Finance and SRI News

Rising Green Bond Market Supports Eco-Friendly Projects

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – Green bonds are debt instruments designed to finance environment-friendly projects. With most of the world now more strongly aligned on tackling climate change, governments and institutions are increasingly recognizing the potential of the green bond market as a significant transformational force to achieve carbon-reduction goals.

Could a Clean Tax Cut Succeed Where Carbon Taxes Have Failed?

 

(3BL Media/Justmeans) — To say that the Trump’s administration’s disconnect from reality when it comes to climate change has created tensions both at home and abroad would be a vast understatement. Even fellow Republicans are uncomfortable with the extreme position taken by the president, one that totally defies well-established science. A number have openly broken from Trump in response to his decision to withdraw from the historic Paris agreement, including the governors of Massachusetts and Vermont,  who have joined the US Climate Alliance. Twelve states plus Puerto Rico, representing over 100 million Americans and one-third of the US GDP, have now formally joined the alliance, with ten other states expressing support. Altogether, those states represent 40% of the total US greenhouse gas emissions and one-third of US GDP.

Supporters of the withdrawal, are not questioning the science—in fact, they are not even talking about it. They are focused entirely on what they say the costs of compliance will be, with no mention of the cost of non-compliance. So how do we move forward on the policy front, with a bottom line-first, nothing-else-matters approach that only looks at one side of the balance sheet? Most attention has been focused on efforts to circumvent the president’s position which, as noted above, is substantial. But can anything be done at the Federal policy level?

It’s well known that after Trump is finished attempting to dismantle the health care system, his next target will be tax reform. Could there be an opening there?

A new proposal, born of conservative roots, called “clean tax cuts,” (CTC) just might have a chance. The proposal is the brain child of the Grace Richardson Fund, which seeks, “to spearhead new free market policy solutions to critical issues stuck in partisan gridlock.”

The key points to the proposal, which are spelled out here, are essentially a return of Reagan-style, supply-side tax cuts, only applied selectively to “all clean solutions.” The rationale behind it being, “if you want something more, tax it less.” The plan, which is described as “all carrot, no stick,” could be seen as a carbon tax turned on its head. Instead of punishing carbon usage, it rewards movement away from carbon. They claim it unites the interests of left and right: “ecology + tax cuts = clean capitalism.”

House Passes Bill to All-But-Eliminate Shareholder Resolutions

(3BL Media/Justmeans — As the Trump administration continues along its circus parade route, unleashing one spectacular display of self-destructive grandiosity after another, Republicans in Congress are using the distraction to try and sneak through some very damaging legislation, gift-wrapped offerings, in the form of additional game-rigging, to their wealthy patrons.

If you’ve heard about this at all, you’ve probably heard about the festering attempt in the Senate to ram through an “anything-but-Obamacare” health bill, without any hearing whatsoever. But there is another bill, aimed at eviscerating Dodd-Frank.

Dodd-Frank was a response to the the shameful feeding frenzy that led to the 2008 financial crisis in which thousands lost their homes. That bill did not pass however, until it was sufficiently weakened by Republicans to the point where it would not avoid another crisis.  The crisis came about after the repeal of Glass-Steagall which worked effectively for decades after the 1929 crash. (Oh, how quickly we forget!)

We're talking about just one particularly egregious aspect of this bill just passed by the House of Representatives, called the Financial Choice Act, that rides alongside calls to scrap the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or  revoking the authority for the FDIC to take over a failing firm. This particular element appears intended to specifically target attempts by shareholders to rein in the behavior of companies regarding issues that said shareholders consider important.

At issue are shareholder resolutions, which were established by SEC rules, that allow shareholders to weigh in on issues of concern, which often hold management accountable on ethical issues. While not legally binding, the resolutions do carry weight since the same majority that passed the resolution could choose to vote out any board members that chose to ignore it.

REN21 Global Status Report Shows More Renewables for the Money

 

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - REN21, the Paris-based, multi-stakeholder, global renewable energy policy network, just released their Renewables 2017 Global Status Report (GSR), the world’s most comprehensive annual overview of the state of renewable energy. Over 800 individuals contributed to the report. Highlights include the fact that a record-setting 161 GW of new capacity was added, a 9% increase from last year. Although that’s an impressive achievement, it actually represents a 23% decrease in financial investment from the year before. Christine Lins, Executive Secretary for REN21, told Justmeans that “the key message for 2016 was that investors could get more for their money.” While it’s good news that costs have come down enough to enable this, if we are to meet the targets set in Paris, especially in light of President Trump’s withdrawal of support for the agreement, we need to see investments increasing rather than decreasing.

Still, the decreasing costs will be the prime driver for continued investment. Recent deals in Denmark, Egypt, India, Mexico, Peru and the United Arab Emirates saw renewable electricity being delivered at USD 0.05 per kilowatt-hour or less, well below equivalent costs for fossil fuel and nuclear generation in each of these countries.

When asked about the Trump withdrawal, Lins said, “What we’ve seen so far is that President Trump’s announcement has created a lot of united voices around the globe, of countries announcing that they are going to stick to the Paris agreement. Right now, renewables are cost-competitive in many situations with fossil fuels. With him as a businessman, it’s quite surprising to see him taking that step.”

As others have pointed out, it will take three and a half years to fully withdraw from the agreement, and by that time, we could be looking at another administration. Lins also pointed out that within the US, numerous state and companies were reaffirming their commitments to the goals agreed upon in the Paris accord. It was concerns over what Trump might do that hastened the ratification of the accord last year.

ImpactUs Opens Impact Investing Platform

Financial technology provider and FINRA member broker-dealer ImpactUs has announced the onboarding of the first issuers to its impact investing platform, ImpactUs Marketplace. The Marketplace is a community-driven, full-service platform offering institutions, individuals and financial advisors an extensive range of private impact investing opportunities.

Charities Focus on Social Investment as a Finance Tool

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – Over the last two years the social investment market in the UK has continued to grow by about 30 percent a year. There has been a rising interest in social investment as a new finance tool to help charities become more sustainable and grow.

Sustainable Brands Detroit 2017 Confronting Challenges, Building Bridges

(3BL Media/Justmeans) — Here are some more takeaways from Sustainable Brands17 Detroit.

If we are to realize any kind of vision of a sustainable society, we must confront the idea that truth is negotiable. As author and consultant Andrew Winston said, “We need a working democracy, checks and balances, a free press.” We need the truth.  But what is the truth? For scientists and judges, the truth is found in facts. For most of the rest of us, the truth lies in the stories we choose to believe. As Upworthy’s Jennifer Lindenauer said in her “Trust is Tribal” talk, “facts fade, stories stick. Donald Trump tells stories that stick even though they are lies.” Why do they stick?  How does a liar get away with calling the bastions of journalistic integrity fake news? According to Lindenauer, it’s because the opposite of fake is authentic. Trump may have a myriad of deplorable qualities, but he is authentically Trump, and for better or for worse, for many, that authenticity begets trust. What that means for us is that we need to confront self-serving lies, with authentic stories of a sustainable future, that people will trust.

In 1987, Ronald Reagan said, ‘trust but verify,” with respect to a nuclear-arms deal with the former Soviet Union. Author Andrew Zolli described an ongoing effort by Planet Labs to take a complete, high-resolution picture of the entire Earth every single day. This will allow us to not only verify, but discover countless things that are happening on Earth, both as a result of human activities and the everything-else that we refer to as nature. For example, the images were able to detect a rapidly expanding illegal gold mining operation in Peru. As a result of the discovery, the operation was quickly shut down. While some might consider this type of truth and its consequences a form of “burdensome government regulation,” most of us would applaud it as a win for the planet. These photos could also be used to track deforestation, the growth of electricity, agricultural productivity, the growth or decline of deserts, rivers and lakes, the expansion of refugee camps, and with the help of sophisticated algorithms-- the loss of carbon due to land use changes. All these facts, could be used to fuel new and urgent stories that could potentially cut through the ideological fog. For example, as Zolli said, once we have a price on carbon, we can put a value on the forest that is being lost every day. At a time when EPA administrators are making policy that could impact the future of the entire biosphere, based on rumors and amateur science, such as the notion that there was a leveling off of warming over the past two decades, we need to verify before we can trust, as a number of scientists just did.

Sustainable Brands Detroit 2017 Looks For and Finds Common Ground

(3BL Media/Justmeans) — At the onset of Day Two of SB17 Detroit, the thinking behind the conference title, “Redefining the Good Life,” began to reveal itself. A subtext running through the event, like an underground spring, has been the notion that the polarization of our society has become a major barrier to the achievement of a sustainable, flourishing future. That’s why a number of workshops on topics such as “Breaking Through Gridlock,” and “ How to Have Difficult Conversations: Building Bridges in a Divided Country,” are being presented, acknowledging and attempting to address this challenge. The data presented by Solitaire Townsend of Futerra, and later by others, offered some hope that this challenge could  potentially yield.


According to Harris poll data, taken across generations and political parties, all people essentially agree on the fundamental constituents of the good life. These consist of the following four elements: balanced simplicity, meaningful connections, financial independence, and personal goals. If we all want the same things, it will be far easier to come up with a plan that we can all agree on—it’s only the “how do we get there” part that needs to be resolved. That’s not exactly a walk in the park, but its far easier than if we’d all wanted different things.


Solitaire also shared a pertinent quote from the Bard, “All things are ready if our minds be so,” and an invocation of what Joseph Campbell called the Hero’s Journey. Erica Parker of Harris, carried the story forward with the thought that “If you are not disrupting, you will be disrupted.”
Sharing more data, Parker said that 71% of adults today said that their lives were different than their parents, while 45% said it would be different for their children. As consumers, 51% believe that companies care, though 65% feel that products do , to contribute to a better life. At the same time, while 65% feel that they, as consumers, can influence companies, only 28% say that they have actually tried.


Chris Coulter of GlobeScan and Raphael Bemporad of  BBMG shared results of another survey in which 16,000 people from around the world said that these were the four primary elements of a good life: health & well-being, financial security, meaningful relationships,  and a sense of purpose. Note the similarities to the other poll.  So what’s the problem? For starters massive income inequality, lack of access, and a disconnect between, “aspirations and capacity.”
Oxfam reported that the wealthiest eight people on the planet own as much as the  lowest 3.4 billion people. Trust in institutions is very low. So what to do?

WHEB Delivers Growing Financial Returns with Impact Investing

(3BL Media/Justmeans) – Impact investing now accounts for about $150 billion of assets under management and is doubling approximately every two years. This increased scale has moved impact investing beyond a niche practice confined to the activities of foundations and philanthropists, to a broader range of asset classes and a wider group of investors than ever before.

Sustainable Brands Detroit 2017 Sets Out to Redefine the Good Life


(3BL Media/Justmeans) — Sustainable Brands kicked off their 2017 event in downtown Detroit with a record crowd of over 2,000 attendees.  After a day filled with extended interactive workshops, the official welcome ceremony featured a who’s who of sustainability thought leaders. Koann Vikoren Skrzyniarz, Founder and CEO of Sustainable Brands, welcomed the crowd that packed the Cobo Center’s main hall. She set a somewhat sober tone for the event, citing that we live in an age of unintended consequences, and that we have clearly gotten off track in our pursuit of happiness. “Our push for productivity and efficiency has inclined us to forget how inextricably connected we are.”
But, she said, “Businesses are uniquely equipped…to help us shape our collective future.” Describing the decision to move from San Diego to Detroit, she called the actively rejuvenating Motor City, ‘a fantastic living lab.” Indeed Detroit could be the poster child for a place where the industrial age has run its course and is now ready for what comes next. Citing Harris poll data, she said that a clear shift is happening across the US in the definition of the good life.


Next, Kim Patel Ford’s VP of Sustainability spoke. Quoting her boss, Bill Ford, who she was standing in for, she said, “You can do good work for the planet and for the company.” Describing the company’s shifting commitment to mobility, she quoted Mayor Mike Dugan, who said, “Great if you have a good job, but if you can’t get there, what’s the point.” 

 
Cradle to Cradle originator Will McDonough made a number of terse, but punchy points.   
How do we make the world better because we are here?
Being less bad is not being good.
We need to think differently about carbon. There are three types: Fugitive carbon, Durable Carbon, and Living Carbon  We need less of the first one and more of the other two
By 2050, the weight of plastics in the ocean will be equal to the weight of all the fish.
As a roadmap for making things better he suggested five goods, to take the place of the numerous less bads.
Good Materials are safe, healthy, biological.
A Good Economy is circular, sharing, and shared
Good Energy is clean and renewable.
Good Water is clean and available.
A Good Life is creative and dignified.
What’s next is what’s now.
How much can we give for all that we get?  
Goodness is a living things.
It’s going to take forever, but that’s the point.

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