Tag: Food & Farming

Reaping the Promise of Regenerative Agriculture by Craig Wichner - Farmland LP

Reaping the Promise of Regenerative Agriculture

By Craig Wichner, Farmland LP

Craig Wichner founder of Farmland LP(above) Baby lambs and their moms are an essential part of managing pasture rotations on cropland. Rather than grow corn and soy and ship it to a feedlot somewhere (ideally far away where no one can smell it), we keep the sheep directly on the farmland. The grasses and clovers convert the sun’s energy into sugar in the sweet leaves, and the sheep and cattle directly convert it to weight gain, without a corn harvester nor a transportation truck. It’s just as efficient for weight gain and results in a much higher quality product (omega 3 oils vs inflammatory omega 6 oils in corn kernels). Oregon farm (A2R farm).

 

I spent my summers growing up on a farm, and it grounded me well for the career I pursued in science, technology and real estate investing. But in 2008, with the birth of my daughter, I realized we’re not leaving the planet in great shape for her generation. I began to look at farmland again, with fresh eyes.

I dug into the data on farmland, and what I found shocked me. We may intuitively know that organic is better than conventional agriculture, but the hard-core numbers show that our agriculture system is broken. More than half of U.S. crop acreage grows only two commodity crops—corn and soy. More than 90 percent of that corn and soy is genetically modified and reliant on, even designed for increasing the use of toxic pesticides. Only 0.6 percent of American-grown corn is consumed by humans, while over 130 times that amount (80 percent) goes into ethanol or animal feed. Meanwhile, maxing out farmland on one crop—”monocropping”—is extremely harmful to the environment, contributing to topsoil erosion, water pollution, and other negative outcomes.

That’s how Farmland LP began. We saw how we could combine regenerative agriculture with savvy real estate management practices commonly found in the property sector. And today we’re the largest organic farmland manager in the country, with the highest sustainability rating among all global firms in HIP Investor’s worldwide universe of 10,000 corporations.

Rotational Grazing-Farmland LP
Cattle in rotation-intensive grazing are put in a small area to encourage rapid and full feeding on the grasses, stimulating new root and leaf production – with the roots acting to pump carbon into the soil (roots are made from sugars and carbohydrates created by photosynthesis, so the mere act of growing roots into the soil is “pumping carbon into the soil”). The cattle rotate back onto fields every 30 days or so, just in time to prevent the grasses from going to seed, and thus keeping them in their rapid-grass-and-root-growing stage. Oh and the cattle gain weight quickly resulting in premium quality grass-fed and grass-finished beef. Oregon farm.

 

Regenerative farming involves nurturing the land through healthy soil biology, crop rotations, pollinator habitat, and other science-based practices focused on making that land more vital and productive to the roots. For us, this means we look at each 20 to 40 acre field on each farm and identify its ideal crops and develop a 10-year crop rotation plan to increase soil health, plant happiness and the best economics.

Blueberries with pollinator habitat wildflowers every seven rows
The Burns Farm in California plants pollinator habitat every seven rows in our organic blueberry fields. Having native pollinators is shown to increase blueberry yields by 15% (so it’s not just to look pretty).

 

For example, for 50+ years one 4,200-acre farm we purchased had grown simple commodity crops in rotation: alfalfa, industrial corn and processing tomatoes for tomato paste. We assessed each field and identified a wide array of crops that could be grown. One of the worst patches of ground was salty and had poor soil quality, but we determined that olive trees would be happy there and found an olive oil farmer to tenant the land, increasing our potential income from a few hundred an acre to a thousand an acre once the trees matured. Next to those fields was ground that had more acidic soil that was perfect for organic blueberries – so we established a relationship with the leading organic blueberry company and grew them ourselves, increasing revenues and profits 10 to 30-fold. The olives and blueberries grow adjacent to organic vegetables in rotation to keep the farmland constantly regenerating, alternating with pasture and livestock rotations. Drip irrigation, rather than the traditional flood irrigation, not only saves water, but also helps the plants with fertilization and minimizes weeds between rows.

Olive tree farm, very drought tolerant at Burns Farm-courtesy of Farmland LP
Olive trees originated near the border of Turkey and Syria, preferring poor quality soils over rich soils (where they produce poorer oil and are more prone to disease), and being highly drought tolerant. They can produce for a long time, with some tees dated to 3,500 years old. These trees are growing well on 200 acres of our lowest-quality soil…hopefully poor enough to get the highest quality olive oil for our farmer-partner and us. Burns Farm in California.

 

Our mission at Farmland LP is to demonstrate that regenerative agriculture is more profitable than commodity agriculture and maximizes returns for investors. In doing so, we propel the regenerative movement forward, attracting more and larger investors – especially institutional investors – and the impact widens. The U.S. has $2.7 trillion worth of farmland, the same economic value as all of the apartment buildings in the country, or all of the office buildings, and yet less than two percent of that farmland is institutionally owned.

Even the most environmentally conscious and impact-driven investor seeks financial returns. Decade after decade, farmland as an asset class has provided top-decile returns with low volatility. Over the past 85 years, farmland has delivered 11 percent annualized returns unlevered, with half of those returns coming from cash flow and half from appreciation. As an asset class, it has outperformed the stock market, private equity and venture capital, with low volatility and minimal leverage. It is expected to continue on this trend in the future.

The environmental benefits are equally impressive. In a USDA study, Farmland LP’s first fund—yes, the same one with the seemingly simple olives, blueberries, and rotating organic vegetables—demonstrated $21.4 million in net ecosystem service value benefits using regenerative farm management practices at scale. We also tallied a double bottom line return of 7.3 percent annual ecosystem gain on top of 9.9 percent annualized net economic gain for investors.

But the supply of this essential asset class is shrinking. While urban land has nearly tripled since 1949, U.S. cropland has declined by 18 percent to 392 million acres. The decline is happening as the population that cropland needs to feed has more than doubled to 330 million people. It takes roughly one acre to feed one person, and while historically the U.S. has been a food-exporting nation, we are approaching a deficit. We will have to use our farmland smarter to grow healthy food in ways that that are more profitable and more productive, while improving the health of the soil, water, and ecosystem we live in and rely on.

Meanwhile, the demand for organic continues to grow—and alongside it, the profit that’s possible from regenerative farmland. In our farm’s inaugural harvest, the blueberries yielded roughly 300,000 pounds of fresh fruit and $900,000 in revenue. Certified Organic, regenerative agriculture is the reason that our rents went from just $300 per acre for conventional farmland, to renting for $700 per acre for organic farmland while being fully leased.

What’s clear from our experience is that regenerative agriculture yields organic food people want, healthy soils our kids will need, and sequestered carbon too keep our climate recognizable…all while delivering strong, market leading financial returns too. That’s a formula for a strong future.

 

Article by Craig Wichner, Founder and Managing Partner of Farmland LP, one of the largest farmland managers and the largest organic farmland manager in the U.S. Founded 12 years ago, Farmland manages 15,000 acres of high-quality farmland in Northern California, Oregon and Washington valued at over $175 million.

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

IA 50 2021 free database logo

ImpactAssets’ IA 50 Impact Investment Fund Managers List

Industry’s first publicly available, searchable resource of impact investing fund managers sees record number of applicants and assets, reflecting the innovation and exponential growth that the IA 50 has helped to spotlight over the past decade.

 

ImpactAssets logo

ImpactAssets recently released the ImpactAssets 50 2021 (IA 50), a free online database for impact investors, family offices, financial advisors and institutional investors that features a diversified listing of private capital fund managers delivering social and environmental impact as well as financial returns.

This year marks the tenth edition of the IA 50, and despite a tumultuous year, total assets under management (AUM) among selected fund managers jumped to a record $228 billion in 2020, up from $181 billion in 2019. Thirteen managers selected in this year’s showcase reported assets exceeding $1 billion. By comparison, in the IA 50’s inaugural year, assets totaled just $6.8 billion.

The IA 50’s Emerging Impact Manager list, which debuted in 2020 and spotlights newer fund managers that demonstrate potential to create meaningful impact, also saw significant growth. The number of emerging fund managers across a variety of themes and geographies included in this year’s list grew to 41, up from 16 managers in 2020. Total AUM increased to $917 million, up from $397 million last year.

“When we launched the IA 50, we knew there was tremendous potential for impact investing, but realized many interested investors weren’t aware of the incredible range of impact fund managers available to them. As the field has evolved, we have also become aware of the large number of innovative fund managers not identified via our traditional networks,” said Jed Emerson, ImpactAssets Senior Fellow and IA 50 Review Committee Chair. “More recently we have expanded the lens of our process to capture more breadth and diversity of impact fund managers and in doing so have also chronicled the progress made by impact investors as well as the work that still needs to be done.”

This year’s list revealed several investing trends:

CDFIs Take Center Stage –  Seven Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) were selected in this year’s IA 50, reflecting the critical role CDFIs have played during the COVID-19 pandemic — from distributing PPP loans to supporting small businesses within rural, indigenous and low-income communities, and communities of color. These organizations represent both national and locally-focused community funders and manage a combined $18.7 billion in assets which are catalyzed for creating jobs, building affordable housing and financing community services in underserved low-income communities.

New Category –  In another reflection of the growth of impact investing, the IA 50 added a new Emeritus category this year highlighting 27 managers with a combined AUM of $8.8B. These fund managers have been on the IA 50 for at least five years; 10 managers have been on the list for all 10 years of the IA 50. The Emeritus list enables the IA 50 to continue to recognize the important contributions of these established managers, while making room for deserving new managers.

Investment Targets –  In 2020, the global pandemic and subsequent economic downturn affected communities worldwide, and IA 50 fund managers focused on some of those hardest hit.? A total of 63% of managers targeted investment in rural communities, while 54% specifically benefitted people of color and 48% were focused on advancing women-led businesses. Two-thirds (67%) of managers said their firm focused on underdeveloped markets where the market is relatively new, emerging or subject to systemic challenges. 

Diversity and Inclusion –  ?While fund management remains overwhelmingly non-diverse, IA 50 fund managers are leading with diversity. This is especially true of the IA 50 Emerging Impact Managers, where 51% reported more than half of their investment professionals were women and 54% said more than half of their investment professionals were people of color.

Impact and Financial Return   ?Impact fund managers remained focused on delivering both positive impact and investment performance. A total of 87% of IA 50 fund managers targeted market rate or above rates of return and 92% delivered either in line or above their target returns. Emerging Impact Managers reported similar results, with 63% targeting market rates of return or above, and 98% delivering either in line or above their initial target returns.

“The growth we’ve seen in the IA 50 over the past decade is reflective of the growth, maturity and increased diversity of the impact investing industry as a whole,” added Sandra Osborne Kartt, CFA, Director, Investments, ImpactAssets. “Along with the Emeritus and Emerging Impact Manager lists, this year’s IA 50 represents the vast array of impact themes and strategies available to impact investors today.”

In addition to Emerson and Osborne Kartt, the IA 50 Review Committee is comprised of an expanded group of impact investment experts and leaders, including Lauren Booker Allen, Senior Vice President, Impact Advisory, Jordan Park Group; Mark Berryman, Managing Director of Impact Investing, The CAPROCK Group; Ronald A. Homer, Chief Strategist, Impact Investing, RBC Global Asset Management (US) Inc.; Karl “Charly” Kleissner, Ph.D., Co-Founder of Toniic and KL Felicitas Foundation; Malaika Maphalala, CPWA® Private Wealth Advisor, Natural Investments, LLC; Cynthia Muller, Director of Mission Investment, W.K. Kellogg Foundation; Rehana Nathoo, Founder & CEO, Spectrum Impact; Stephanie Cohn Rupp, CEO and Partner, Veris Wealth Partners; Fran Seegull, Executive Director, U.S. Impact Investing Alliance, Ford Foundation; Liesel Pritzker Simmons, Co-Founder and Principal of Blue Haven Initiative; Julia Sze, CFA, Impact Investor, Julia W. Sze Consulting and Margret Trilli, President and CIO, ImpactAssets.

Osborne Kartt and Jennifer Kenning, CEO and Co-Founder of Align Impact and IA 50 Senior Investment Advisor, led the ImpactAssets and Align Impact Investment teams in the application scoring and analysis process.

 

About the ImpactAssets 50
The IA 50 is the first publicly available database that provides a gateway into the world of impact investing for investors and their financial advisors, offering an easy way to identify experienced impact investment firms and explore the landscape of potential investment options. The IA 50 is intended to illustrate the breadth of impact investment fund managers operating today, though it is not a comprehensive list, Firms have been selected to demonstrate a wide range of impact investing activities across geographies, sectors and asset classes.
 

The IA 50 is not an index or investable platform and does not constitute an offering or recommend specific products. It is not a replacement for due diligence. In order to be considered for the IA 50 2021, fund managers needed to have at least $25 million in assets under management, more than three years of experience as a firm with impact investing, documented social and/or environmental impact and be available for US investment. Additional details on the selection process are available here.

 The IA 50 Emerging Impact Manager list is intended to spotlight newer fund managers that may demonstrate future potential to create meaningful impact. Criteria such as minimum track record or minimum assets under management may not be applicable.

 The IA 50 Emeritus Impact Manager list illuminates impact fund managers who have achieved consistent recognition on the IA 50. 

About ImpactAssets

ImpactAssets is the leading impact investing partner for individuals, families and philanthropists tackling the world’s greatest challenges by investing in the world’s brightest ideas. We make it easy for our clients to “discover, connect and invest” in game-changing entrepreneurs and funds. Founded in 2010, ImpactAssets increases flows of money to impact investing with our 100% impact investment platform and field-building initiatives, including the IA 50 database of private debt and equity impact fund managers.  

The ImpactAssets Donor Advised Fund is an innovative vehicle that empowers donors to increase the impact of their giving by combining it with strategic, sustainable and responsible investing to build a sophisticated philanthropic endowment. The Fund currently has more than $1.4 billion in assets in 1,400 donor advised funds, working with 350 wealth advisors across 60 financial services firms.

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Claire Smith-Beyond Investing platform

Beyond Investing–World’s First Vegan Investment Platform

Summary

Beyond Investing logoClaire Smith (pictured above), the founder of the Beyond Investing platform, is a financial markets veteran of 35 years, whose career takes in JP Morgan Chase, UBS, Albourne Partners as well as running her own consulting business for 5 years. The Beyond investment management companies, formed in 2017, comprise Beyond Advisors, parent of Beyond Investing LLC, the advisor to the world’s first cruelty-free and environmentally friendly ETF and Beyond Impact Advisors, a specialist in investing in plant-based and cruelty-free start-ups and animal-replacing foodtech and biotech. In addition, Claire has co-founded Beyond Animal, a tech platform with the aim of accelerating the growth of the vegan economy, through the provision of a funding portal for vegan businesses which benefits from a FINMA No Action letter and FCA regulatory cover.

Background

Claire took a Masters in Chemical Engineering and Business Management at Imperial College London but moved into finance in 1985, since working in chemicals and oil refining, the primary jobs available to chemical engineers at the time, were unappealing given her concern for animals and the environment. Initially trained as a credit analyst at Chase Manhattan Bank, Claire switched into options dealing in London’s embryonic options markets, developed warrants trading and issuance, and ultimately ran the London convertible sales desk in 1995, structuring multiple bespoke derivatives transactions before leaving UBS in 1998.

After a period of time as a freelance journalist, during which she published over 125 articles in the financial press, and consultant on fund research to London funds of funds, Claire joined Albourne Partners in 2004, assuming responsibility of quantitative equity strategies, taking in systematic quantitative equity, convertible arbitrage and volatility and hedging strategies. She was admitted to the partner program in 2007 and became a shareholder of Albourne in 2010.

In her philanthropic work, Claire founded 100 Women in Finance in Geneva in 2007 and oversaw its growth in Switzerland through till 2014, as a member of the London Board, organizing over 100 events, including seven Galas which raised well over $1 million for charity. Claire served on the Board of AVVEC, a Geneva-based charity that provides support to victims of domestic violence. She is the President of Beyond Cruelty Foundation, formed in 2018 to campaign for zero animal exploitation and to fund safe havens for animals. She co-founded a group to campaign against testing of GMO canola seeds in the English countryside in 1999.

Mission

Claire is motivated to use her skills in the financial arena to invest for a kinder, cleaner, healthier world. Being vegetarian/vegan since the age of 15, her primary area of focus is the avoidance of animal exploitation, with associated benefits for human health and the environment, in particular climate change and preservation of biodiversity, a global problem. The investment thesis of the platform is to deprive companies that cause harm to animals and the environment of investment and to deploy capital towards those companies who are engaged in plant-based or animal-replacing products and services.

Change in society comes from an alignment of three levers, Consumers, Citizens and Capital. Consumers have a role to play in choosing sustainable and cruelty-free products, provided these are made available on the market. Citizens can campaign for laws, regulations, subsidies and fiscal policies to be amended in favor of protecting animals and the environment. Capital is a vital piece of the puzzle, since what gets financed gets done, and conversely, the withdrawal of financing constrains damaging companies. Claire aims to direct global Capital flows in such a way that support the efforts of Consumers and Citizens and enable the growth of companies providing solutions and the decline of companies whose practices harm animals and destroy biodiversity.

Around the world there is a clear trend for Capital to become more conscious and multiple investing structures need to be set up. Vegans have till now had nowhere to put their money given the near absence of fund products that address their concerns. Equally, vegan founders have been starved of capital to fund and grow their businesses. It is these needs that Claire seeks to address through her Beyond initiatives.

The Platform

As opposed to focusing in one narrow area of financial markets, the Beyond Investing platform seeks to provoke capital flows across the spectrum of capital markets and funding.

Within the large cap space, Beyond Investing designs cruelty-free and climate-friendly investing programs in public equity markets and is the architect of the US Vegan Climate Index, a stock index which screens out all animal exploitation and fossil fuel and other causes of harm to humans and the environment, from a US market benchmark. The first instrument on this Index was listed on the NYSE as the US Vegan Climate ETF (ticker: VEGN) in September 2019. With around 280 stocks, and largely market cap-weighted, this product provides a solution for retail and institutional investors who wish to embed cruelty-fee and environmentally friendly principles in their core US large cap allocation.

The US Vegan Climate Index is the first of a range of stock and bond indexes that enshrine the same set of policies, in Europe, Asia, emerging markets, and globally.

Whereas in current stock markets, there are few purely vegan and cruelty-free companies, there are several impending IPOs in the space, due to their rapid growth. To exploit this growing market sector, Beyond Investing has created a small to midcap growth strategy, called the Vegan World strategy, by sifting through global listed equity markets for companies whose products already adhere to vegan principles and could benefit from increasing demand for cruelty-free products. This portfolio of 30-60 stocks provides a thematic play on the vegan theme, spread across the entire food and materials supply chain.

At the bottom end of the scale, Beyond Impact’s vegan venture capital offering is proactively seeking out high potential start-ups and early stage growth companies whose products are superior, scalable and sustainable and thus have the potential to save many animals lives, as well as targeting exceptional investment returns. Since 2017, the portfolio has made investments in 23 companies segmented across themes of cultivated and plant-based replacements to products derived from animals, healthy vegan convenience foods, animal testing alternatives and cruelty-free lifestyle products.

Lastly, Beyond Animal seeks to provide funding solutions through drawing in a wider audience of investors. Beyond Animal will leverage the commitment of the vegan community, as well as the broader support of sustainable and impact investors globally, to provide access to funding to companies across all sectors and geographies, provided that their products accelerate the transition to a kinder, cleaner, healthier world.

Important Information Regarding VEGN

It is not possible to invest directly in an index. Investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal. Shares of any ETF are bought and sold at market price (not NAV), may trade at a discount or premium to NAV and are not individually redeemed from the Fund. Brokerage commissions will reduce returns. Investments in mid-cap securities involve additional risk such as limited liquidity and greater volatility. The index methodology may cause the Fund to underperform the broader equity market or other funds which do not utilize such criteria. The Fund’s return may not match or achieve a high degree of correlation with the return of the underlying Index. To the extent the Fund utilizes a representative sampling approach, it may experience tracking error to a greater extent than if the Fund had sought to replicate the Index. The fund’s investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses must be considered carefully before investing. The prospectus contains this and other important information about the investment company, and it may be obtained by calling 1-800-617-0004 or visiting www.veganetf.com . Read it carefully before investing. Beyond Investing LLC is the adviser to the US Vegan Climate ETF. VEGN is distributed by Quasar Distributors, LLC.

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Green Century Funds celebrates 30th Anniversary-GreenMoney

Green Century Funds Celebrates their 30th Anniversary

Green Century is pleased to commemorate its 30th anniversary in 2021.

“When Green Century was launched in 1991, aligning your investments with your values was no easy feat. Thankfully, a group of nonprofit leaders in The Public Interest Network recognized the need and desire for environmentally-responsible investing,” said Jim Starr, chair of the Board of Trustees of the Green Century Funds. “Thirty years later, Green Century’s unique and authentic approach to sustainable investing is more popular than ever.”

The assets under management (AUM) of the Green Century Funds have grown more than 60% in just two years.

Green Century has celebrated a number of milestones in its three decades of operation:

  • In 1991, Green Century launched its Equity Fund, one of the earliest environmentally-screened environmental, social, and governance (ESG) mutual funds in the U.S.
  • In 1992, with the launch of the Balanced Fund, Green Century became the first family of environmentally-screened ESG mutual funds in the U.S.
  • In 2009, the Green Century Balanced Fund became the first mutual fund in the U.S. to calculate its carbon footprint.
  • In 2014, having long previously divested from coal and large oil and gas corporations, Green Century jettisoned the last remnants of any fossil fuel holdings and became the first family of fossil fuel free, responsible, and diversified mutual funds in the U.S.
  • In 2016, Green Century launched its MSCI International Index Fund, the first fossil fuel free, diversified, and responsible international index fund available to investors in the U.S.
  • In 2018, Green Century was the first financial institution in the U.S. to be recognized by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), winner of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize, as a Hall of Fame financial institution.

“Green Century owes its success to the vision and foresight of the nonprofit leaders who launched Green Century, especially Mindy Lubber, who served as Green Century’s first president and Doug Phelps, who was Green Century’s primary architect and remains an invaluable member of our board of trustees,” said Green Century President Leslie Samuelrich. “We also are grateful to all of the other members of the Board of Trustees who have volunteered their time over the years and all of Green Century’s employees, past and present, whose tireless work helped make this milestone a reality. Now, onto the next 30 years of environmental impact.”

 

About Green Century Capital Management

Green Century Capital Management, Inc. (Green Century) is the investment advisor to the Green Century Funds (The Funds). The Green Century Funds are the first family of fossil fuel free, responsible, and diversified mutual funds in the United States. Green Century Capital Management hosts an award-winning and in-house shareholder advocacy program and is the only mutual fund company in the U.S. wholly owned by environmental and public health nonprofit organizations.

You should carefully consider the Fund’s investment objectives, risks, charges, and expenses before investing. To obtain a Prospectus that contains this and other information about the Funds please click here, email info@greencentury.com , or call 1-800-934-7336. Please read the Prospectus carefully before investing.

Stocks will fluctuate in response to factors that may affect a single company, industry, sector, country, region or the market as a whole and may perform worse than the market. Foreign securities are subject to additional risks such as currency fluctuations, regional economic and political conditions, differences in accounting methods, and other unique risks compared to investing in securities of U.S. issuers. Bonds are subject to a variety of risks including interest rate, credit, and inflation risk. A sustainable investment strategy which incorporates environmental, social and governance criteria may result in lower or higher returns than an investment strategy that does not include such criteria.

This information has been prepared from sources believed reliable. The views expressed are as the date of this writing and are those of the Advisor to the Funds.

The Green Century Funds are distributed by UMB Distribution Services, LLC. 235 W Galena Street, Milwaukee, WI 53212. 3/21

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Investors Command Market Leaders on Chemical Footprinting and Safety-GreenMoney

Investors Commend Market Leaders on Chemical Footprinting and Safety

Publicly traded companies with over $825B in 2019 revenue, including Ahold Delhaize, BD, Clorox, Dollar Tree, Ecolab, Hasbro, Herman Miller, HNI Corporation, Hewlett Packard, Kimberly-Clark, RB, Steris, Target and Walmart participated publicly in the 5th Annual Chemical Footprint Survey.

In February 2021, investors concerned about the financial impact of toxic chemicals used commonly in our economy commend business leaders for participating in the fifth annual Chemical Footprint Project (CFP) Survey. Companies participating in this Survey report on how they screen for a subset of chemicals known to cause harm to human health and the environment. Consumer and healthcare facing companies, like Walmart, Reckitt Benckiser Group, Hewlett Packard, Herman Miller, Becton Dickinson and Company, and Steris PLC, not only participate in the Survey but also disclose their efforts to manage chemical safety publicly for investors and customers.

“Chemicals management poses material risks to companies, and to their investors”, noted Larisa Ruoff, Director of Shareholder Advocacy, the Sustainability Group of Loring, Wolcott & Coolidge. “Shareholders should have access to clear, comparable information on how companies are managing these risks. This is why investors are asking companies to measure, reduce and disclose their chemical footprints—­just as they are doing for their carbon footprints”, concluded Ruoff.

The Chemical Footprint Project is supported by investor signatories representing AUM valued at over $2 trillion. CFP sets an actual “chemical footprint metric”, which represents a quantitative measure of a corporation’s dependency on chemicals of high concern. The most ambitious companies measure by weight over 2,200 chemicals?identified by the GreenScreen List Translator?in their products. Leading companies participating in CFP are increasing transparency on chemical safety and setting chemical footprint reduction targets. For example, Walmart committed to reducing their consumable’s chemical footprint by 10% by 2022. Clorox, another CFP responder, launched a program called “IGNITE” to reduce the chemical footprint of its cleaning products. Reckitt Benckiser Group set a goal of 100% transparency on key ingredients and, in 2019, 75% of their products met this goal.

“Investors also want retailers to manage and reduce chemicals risk,” said Susan Baker, Vice President, Trillium Asset Management, LLC.

A strong showing of nearly 45% of TJX Companies’ shareholders voted in favor of a first-year shareholder resolution filed by Trillium and First Affirmative Financial Network, asking management to report on if and how it plans to reduce its chemical footprint. Since the 2020 annual meeting, TJX announced important public commitments, including setting a few toxic chemical reduction goals and taking an active role in partnerships to better inform a larger chemical management and reduction strategy.

“While the company has room for improvement, we are very pleased TJX is engaging with shareholders and other stakeholders and is demonstrating initial positive steps to reduce toxics harmful to human health, the environment and our economy”, concluded Baker.

There is a large gap in the marketplace between those companies who disclose comprehensive chemical safety data and those who do not.  Hasbro, for example, is the only toy manufacturer to participate in the Chemical Footprint Project Survey, despite the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board’s recognition that hazardous chemicals in toys may impact a company’s social license to operate. Herman Miller has a “Design for the Environment” program that not only drives safer chemical use in their products and supply chains, but also sets targets for “radical” transparency for thousands of chemicals used in its products. Hewlett Packard is one of the few companies with clear definitions for safer chemicals in its management program.

“Chemical safety is an essential strategy that impacts many of the key sustainability issues that asset owners increasingly care about, including public health, social equity for Black, Latinx and other communities of color, biodiversity, and clean water and air”, said Caroline Boden, Director of Shareholder Advocacy for Mercy Investment Services. “This is why we are asking publicly traded companies to close the gap now and join market leaders in their efforts to measure, disclose and reduce their chemical footprints.”

Investor Environmental Health Network-logo

For the CFP 2020 Report, please visit:
https://iehn.org/resources/entry/cfp-2020-report

For the recording of the webinar on the CFP Report and Front-runners in Chemical Footprinting:
https://iehn.org/resources/entry/cfp-2020-report-webinar

 

The Sustainability Group of Loring, Wolcott and Coolidge. For more than 30 years, the Sustainability Group has combined investment expertise with a deep commitment to universal human dignity and ecological sustainability. We create customized portfolios that reflect each client’s values and financial objectives, through Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) analysis, Shareholder Advocacy and Engagement, and High Impact Investing. The Sustainability Group is a part of Loring, Wolcott & Coolidge, a multi-family office committed to helping families achieve their financial goals—today and for generations to come.

Trillium Asset Management offers investment strategies and services that advance humankind towards a global sustainable economy, a just society, and a better world. For nearly 40 years, the firm has been at the forefront of ESG thought leadership and draws from decades of experience focused exclusively on responsible investing. Devoted to aligning stakeholders’ values and objectives, Trillium combines impactful investment solutions with active ownership. The firm delivers equity, fixed income, and alternative investments to institutions, intermediaries, individuals, and non-profit organizations with the goal to provide positive impact and long-term value. Trillium is a certified B Corporation.

Mercy Investment Services is the asset management program for the Sisters of Mercy and its ministries, works for systemic change in the areas of non-violence, racism, environment, concern for women, and immigration through socially responsible investing. Mercy Investment Services’ multifaceted approach includes corporate engagement, proxy voting, portfolio screening, and impact and community investments, maximizing our effect on our community, nation and world.

Trillium Asset Management, The Sustainability Group and Mercy Investment Services are members of the Investor Environmental Health Network (IEHN). IEHN, a project of Clean Production Action, is a membership-based, investor collaborative that promotes the use of safer chemicals to enhance shareholder value, public health, and the environment. IEHN recognizes that a company’s brand reputation, public trust, and market share are linked to the environmental and human health risks and safety of its products. Through direct corporate engagement IEHN members advance solutions and strategies to transform business practices through strategic tools and partnerships that include the Chemical Footprint Project.

The Chemical Footprint Project (CFP) is an initiative of investors, retailers, government agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and health care organizations that aspire to support healthy lives, clean water and air, and sustainable consumption and production patterns through the effective management of chemicals in products and supply chains. CFP Signatories, representing over $2 trillion in assets under management and over $800 billion in purchasing power, are engaging corporations in CFP. The participants in CFP recognize chemicals as they do carbon, understanding that a global transition to a reduced chemical footprint is necessary. CFP gives Signatories an invaluable tool to discern which firms bear the highest chemical risk and which are best positioned to capture new markets with safer products. The founding organizations of CFP are Clean Production Action, the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, and Pure Strategies.

Clean Production Action is non-profit organization whose mission is to design and deliver strategic solutions for green chemicals, sustainable materials, and environmentally preferable products. We are a solutions organization. Our tools and collaborations simplify the complexity of toxicity by providing the resources and capacities essential for identifying and replacing hazardous chemicals with safer solutions. GreenScreen® for Safer Chemicals, Chemical Footprint Project, BizNGO, and Investor Environmental Health Network are all programs of Clean Production Action.

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Transformative Investment in Climate-Smart Agriculture

Transformative Investment in Climate-Smart Agriculture

Based on new research findings, USFRA and research partners call on investors to leverage agricultural tech and finance innovation to scale up climate-smart soil health practices and revitalize rural communities

In conjunction with World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), The Mixing Bowl and Croatan Institute, U.S. Farmers & Ranchers in Action (USFRA) recently issued a new report that analyzes the state of soil health technology and identifies opportunities to find new sources of capital to scale-up the adoption of climate-smart agriculture on farms and ranches across the U.S.

By 2025, widespread adoption of climate-smart agriculture practices could reduce U.S. agriculture’s contribution to total U.S. GHG emissions from 9.9% to 3.8%. These practices – including rotating crops, planting cover crops, reducing tillage and integrating crop and livestock systems – improve soil health, sequester carbon and produce co-benefits such as reduced erosion, increased water infiltration, and economic and environmental resiliency. By 2035, with increased investments and partnerships across the food and agriculture value chain and the integration of promising frontier technologies, U.S. agriculture has the potential to be a carbon sink, at -4% of total U.S. GHG emissions.

“As the U.S. Food and Ag sector coalesces around our first-ever sustainable development vision, Decade of Ag; it is critical the financial community partners with farmers and ranchers to unlock the potential of our soils to help the U.S. achieve a transitional net-zero economy,” said USFRA CEO Erin Fitzgerald. “Farmers and ranchers and the sector need investment over the next decade to realize the potential of agricultural soils as a natural climate solution and, at the same time, revitalize rural communities.”

By 2025 widespread adoption of climate-smart AG practices would reduce US GHG emissions from 9.9 to 3.8 percent

The new report makes the case that investors should consider climate-smart agriculture investments alongside sustainable forestry and renewable energy as critical to reaching a net-zero carbon economy and meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Over the past year, USFRA has convened leaders in food, farming, AgTech and finance to identify current capital flows, review the startup ecosystem and ground-truth actionable recommendations. The culmination of this extensive research and stakeholder-input process, “Transformative Investment in Climate-Smart Agriculture: Unlocking the potential of our soils to help the U.S. achieve a net-zero economy,” examines farmer and rancher barriers to practice adoption, the current state of climate-smart soil technology, financial mechanisms available to farmers and ranchers as well the investment case for including agriculture in the broader portfolio of net zero economy investments. The research was funded by United Soybean Board and Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC).

“This report shows that nearly $1 trillion of private capital flows annually through the U.S. agricultural system,” said David Bennell, Manager, Food & Nature, WBCSD North America. “It provides important insights into how companies and financial institutions can realign and increase their investments to support and incentivize climate smart agriculture practices that reward farmers and ranchers for improving soil health, enhancing water conservation and water quality, and helping build resilient and healthy rural communities.”

From a technology standpoint, the agriculture sector needs granular, accessible and efficient tools for soil sampling and soil carbon measurement, as well as the underlying data standards, methodologies and datasets to support decision making. Recommendations in the report include:

  • Invest in market-based solutions measuring soil health indicators versus outcomes
  • Invest in a national repository of soil carbon reference data
  • Coalesce around the standardization of reference laboratory methods, spectral measurements, and the exchange of soil data
  • Accelerate adoption of Farm Management Software (FMS)
  • Invest in solutions to leverage farmer and rancher know-how and speed collaboration

Researchers Weigh In: Realizing the Report’s Recommendations

“The continued digital transformation of agriculture is critical as we think about solving problems and scaling solutions for the food system of the future,” said Rob Trice, principal, The Mixing Bowl and report co-author. “With the right data and the right data interoperability standards, we can upend the economics of farming and deliver measurable environmental and social benefits.”

AG Capital Flows analysis - Researchers Weigh In - Realizing the Reports Recommendations

To provide informed context for an exploration of economic solutions, an Agricultural Capital Flows analysis was conducted to map the flows of capital from asset owners through asset classes and financial intermediaries to participants in the U.S. agricultural value chain. Investment totals $972 billion annually, based on 2018-2020 data, across institutional investors (approx. $600 billion), retail investors (approx. $360 billion) and the U.S. government via federal & state payments & incentives (approx. $20 billion).

Scaled adoption of climate-smart practices will take not only the realignment of existing flows of capital toward climate-smart outcomes, but also the ability to draw in new sources and forms of capital. The report details a variety of pathways in which this capital might flow and calls out the importance of collaborative and blended approaches to capital deployment to rebalance the risk equation. In terms of directly reaching farmers and those value chain actors working closely with farmers, public equity and fixed income are the asset classes that hold the most potential.

“As companies and investors continue to build out the climate-smart investing universe, there are many opportunities to create innovative financial products that simultaneously meet the needs of investors, accelerate the transition to climate-smart agriculture and improve the livelihoods of farmers,” said David LeZaks, senior fellow, Croatan Institute and report co-author. “From working capital loans for cover crop seeds to the promise of green bonds and sustainability-linked loans, we identified multiple opportunities to promote or develop financial mechanisms that enable climate-smart agriculture.”

There is also an opportunity to increase total investment in agriculture with the growing pool of environmental, social and governance (ESG) capital looking for impacts related to sustainability, socially responsible, or mission-aligned investment opportunities. Cumulatively, these investors can make a big impact by investing in agriculture that enables and targets climate-smart practice adoption and soil health outcomes.

This report is an important step toward turning the promise of soil carbon sequestration into a reality. To continue building momentum, USFRA’s Transformative Investment (TI) Action Network will bring together farmer and rancher ecosystems with data/technology providers, investors and members of the food and agriculture value chain to co-create action plans and funding/investment streams. The end game: regenerate America’s agricultural soils as a pathway to revitalizing rural communities and reducing agriculture’s carbon footprint, to meet the challenges of the next 30 Harvests.

 

About USFRA
U.S. Farmers & Ranchers in Action (USFRA), formerly U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, represents farmer and rancher-led organizations, and food and agricultural partners, with a common vision to further our global sustainable food systems. We believe farmers uniquely contribute to nourishing our planet, people, and natural resources. Our focus is creating a proactive collaboration between the best minds in food, agriculture, science, and technology to co-create solutions that will result in environmental, social, and economic sustainability.

About WBCSD
World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) is a global, CEO-led organization of over 200 leading businesses working together to accelerate the transition to a sustainable world. We help make our member companies more successful and sustainable by focusing on the maximum positive impact for shareholders, the environment and societies. Our member companies come from all business sectors and all major economies, representing a combined revenue of more than USD $8.5 trillion and 19 million employees. Our global network of almost 70 national business councils gives our members unparalleled reach across the globe. Since 1995, WBCSD has been uniquely positioned to work with member companies along and across value chains to deliver impactful business solutions to the most challenging sustainability issues.

About The Mixing Bowl
Founded in 2013 and based in Silicon Valley, The Mixing Bowl strives to stimulate the adoption of IT innovation in the Food & Agriculture industries through business-focused dialogue between existing industry players, start-ups, investors, and other food innovators. We do so through in-person and online thought leadership exchange, advisory services, and by funding innovative companies through our affiliate, Better Food Ventures.

About Croatan Institute
Croatan Institute is an independent, nonprofit research institute whose mission is to harness the power of investment for social good and ecological resilience. Based in the Research Triangle of North Carolina with an extended team of affiliates in Boston, New York, Madison, WI, the Florida Gulf Coast, and Geneva, the Institute has rapidly established a reputation for rigorous, cutting-edge research and actionable analysis to support strategic decision-making by organizations and practitioners in the field.

 

SOURCE U.S. Farmers & Ranchers in Action (USFRA)

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

Carbon Clean 200-Investing in a Clean Energy Future 2021 by Andy Behar and Toby Heaps

Carbon Clean 200: Investing in a Clean Energy Future 2021

By Andy Behar, As You Sow and

By Toby Heaps, Corporate Knights

Carbon Clean 200 surges ahead, leaves dirty energy index in the dust

Carbon Clean 200-2021 Performance Update Report-Corporate Knights and As You SowCorporate Knights and As You Sow recently released the annual update Clean 200 list of publicly traded companies that are leading the way with solutions for the transition to a clean energy future.

Since our first report was launched in the summer of 2016 a great deal has changed in the world.

Larry Fink, the CEO of the largest investment firm in the world, wrote in his 2021 letter to CEOs: “Given how central the energy transition will be to every company’s growth prospects, we are asking companies to disclose a plan for how their business model will be compatible with a net zero economy – that is, one where global warming is limited to well below 2°C, consistent with a global aspiration of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.”

Larry Fink’s sentiment is playing out in real time. The negative impact of climate change across the entire economy, supply chains, capital markets, and public health is now well charted in particular the recent Harvard study showing that fossil fuel pollution related deaths exceeded eight million in 2018 and are growing.

This year, riding Tesla’s soaring stock, Elon Musk passed Jeff Bezos to become the richest man on the planet, with a net worth of US$189.7 billion (as of January 8, 2021).

In carrying out his mission to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy, Musk has become a prophet for clean capitalism, with Tesla now ranked as the most sustainable and valuable car company in the world. It is also now the pure-play company on the Clean200.

Musk is not alone. The Prince of Wales, the pope, and critically, a global movement catalyzed by Greta Thunberg have all turned up the heat on businesses to get real about cooling the planet.

Prince Charles has long championed the environment and the central role industry and finance must play in its protection, but he’s dialed up the urgency significantly in the past year. In the fall, he said climate change poses such a severe threat that the world’s only option is to adopt a military-style response reminiscent of the U.S. Marshall Plan that helped rebuild post-war Europe 70 years ago.

In January, the prince looked back more than 800 years to the Magna Carta (which inspired a belief in the fundamental rights of people) to issue a companion document – the Terra Carta, or Earth Charter – that aims to enshrine the rights and value of nature in capitalism, inviting the world’s CEOs to make a sustainable future the growth story of our time.

Pope Francis once described unbridled capitalism as the “dung of the devil.” In a sign of the times, he recently gave his blessing to the Council for Inclusive Capitalism, a partnership between the Vatican and the leaders of some of the world’s largest businesses, including the chiefs of BP and Bank of America.

This seemingly unholy alliance seeks to make capitalism a more holy instrument for answering the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.

There are now more than 300 companies, representing more than US$3.6 trillion in market cap, that have committed to a net-zero-emission target in line with a 1.5°C future.

Some worry these are empty words that give the impression that sufficient action is being taken – a sort of delay tactic. Thunberg, the teenage activist who kicked off a citizens’ climate movement, says, “We must forget about net-zero – we need real zero.”

She spells out what that means: “Immediately halt all investments in fossil fuel exploration and extraction. Immediately end all fossil fuel subsidies. And immediately and completely divest from fossil fuels. We don’t want these things done by 2050, 2030 or even [next year]. We want this done now.”

She’s right, but defunding carbon bombs will not be enough; not even close. The real action is going all in on funding climate solutions. What gets funded gets done. How we invest our trillions starting right now will determine our future.

To paraphrase Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti, the climate-solution revolution is today, not tomorrow. The litmus test for companies and countries (and anyone, really) is what percentage of your current budget is allocated with an intention to create a carbon-free sustainable world. If it’s less than 100%, you’ve got work to do.

The Clean200 companies are leading the way by putting sustainability at the heart of their products, services, business models, and investments, helping to move the world onto a more sustainable trajectory.

This year’s Clean200 companies rose to the top of a pool of 8,080 global firms that earn more than $1 billion a year, based on rigorous assessment of the amount of revenue each company earns from products and services aligned with the Corporate Knights Clean Economy Taxonomy, while also ensuring that their businesses are not fundamentally offside important criteria for socially responsible investors including substantial involvement in weapons, private prisons, thermal coal, or having a record of systemically obstructing climate policy.

On average, 39% of revenues earned by Clean200 companies are classified as clean, which the majority of other revenues classified as neutral, compared to just 8% clean revenue for their peers.

But none of this would have legs if the Clean200 weren’t also faring well financially. On this score, the Clean200 handily outperformed its MSCI ACWI peers by 47% over the last year (to January 31, 2021), and 34.74% since the Clean200 was launched in July of 2016.

Clean200 companies generated a total return of 113.41% beating the MSCI ACWI broad market index (78.67%) and MSCI ACWI/Energy Index of fossil fuel companies, (-13.83%) on Total Return Gross – USD Basis from the Clean200 inception of July 1, 2016 to January 31, 2021.

To put that in context: $10,000 invested in the Clean200 on July 1, 2016 would have grown to $21,340 by January 31, 2021, versus $17,867 for the MSCI ACWI broad market benchmark and $8,617 for the MSCI ACWI Energy benchmark for fossil fuel companies.

What is needed now is for the rest of the business world, most importantly the big-money investors who have been sitting on the sidelines, to also lean into this more civilized form of clean capitalism.

Now that BlackRock, the largest investor in the world, with a whopping $8.7 trillion under management, has jumped the net-zero-emissions bandwagon, it is only a matter of time before it becomes the standard, placing a 100% sustainable and zero-carbon economy within our grasp.

The good news for our species is that the forces of pride and profit have shifted in favour of those on the right side of climate history, with shame, and economic shambles awaiting those who cling to the wrong side.

With the sun shining on climate solutions, companies are free at last to shed their carbon cloaks.

With all this action, we hope that the Clean200 can do two things:

  • provide a useful North Star for investors looking to pinpoint the companies leading the way to a clean energy future.
  • to dispel the myth that clean investing is about sacrificing returns.

To make things easier, Corporate Knights and As You Sow are proud to present the latest edition of the Clean200.

While we’re not promising any home runs, we are happy to report that the Clean200 now has more than a four-year track record of outperforming its high-carbon global counterparts.

Read the full article that include performance charts and the complete Clean 200 List of companies.

 

About the Authors:

Toby Heaps is the chief executive officer and co-founder of Corporate Knights. He spearheaded the first global ranking of the world’s 100 most sustainable corporations in 2005, and in 2007 coined the term “clean capitalism.” He sits on the Ashoka Canada Board and the University of Toronto’s Environment and Finance Committee. Toby has been published in the Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, and the Globe and Mail. In 1998, he played centerfield for the Yugoslav National Baseball Team.

Andrew Behar is the CEO of As You Sow. Previously, Andrew founded a clean-tech start-up developing innovative fuel cell technologies for grid-scale energy storage. He recently termed off the board of the US Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investing (US-SIF), he is on the advisory board of Real Impact Tracker and 1-Earth Institute. His book, The Shareholders Action Guide: Unleash Your Hidden Powers to Hold Corporations Accountable was published in November 2016 by Berrett-Koehler.

ABOUT CORPORATE KNIGHTS: Founded in 2002, Corporate Knights seeks to provide information that empowers people to harness markets for a better world. The company has a media and research division, which includes the award-winning business and society magazine Corporate Knights. The research division produces corporate rankings, research reports and financial product ratings based on corporate sustainability performance. In June 2013, Corporate Knights was named Magazine of the Year by Canada’s National Magazine Awards Foundation.

ABOUT AS YOU SOW: Founded in 1992, As You Sow promotes environmental and social corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy, coalition building, and innovative legal strategies. Our efforts create large-scale systemic change by establishing sustainable and equitable corporate practices. As You Sow was founded on the belief that many environmental and human rights issues can be resolved by increased corporate responsibility. As investor representatives, we communicate directly with corporate executives to collaboratively develop and implement business models that reduce risk, benefit brand reputation, and protect long-term shareholder value while simultaneously bringing about positive change for the environment and human rights.

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

Top Sustainable Business Trends 2021 from GreenBiz-Joel Makower

Top Sustainable Business Trends 2021 from GreenBiz

By Joel Makower, GreenBiz Group

Glimmers of hope amid tough times

Now, where were we? A year ago at this time, we looked ahead and confidently saw more engagement, new initiatives and a continuation of the forward march of progress that constitutes a typical year in the world of sustainable business. We took in the enormity of the problems facing humanity and the planet, and scanned the horizon. What we saw were companies continuing to make commitments, form alliances and reach new levels of achievement in sustainability. And the year ahead certainly would bring more of the same. Or so we predicted.

And then 2020 happened. Suffice to say, it was a year like no other: Crisis after grim crisis, as the ravages of a changing climate revealed themselves in ways large and small, a pandemic devastated families and nations alike, racial justice protests roiled communities, the global economy convulsed and political leaders the world over scrambled to respond — some more successfully than others.

Such turmoil easily could have spelled the end, or at least the pause, of anything having to do with business and sustainability. But it didn’t. The forward march of progress not only continued but accelerated.

What happened? Two words: business fundamentals.

At last, sustainability has emerged from the shadows to be considered part and parcel of corporate success. Indeed, for many of the world’s largest companies, sustainability is seen as key to minimizing risk, increasing resilience, enhancing competitiveness and unlocking new opportunities. The management of environmental and social risks — as viewed through the lens of ESG metrics — “will likely emerge as the new standard of comprehensive corporate governance and underscore how non-financial E, S and G factors may affect long-term valuation,” Brie P. Williams, a vice president at State Street Global Advisors, said last fall.

Put another way, a company’s sustainability profile increasingly may be baked into its stock price and creditworthiness, possibly affecting the cost of capital it may need for growth. That’s a game changer.

So, where are we?

Ambition Uptick

Despite the disheartening headlines, action on ESG concerns has continued relatively unabated in corporate C-suites and boardrooms. To our immense satisfaction, we saw little carnage within corporate sustainability departments during 2020 relative to previous economic downturns, when such functions were often among the first to be downsized or jettisoned.

“Sustainability leaders are in a unique position, with their experience in navigating across their organization’s functions, to help align CEOs and their employees toward common environmental and social causes,” wrote GreenBiz Vice President and Senior Analyst John Davies in “State of the Profession 2020,” the latest edition of GreenBiz’s biennial report on the role of sustainability professionals inside companies. The report found that “in large companies, there has been a significant increase in terms of the sustainability leader reporting to the CEO, from 19 percent in 2018 to 26 percent today.”

Given this, it was not surprising to see an uptick in corporate ambition on sustainability issues. “Net-zero” became a key commitment during 2020 — goals that aim to eliminate, at least on paper, a company’s greenhouse gas emissions, water extractions, fossil-fuel use or deforestation activities by a given date. And while those target dates are typically decades hence, they set the stage for activists, investors and other self-appointed watchdogs to monitor corporate progress toward their stated goals.

Perhaps more surprising is the rise of “restorative” and “regenerative” among large companies in describing their ambitions to address human and planetary woes. The idea is simple but profound: a switch in thinking from “doing less harm” to “doing more good.” In other words, the leading edge of sustainable business is shifting from companies having inadvertently negative impacts to having deliberately positive ones. And while most such corporate statements are still more aspirational than actionable, they signal a critical shift in thinking about the role companies can play in the years to come.

It’s a lot to take in, especially for the many critics of sustainable business activities, who are prone to see virtually any corporate action as too little, too late. And they might be right: Most corporate commitments and achievements are insufficient to meet the moment, let alone the future. Incremental change won’t cut it at a time when so many planetary boundaries are being crossed and so many social and environmental indicators are spiraling out of control.

Peeking Around Corners

What will it take for companies to dramatically step up their ambition and actions? That is a defining question of the decade. No doubt the answer lies in a combination of investor pressure, technological innovation, consumption shifts, governmental pressure, new circular business models that reward resource efficiency — and more than a little grit and determination.

It’s a tall order, to be sure, but the future demands nothing less.

As we dare to look ahead, however tentatively, at 2021 and beyond, we see more of the same. The seeming mundanity of that sentence belies its significance: Corporate sustainability efforts are continuing apace, even amid economic uncertainty and a global pandemic that, as of this writing, is far from contained. It wasn’t very many years ago that the future of corporate sustainability was uncertain even during good times.

What’s also different about this moment is the alignment and, increasingly, integration of social and environmental issues inside companies. While it has long been known that the poorest among us endure the brunt of air and water pollution, climate change and other problems, companies largely have focused on social and environmental issues separately and, all too often, unequally.

That’s changing. The rise of social justice movements around the world is shining a harsh light on the linkages between environmental sustainability and social cohesion, not to mention economic vitality, and ESG-savvy investors are beginning to reward companies that better align corporate strategy with the interests of both people and the planet.

As the global economy finds its footing in the coming months, and as a new, more environmentally friendly administration takes hold in Washington, D.C., we expect to see the continued rise of concern and action on climate, biodiversity, air and water pollution and other pressing issues alongside deeper, more strategic investments in clean energy, green infrastructure, sustainable food systems and other elements of an emerging clean economy.

Indeed, the world’s biggest environmental challenges are being seen as inextricably linked to community resilience, economic prosperity, public health and national security. As such, they are rising to the top of the agenda for more and more companies and countries.

These are among the glimmers of hope we see during these turbulent times.

Top Sustainable Business Trends 2021:

  1. Ocean-Based Sequestration Heats Up
  2. The ‘S’ in ESG Gains Currency
  3. Community Investments Pay Dividends
  4. Aquaculture Becomes a Net-Positive
  5. Industrial Decarbonization Picks Up Steam
  6. Nature Takes Root on the Balance Sheet
  7. Sustainable Mobility Drives the Newest Perk
  8. Aviation Plots a Sustainable Course
  9. The Circular Economy Shows Its Human Side
  10. Corporate Advocacy Gets Louder

Find more on each of these Trends in the 14th annual State of Green Business Report, our annual report card on progress by the world’s largest companies. The report, published in partnership with S&P Global Trucost, is a FREE DOWNLOAD.

 

Article by Joel Makower, Chairman & Executive Editor, GreenBiz Group

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

Making Money Count by Rachel McDonough-Make Your Money Count

­­Making Money Count

By Rachel McDonough, Make Your Money Count

Make Your Money Count logoAll of the chapters in my money story could be summed up with three words: make it count. As a Financial Advisor, I’ve had a decades-long fascination with squeezing value and meaning out of every dollar and helping my clients do the same. I even named my business Make Your Money Count, LLC. But the essence of my money story focuses on faith more than finances.

My personal definition of success—what it means to make my money count—has never been reduced to asset growth or optimized risk-adjusted returns. True financial success comes when we thoughtfully combine money with meaning and (for those who are so inclined) faith. Wealth is best managed according to a purpose higher than self, a principle I saw lived out in my family.

My dad dreamed of owning a farm, and when I was 3, my parents bought a small hobby farm in rural Wisconsin. Every morning, Dad got up early to feed the animals and do chores. Then he left the house to work his full-time job. When he returned home, he worked in the shop for another few hours before bed. He worked a lot! But it was his boyhood dream and he loved the farm.

There were many money lessons that I could have learned from my parents’ decision to buy the farm. I could have learned to avoid debt by saving up for a big purchase. I could have learned how to start a small business. I could have learned the value of hard work. But the thing that caught my attention was how and why that dream ended.

My parents—especially my mom, had an unshakable sense that God was calling them to overseas mission work. As you know, farms don’t run themselves, so to say “yes” to God’s dream meant letting go of my dad’s dream.

Is it wise to make major financial decisions based on an unproven hunch that God wants us to do something? That was the challenge my dad had to wrestle through. And wrestle he did! Over time, he became increasingly convinced that it was the right thing to do. Despite this, it was incredibly difficult for him to let go of his dream. After dragging his feet for two years, Dad made a deal with God while mending some fences.

He was grumbling quietly to himself about his work. He had mended the fence a few months earlier, and here he was, at it again. Suddenly, an internal voice asked a poignant question:

So why don’t you store up for yourself treasure in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy?

The question pierced Dad’s heart as he thought back over the years, years he spent feeling unaligned with God’s plan for his life.

“OK, God,” he said. “If you want me to sell the farm and go into full-time ministry and even move to Kenya, you’ll have to send someone to buy the farm. And I’m not going to advertise that it’s for sale.”

It was the closest to full surrender that Dad could get.

A few weeks later, a man and woman drove up the driveway uninvited and asked if Dad would ever consider selling his farm. They didn’t make an offer, but Dad knew it wasn’t a bizarre coincidence. It was a confirmation that it was time to move on to the next season of his life. It was time for a new dream.

My takeaway from this experience is that a logical, efficient financial strategy isn’t enough to make our money count.

For my own finances and for those of my faith-driven clients, the best outcomes are the result of savvy strategy combined with a listening, prayerful heart. Growing up in Kenya as the daughter of missionaries who regularly moved back and forth between continents, I learned some heart-centered lessons about money. Some of my earliest money memories are of giving money at church and watching my parents trust God to provide for their needs and guide their financial decisions. I also went from being a poor kid in the U.S. (with a government subsidized school lunch program) to standing in Nairobi surrounded by Kenyan street kids begging me for a shilling.

Here’s what I learned about money:

Our core beliefs shape our values. Our values determine our priorities. Excellent financial decisions always align with those values and priorities. When we use money this way, we avoid regrets and create the impactful, meaningful life that we desire. Our financial decisions essentially carve out a pathway for our lives.

So what does all of this have to do with investing? It probably explains the origin of my strong conviction regarding intentional, values-aligned investing. For the Christian investor, God is the rightful owner of all wealth. So great financial management means adopting his values and priorities, like caring for the least of these and becoming careful stewards of the planet he entrusted to us.

A private equity fund I recently discovered offers the opportunity to invest (with expectation of a market rate return) in start-up companies in East Africa. The companies in the portfolio provide jobs and care for employees, giving hope and an escape from poverty for an area of the world that is dear to my heart. One company specifically hires deaf young people to package yogurt and other dairy products, while developing a community in which those who have been rejected by their own families experience a new kind of acceptance. Everyone at the facility speaks sign language, and all are treated with respect and love. My goal for 2021 is to become an investor in this fund. It’s the best way I can imagine to make my money count.

What are your priorities? How can you make your money count?

If you struggle to answer these questions, we can help. Schedule a 15-minute discovery phone call today to begin gaining clarity on your priorities and challenges and to learn how Make Your Money Count can help your money count.

 

Article by Rachel McDonough, an award-winning* Certified Financial Planner™ professional and a Certified Kingdom Advisor with over 18 years of experience, as well as a published author. As a recognized leader in Faith-Driven Investing, she is passionate about helping Christian families live with zero financial regrets by aligning their finances with their faith-driven values, including environmental stewardship. With her Values-Driven Wealth Management Process, clients can plan wisely for their future and make a positive impact for the next generation. Rachel founded Make Your Money Count, LLC in 2009 with the goal of making this highly personalized process accessible to clients across the country through technology. * Named a Five Star Wealth Manager for 2013, 2014, 2016, 2019, 2020, and 2021.

Featured Articles, Food & Farming, Impact Investing

Starbucks Announces $100 Million Investment in CDFIs and Impact-Focused Financials Institutions-GreenMoney

Starbucks Announces $100 Million Investment in CDFIs and Other Impact-focused Financial Institutions

In January 2021, Starbucks announced new initiatives as part of its long-standing commitment to use its scale and platform to positively impact the communities it serves.

By 2025, the Starbucks Community Resilience Fund will invest $100 million to advance racial equity and environmental resilience by supporting small business growth and community development projects in neighborhoods with historically limited access to capital. The investments will initially focus on 12 U.S. metropolitan areas and their surrounding regions: Atlanta, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New Orleans, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.

In partnership with community leaders, CDFIs, and other impact-focused financial institutions, the Fund will help provide access to capital intended to support small businesses and neighborhood projects, including those addressing the inequitable impacts of climate change.

“Starbucks is investing in the survival of small business by working with CDFIs in key cities across America. CDFIs deliver affordable credit as well as training on disaster recovery and rebuilding – and that is exactly what small businesses need right now to withstand ongoing economic and climate changes,” said OFN President and CEO Lisa Mensah. “With partners like Starbucks and CDFIs, these small businesses will have a fighting chance to recover, rebuild, hire workers, and serve their local economy.”

Read the full announcement.

 

SBX010821-Starbucks-Community-Resilience-Fund

Source: OFN

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