NI Newsletter Summer 2019

100th Issue Cover

Tales of the Quarter Century by Michael Kramer

2019 Summer Market Commentary

The following articles appear from our archives as part of the 100th issue special, celebrating twenty-five years of quarterly newsletters.

1994: Viva South Africa! by Hal Brill

2000: NI Scores High in New York Times Fund Study by Jack Brill

2001: Bringing Consciousness to Capitalism by Hal Brill

2003: How We Can Help Stop the Genocide in Darfur by Jack Brill

2006: Community Investing after Hurricane Katrina by Michael Kramer

2009: After the Financial Crisis, Reform by Michael Kramer

2011: Call for Chevron to Pay Ecuadorian Communities by Jim Cummings

2013: Gender Lens Investing by Malaika Maphalala

2015: New Insights on SRI Performance by James Frazier

2016: Get that Oily Mess Out of My Money! by Eric Smith

2018: Divestment as a Moral Imperative by Kirbie Crowe

 

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2009: After the Financial Crisis, Reform

This article is from our archives as part of the 100th issue special, celebrating twenty-five years of quarterly newsletters. 

Policy matters. Natural Investments has participated in public policy conversations and attended meetings on the Hill in Washington, D.C., for years and will continue to serve as a voice for fair and just financial regulations.

It’s been over a year since the fall of Lehman Brothers sparked major tremors in the U.S. financial system that rippled around the planet. Though lawmakers called for reform, much of the financial services industry remains unchanged a year later. The wholesale restructuring advocated by the social investment industry, economists, and academics has thus far been met with strong opposition from the industry, and Congress’ lack of expertise left them unable to do anything other than infuse large banks with cash.

The needed structural changes in our system remain conceptual and haven’t even been fully debated. Yes, there were calls for bonuses to be recalled and executive pay to be restricted,

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2006: Community Investing after Hurricane Katrina

This article is from our archives as part of the 100th issue special, celebrating twenty-five years of quarterly newsletters. 

Community investment is one of three pillars of socially responsible investing, alongside screening and shareholder advocacy. As natural disasters increase with climate change in the 21st century, this article illustrates why Natural Investments has always made community investing a key component of any client portfolio.

In the fifteen months since hurricanes devastated the Gulf Coast Region, we have participated in revitalizing communities by investing in affordable housing, minority-owned businesses, and redeveloping urban and rural areas torn apart by the storms.

Community development financial institutions (CDFIs) have channeled capital to low-income and displaced people who are traditionally underserved by conventional banks, providing credit to those who have insufficient income or lack credit or collateral. This assistance has been and continues to be critical for those hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina. Because the CDFIs were already in these communities, they had the infrastructure and relationships in place to offer immediate and prolonged help throughout the recovery effort.

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2003: How We Can Help Stop the Genocide in Darfur

This article is from our archives as part of the 100th issue special, celebrating twenty-five years of quarterly newsletters. 

Finding this article in our archives, shortly after the attempted coup in Sudan this spring, we are reminded that the human toll in resource-related conflict is real, and economic consequences can extend for decades.

The statistics are mind-boggling: 200,000 dead, 2.5 million refugees and the holocaust in Darfur continues. Investments in oil companies in Sudan are supplying the money that supports this genocide. 70-80% of Sudan’s oil revenue is being funneled into its military. Oil ventures in Sudan are an undeniable enabler of Khartoum’s genocidal policy in Darfur.

There is a growing economic force currently going on to stop the violence. The Sudanese Divestment Task Force (SDTF) instituted a targeted divestment program last year.

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2001: Bringing Consciousness to Capitalism

This article is from our archives as part of the 100th issue special, celebrating twenty-five years of quarterly newsletters. 

A reflection on how our founders came to “natural investing” over thirty years ago, planting the seeds for today’s vibrant Natural Investments group, which includes twenty advisors all across the U.S. helping clients manage a half billion dollars in regenerative and conscious capital.

“Yes, this is Mr. Brill, rep number 638, with an order to sell 4,000 shares of Exxon at market.” I completed the trade for my client and stepped out of my office with a satisfied smile. I had just helped a conscientious investor divest herself from a company whose environmental transgressions offended her. And look where I was! The Wall Street clerk taking my order must have pictured me in a stuffy brokerage suite with ticker tapes flashing. But in 1992 I had taken refuge in a relic travel trailer parked on a friend’s high desert acreage outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Along the south side I built an arching sunroom with straw-bale walls. A 500-foot extension cord and phone line snaked through the pinyon and juniper trees, linking me and my laptop to the world. I wore Guatemalan shorts to work, not a pinstriped suit.

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2000: NI Scores High in New York Times Fund Study

This article is from our archives as part of the 100th issue special, celebrating twenty-five years of quarterly newsletters.

For seven years, we took part in a New York Times study to find the best investment portfolio. As the only socially responsible money manager invited to participate, our founder Jack Brill was the “long shot,” but Natural Investments excelled in the competition. It was a very satisfying and public refute of the myth that SRI sacrifices financial returns.

In 1993 the New York Times asked five of the nation’s leading investment advisers to design model portfolios for a hypothetical retirement portfolio for an investor having $50,000 and twenty years to go until retirement. I was asked to participate and create a portfolio using only socially screened mutual funds.

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1994: Viva South Africa!

This article is from our archives as a part of our 100th issue special, celebrating twenty-five years of quarterly newsletters. 

References to divestment as an advocacy tool appear throughout this anniversary issue, but the South Africa divestment movement of the 1980s is credited with being the first successful campaign by socially-conscious investors to help catalyze major political change—in this case, the end of apartheid.

For us, the biggest headline of last year was “Apartheid Dies!” The biggest success story for SRI unfolded, as the African National Congress called for lifting sanctions against South Africa. Apartheid is about to be buried, and the people of South Africa are on the difficult road toward democracy.

In 1982, the Calvert Social Investment Fund became the first mutual fund to avoid investing in companies doing  business in South Africa. The movement grew throughout the 1980s and added important financial clout to the struggle to end apartheid. SRI investors can take satisfaction from playing this critical role.

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Tales of the Quarter Century

Vintage Natural Investment Services logo as part of the 100th issue special, celebrating twenty-five years of quarterly newsletters. 

Before we were financial advisers, most of us were educators who felt called to drive positive change through teaching, writing, innovating, movement-building, and leading by example in sustainability and social justice. We  have nurtured this commitment over three decades at Natural Investments by working with our investors to realize our shared vision of a more sustainable and equitable future. And we’ve seized the opportunity to share inspiring updates with you every quarter—vital, consistent reminders of what can be accomplished through the intentional stewardship of assets.

This issue of our newsletter is our 100th. Over the past twenty-five years, we have written hundreds of articles, as well as three books, chronicling the growth of our movement for sustainable, responsible, and impact focused investing. Socially responsible investing has moved from the margins into the mainstream, and we have celebrated the investment opportunities and advocacy victories that bring people into better relationships with each other and the natural world. We have played a meaningful role in a paradigm shift that the business community cannot ignore.

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What’s Up on Wall Street: Summer 2019

Stocks and bonds continued to perform well during the second quarter, in spite of an uncertain trade environment and worrying international tensions with Iran. For the quarter, the stocks of U.S. large companies were up 5.0%, U.S. small companies rose 2.4%, and foreign stocks rose 4.3%. U.S. bonds were up 3.0%.

While the markets ended higher over the three-month period, the rise was interrupted in May, when markets declined steeply after the president increased tariffs on Chinese goods. Reports of slowing global economic growth also contributed to the sell-off. The president likewise imposed tariffs on Mexico but suspended them before they took effect.

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2018 Notable Highlights

Natural Investments, LLC welcomed five new advisors to the firm, expanding our company to twenty advisors across eleven states. We are cultivating the next generation of SRI leaders with wide-ranging expertise in sustainability, social justice, and impact investing.

 

Donor-Advised Funds

In 2018 we began a relationship with Triskeles Foundation to provide donor-advised funds (DAF). These are charitable giving investment vehicles that an individual, family, or business use to direct an irrevocable contribution of assets to a public charity.

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