Capitalism: Reformation or Revolution?

My conversation with Esther Park of Cienega Capital for my Smart & Soulful Money® podcast brought me more clarity and also opened my thinking to what’s possible. I hope it does something similar for you! A few of my takeaways from our conversation include a more grounded idea of change based on growing up through the cracks (spaces of possibility) and how powerful and transformative this type of change can be. Part of this is a “whole systems” perspective—the opposite of monoculture ways of thinking and implementing.

Also, there is so much power and opportunity stored away in charitable foundations and other structures like donor-advised funds. Opening the flow of these resources, in a way that is wise and inclusive, can mean critical transformation for addressing so many needs we have—from climate change to racial  equity to the many social needs of our day. We don’t have to be Rockefellers to be a part of creating (and incubating!) systemic changes.

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Wall Street Wakes Up to SRI

Socially responsible investing (SRI) isn’t the quietly progressive corner of the financial industry that it once was. For decades, SRI has been practiced primarily by small, independent boutique investment firms. For better or worse, the old landscape has dramatically changed in recent years with record  inflows of investor cash and large Wall Street firms looking to stake their claim in this rapidly growing space. We at Natural Investments are eyeing these developments with healthy skepticism. Can we still  trust the fund managers we’ve worked with and invested in all these years? What impact will Wall Street’s entry have on our industry?

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Market Report – Fall 2021

The stock market finished mixed for the third quarter with the stocks of large US companies rising 1.2% while smaller US company stocks declined -3.5%. Foreign stocks were also lower by 1.4%, and US bonds  were higher by 0.4%. Covid cases linked to the Delta variant increased over the summer, causing more  consumers to stay closer to home. With less consumer spending, the pace of economic recovery in the US slowed over the quarter.

Unemployment in the US is still high by historical standards, measuring at 5.9% in June, well above the pre-pandemic rate of 3.5%. Economists have noted an anomaly in matching laid-off workers with available job opportunities as the economy continues its uneven reopening process.

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In the News – Fall 2021

1: FUND MANAGERS FEEL HEAT IN SEC CRACKDOWN OF OVERBLOWN ESG LABELS
With the explosive growth in ESG products in response to consumer demand for sustainable and ethical investments, the Securities & Exchange Commission reviews the criteria companies are using. It is an effort to curtail greenwashing, especially with firms that repackage traditional funds with a green label. Bloomberg

2: HOW ACTIVIST HEDGE FUNDS WENT FROM CORPORATE RAIDERS TO CLIMATE HEROES
A new wave of ESG investors, primarily hedge funds, uses their assets to push for an overhaul of directorships of corporations with a weak focus on long-term social and environmental sustainability. It comes with obstacles, primarily from traditional hedge funds seeking quick and profitable short-term  quarterly earnings. Fast Company

3: EXECUTIVE STOCK SALES ARE UNDER SCRUTINY. HERE’S WHAT REGULATORS ARE INTERESTED IN
Securities regulators are rethinking rules on popular plans that let corporate executives sell stock without violating insider-trading provisions. For example, 10b5-1 plans allow executives to create  schedules for buying and selling shares in the future, but they can modify without disclosure.
Wall Street Journal

4: ENGINE NO. 1 TAKES CLIMATE FIGHT TO OTHER BIG OIL COMPANIES AFTER UNDERDOG WIN AT EXXON
After battling Exxon Mobil for board seats (and winning three) in a historic proxy battle earlier this year, the hedge fund launched an ETF this summer focusing on shareholder engagement.
CNBC

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A Conversation: Ebony Perkins of Self-Help Credit Union

Brady Quirk-Garvan at Money with a Mission interviewed Ebony Perkins at Self-Help Credit Union.

Brady Quirk-Garvan: Ebony, what is your role at Self-Help Credit Union?

Ebony Perkins: I am the Vice President and Director of Investor Relations. Simply put, I get the opportunity to work with individuals and institutions that want to put their cash to good use. I get to have fun when I go out to people and explain how they can use their money for good and see the light bulb go off. I get really excited about that! It’s an educational opportunity.

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Shareholder Advocacy Review – Fall 2021

It’s been a busy summer season for advocacy, and it continues to be refreshing to discover allies on Capitol Hill for the priorities of sustainable and responsible investors.

SUCCESSES
The EPA recently announced environmental protections under the Clean Water Act for Bristol Bay and a plan that could permanently block the development of the proposed Pebble Mine. The letter we co-signed calling for the EPA and Congress to permanently protect Alaska’s Bristol Bay and the world’s largest wild fishery against large-scale mining may have helped.

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Investing with Intent – Summer 2021

Turning Back the Tide of Inequity by Sylvia Panek

Wisdom from SRI Veteran Tim Smith with Michael Kramer

Planning for the Inevitability of Loss by Greg Pitts with Kirbie Crowe

Market Report – Summer 2021 by Scott Secrest

SRI Advocacy Highlights 2021 by Michael Kramer

In the News – Summer 2021

Download a full PDF copy here: Investing with Intent – Summer 2021

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SRI Advocacy Highlights 2021

The change in US administration this year has generated a palpable sense of optimism among proponents of socially responsible investing and a sustainable and just economy. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and other federal agencies have appointed new leaders whose values align with our priorities. As a result, many of the 11th-hour rules and regulations put in place by the previous
administration in 2020 have either been paused, deemed unworthy of enforcement, or canceled.

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In the News – Summer 2021

1: The Securities and Exchange Commission will look at climate, as well as other ESG-related issues, in determining misconduct or mislabeling of information at fund companies. The federal agency’s move is meant to address possible greenwashing. Investment News: SEC establishes task force on ESG issues

2: The oil giant Exxon lost a historic proxy battle after a small hedge fund won three board seats, with the goal of pushing the company to address climate change. Shareholder support for environmental and social resolutions is on the rise, with significant implications for companies around the world. Barron’s: Exxon’s Shareholder Revolt is a Warning for Boards Everywhere

3: A record-setting 81% of shareholders voted for DuPont chemical company to report on plastic pellets (also known as “nurdles”), chemical spills in the ocean, and general supply chain issues. As You Sow: DuPont Shareholders Approve Proposal Calling for Plastic Pellet Pollution Reporting

4: Natural Investments advisor, Malaika Maphalala, shares her journey as a woman of color leading change in the finance world. Green Money Journal: On the Road to Gender and Racial Equity in Finance

5: The gap between workers and CEOs widened during the pandemic as public companies granted top executives some of the richest pay packages ever. NYT: Meager Rewards for Workers, Exceptionally Rich Pay for C.E.O.s

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