securities please contact CBIS. The reader should not assume that an investment in the securities identified was or will be profitable.
Climate change is the most significant global threat we face today. It also represents an unprecedented opportunity to build a clean economy by electrifying and decarbonizing our world, equitably and profitably. Momentum is building as businesses and governments transform their organizations to be more efficient and resilient.
The VERGE 20 online event is the leading platform for accelerating the clean economy. Join more than 15,000 leaders (online this year) — from the private and public sectors, utilities, solution providers, investors, and startups — advancing systemic solutions to address the climate crisis through five key markets: clean energy, electrified transportation, the circular economy, carbon removal and sustainable food systems.
The VERGE Energy conference explores decarbonizing, decentralizing, digitizing and democratizing global energy systems, with professionals in energy management and procurement from corporations and governments, as well as allied service providers, innovators, developers, financiers and utilities.
The VERGE Transport conference explores how to create clean, electrified transportation systems that are accessible to all by bringing together fleet managers, utilities, vehicle manufacturers, policy makers, transportation planners, infrastructure developers and entrepreneurs.
The VERGE Circular conference focuses on the tools, tactics and systems leadership companies are using to shift their products and services from linear to circular. From product design and business strategy to closed-loop supply chains and enabling infrastructure, it brings together professionals in supply chain, logistics, sustainability, packaging design, marketing and other functions..
The VERGE Carbon conference focuses on unlocking the value of carbon pollution by using it to create innovative products, materials and services. The conference brings together professionals from carbon markets, carbon capture and sequestration, product and materials innovation, building and construction, land management, energy production, forestry, food and agriculture, and supply chains.
The VERGE Food conference showcases the leaders, organizations and innovations that are creating more sustainable ways to produce, distribute and consume food. It focuses on the challenges and opportunities in providing healthy affordable food for all, and the strategies, technologies, products and packaging that will enable us to do so sustainably and profitably.
This year’s speakers include: Lisa Jackson of Apple; Bill McKibben
of 350.org; Varshini Prakash of Sunrise; Maria Pope of Portland General Electric; Philip Saunders of City of Seattle; Angela Hultberg of IKEA Group; Gina McCarthy of NRDC; Michael Tubbs of City of Stockton; Carla Peterman of Southern California Edison; Ashley White of Amazon.
Started by Wendy Burton in 2015, World Tree USA, LLC recently surpassed $2M on the Equity Crowdfunding Platform. This marks the third most successful capital raise in Wefunder’s history and the highest amount raised by any female founder.
Above photo: World Tree founder Wendy Burton (on the left) inspecting a farm in Costa Rica with World Tree’s Program Manager in Costa Rica, Mariana Alfaro Stivalet.
Wefunder is a giant in the industry. It is the largest equity crowdfunding platform in the US, with nearly 42% of the current market according to Crowdfund Capital Advisors. In the 9 years since it was founded in 2011, Wefunder has helped hundreds of companies raise almost $170 million.
The majority of that money has gone to male-founded companies. Of the 330 most-funded companies on Wefunder, only 18% were female founded.
And then there is World Tree.
World Tree is an agroforestry company that is breaking all the norms. It offers accredited and non-accredited investors the opportunity to participate in a timber investment through its Eco-Tree Program; a investment that creates direct environmental benefits relating to forest conservation, carbon sequestration, and promoting healthy ecosystems. The Eco-Tree Program leverages the fast-growth rate of the non-invasive Empress (Paulownia) tree to maximize the economic and environmental benefits of agroforestry.
World Tree’s objective is to meet the growing global demand for timber in a sustainable way. The Empress (Paulownia) tree has been rated the fastest growing hardwood tree in the world, maturing in only 10 years to produce a timber that has the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any hardwood commercially grown. While growing, the tree sequesters unparalleled amounts of carbon, the main cause of climate change. One acre of Empress (Paulownia) trees can absorb up to 90 metric tons of carbon per year. That is four times as much carbon as the average American family of 4 produces in one year.
“Our investors love to back companies that are tackling an important cause,” says Nick Tommarello, Founder & CEO of Wefunder. “There are not many issues more important to our generation than climate change, so I’m not surprised World Tree raised over $2 million on Wefunder. It’s a win-win where investors hope to earn a return while helping the planet.”
Dr. Cathy Key, President & Chief Operations Officer of World Tree had this to say about working with Wefunder, “We had previously worked with two crowdfunding platforms in Canada where 95% of our investors came from our own database. By tapping into Wefunder’s database of over 400,000 investors, we were able to expand our reach significantly. Now, 80% of our investors are new to us. On top of this, the passionate team at Wefunder introduced us to financial advisors who helped spread the word even further.”
“Wefunder has taken a stand for equality by supporting female and minority founded companies and has been instrumental in our phenomenal growth,” adds Dr. Cathy Key. “We look forward to being back on the platform in the New Year with our next offering.
Currently, World Tree is conducting a $10.5 million Regulation A+ securities offering; the “2020 Eco-Tree Program” in the United States with Sustainable Wealth Management Firm Vanderbilt Financial Group (Vanderbilt Securities) named as the placement agent. This gives accredited and non-accredited investors access to invest in the Eco-Tree Program.
World Tree USA, LLC (“World Tree”) is an agroforestry company focused on promoting the environmental and economic benefits of the Empress (Paulownia) tree. Founded in 2015 by Wendy Burton, the World Tree management team includes foresters, agronomists and scientists with extensive experience with agroforestry and, over 30 years of experience working with the Empress (Paulownia) tree. World Tree grows 18 exclusive non-invasive varieties. World Tree is the largest grower of Empress (Paulownia) trees in North America, with 2,000 acres under management across Canada, Costa Rica, Guatemala, USA and Mexico. For more information: World Tree
Wefunder is the nation’s leading investment crowdfunding platform, with a mission to keep the American dream alive. Founded in 2011, Wefunder has helped hundreds of companies raise almost $170 million. Wefunder companies have gone on to raise over $2 billion in venture capital. Wefunder is a Public Benefit Corporation and B Corp, with a goal to help 20,000 founders get off the ground by 2029. For more information: Wefunder
Vanderbilt Securities is part of Vanderbilt Financial Group, an investment firm disrupting traditional finance by focusing on socially and environmentally responsible, ethical, and impactful investments. Vanderbilt is known as “The Sustainable Wealth Management Firm” for their commitment to providing financial advisors and their clients with access to values-aligned investments. Headquartered in a LEED-certified Platinum building, Vanderbilt’s commitment to changing the world begins at home in our office and within our culture. Under the leadership of the impactful husband and wife team, Steve and Heidi Distante, Vanderbilt’s culture has garnered awards such as being named one of the Best Places to Work on Long Island for 2018 and 2019, the Future50 and Corporate Culture Awards from SmartCEO, as well as being recognized as one of the finest run companies by the Management Action Plan (M.A.P.) organization.
As a thought leader in the impact space, Vanderbilt Financial Group is dedicated to increasing the reach and impact of the financial services industry using the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals as a framework. Their education platform, Impact U, provides students, advisors and investors with unique opportunities to increase their impact investing knowledge through videos, podcasts and fun interactive exercises. Vanderbilt Founder & Chairman Steve Distante released the award-winning documentary film “Igniting Impact” that sheds light on how purposeful entrepreneurship and impactful investments can help improve the world’s greatest challenges. Interact with Impact U
This is neither an offer to sell, nor a solicitation to buy, a security, which can be made only by the prospective investors if it is preceded or accompanied by the Offering Circular, which contains various and important risk disclosures. This material does not purport to be complete and should be read in conjunction with the Offering Circular.
Vanderbilt Financial Group is the marketing name for Vanderbilt Securities, LLC and its affiliates. Securities offered through Vanderbilt Securities, LLC • Member: FINRA, SIPC • Registered with MSRB Advisory Services offered through Vanderbilt Advisory Services Vanderbilt’s Form CRS among other important information and disclosures: http://www.vanderbiltfg.com/disclosures
The report examines why sustainable investors in the United States are interested in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the challenges in furthering the SDGs. The report also assesses whether the SDGs have led to a change in investment strategies, new investment products or new investment flows.
The US SIF Foundation recently released “Investing to Achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals: A Report for the US Investor Community.” The report examines why sustainable investors in the United States are interested in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the challenges in furthering the SDGs. The report also assesses whether the SDGs have led to a change in investment strategies, new investment products or new investment flows.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, calls on governments, civil society, business leaders and investors to take action to help realize 17 sustainability and social justice goals. The economic arguments for implementing the SDGs are compelling. Ending poverty, reducing income inequality and advancing the socioeconomic status of women — as the Goals emphasize — would spur economic growth and also provide opportunities for many business enterprises to expand their customer base.
To prepare the paper, the US SIF Foundation drew on information from UN public reports and data surrounding the issuance of and investment in SDG bonds, climate bonds and SDG-themed equity funds. Staff also interviewed representatives of a select group of investment management firms and institutional asset owners with a long-standing commitment to sustainable investment.
The report is divided into the following sections:
The history of the Sustainable Development Goals
The case for investing in the SDGs
Encouraging private sector investment
The rise of green, SDG, and sustainable bonds
The SDGs in the equity markets
The response of US sustainable investors
“Although no official database tracks private sector investments in the SDGs or the collective impact of these investments, numerous investment products have been launched or issued in recent years with sustainable development themes,” said Meg Voorhes, Director of Research at the US SIF Foundation and editor of the report. “We encourage managers or issuers of investment products that purport to support one or more of the SDGs to measure and report the impact of their products and strategies.”
US SIF: The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment is the leading voice advancing sustainable and impact investing across all asset classes. Its mission is to rapidly shift investment practices toward sustainability, focusing on long-term investment and the generation of positive social and environmental impacts. US SIF members include investment management and advisory firms, mutual fund companies, asset owners, research firms, financial planners and advisors, broker-dealers, community investing organizations and nonprofit associations.
US SIF is supported in its work by the US SIF Foundation, a 501(C)(3) organization that undertakes educational and research activities to advance the mission of US SIF. The US SIF Foundation will publish its biennial Report on US Sustainable and Impact Investing Trends in November. The Foundation also offers training on the Fundamentals of Sustainable and Impact Investment and in partnership with the College for Financial Planning, offers the only sustainable investment designation in the United States, the Chartered SRI Counselor™ (CSRIC™). This graduate-level program provides financial advisors and investment professionals with the history, definitions, trends, portfolio construction principles, fiduciary responsibilities and best practices of sustainable investment.
It is undeniable that China’s influence on the global economy, global financial markets and geopolitical system is significant. From an economic standpoint it is the second-largest economy in terms of GDP and is slated to reach parity with the US in the next 10 years or so. In global financial markets, China represents 43% of the MSCI Emerging Markets Index and 5% of the MSCI All Country World Index as of August 31, which follows the United States and Japan. Moreover, 22% percent of the MSCI All Country World Index is non-Chinese companies dependent on the purchasing power of Chinese consumers to fuel their own companies’ sales and profit growth. On the geopolitical front, China continues to be an export machine supported by the country’s low-cost, skilled labor and efficient infrastructure.
However, the decision whether to invest in China is a complicated one, particularly to a responsible investor. The power and reach of China’s state-led model, its weak human rights record, lack of transparency, as well as heightened geopolitical tensions, can dissuade international investors from investing in Chinese companies or non-Chinese companies doing substantial business in China. Calvert’s viewpoint, however, is that it is preferable for a responsible investor to invest in China and engage as a shareowner, rather than divest. At Calvert, we believe as responsible investors we should fully understand the unique risks that investing in China may offer and weigh that against the return potential that a country with diverse people and a rich culture can offer in the form of both investment opportunities, in areas such as renewables, infrastructure, technology and consumer goods, as well as shareholder engagement. Engagement can create opportunity to be a part of positive change that advocates for business practices that can benefit the planet and the quality of life for billions of people.
Like many emerging-market economies, China is very much in development. While China’s GDP is second only to the US, its GDP per capita, according to 2019 World Bank data, is far lower, at $10,800 versus the US, at $65,118. This trails most Western countries and is more comparable to its emerging-market peers such as Mexico and Turkey. A strong civil society and legal system that provide effective checks and balances continue to be works in progress. At Calvert, we consider risks around data security, data access, legal protection, systemic corruption and political hazard to be key risks when investing in China, and ones we believe will grow in importance with China’s increasing economic influence.
Chinese internet security law, which took effect in 2017, requires that local firms allow the Chinese government access to individual privacy data in the interest of national security. Given China’s infamous record on protecting data of international firms and individuals, data security is a cause for real concern. This risk can lead to downstream reputational and liability hazard, as well as long-term national security concerns. The case of Yahoo reflects on ways this risk can materialize. Yahoo complies with Chinese authorities and openly acknowledges that the company cannot protect the privacy of China-based users. In 2005, when Yahoo provided data to the Chinese government, it led to the arrests and 10-year sentences of two Chinese activists. Yahoo was sued by the dissidents’ families, which eventually led to a settlement in 2007. As part of that settlement, Yahoo created a $17 million fund to support persecuted Chinese dissidents and their families.
Furthermore, data physically located in China is irretrievable by international regulators and firms. International auditing firms cannot retrieve data from their Chinese units. This can lead to problems for investors, affiliated auditors and international regulators. The case of China MediaExpress, an advertisement services provider, shows how problems surrounding data access can lead to losses for multiple parties. After being caught inflating revenues and stock prices, China MediaExpress was delisted by Nasdaq (2011), deregistered by the SEC (2012) and charged with fraud by the SEC (2013). In addition, Deloitte, KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers, BDO and E&Y were all charged by the SEC for refusing to hand over documents to aid the SEC’s investigations.
Another risk is China’s inconsistent application of legal protections, which may tend to veer on the rule by law, not the rule of law. The legal system is still developing, and is often influenced by powerful forces in politics and business. In previous decades, inconsistencies usually benefited international firms; more recently, inconsistencies have tended to benefit Chinese firms. We anticipate that this will continue as China protects domestic firms in certain sensitive industries. This risk is linked to unexpected legal action, particularly against people who are linked (even loosely) to sensitive issues. This risk materialized in December 2018, when Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were arrested by China and charged with criminal espionage days after Huawei’s CFO Meng Wanzhou was arrested by Canadian authorities and set to be extradited to the United States. Kovrig, a former diplomat, and Spavor, a high-level consultant, are both Canadians, and their arrests are almost universally seen as retaliation for Meng’s arrest in Canada. Kovrig and Spavor remain imprisoned in China.
Political tensions between Beijing and international actors can hurt Chinese and non-Chinese firms. This risk can cause serious financial damage to individual firms, potentially presenting material obstacles to established business models and growth strategies, and potentially impact the broader economy. The evolving saga around TikTok demonstrates the unstable environment that political hazard risks present for businesses and investors. President Trump’s executive order that threatened to ban TikTok was met with a recent update to Chinese law that could require ByteDance (the Chinese firm that owns TikTok) to obtain government permission for any sales of technology to a foreign company, potentially derailing any possible sales to Oracle, Microsoft and other non-Chinese suitors.
Finally, systemic corruption is another overarching risk. Similar to other emerging economies, vested interests at various levels of government operate in an opaque system. Networks of relationships often drive business and political decision-making processes. Many companies, such as GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), have faced reputational damage and steep financial losses due to their corrupt business practices in China. The case of GSK reflects how systemic corruption is relevant to both Chinese and China-exposed international institutions. GSK, the British health care giant with a history in China dating back to Imperial times, was involved in extensive corruption in its China operations. Company representatives bribed hospital officials and health care providers to push the company’s drugs for unlicensed uses. It also paid hush money to a patient who had health complications after using a drug that was not approved for the condition for which he was taking it, and GSK also attempted to bribe Chinese regulators. Moreover, GSK’s China operations were linked to a series of shell firms accused of money laundering. As a result, GSK had to pay a then-record $489 million fine to China in 2014, and several managers were deported and/or given suspended jail sentences. In the wake of the scandal, GSK’s sales and reputation plummeted in China.
Calvert believes that understanding these risks is essential when investing in China. We also believe that one can find attractive investment opportunities where the risk/return profile is favorable, given the growth potential in the country. As a responsible investor, engagement with management as a shareowner can also be a tool to drive positive change, whether improving working conditions for employees, pushing for stronger environmental practices or advocating for a move toward global norms of corporate governance. We are already seeing the Shanghai and Shenzhen exchanges move toward greater disclosure requirements around ESG issues. While overall disclosure requirements are not yet to the stringency of US and Hong Kong exchanges, the trajectory is positive. Responsible investors have a role in advancing these company disclosures so all investors can have a clearer understanding of material risks. By avoiding any Chinese exposure altogether, one loses that seat at the table.
Article by John Streur, President and CEO for Calvert Research and Management; Hellen Mbugua, Vice President and ESG senior research analyst for Calvert Research and Management; and Jade Huang, Vice President and Portfolio Manager for Calvert Research and Management. See their biographies below.
References to individual companies are provided solely for informational purposes only and are intended only to illustrate certain relevant environmental, social and governance factors. This information does not constitute an offer to sell or the solicitation to buy securities. The information presented has been developed internally and/or obtained from sources believed to be reliable; however, Calvert does not guarantee the accuracy, adequacy or completeness of such information. Opinions and other information reflected in this material are subject to change continually without notice of any kind and may no longer be true after the date indicated or hereof.
As of August 31, 2020, Calvert portfolios hold the following companies within its integrated telecommunication services subindustry:
BT Group plc
Cellnex Telecom S.A.
Chunghwa Telecom Co, Ltd
Deutsche Telekom AG
Elisa Oyj Class A
HKT Trust and HKT Ltd
Infrastrutture Wireless Italiane S.p.A.
Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation
NOS SGPS SA
Proximus SA de droit public
Royal KPN NV
Singapore Telecommunications Limited
Telecom Italia S.p.A
Telefonica Deutschland Holding AG
Telekom Austria AG
Telia Company AB
Telstra Corporation Limited
TPG Telecom Limited
United Internet AG
Verizon Communications Inc.
As of August 31, 2020, Calvert portfolios hold the following companies within its pharmaceuticals subindustry:
Astellas Pharma Inc.
Axsome Therapeutics, Inc.
Bristol-Myers Squibb Company
Chemical Works of Gedeon Richter Plc
Chugai Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.
Dechra Pharmaceuticals PLC
Eisai Co., Ltd.
Elanco Animal Health, Inc.
Eli Lilly and Company
H. Lundbeck A/S
Hikma Pharmaceuticals Plc
Horizon Therapeutics Public Limited Company
Jazz Pharmaceuticals Plc
Kyowa Kirin Co., Ltd.
Merck & Co., Inc.
Novo Nordisk A/S Class B
ONO Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.
Orion Oyj Class B
Otsuka Holdings Co., Ltd. Daiichi Sankyo Company, Limited
Perrigo Co. Plc
Reata Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Class A
Recordati Industria Chimica e Farmaceutica S.p.A.
Roche Holding AG
Royalty Pharma Plc Class A
Santen Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd.
Shionogi & Co., Ltd.
Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma Co. Ltd.
Taisho Pharmaceutical Holdings Co., Ltd.
Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd.
Vifor Pharma AG
Zoetis, Inc. Class A
Article Writers Biographies:
John Streur is president and chief executive officer for Calvert Research and Management, a wholly owned subsidiary of Eaton Vance Management specializing in responsible and sustainable investing across global capital markets. John is also president and a trustee of the Calvert Funds as well as a director of Calvert Impact Capital and member of its Risk Management Committee. He guided the creation of the Calvert Principles for Responsible Investment, the Calvert Research System and the Calvert Indices, and has placed focus on investment research and emphasis on environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors integrated with investment decisions. He joined Calvert Research and Management in 2016.
John began his career in the investment management industry in 1987. Before joining Calvert Research and Management, he was president and chief executive officer with Calvert Investments. He has managed socially responsible investments at the request of institutional clients, including public funds, religious institutions, and college and university endowments since 1991. Previously, he was president, director and principal of Portfolio 21, a boutique firm specializing in global environmental investing, and spent 20 years at AMG Funds (and its predecessors), a firm he co-founded and where he served as president, CEO and chair of the Investment Committee.
John is a Founding Member of the Investor Advisory Group of the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board and serves on Merck’s External Sustainability Advisory Council. John earned a B.S. from the University of Wisconsin, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
Hellen Mbugua is a vice president and ESG senior research analyst for Calvert Research and Management, a wholly owned subsidiary of Eaton Vance Management specializing in responsible and sustainable investing across global capital markets. She is responsible for environmental, social and governance (ESG) research in the apparel and retail industries. She joined Calvert Research and Management in 2018.
Hellen began her career in the investment management industry in 2009. She has worked with pension funds and asset managers in both public and private markets. Before joining Calvert Research and Management, she held senior investment positions at IFG Development Group and Adaris Capital Partners, both private equity firms focused on alternative assets. Prior to her work in private equity, Hellen was an associate director at Pacific Alternative Asset Management Company (PAAMCO), where she was an associate director covering multiple asset classes and participating in hedge fund co-investments. Prior to PAAMCO, she worked at State Street Corporation and Segal Consulting’s actuarial practice.
Hellen earned a B.S. from the University of California Santa Barbara and an MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, where she was a Robert Toigo Fellow. She was born and raised in Kenya and speaks three languages.
Jade Huang is a vice president and portfolio manager for Calvert Research and Management, a wholly owned subsidiary of Eaton Vance Management specializing in responsible and sustainable investing across global capital markets. She is responsible for managing the suite of Calvert Responsible Indices, including the index construction processes, as well as developing new investment products at Calvert. She joined Calvert Research and Management in 2016.
Jade began her career in the investment management industry in 2005. Before joining Calvert Research and Management, she was a portfolio manager with Calvert Investments. Previously, she was an investment analyst at Microvest, an asset management firm specializing in impact investing, and led the certification department at Fair Trade USA. Jade earned a B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley and an M.A. in international finance and economics from Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS).
Industry-leading sustainable investment firm Blue Marble Investments celebrates its 20th anniversary with the launch of a new website and video highlighting the role of socially responsible investors in a time of pandemic and global social justice movements.
Interest in ESG (environmental, social, governance) investing has been growing worldwide and accelerated in 2020 in response to current social movements, economic uncertainties, and technology shifts driven by the pandemic. According to Morningstar, sustainable funds in the U.S. saw a record inflow of $21 billion in the first half of 2020, matching all of 2019 and four times the previous record for a calendar year. Worldwide, the assets in sustainable funds topped an astonishing $1 trillion as pandemic and social movements swept across the globe.
“For twenty years we’ve been on the leading edge of ESG focused investment advice. From clean energy to gender empowerment to self-driving cars, we’ve helped investors not only build diversified ESG portfolios, but also participate in some of the world’s fastest growing trends,” said Arturo Tabuenca, founder of Blue Marble Investments.
In 2006, Blue Marble Investments democratized sustainable investing with the launch of EarthFolio, the first online “robo” advisor to focus exclusively on ESG. In an industry where ESG investing expertise is rare, and fees and minimums often make advice inaccessible, EarthFolio became the first advisor to bridge the gap between affordable expert advice and a rapidly growing marketplace of ESG-focused funds and ETFs.
Drawing on its deep sustainable roots, Blue Marble Investment’s new website invites a new generation of investors ready to put their mark on today’s world. Unlike firms that offer ESG as an aside, Blue Marble’s new website offers a comprehensive look at the various elements of socially responsible investing and how investors can quickly and easily participate in this space. Examples include:
Fossil-free portfolios that replace oil, coal, and gas with clean energy alternatives.
Personalized impact themes in water, gender empowerment, clean energy, and transportation,
Turnkey portfolios highlighting the relationship between ESG and financial criteria.
A wide selection of retirement and non-retirement accounts available to investors.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on how social and environmental factors can positively impact investor returns, especially during periods of market and economic turmoil. This is increasingly evident as, according to Morningstar, all 26 sustainable index funds have outperformed their conventional peers in the first half of 2020.
About Blue Marble Investments
Blue Marble Investment’s is a Registered Investment Advisor in the state of California. Accounts are held by TD Ameritrade Institutional, a member of Securities Investor Protection Corporation. The name Blue Marble is inspired by the image of Earth as captured by Apollo 8 on NASA’s first manned mission to the moon. The iconic image is credited with launching the environmental movement, Earth Day, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought much uncertainty to human lives and the global economy, questioning a wide range of established beliefs and predicaments. In this turmoil, the water theme has not remained immune, facing many ambiguities and difficulties but also potential opportunities to be explored.
We first assessed whether COVID-19 can spread through the water and sewage systems. Thankfully, it cannot, due to the virus’ characteristics.
Once this key safety question was answered, other important considerations followed, including whether water utilities could ensure consistent water supply and sewage operations while the world remained closed for business. This had to be carried out despite the distancing measures and the health risks for the employees, as well as restricted supply chains.
Looking forward, the water industry now needs to consider the resilience of this essential service in the light of future risks, be it against pandemics or other unexpected but highly impactful emergencies. In addition, investors now must assess the short-, medium- and long-term implications of the pandemic on businesses. Understanding these impacts will help to identify attractive opportunities and future winners.
The ability of water investments to navigate these headwinds will determine their ability to recover from the recent market pullback, as well as their competitive positioning in the future. More importantly, this pandemic further empathizes the importance of water for the wellbeing of our societies.
COVID-19 and Water-borne Pathogens
While SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, spreads through air-droplets, the WHO has confirmed that it has not been detected in water sources.1 Furthermore, the virus has been characterized as unstable, making it susceptible to traditional disinfectant chemicals such as chlorine, which is often used in the water treatment process. This strand is different from SARS-CoV, the virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which had a large outbreak in 2003. Back then, a sewage leak in Hong Kong caused human infection through the release of droplets containing the virus into the air. The WHO concluded that poor plumbing in Hong Kong led to the spread of the virus.2 Fast forward to 2020, it is fortunate that the COVID-19 virus cannot be spread through water.
Water Quality: Treatment Focus
Today, water treatment systems are generally effective in killing a wide range of known and unknown bacteria and viruses, including coronaviruses. The pathogens that fall under this umbrella encompass those of specific significance and proved risk of spread through water.
Most viruses and bacteria can be killed with a handful of common water treatment methods, such as several chemicals and/or UV light treatment. Usually, utilities would opt for a combination of both, as different bacteria can survive different sanitation measures. Despite the resilience of some virus families to common disinfection methods, these measures are generally deemed adequate to provide safe drinking water, creating no significant health hazards.
Ultimately, countries with better developed water infrastructure have better success preventing these types of outbreaks, as they have technology that kills most known water- and sewer-borne pathogens.
The developed world has worked to establish effective standards and treatment when it comes to water quality. For example, US regulation requires 99.99% of viruses to be removed from the water, utilizing several treatment technologies.
In emerging markets, which often have poor infrastructure, the situation can be quite different. This is not necessarily due to weaker standards of pathogen regulation, but due to lower sewage infrastructure penetration or poorly enforced standards. For example, only 50% of Brazil’s population is connected to a wastewater system.3 Globally, 25% of the population is exposed to contaminated or poorly treated water. Of that 25%, half is located in emerging markets.4 This insufficiently treated water is, in turn, responsible for 90% of worldwide deaths from diarrhea.5
Unsurprisingly, water quality and treatment solutions are among the top spending priorities for both water utilities and governments worldwide.
Water Supply: Resilience of Infrastructure
Water treatment is not the sole solution to create a safe supply of potable water. As the world remains isolated at home waiting for the virus to be contained, utilities are working around the clock to ensure seamless continuation of water supply while simultaneously ensuring the safety of their employees.
Now, more than ever, this is a testament to the global importance of water utilities. To be prepared for future pandemics, we must reassess our emergency preparedness plans as well as the resilience of our current infrastructure. This pandemic has prompted additional sanitation measures to ensure that unlike with the SARS epidemic, this virus will not be transmitted through water. Utilities have already started working on new water technology to ensure the adequate treatment and detection of any contaminant and the resiliency of this finite resource.
There has been much innovation of late to reduce the spread of viruses. Recently, there was a proposal for pre-treating wastewater in highly susceptible and dense areas such as hospitals before it reenters the sewage system.6 This would eliminate a significant portion of contamination risk resulting from wastewater. It should also include increased sanitation services at highly contaminated sites with effective disinfection agents. Sanitation service companies have seen an increased demand for their services during the pandemic. They have helped numerous clients such as hospitals and other institutions ensure the safety of their staff and continuity of essential services.
Another important aspect of water safety is quality monitoring. We have seen a growth in this field as water utilities and governments seek to identify contaminants before they significantly harm the source. It is clear that water testing needs to be scaled for greater precision and detection of microbial contents. Firms that specialize in water quality monitoring help this goal by ensuring comprehensive water testing while also helping to impose additional sanitation measures.
Lastly, water services and workers within the water infrastructure industry are essential. It is estimated that half of US water utility firms prepared adequately for the pandemic. Many of these companies worked to create on-site living quarters to ensure continuity of water to citizens without increasing the risk of workers infection.7 One leader within the industry is a water utility in the Midwest that kept several workers across three water treatment facilities living on-premise to ensure water supply to over half a million people.8
While most of the utilities worldwide managed to sustain their operations, relying on their dedicated workforce and some level of automation sufficient to run the infrastructure with minimal human contact, these systems are not yet fully optimized. Utilities have already started to plan for increased automation, including better distance management, invoicing and meter readings. A large European-based utility firm has discussed increased digitalization to target better wastewater management and water optimization. As a result, water technology firms have seen a growing demand for their IT solutions.
COVID-19 has and will continue to cause significant hardship for the global economy. Water-related investments are not fully immune, as the financing of many essential infrastructure investments is now under increased scrutiny. What remains clear, however, is the number of incremental measures required at the water infrastructure level that will support continued targeted spending. Resilience of water infrastructure has never been more important, and the social value of water has never been this high. As a result of this pandemic, many utilities have gained firsthand experience testing their emergency preparedness and business continuity plans. There remain numerous opportunities for improvement and automation within this field, and a result, there will be an acceleration of spending on water-related technologies.
As the world starts to reopen and we evaluate the “new normal,” water technology and smart water solutions will become even more essential to ensure adequate clean water for all. The societal need for these investments remains, which will result in continued demand despite the uncertain economic future we face.
Article by Alina Donets, co-lead portfolio manager, and a vice president with Allianz Global Investors, which she joined in 2017. She co-manages the Water strategy; and is a member of the Global Thematic team where she researches and develops investment themes globally, with a specific focus on themes aligned to SDGs and other societal goals. Ms. Donets previously worked as a portfolio manager at Bank Audi. Before that, she worked as an investment manager on thematic funds at Pictet Asset Management. Ms. Donets has a B.Sc. with honors in business studies from Cass Business School (London), and an M.Sc. with honors in International business from HEC (France). She is a CFA charterholder.
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