Author Archive

Michael Kramer

Welcome to my archive of newsletter articles and blog posts. For more information on my service offerings, please go to my advisor webpage.

Shareholder Advocacy Review – Summer 2022

Government Advocacy

Our engagements with lawmakers this quarter focused on deforestation, climate change risk, and workers’ rights. We signed a collaborative investor letter facilitated by Domini Investments in support of the Fostering Overseas Rule of Law and Environmentally Sound Trade (FOREST) Act, which prohibits access to U.S. markets for commodities that originate from illegally deforested land. The bill criminalizes illegal deforestation, increases transparency in reporting companies’ international supply chains, and provides a federal government purchasing preference for deforestation-free products.

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2021 Shareholder Advocacy Review: The Winds at Our Back

Natural Investments remained active in advocacy efforts in the past year to bring about needed improvements to the economic system while fostering equity and justice for women and people of color. We continued to engage major corporations on their policies and practices, funneled more capital to traditionally marginalized populations and educated policymakers about appropriate oversight of the finance industry.

But having a supportive administration in Washington, D.C., which embraced the priorities socially and environmentally responsible investors value, pushed the needle forward significantly.

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Reasons for Hope

LIFE IS WHAT WE FOCUS ON. This has long been a meaningful mantra for me. My adoption of it stems from a time when my obsession with bad news caused me distress. Bad news is everywhere, and modern humans are more aware of the problems of the world than any other time in history. The state of the human condition and the planet can be known by pressing a few buttons on our devices. It is an overwhelming quantity of information, and we now face the additional responsibility of discerning its veracity.

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Shareholder Advocacy Review – Winter 2022

We finally get to take some victory laps! After years battling the previous administration, we are finally seeing executive branch actions that roll back its archaic rules and guidance that clearly benefited corporations and not investors.

SUCCESSES
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), for example, recently issued new guidance addressing the criteria by which shareholders may submit proposals to the ballot for a shareholder vote. The guidance restores the original intent of the shareholder submission process in order to reduce the subjectivity of SEC staff interpretations, which typically blow in the political winds depending on which party controls the executive branch.

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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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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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Wisdom from SRI Veteran Tim Smith

Fifty years is a long time to be active in any field. For Tim Smith, his five decade career has been defined by leadership in the socially responsible investment industry. Smith co-founded the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, in 1971 and served as Executive Director from 1976 to 2000. The Episcopal Church, one of its members, was the first organization to file a shareholder resolution with a corporation; the resolution to General Motors in 1971 addressed its investment in South Africa’s apartheid regime.

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2020: A Year of Transformation

Crisis and opportunity have an interesting partnership. They don’t always go together, but when they do, they can catalyze powerful change in individuals, countries, and human civilization. Many forces converged in 2020 to create such a dynamic—a global pandemic, heightened attention to racism, extreme weather events and accompanying natural disasters, the disruption of democratic norms by a white supremacist authoritarian president, the proliferation of misinformation and conspiracy theories, and, finally, a historic election.

The year 2020 demanded resilience, and while we surely felt tested on many levels and tried to hold onto our center, many of us found ourselves reflecting on the meaning of life and then acting to change our own lives and work harder to build a just, equitable, and sustainable society.

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2020 Shareholder Advocacy Review

Natural Investments plays a proactive role within our industry by facilitating positive economic, social, and environmental change. One of the ways we push for the transformation we want to see is through shareholder engagement with companies, as well as advocacy with elected officials and federal agency commissioners on matters of public policy.

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SRI in Focus: The Vibrant Growth of Sustainable Investing

The Biennial Report on US Sustainable and Impact Investing Trends, which measures the state of the industry at the end of 2019, shows that sustainable, socially responsible, and impact investing (SRI) is on its way to becoming the new normal. Since the previous report two years ago, the amount of assets under professional management in the US that integrates some form of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria jumped 43% to over $17 trillion. Not only is this the largest two-year increase in 25 years of reporting, but the total suggests that one of every three dollars of professionally managed investments is invested using SRI criteria.

There are now about 400 money managers practicing SRI and more than 500 institutional investors (such as pension plans, government treasuries, and university and foundation endowments) applying various ESG criteria as a matter of investment policy. More than 1200 community development financial institutions provide capital to people and communities in need of basic banking services, loans, and access to credit.

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