Tag: Impact Investing

US SIF Statement on Updated ERISA Guidance on Shareholder Rights

On December 29, 2016, the Department of Labor (DOL) rescinded Interpretive Bulletin 2008-2 relating to the Exercise of Shareholder Rights and replaced it with Interpretive Bulletin 2016-01 (www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/ebsa/ebsa20161228) which reinstates the language of Interpretive Bulletin 94-2 with some modifications. US SIF supports this change as IB 2008-2 was not only inconsistent with prior guidance, but may have discouraged ERISA plan fiduciaries from exercising their shareholder rights. Today’s guidance appropriately notes the positive role fiduciaries play through the exercise of shareholder rights. Additionally, this guidance also reinforces the language of IB 2015-1 [1] on economically targeted investments which clarified that environmental, social and governance (ESG) impacts can be intrinsic to the market value of an investment.

Lisa Woll, CEO of US SIF: The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment noted that “Fiduciaries have been engaging portfolio companies on environmental and social matters in a productive fashion for years. Institutional investors are increasingly engaging companies on ESG issues to address risks and opportunities. The US SIF Foundation’s 2016 Report on US Sustainable, Responsible and Impact Investing Trends (www.ussif.org/trends) found that 225 institutional investors or money managers with combined assets of $2.56 trillion filed or co-filed shareholder resolutions on environmental, social and governance issues at publicly traded companies from 2014 through 2016. We believe shareholder engagement is consistent with the fiduciary duties of prudence and the goal of increasing long-term risk-adjusted returns. We commend the Department of Labor for its leadership on this issue.”

Key points made in the new guidance and in the DOL news release include:

• The DOL reinforced the legitimacy and importance of investors’ engagement with their portfolio holdings noting that IB 2008-2 is out of step with important domestic and international trends in investment management. The guidance removes perceived impediments to the prudent management of plans’ rights as shareholders and encourages fiduciaries to manage those rights in the best interest of plan participants and beneficiaries.

• The updated guidance clarifies how a plan may consider ESG issues in proxy voting and other shareholder engagement activities.

• In its comments, the DOL recognizes the pervasiveness of US publicly-traded stocks in ERISA plan investment portfolios, both direct holdings and through pooled investment funds, including index funds and that this is another factor that contributes to the importance of proxy voting and shareholder engagement practices.

• The DOL noted that if there is a problem identified with a portfolio company’s management, selling the stock and finding a replacement investment may not be a prudent solution for a plan fiduciary. Often, engagement with the company is the prudent course of action.

• Issues appropriate for shareholder engagement include governance structures and practices, the nature of long-term business plans including plans on climate change preparedness and sustainability, the corporation’s workforce practices, and policies and practices to address environmental or social factors that have an impact on shareholder value, among other issues.

• Companies themselves are seeking more engagement as a way of understanding and responding to their shareholders’ views. There have also been market events that were catalysts for the growth of shareholder engagement. The financial crisis of 2008, for example, exposed some of the pitfalls of shareholder inattention to corporate governance and highlighted the merits of shareholders taking a more engaged role with the companies.

 

Article Note:

[1] https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2015/10/26/2015-27146/interpretive-bulletin-relating-to-the-fiduciary-standard-under-erisa-in-considering-economically

Additional Articles, Impact Investing

The Behavioral Benefits of Values-based Investing

By Dr. Daniel Crosby, President of Nocturne Capital and the New York Times bestselling author of The Laws of Wealth

I am a son of the American South and a student of her often troubled history. A native Alabaman, I now live in Atlanta and only recently became aware of an instance where Coca-Cola used corporate power to do social good in the Civil Rights Era. In 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had just been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and the city of Atlanta was preparing a formal dinner befitting of this great honor. Invitations went out to the city’s elites but almost no one responded. Worried, Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allen expressed his concerns to Robert Woodruff, the former president of the soft drink giant and still one of the most powerful people in town. Woodruff acted swiftly and the Coca-Cola Company sent the following message to the movers and shakers of Atlanta:

“It is embarrassing for Coca-Cola to be located in a city that refuses to honor its Nobel Prize winner. We are an international business. The Coca-Cola Co. does not need Atlanta. You all need to decide whether Atlanta needs the Coca-Cola Co.”

Tickets to the dinner sold out within two hours.

This, as we commonly understand it, is the benefit of values-based investing; we invest in companies that operate in accordance with our values and it makes the world a better place. This value is well understood and undeniable, but it masks a less-recognized truism: I believe that values-based investing can actually help us make better investment decisions.

The Problem

While most investors assume that externalities like Fed moves, market volatility and (sigh) the Presidential election are the best predictors of whether or not they will reach their financial goals, the research is unequivocal you (yes, YOU) control what matters most – your behavior. Decisions like dollar cost averaging, staying the course and managing fees are far better predictors of crossing the financial finish line than the aforementioned externalities, but the unsexy nature of this truth means that it is widely ignored.

As Gary Antonacci notes:

“Over the past 30 years ending in 2013, the S&P 500 had an annual total return of 11.1 percent, while the average stock mutual fund investor earned only 3.69 percent. Around 1.4 percent of this underperformance was due to mutual fund expenses. Investors making poor timing decisions accounted for much of the remaining 6 percent of annual underperformance.”

This “behavior gap” is so meaningful that many investors are taking risk only to fail to keep up with inflation! This realization has spawned numerous books (The Laws of Wealth by Dr. Daniel Crosby is available at fine booksellers everywhere!), countless conference speeches and has resulted in two Nobel prizes to date. But for all of the attention that bad investor behavior gets, it remains fairly recalcitrant to intervention. Educators teach, advisors cajole but following fearful and greedy impulses is a hard habit to break. After all, obesity has risen dramatically since nutrition labels became commonplace in the 1990s. Even when we know we’re not acting in our best interest, being irrational can be so delicious.

The Power of Personalization

Education has tended to fall short of producing the desired behavioral results partially because it occurs on the periphery. With the exception of the much more effective, “just in time” behavioral coaching, education occurs in a cool, rational moment that has little power over a fearful mind in the throes of market volatility. Perhaps that is why there is some evidence that embedded solutions have greater potential influence. Specifically, when a portfolio is comprised of holdings that the investor finds more personally meaningful, it seems possible that this would have the impact of positively shaping behavior.

George Loewenstein had this to say about labeling investment “buckets” according to the actual life purpose they are meant to meet:

“The process of mentally bucketing money in multiple accounts is often combined with earmarking the accounts for specific goals. While it seems like an inconsequential process, earmarking can have a dramatic effect on retirement saving. Cheema and Soman (2009) found that earmarking savings in an envelope labeled with a picture of a couple’s children nearly doubled the savings rate of very low income parents.”

As the buckets of money became less abstract and more personally meaningful, behavior is changed and improved.

Consider too the experience of SEI Investments, who had clients in both goal-based (which is to say, benchmarked to their personal goals and return needs rather than something like the S&P 500) and traditional strategies at the time of the 2008 financial crisis. They found the following distinctions between the two crowds:

Of those in a single, traditional investment portfolio:

• 50 percent chose to fully liquidate their portfolios or at least their equity portfolios, including many high net worth clients who had no immediate need for cash.

• 10 percent made significant changes in their equity allocation, reducing it by 25 percent or more.

Of those clients in a personally meaningful goals-based investment strategy:

• 75 percent made no changes.

• 20 percent decided to increase the size of their immediate needs pool but left their longer-term assets fully invested.

SEI’s key finding? “Goals-based investors are less likely to panic and make ill-informed changes to their portfolios.” It is intuitive philosophically that a personalized approach would reduce panic, but seeing such dramatic results play out empirically is satisfying indeed.

A Potential Solution?

The evidence seems to suggest that as our investment lives take on a more personalized touch, our behavior changes accordingly. Framing saving as a future benefit to a beloved child rather than a current loss of opportunity is a powerful incentive to save. Benchmarking to the returns we need to do (YOUR DREAMS HERE) keeps us in our seat when those benchmarked to the broad market are losing their cool.

Similarly, I believe that investing in ways that correspond with our values will make investment management more real, more personal and possibly incent us to do the hard work of remaining patient and committed. It is my supposition that a devoted Catholic would be far less likely to sell an Ave Maria fund than a more generic alternative when volatility strikes. Similarly, an accomplished female executive may feel a personal attachment to a “Women’s Leadership Fund” than a fund that met a comparable risk/return objective. In both cases, one is an abstraction while the other is a concrete representation of deeply held values.

The relationship between values-based investing and behavior will of course be complicated and may even have some negative consequences. After all, emotion can obscure rational thought just as surely as it can compel positive behavior. But I for one remain hopeful that as we improve our awareness of how our investments impact the world around us that our behavior will improve in kind.

 

Article by Dr. Daniel Crosby is the President of Nocturne Capital (www.nocturnecapital.com) and the New York Times bestselling author of The Laws of Wealth.

Dr. Daniel Crosby is a psychologist, behavioral finance expert and New York Times bestselling author on market psychology. Educated at Brigham Young and Emory Universities, Dr. Crosby is a pioneer in integrating behavioral finance and investment management. Daniel was named one of Investment News “40 under 40” and a “financial blogger you should be reading” by AARP. Daniel’s second book, “Personal Benchmark”, co-authored with Charles Widger of Brinker Capital, was a New York Times bestseller that outlines a highly personalized approach to investing that aligns intention with action while fostering an investment experience that is both enjoyable and rational. His latest book, “The Laws of Wealth” sets forth a system of applied behavioral finance for managing both self and wealth. Dr. Crosby’s avocational interests include St. Louis Cardinals baseball and watching independent films.

Article Sources:

http://journals.cambridge.org/download.php?file=%2FJFQ%2FJFQ45_02%2FS0022109010000141a.pdf&code=dc87a1402f18af1abe3d4e84592ebdd3

https://www.amazon.com/Personal-Benchmark-Integrating-Behavioral-Investment/dp/1118963326

https://www.amazon.com/Dual-Momentum-Investing-Innovative-Strategy/dp/0071849440/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1477408930&sr=1-1&keywords=dual+momentum

Featured Articles, Impact Investing

Banking on Data to Power the Impact Investing Movement

By Sean Tennerson, Program Officer, The Case Foundation

For those of you who know the Case Foundation, we’re bullish on the impact investing movement and the power of private capital for public good. While still a relatively small market, impact investments are surging, with some seeing a trillion-dollar market potential by 2020. Against that context, we do a lot of thinking about what is standing in the way of tipping significantly more interested investors to activated investors.

Education plays a key role in building momentum within any movement. And the Case Foundation has dedicated significant resources to shining a spotlight on the what, why, who and how of impact investing – check out the Short Guide! Over the course of the last year and a half, I have had the opportunity to deepen that work by helping to develop what we are calling the Impact Investing Network Map – a visualization of the relationships between investors, funds and companies in the field. As part of this effort, I have met with academic institutions, foundations and users and providers of data, all of whom are serious about scaling the impact investing ecosystem. And one barrier to scale rose quickly and consistently to the top – impact investing data is simply not accessible enough.

By data, I mean the details about who, what, where and how in impact investing. This information is essential to power tools, like the Network Map and other resources that can spur more investment and drive greater efficiency in the impact investing market. These details can be hard to locate if you’re not familiar with the space (to be fair, even if you are familiar with the space) because information is widely dispersed, when it is available it’s rarely transparent and it’s difficult to synthesize trends across the field because there’s no fully standardized language and metrics for reporting.

Alright, we know the data is an obstacle – let’s get real about solving it. From what I have seen and heard during the Network Map discovery process, the data exists and there is interest in improving accessibility – we just have to find the right levers to pull. Right now, we can find a good deal of information in reports from individual funds and investors like Unitus Seed Fund, K.L. Felicitas and F.B. Heron Foundation; from groups like ImpactSpace who are committed to greater public access to information; in press releases like this one announcing social enterprise, Workit Health raising $1.1 M; and even on Twitter – try searching “raised #socent #impinv.” Knowing that the data exists, how can we start to better put it in the hands of those we want to activate?

Let me posit three steps that will make data more accessible to significantly advance the movement:

Invest in Transparency as a Global Public Good

When discussing the challenges to making direct investments, interested investors, foundation and family office staff all shared an interest in knowing where and how peers were moving capital, with whom they were co-investing and what they could learn from that activity. Additionally, across the field there was a call for more specific and accurate transaction-level and performance data. Currently, large, well-vetted datasets cannot be accessed to this degree of granularity. There’s a gap in efforts to paint a complete picture of the impact investing field. The gap makes it more difficult to understand where the market is growing, who is active in that growth and where there’s a need for more support. For individuals and organizations thinking of throwing their hats in the ring, the opacity of information can pose a real barrier to understanding how their priorities fit within the current structures. We have an opportunity to build better onramps through improved transparency.

In addition to the institutions seeking tools, in speaking with organizations that maintain large datasets within the field, two keys to unlocking more transparency arose: The need for stronger technical capacity to create the tools necessary to get permissions from relevant parties to share more information. And the need to engender a broader sense of comfort and responsibility throughout the field to be more open about impact investments (while respecting legal obligations). I use the term responsibility because we are still in the early days of this investment field. Greater transparency into who is active, in what geographies and industries, deploying which forms of capital and achieving what type of impact and financial returns will greatly benefit the depth of the growing knowledge base and drive further improvements in the field’s infrastructure. Transparency itself – just committing to publishing and sharing data – is a public good that allows interested parties to have access to information that can inform decision-making.

Recognize that Transparency isn’t Enough; Accessibility of Data is Essential

If you think of a new entrant in the impact investing field as being on a journey, then a big part of the initial adventure is getting her bearings in a complicated network of corporate, academic, nonprofit, government and professional groups that each has a key role and a key set of priorities. Their distinct goals and perspectives on how impact investing plays into their communities can lend itself to silos of information that inevitably support their priorities spanning policy initiatives, financial performance targets, returns on investments, etc. What this means is that there is a good deal of analysis and reporting on impact investing trends to date, but that it is still difficult for new entrants to only access pieces of what is a much fuller picture.

Beyond reports and white papers, there are groups doing a fantastic job of aggregating investment data within their networks – providing a rich resource for their members. This data can include investor and enterprise characteristics in addition to a record of impact and transaction-level information. It is understandable that this data would be limited to members who are already connected to supporting networks. So the question I have is: How do we get better data to our new entrant who isn’t already tuned in to other resources? How do we expose her even earlier in the journey to a more complete story of the who, what and where of impact investing?

Commit to a Standardization Process

If we can both make the data in the field more transparent and make it more accessible, what next? From what I have learned through reviewing dozens of impact investing data-powered platforms and tools is that the next hurdle is standardization of language and metrics.

We know that individual organizations have unique priorities and interests and there is nuance in social impact objectives. For example, if two social enterprises work on building wells to provide easy access to clean drinking water for underserved communities they may describe their services in very different terms because while their primary output may be similar their missions may be different. One may seek to improve health and sanitation, while the other may work to educate women and girls by decreasing the time it takes to complete work primarily done by women. It’s important to capture these distinct missions; however, if one of these companies appears on multiple platforms collecting information on social enterprises and impact investing, they may be characterized differently on each platform due to disparities in terminology characterizing social impact – compounding the potential for confusion in understanding the basic similarities and differences in services provided by social enterprises.

Impact Invest Netw_2 artcl

To illustrate the point, here are three examples of data-backed platforms with unique value add to the field:

  • iPar: a platform created by the Caprock Group designed to facilitate better reporting and analysis of impact investments.
  • ImpactBase: a part of the GIIN, an online search tool designed to locate active impact investing funds.

What you’ll discover in looking at each site is that while the platforms overlap, they provide different services, and sometimes measure different things. Looking closely at the themes and building blocks, sectors and impact themes respectively, the language reflects a similar spirit in recording social and environmental impact, however their terminologies diverge. This lack of standardization can make it more difficult to share underlying data collaboratively. There are efforts to address this challenge; for example the Social Data Commons (SODA) a group launched at SOCAP, has contributors that are actively building better connective tissue between platforms using technology, and others are working to map platform taxonomies and metrics between tools. With better standardization, we can show that what appear to be attempts at comparing apples and oranges are actually more like comparing red delicious and granny smith.

Bank on Data-Informed Decision Making Being the Norm

As millennials we’ve lived most of our lives with information at our fingertips. From something as simple as picking a restaurant and deciding to bike, metro or Uber the distance, to something as complicated as searching for a new home, we expect all of our basic questions will be answered in a few clicks. And, I don’t think this expectation is unique to my generation. Just as Google, the Metro Transit Authority and Uber have taken steps to translate and aggregate portions of their unique datasets in one easily accessible location to better serve the end user, the impact investing field can empower our end users with better data.

As we move into the next few years, which many predict will bring further growth, we have the opportunity to pair that growth with greater accessibility to information, decreasing opacity around performance and coming together around standard language and metrics. We can help provide individuals and organizations with better onramps into impact investing through better education about the activity in the field, so they can more easily determine if and where they fit in. We can be smarter about using data to power the next stages of growth.

 

Article by Sean Tennerson, who started at the Case Foundation (www.casefoundation.org) in October 2012 after moving to D.C. from California where she graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.A. in Economics. Moving to D.C. was Sean’s first time ever on the East coast. She moved here to pursue her interest in domestic and international Economic development, and her love of moving to and seeing new places and people.

As the Program Officer Sean loves having the opportunity to contribute to the Foundation’s social innovation efforts. Her favorite thing about her position on the grant making team is the chance to work with and build relationships with the grantees by participating in their events and meeting their volunteers and the people they serve.

When not at work, Sean is usually out exploring D.C. She runs and does yoga, a hippy tendency she picked up at Cal. She also tries to flex her creativity muscles through drawing and crocheting, and is always working on improving her French skills.

Featured Articles, Impact Investing

Investing isn’t Enough: 6 Things You Need to do to Grow Your Wealth

By Gabriel Anderson, a Certified Financial Planner and founder of Crafted Wealth Management

Hello, GreenMoney Journal readers!

Let’s take a break from talking about investments. Yeah, yeah. This is a journal about Sustainable Investing, but what is it you’re really after? What’s the reason you’re investing in the first place? Have you thought about where you’d like to end up? How will you know that you accomplished what you’ve set out to accomplish if you haven’t defined your goal? Investments are an important tool but they become more powerful when you view them as a part of your larger financial life strategy.

What I’m talking about is the process of Financial Life Planning and that’s what I do. I help people use money as a tool to accomplish their goals and live their ideal life. It’s what I call becoming a Financial Badass and it all starts with just six basic steps.

These six steps give you a framework to define your values and goals, and then uses those as a basis for your financial decisions. These steps provide a process that you can follow without fail, and help you provide the WHY behind your financial decisions. The WHY is your motivation and knowing that is empowering. Becoming a financial badass is a process of enlightenment and it’s a process where a little knowledge can go a LONG way.

Step #1 – Define Your Vision, Values, and Goals

What do you want to accomplish with your time on this earth? Going through this process may be the start of something bigger. It will take you down the path of breaking down your life and defining what you need to do to get you where you want to go.

All you need to do is take the time to be present for yourself and answer these questions:

• What would you like to accomplish in life over the next three years? 10-15 years? Beyond that? Think about this from a personal, professional, and financial perspective.
• What does money mean to you? What do you want it to help you accomplish?
• If you have an unlimited source of money and the rest of your life to spend it, what would you do with your time?
• If you have unlimited money and 5-10 years left of life, what would you do with your time?
• If you only have 24 hours left to live, what would you do with the time you have left?

These questions are here to help you realize what’s important to you and reestablish your values.

Have you come to any realizations once you answered them? Is there some part of your current daily/weekly/monthly life doing what you would do if you only had 24 hours left to live? If not, should you take a step back to reevaluate?

Step #2 – Are You a Saver or a Spender?

It’s no secret but savers are going to have a gigantic leg up throughout life. They have the funds set aside to execute on opportunities as they present themselves. Or, have reserves available if they happen to lose their source of income. If that happens, the savers won’t need to rely on debt to support their lifestyle until they find another job.

Don’t worry! If you’re a spender, all hope is not lost! As long as you realize you are a “spender”, you can take the steps ahead of time to ‘trick’ yourself. To do this, you need to automate a percentage of your paycheck into savings and investments and “theoretically” forget about it. Then you have the other percentage of your paycheck to live your life in whatever way you choose. Just remember to pay yourself first! The percentage you set aside is there for Future You!

Saving vs. Spending is about behavior. Many believe that if they were earning more money their financial fears and problems would disappear. The problem is that most money problems aren’t financial in nature, they are behavioral. That’s why living paycheck to paycheck is a systemic issue and so difficult a habit to break.

Getting financially ahead is less about what your income is and more about how much of your income you aren’t spending. If you spend less than you make for long enough, you’ll achieve financial independence. This is the essence of being a saver versus a spender, so let’s learn how to become a saver.

Step #3 – The Details

So where do you stand right now? Most of us aren’t starting from Zero. Some of us may be starting this process with debt and some of us may be starting out with assets. Either way, we need to find out where you are now to see what you need to do to get you where you want to be. This statement of your personal financial position is called your Net Worth. What we are going to build to calculate this is called a Balance Sheet:

1. Grab statements for all of your accounts (including debt) and values for hard assets (house, car, possessions)
2. Draw a T-chart on a sheet of paper:

• Label the left side Assets and list out the value of all your accounts and assets
• Label the right side Liabilities and list out all of your debts

3. Math time!

• Add up both columns at the bottom of your sheet of paper
• Assets – Liabilities = Net Worth

Now that you know where you are, what can we do to grow your net worth?

Step #4 – Your Budget

What’s a budget? A budget is a tool you can use to tell your money where you want it to go instead of leaving yourself wondering where it went at the end of every month.

The first part of the budgeting process is about awareness. It’s about figuring out what you’re currently doing with your income. The next step is taking that awareness and making changes with that new knowledge. Setting spending goals for each category will start to free up income. Should you spend less so that you can save and invest more? Can you actually afford to increase your lifestyle? Let’s find out:

1. Grab a pen and paper or open a spreadsheet.
2. Answer the following questions:

• What is your net monthly income?
• What fixed expenses do you have every month? (For example – rent/mortgage, utilities, cell phone, groceries, car payment, insurance, etc.)
• What discretionary expenses do you have every month?

3. Subtract your expenses from your income. (Income-expenses=???)
4. Is this number Positive? Negative? How do you feel now that you see where your money is going?

To get a more accurate picture of your expenses it may help to look at the actual data:

• Gather 3 months of statements with your transactional data such as from your checking and/or credit card.
• Go through your statements and categorize your purchases and expenses on a separate sheet of paper or spreadsheet.

  • Add up the totals in each category for each month
  • Divide those totals by 3
  • This is your average monthly spending for each category and is a good starting place for a future monthly budget
  • Review each category
  • Does your spending line up with your goals and values?
  • Are there any categories you can reduce or eliminate?
  • Take some time and set spending limits for each category

See if you can stick to these for the next few months.

  • Note if you are overspending in any one category, is an adjustment necessary?

Now that you are aware of where your money is going, are there any changes you feel you should make? Are you happy about what you found going through this exercise? What percentage of your income are you saving? What percentage are you spending?

As an aside, I’ve had many people tell me that they are good with money because they pay off their credit cards in full every month. I think that’s a great thing to do, but you need to make sure that the things you are spending your money on are aligned with what you really need in the first place.

Step #5 – Emergency Fund/Cash Reserves. The what, why, and how

So what do you do if you lose your job, have an unexpected medical situation, or you have a friend or family member that needs a boost? Financial life planning is also about preparing yourself for the unexpected.There are two ways to look at this.

1. You want reserves set aside in case something happens in your life. You will be able to take cash out to pay for an emergency instead of taking on debt. Set aside $1,000 in a savings account (and forget it’s there!)

2. The next iteration of an emergency fund is to prepare yourself for what could happen if you lost your income. How long could you float yourself before finding another job? Or if you’re looking to start a business, how much time do you want to give yourself before you can pay yourself an income? This is as simple as taking a look at your monthly expenses from Step #4 (budgeting) and multiplying it by how many months you’d like as a cushion. For example, if your monthly budget was $2,500 and you want 12 months of expenses set aside, you’d need $30,000 set aside. Keep this in a safe, liquid vehicle, so it’s there if you ever need it.

Alright, that makes sense… What do we do if we have a lot of debt? Funny you should ask…

Step #6 – Paying Off Debts

Debt sucks. Straight up.

It’s an expense that you incurred in the past that you told your future self you’d deal with as you earn more income. Trouble is, you probably didn’t realize how suffocating that concept was until you got into it.

Fear not! You can get rid of it. Now that you know where your money is going from doing your budget in step #4, you have an idea of how much extra income you can put toward saving, investing, and paying off debts. Has this article inspired you to get your s4!t together and become super intense about paying off all your debts? Great! Get after it! Similar to the spending vs. saving debate, this can often be more emotional than financial and that’s ok.

For those that want a strategy surrounding your debt payoff, there are two strategies that work well.

The Debt Snowball:

Organize your debts by their balances, smallest to largest.

Find the minimum payments for all your debts. Determine the maximum amount of money you want to set aside for debt payments. Distribute that money toward the minimum balances, take the leftover excess and add it to the smallest balance, and so on. As the smaller debts are paid off, roll those additional payments to the next smallest balance. The debt snowball is effective because it’s emotionally satisfying to see the number of your debts disappear.

The second method is the Debt Avalanche.

For this method, organize your debts by highest interest rate to lowest interest rate. From there, follow the same process as the debt snowball. As balances get paid off, roll those payments into the debt with the next highest interest rate. This is the quicker way to get rid of your debts but may not be as emotionally satisfying. If you have high interest rate debts that have high balances they will take longer to pay off.

Either method you choose is a fantastic way to get rid of your debts. It’s far better than the alternative, letting them continue to accumulate and ignoring the effects.

Calculators here: http://www.calcxml.com/calculators/restructuring-debt?skn=38#calcoutput or here: www.whatsthecost.com/snowball.aspx

Putting it All Together

Work through these steps one-by-one, remember this is a process and in life things are constantly changing. These processes work whether you’re in debt or you already have a few million dollars of savings and investments under your belt. The contents of this article and the understanding of them will give you a HUGE leg up when it comes to your personal finances. Mastering them and using them to move forward in life is what being a Financial Badass is all about! Get to it!

 

Article by Gabriel Anderson, a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) and founder of Crafted Wealth Management (www.CraftedWealthManagement.com), a Venice, CA based virtual Wealth Management firm. Gabe takes his clients through a values based approach to help them use their money as a tool to accomplish their goals and live their ideal life. You can follow him on Twitter @GabrielCFP

Featured Articles, Impact Investing

Young, Radical, and Candid: How Millennials will Remake Socially Responsible Investing

Pat+Zevin_Additionalby Pat Miguel Tomaino, Associate Director of Socially Responsible Investing, Zevin Asset Management

 

Marketers are obsessed with attracting Millennials, and their pitches can look downright desperate. Domino’s invites young customers to order a large cheese with a pizza emoji. According to Bloomberg, net sales at Banana Republic dropped 10 percent even after it partnered with the popular Instagram account “Hot Dudes Reading.”

The investment industry seems equally flummoxed. Confronted with low financial literacy among the generation now aged 18 to 35, wealth managers are turning to smartphone apps that “game-ify” the process of getting an investment account. And still, 80 percent of Millennials are avoiding the stock market.

“Cynical Do-gooders”

Why should they play along? Unlike Generation X, American millennials have known war nearly their entire lives. They felt the brunt of the financial crisis when their parents lost jobs and homes. Now millennials are told that the economy has recovered — despite massive student debt, increasing inequality, and extortionate housing costs in the cities where the jobs are.

Considering what they’ve gone through, one would forgive young Americans for being cynical. But that’s not the whole story.

After the storm, millennials want to live their convictions and improve the world they’ve inherited. As a (borderline) millennial myself, I’ll take the liberty to say that Harvard Business Review editor Walter Frick was probably right when he dubbed members of my generation “cynical do-gooders,” suspicious of institutions but still insistent that those institutions (like public companies) can and should do better.

Advocating for a Radical Generation

Socially responsible investing (SRI) is one area of financial management that makes sense for millennials. According to Morgan Stanley, 84 percent of Millennials considering investment are interested in socially responsible options. However, ethical wealth managers need to evolve to serve this generation.

A “do no harm” approach of screening bad companies out of an equity strategy probably won’t be enough. The millennial clients I meet in my work as an analyst and shareholder advocate at Zevin Asset Management want a healthy investment return. They also want to work with institutions that see the world as it is (in political, economic, and climatological turmoil) and partner with them to fight an unacceptable status quo.

Ethical investors can begin to meet that need by re-committing to shareholder advocacy — pushing the companies in our clients’ portfolios to address critical environmental and social issues.

Shareholder advocacy is a proven technique, but it too must change to reflect the millennials’ story — not as a marketing exercise, but as the only way to serve a generation radicalized by war, economic anxiety, and political betrayal.

Learning from Millennial Movements

In the coming years, I expect that socially responsible investing will be remade by millennials in two major ways. First, it will become more critical of our economic system and even more willing to confront the companies and tycoons that run it.

According to a 2016 Harvard study, 51 percent of young Americans do not “support capitalism.” Of course, investment advice won’t dismantle an unfair and destructive economic system. But the right adviser can help young investors challenge the public companies at the heart of the old order.

As one of our young clients told me recently: “I initially thought of socially responsible investing as a way to simply avoid funding (and profiting from) corporations that do work I find awful or immoral — things like war, pollution, [and] mass incarceration… But I’ve come to be inspired by the process of using shareholder proposals and other active ways that we can leverage investment to put pressure on corporations to make specific changes.”

Our firm uses constructive dialogue and shareholder proposals to push companies to respect people and planet. This comes out of a longstanding ethical commitment and our belief that, by addressing climate risks and listening to local communities, companies can possibly avoid big losses.

That’s a great start, but Millennials will want to push harder. According to a 2014 CNBC survey, fully 40 percent of Millennials report that the corporate sector is a “source of fear.” A generation that is so wary of capitalism wants to hold companies accountable for their role in social ills like low wages, environmental injustice, human rights violations, and political corruption.

Investment managers can answer by working on challenging issues at the intersection of investment risk and structural injustice. We can raise concerns that relate to both the investment case for a specific stock and the wider social impact of that company or sector.

That is why, among other priorities, Zevin Asset Management has engaged with firms about: hiring policies that contribute to mass incarceration by excluding people with criminal records, the corporate role in the policy fight over raising the minimum wage, and companies’ controversial support for the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and other lobbying groups that stifle climate action and voting rights at the state level.

 

Speaking Clearly About Wealth and Responsibility

The second way that millennials will influence socially responsible investing is by sharpening our words and our values.

Unlike their parents and grandparents, who clung to a polite taboo against “money talk,” millennials want to speak about money and everything that goes with it: debt, job loss, envy, reparations, inequality, wealth, who’s got it, who wants it, poverty, privilege, and the fundamental unfairness of the initial distribution.

In politics, we see this openness in the Fight for 15 and new discussion of a universal basic income, along with frank talk about student loan debt and the way in which institutional racism and redlining have excluded generations of Black Americans from economic opportunity.

There is a similar spirit among the more fortunate millennials considering socially responsible investing. Another young client told me that, in his generation, people with privilege “have started to see that inequality is their problem; they perpetuate it and benefit from it and they have a responsibility to deal with it.”

The SRI sector can show millennials that investing in the public markets need not merely reinforce their privilege. Shareholder advocacy, for example, is a way to highlight the privileges of stock ownership (among them, access to managers and corporate boards) and use that power toward genuine social change.

Wealth managers have to change to hold millennials’ attention, but the good news is they can forget about the apps, tweets, and gimmicks. While everyone else markets to millennials, millennials will re-make socially responsible investing for the next generation.

 

Article by Pat Miguel Tomaino, Associate Director of Socially Responsible Investing, Zevin Asset Management.

Pat leads Zevin’s corporate engagement program, analyzing portfolio companies and pushing them to address critical environmental, social, and governance risks. To that end, Pat dialogues with executives, builds coalitions with NGOs and peer firms, and files shareholder proposals on behalf of our clients. He also identifies emerging sustainability issues and oversees proxy voting. For several years, Pat was a Senior Analyst on the responsible investment team of F&C Asset Management, where he led the U.K. firm’s work in Latin America and Canada. He has held research roles for several progressive groups, including Senator Elizabeth Warren’s 2012 campaign and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Pat recently completed a fellowship as a public radio producer for WBUR’s Open Source with Christopher Lydon. A graduate of Harvard College, Pat is interested in racial justice, economic inequality, and labor rights in the U.S. and overseas.

Additional Articles, Impact Investing

TONIIC T100: Launch Report and New Directory

Offering New Insights and Resources from the Frontier of Impact Investing

Toniic Institute, the global action community for impact investors, recently released T100: Launch “Insights from the Frontier of Impact Investing,” in a presentation at the GIIN Investor Forum 2016 in Amsterdam. It is the first report in a longitudinal study of impact investing portfolios of Toniic members, starting with 51 portfolios. The data analyzed reveals that 100% values alignment can be achieved today in the investment portfolios of high net worth individuals, foundations, and family offices, including those portfolios seeking market-rate returns. The inaugural T100 report relies on private portfolio data shared by Toniic 100% Impact Network members, ranging in size from less than US$2 million to more than $100 million, with combined capital of more than $1.65 billion. The T100: Launch report is available for download at- www.toniic.com/T100

As part of the T100 project, Toniic also announced the launch of the Toniic Diirectory, a publicly accessible, peer-sourced catalog of more than 1,000 impact investments made by its members, upon which the T100 findings are based.  The directory is searchable by impact categories, impact themes, asset classes, management structure, liquidity profile, and impact geography, and is available for review at- www.toniic.com/T100 The T100: Launch report offers insights from the frontier of impact investing – from those investors who have committed to go “all in” to impact-alignment across all asset classes in a diversified portfolio. It reaches the following conclusions:

• 100% alignment of one’s investment capital and values is possible today.

• Alignment is for everyone. Geography is no barrier, nor are particular causes or themes.

• Investors have found investments they consider impactful across all asset classes.

• Measurable impact can be generated by a wide range of portfolio asset sizes, liquidity objectives, and investor types while also achieving market-based financial returns.

• On average the portfolios are 64% deployed with impact and 33% have already reached 90% or greater impact.

“As a trusted third party, we can aggregate information through the T100 Project, and help investors learn from what’s happening on the frontier of impact investing,” said Toniic CEO Adam Bendell. “With these initial findings, the T100 Launch report begins to unravel certain myths about the potential for impact investing. We see now that impact returns can come alongside financial returns, and that one can achieve positive impact in virtually every asset class, not just in early stage private equity.” The T100: Launch report is the first in an upcoming series of reports to be issued by Toniic as part of the T100 project, based on data drawn from the increasing scope of the Toniic Diirectory. This will provide a newfound perspective into the efficacy of value-aligned impact investments in yielding positive financial returns alongside targeted positive impact.

To contribute to the Toniic Diirectory, investors will be able to utilize the accompanying Toniic Impact Portfolio Tool, which enables them to see relationships between asset classes and impact in their own portfolio of investments, and contribute to the demonstrative power of sharing actual investments in the Diirectory. Over time, the Diirectory will grow with new investment data, serving as a living resource for impact investors. Significant industry players, including the Tides Foundation and ImpactAssets, have already agreed to add their investment information into upcoming versions of the Directory. “This report and its underlying data is the starting point of a multi-year longitudinal study to follow 100 portfolios over multiple years,” said Dr. Charly Kleissner, co-founder of Toniic and the 100% Impact Network. “We believe the results of these efforts will make an important contribution to developing the new financial system, a system that will have positive impact at its core.”

 

About Toniic and T100  Toniic is the global action community for impact investors. Toniic’s 160 members represent more than 360 impact investors from 22 countries who share a vision of a global financial system creating positive social and environmental impact. Toniic’s mission is to empower impact investors. More than half of Toniic members are also members of the Toniic 100% Impact Network, each of whom have committed to move an entire investment portfolio from less than $2 million to more than $300 million into 100% impact investments. This represents a total commitment of close to $4 billion. The T100 Project is a longitudinal study of the portfolios of some of those investors. It reveals new insights about the various paths towards and feasibility of 100% impact investing. The T100 project includes periodic reports, issue briefs, videos and podcasts, and the Toniic Diirectory, a peer-sourced directory of over 1,000 impact investments across all asset classes. For more information, visit www.toniic.com/T100 or write us at T100@toniic.com

Additional Articles, Impact Investing

Is Your Mutual Fund Company Taking Climate Change Seriously?

By Rob Berridge, Director of Shareholder Engagement, Ceres

Examining how the nation’s largest mutual fund companies voted on climate-related shareholder resolutions in 2015 and 2016. The results are revealing.

The vast majority of climate scientists (97 percent) believe climate change is real, but what about your mutual fund company? We examined how the nation’s largest mutual fund companies voted on climate-related shareholder resolutions in 2015 and 2016. The results are revealing.

While the great majority of mutual fund companies voted in favor of many climate-related resolutions (as shown on the chart below), a number of the largest firms failed to support any of the resolutions, including big-name players such as American Funds, BlackRock, Dimensional, Fidelity, Pioneer, Putnam, and Vanguard. These firms collectively manage trillions of dollars in assets, and their support of climate resolutions could contribute to majority votes for some resolutions – resulting in enormous pressure on companies to disclose their plans for addressing wide-ranging climate-related risks.

Let’s review why institutional investors file these resolutions and why companies should be disclosing and addressing climate-related risks. First, climate change creates profound risks for many companies and the global economy, and these risks need to be disclosed by companies, as a task force (chaired by Michael Bloomberg) of the Financial Stability Board of the G20 summarizes here – https://www.fsb-tcfd.org/publications/recommendations-report

Second, virtually every country in the world has agreed to reduce climate-warming pollution significantly via the Paris Climate Agreement that formally entered into force in November. The transition to clean energy that is already well underway threatens conventional business models of fossil fuel producers like ExxonMobil and creates a substantial risk of stranded assets and devaluation. Simply put, the business case for companies to disclose and act on climate risks – whether from extreme weather and other physical risks, or carbon-reducing regulatory risks – is powerful.

So why would a mutual fund company vote against nearly every shareholder resolution asking companies to disclose their risks and strategies for dealing with these powerful trends?

Here we Explore Three Possible Explanations – none of them are good:

1) The fund firm’s leaders don’t believe climate change is real or are ideologically opposed to admitting it’s real. If your mutual fund company falls in this category, you have a problem because the firm’s leaders are either not paying attention, or they are letting incorrect information guide their investment decisions and ownership practices. Either way, you should probably run for the exit.

2) They accept the science of climate change, but see few material risks or implications for businesses in their portfolios. This explanation may seem similar to the first, but there is a difference here that may be tripping up these firms. Vanguard’s proxy voting policies state that Vanguard funds should abstain from voting on “philosophical” social issues because they are the purview of company management, unless they have a significant impact on the valuation of the business; and based on Vanguard’s voting record, it seems they believe climate change has no significant financial impact on companies.

Unfortunately, this logic is both deeply flawed and shortsighted. Yes, climate change is clearly a moral and political issue, but it is also a critical business issue. Coal producers, oil companies and other fossil fuel businesses face wide-ranging climate risks – regulatory risks, transitional/competitive risks and reputational risks, among them. Businesses across nearly all sectors are increasingly exposed to risks of supply chain and workforce disruptions, infrastructure damage, rising resource costs, shifting demand, brand damage, and stronger regulations intended to protect people and the planet for both today and the future. Vanguard has a legal duty to vote in the best interests of its clients, and in our opinion, they are violating that duty by failing to recognize these risks as demonstrated by their failure to vote for a single climate-related resolution tracked by our study. If Vanguard believes climate change is not a business issue simply because it’s also a moral issue, you have to wonder about their judgment.

3) The fund firm managers believe private dialogue with companies is a more effective strategy than proxy voting. While it is true that face-to-face discussions initiated by major investors can have a strong influence on companies, it does not remove the fiduciary duty to vote proxies conscientiously on important bottom-line issues. If you believe the company should do what the resolution asks, and you vote against it (or similar requests) year after year while engaging in dialogue about it, then you send a mixed message. Proxy votes by major shareholders can be very effective in moving companies to action.

In addition, many institutional investors engage with companies on resolutions while also voting for them. Voting arguably adds teeth to the negotiations. And mutual fund companies generally keep their dialogues with companies strictly confidential, so there is no way for investors to understand their approach or any possible results.

CERES_chart_additional.4

Now the Big Kicker

Vanguard and many other mutual fund firms and investment managers – including American Funds, BlackRock, Dimensional, Fidelity and Lord Abbett – that fail to support climate resolutions have publicly stated that environmental and social issues can be material financially. They are all members of the UN’s Principles for Responsible Investment and have publicly pledged to adhere to six principles (https://www.unpri.org/about/the-six-principles). Principle 3 specifically reads: “We will seek appropriate disclosure on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues by the entities in which we invest.” Many of the resolutions Vanguard and others vote against request this disclosure. And BlackRock and BNY Mellon have publicly issued noteworthy papers and letters to companies on the significant investment implications of climate change.

This proxy voting inconsistency has led investors to file resolutions on the issue with mutual fund companies and investment managers. As Timothy Smith, Senior Vice President of Walden Asset Management, explained: “The proxy voting records on climate change of investment firms and mutual funds are under increasing scrutiny by investors and clients. As a result, investors have filed a resolution with 5 investment firms urging them to review their proxy voting policies and record, as some vote against virtually every social and environmental shareholder resolution.”

Smith continues: “It is troubling to see BlackRock, JP Morgan, BNY Mellon and others routinely vote against important shareholder resolutions seeking reasonable disclosure and goals to manage climate change. How is this consistent with their fiduciary duty to protect their clients interests?”

Customers who are concerned by these poor voting practices should contact their mutual fund companies and suggest that they vote for reasonable climate-related resolutions. Resolutions filed during the 2011 – 2017 proxy seasons are available at www.ceres.org/resolutions , and more are expected to be filed in the coming months for the 2017 season. Much is at stake, in part because an increasing number of these resolutions are receiving strong support (in the 30-40 percent range), and giant mutual fund companies can help push these votes above 50 percent, sending a powerful message to companies that stronger climate risk disclosure and action are an imperative.

 

Article by Rob Berridge, Director of Shareholder Engagement at Ceres (www.ceres.org), where he works with investors and companies on climate change, sustainability and governance issues, as well as various projects for the Investor Network on Climate Risk.

Source: CERES

**** The direct link to the chart can be found here: https://www.ceres.org/press/mutual-funds-chart-larger-size-jpg/image_view_fullscreen

Additional Articles, Energy & Climate, Impact Investing

A New Fund Seeks Both Financial and Social Returns

By Andrew Ross Sorkin, The New York Times

“There is a lazy mindedness that we afford the do-gooders.”

That was Bono, the musician turned activist turned investor, lamenting the pitfalls of what has become an increasingly fashionable form of financing: social impact investing.

Just about every big Wall Street firm and big-time philanthropist has recently tried to get in on what’s often called double bottom line investing. The idea is that an investment isn’t just intended to score a high return; perhaps more important, it is supposed to make a significant difference in an area that had been considered un-investable. Goldman Sachs, for example, created social impact bonds to reduce the recidivism rate for adolescent offenders at the Rikers Island correctional facility in New York City.

Most of these efforts have had mixed results; either investors lost money, or the social impact was negligible or nonexistent.

It has become, as Bono told me, “a lot of bad deals done by good people.”

Now, a group of high-profile executives and investors are putting together perhaps the most ambitious social impact fund. Called Rise, the $2 billion fund is being developed by William E. McGlashan Jr., a partner at the private equity firm TPG, who more resembles a Buddhist monk than a cigar-chomping banker in pinstripes. He left his home in San Francisco in 2013 and moved his family to India for a year so he could be closer to the firm’s investments in Asia.

Mr. McGlashan has long overseen TPG Growth, a fund he started that was an early investor in the sharing economy, with stakes in Uber and Airbnb, as well other technology successes like Spotify. His first fund had an annualized rate of return — the metric that private equity firms use to measure themselves — of 20 percent; the second fund’s return was 45 percent.

But his investments in businesses like Apollo Tower, a cellphone tower company in Myanmar, are the model for the new effort. Since Mr. McGlashan began backing Apollo in 2014, before Myanmar emerged from military control, the company’s value has more than doubled. More important, Myanmar went from nearly 0 percent cellphone penetration to 70 percent, accounting for more than 5 percent growth in G.D.P. It helped to increase transparency in a country known for tight control of its information, helping the nation take steps toward democracy.

The new fund, which will be part of TPG, will be the first large test case for this type of investing. It has an all-star cast of board members, all of whom are investors. Among them are Bono; Jeff Skoll, the first employee of eBay, who now runs Participant Media and is a major philanthropist (“You only need so much for you and your family,” he told me); Laurene Powell Jobs, the philanthropist investor; Richard Branson; Reid Hoffman, a founder of LinkedIn; Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments; Lynne Benioff, a philanthropist; Mo Ibrahim, perhaps the most influential investor in Africa; and Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay and a backer of First Look Media.

Others have tried to build social impact funds at a much smaller scale. Rise does away with benchmarks manufactured after the fact and has created a series of strict metrics by which to measure social impact. And an outside auditor has been brought in to keep it honest.

And the investors involved don’t consider this charity — pension funds and sovereign wealth funds are expected to be among the biggest investors. At least two large pension funds and one sovereign wealth fund have committed nine figure sums, according to people briefed on the investments, which have yet to be made public.

“The reality is that no matter which side of the aisle you’re on, and no matter where your framework is, if I can build a great business that’s profitable and successful and, oh, by the way, here’s the impact and the multiple of impact that’s created through that business’s successes, I think that’s good for everybody,” Mr. McGlashan told me.

The new fund is expected to invest about half of its money domestically in areas like health care, education and clean energy technologies. The other half will be invested in emerging markets in sectors like microlending and other financial services, housing and education.

“We’re not in the business of charity here,” Mr. McGlashan said. “We’re going to make money and build profitable successful businesses and create a top performing fund. But in the process, what we’ve committed to is that we will not do a deal where there’s less than a two and a half times multiple of impact,” suggesting a meaningful social impact that can be measured.

The problem with most of these kinds of funds is what Mr. McGlashan calls “greenwashing,” a euphemism for lying, which some in philanthropy feel is rampant among socially conscious investors. Everyone wants to claim some form of success using a shifting mix of metrics aimed at demonstrating how the fund worked.

“None of this makes sense unless you can actually define what ‘impact’ means,” he said. “It can’t be religion; it has to be quantitative. It has to be something that a third-party view would validate.”

Bono put it this way: “I asked them to hang a sign in their office saying, ‘Warm Fuzzy Feelings Not Welcome Here,’ because we need them to be tough-minded. We need some intellectual rigor, and you’ve got to get these metrics right.”

Mr. McGlashan, often in concert with Mr. Skoll, spent the past year working with Bridgespan Group, a consulting firm that has long worked for philanthropists — including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — to come up with a rigorous set of metrics with which to measure performance.

If it works, Mr. McGlashan hopes to one day change the fee structure of funds like this so the investors are paid based on social impact, not necessarily just on financial performance. For the first Rise fund, Mr. McGlashan’s group, which will include most of TPG Growth’s professional staff, will be paid on financial performance, which is likely to make his job harder, not easier. He needs to find good investments, but his board and investors will also be focusing on whether the fund also delivers on its social impact promise.

Mr. Skoll said he expected to know whether the fund would be successful in relatively short order. “We’ll have a good idea within two years,” he said.

Bridgespan’s metrics for Rise could become a model for other investment firms if they prove successful, especially in a global political climate that is rethinking its capitalistic system.

“Capitalism is going up on trial, and I think that it’s clear that putting profit before people is a nonsustainable business model,” Bono said. “I think giving those two equal time is the way forward, and I think that in the present climate, we need to rethink, reimagine what it is. It’s not that capitalism is immoral; it’s amoral. And it’s a better servant than master.”

He added: “We have to be a bit modest about where we are with Rise and be actually a bit tough on ourselves. I’d be more comfortable speaking about this in a year’s time or two year’s time as we go along.”

Let’s plan on that.

Additional Articles, Impact Investing, Sustainable Business

Whole Foods Market’s Top 10 Trends for 2017

New condiments, functional beverages and natural foods

Recently, Whole Foods Market’s (NASDAQ: WFM) global buyers and experts announced the trends to watch in 2017. Wellness tonics, products from byproducts and purple foods are just a few top predictions according to the trend-spotters, who share more than 100 years of combined experience in sourcing products and tracking consumer preferences.

Whole Foods Market’s top 10 trends for 2017 include:

Wellness tonics. The new year will usher in a new wave of tonics, tinctures and wellness drinks that go far beyond the fresh-pressed juice craze. The year’s hottest picks will draw on beneficial botanicals and have roots in alternative medicine and global traditions. Buzzed-about ingredients include kava, Tulsi/holy basil, turmeric, apple cider vinegar, medicinal mushrooms (like reishi and chaga), and adaptogenic herbs (maca and ashwagandha). Kor Organic Raw Shots, Suja Drinking Vinegars and Temple Turmeric Elixirs are just a few products leading the trend.

Products from byproducts. Whether it’s leftover whey from strained Greek yogurt or spent grains from beer, food producers are finding innovative—and delicious—ways to give byproducts new life. Eco-Olea is using water from its olive oil production as the base for a household cleaner line, condiment brand Sir Kensington’s is repurposing leftover liquid from cooking chickpeas in a vegan mayo, and Atlanta Fresh and White Moustache are using leftover whey from yogurt production to create probiotic drinks.

Coconut everything. Move over coconut oil and coconut water—coconut flour tortillas, coconut sugar aminos and more unexpected coconut-based products are on the rise. Virtually every component of this versatile fruit-nut-seed (coconuts qualify for all three!) is being used in new applications. The sap is turned into coconut sugar as an alternative to refined sweeteners, the oil is used in a growing list of natural beauty products, and the white flesh of the coconut is now in flours, tortillas, chips, ice creams, butters and more. New picks like coconut flour paleo wraps, 365 Everyday Value Fair Trade coconut chips and Pacifica Blushious Coconut & Rose Infused Cheek Color demonstrate coconut’s growing range.

Japanese food, beyond sushi. Japanese-inspired eating is on the rise, and it doesn’t look anything like a sushi roll. Long-celebrated condiments with roots in Japanese cuisine, like ponzu, miso, mirin, sesame oil and plum vinegar, are making their way from restaurant menus to mainstream American pantries. Seaweed is a rising star as shoppers seek more varieties of the savory greens, including fresh and dried kelp, wakame, dulse and nori, while farmhouse staples like Japanese-style pickles will continue to gain popularity. The trend will also impact breakfast and dessert, as shoppers experiment with savory breakfast bowl combinations and a growing number of mochi flavors like green tea and matcha, black sesame, pickled plum, yuzu citrus and Azuki bean. This is playing out in products like 365 Everyday Value Sweet Sabi mustard, Republic of Tea’s new Super Green Tea Matcha blends and recipes like Coconut Mochi Cakes.

Creative condiments. From traditional global recipes to brand new ingredients, interesting condiments are taking center stage. Once rare and unfamiliar sauces and dips are showing up on menus and store shelves. Look for black sesame tahini, habanero jam, ghee, Pomegranate Molasses, black garlic purée, date syrup, plum jam with chia seeds, beet salsa, Mexican hot chocolate spreads, sambal oelek or piri piri sauce, Mina Harissa and Frontera Adobo Sauces (Ancho, Chipotle and Guajillo varieties).

Rethinking pasta. Today’s pastas are influenced less by Italian grandmothers and more by popular plant-based and clean-eating movements. Alternative grain noodles made from quinoa, lentils and chickpeas (which also happen to be gluten-free) are quickly becoming favorites, while grain-free options like spiralized veggies and kelp noodles are also on the rise. That said, more traditional fresh-milled and seasonal pastas are having a moment too, which means pasta is cruising into new territories with something for everyone.

Purple power. Richly colored purple foods are popping up everywhere: purple cauliflower, black rice, purple asparagus, elderberries, acai, purple sweet potatoes, purple corn and cereal. The power of purple goes beyond the vibrant color and often indicates nutrient density and antioxidants. Back to the Roots Purple Corn Cereal, Jackson’s Honest Purple Heirloom Potato Chips, Que Pasa Purple Corn Tortilla Chips, Love Beets and Stokes Purple Sweet Potatoes are all examples of this fast-growing trend.

On-the-go beauty. “Athleisure” is not just a fashion trend; the style is now being reflected in natural beauty products, too. With multitasking ingredients and simple applications, natural beauty brands are blurring the line between skincare and makeup products, and simplifying routines by eliminating the need for special brushes or tools. Trending products include Mineral Fusion 3-in-1 Color Stick, Well People Universalist Multi-Stick and Spectrum Essentials Organic Coconut Oil Packet.

Flexitarian. In 2017, consumers will embrace a new, personalized version of healthy eating that’s less rigid than typical vegan, paleo, gluten-free and other “special diets” that have gone mainstream. For instance, eating vegan before 6 p.m., or eating paleo five days a week, or gluten-free whenever possible, allows consumers more flexibility. Instead of a strict identity aligned with one diet, shoppers embrace the “flexitarian” approach to making conscious choices about what, when, and how much to eat. Growing demand for products like 365 Everyday Value Riced Cauliflower (used for clean-eating favorites like gluten-free pizza crusts), Epic Bison Apple Cider Bone Broth and Forager Cashew Yogurt point to growth in this clean-eating category.

Mindful meal prep. People aren’t just asking themselves what they’d like to eat, but also how meals can stretch their dollar, reduce food waste, save time and be healthier. Trends to watch include the “make some/buy some,” approach, like using pre-cooked ingredients from the hot bar to jumpstart dinner, or preparing a main dish from scratch and using frozen or store-bought ingredients as sides. Fresh oven-ready meal kits and vegetable medleys are also on the upswing as shoppers continue to crave healthier options that require less time. Whole Foods Market’s Freshly Made video series highlights the kinds of recipes and ingredients shoppers are seeking.

This year’s predictions came from Whole Foods Market’s experts and industry leaders, who source items and lead trends across the retailer’s cheese, grocery, meat, seafood, prepared foods, produce and personal care departments, and spot trends for the retailer’s more than 465 stores.

Source: New Hope

Additional Articles, Food & Farming, Impact Investing

ESG in 2017: A Fundamental Rethink?
6 Trends to Watch

By Linda-Eling Lee, Global Head of ESG Research, MSCI

This year may ring the bell on a fundamental rethink for investors. Underlying all the major trends we identified for 2017 is a strategic decision point – do we change the way we think about investing, or is this business as usual in a new order?

In either case, one thing seems certain – focusing on policy shifts alone would be shortsighted. Policy is an outcome, forged by forces that unfold over more than one election cycle and reflect deeper technological, socio-demographic and energy trends that are reshuffling the social order and the investment landscape. This year, we need to think big – how will major trends affect the capital markets for the next decade?

Here are the biggest ESG forces affecting institutional investors over the long haul.

870x310_Blogpage_6ESGTrends

 

KEY 2017 TRENDS

1. Owning the Long Game

In 2017, some of the world’s largest investors may differentiate themselves by gearing toward the long view as globalization and technological advancements have strained social cohesion and fanned populist sentiment.

2. The Shift from Regulatory to Physical Risk

Focus on policy uncertainty around climate change in the wake of the U.S. election is misplaced. In 2017, we believe investors will turn their attention to mitigating exposure to the physical risks from global warming, especially as water is becoming scarcer in regions from the Middle East to the U.S.

3. Choosing Stewardship in Asian Capital Markets

Rapid adoption of codes that promote engagement between companies in Asia and investors is challenging the conventional wisdom that Asia lags global peers in corporate governance. In 2017, the real work starts, with investors facing a choice between proclaiming the importance of corporate governance without actually supporting improvements in companies’ practices to influencing companies’ behavior and pushing for change that stewardship brings.

4. ESG Investing as a Precision Tool

Research that points to ESG factors as a performance indicator continues to grow. In 2017, institutional investors may seek to integrate ESG signals across asset classes, markets and factor exposures.

5. Going for Goal with a New Performance Language

The U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals are becoming a de facto framework for bringing together investors, companies, governments and citizens with an aim of protecting the planet, ending poverty and promoting peace and prosperity. In 2017, we see the increased adoption of corporate disclosures targeting these goals as a boost for institutions that aim to broaden their sustainable investment programs.

6. Green Shoots in China and India’s Sustainable Finance

The surge of innovation in sustainable development projects and initiatives in China, India and other emerging markets has been greeted with equal parts optimism and skepticism by institutional investors. In 2017, domestic and global standards will likely converge as companies in these markets deepen their understanding of standards required to attract foreign capital.

Download the complete MSCI ESG Trends 2017 Report here- https://www.msci.com/www/research-paper/2017-esg-trends-to-watch/0556816956

 

Article by Linda-Eling Lee, Global Head of ESG Research, MSCI. The author thanks Matt Moscardi for his contributions to this blog post.

Source: MSCI

Additional Articles, Impact Investing, Sustainable Business

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