In January, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that 2019 was the second hottest year on record, following closely behind 2016. The planet’s five warmest years have all occurred since 2015, and nine of the ten warmest years have occurred since 2005.
There is now overwhelming scientific consensus that CO2 emissions from fossil-fuels are a primary cause for our rising average global temperatures. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states, “Human activities are responsible for almost all of the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere over the last 15 years.” The obvious remedy? A steep reduction of CO2 emissions.
First Nations Oweesta (or Oweesta for short) was founded in 1999 to support economic development in Native American communities across the United States by addressing a lack of financial infrastructure and money.
Oweesta, which means money or “item of exchange” in the Mohawk language, is a non-profit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI)—a federally certified class of banks, credit unions, and loan funds that are committed to making affordable, responsible loans to historically underserved and disadvantaged communities. In their words, Oweesta’s mission is to “provide opportunities for Native people to develop assets and create wealth by assisting in the establishment of strong, permanent institutions and programs, contributing to economic independence and strengthening sovereignty for all Native communities.”
The Ujima Fund launched in Boston in 2017 as an outgrowth of years of organizing for racial and economic justice. Ujima, the first community-controlled loan fund in the US, has raised $1.7 million to date. Ujima is a Swahili word meaning “collective work and responsibility”. The membership of Ujima is comprised of more than 250 working-class people of color living in Boston. As members, they vote on community business standards, neighborhood investment plans, and top community needs. Each member, no matter their level of investment, has one vote. Together, members decide which black-owned cooperatives and social enterprises to invest in, as well as those owned by people of color.
Scientists been clear that in order to prevent some of the runaway effects of climate change, it’s not enough to simply reduce our dependence on fossil-fuels: we also have to draw down and sequester carbon from the atmosphere. Radically shifting the way we use and manage land is integral in tackling the climate crisis, and the choices we make around forest management offer significant potential to mitigate global climate change and biodiversity loss.
Forests cover about 31% of Earth’s global land area, and a quarter of them lie in the temperate zone (mostly in the Northern Hemisphere). Today, 99% of temperate forests have been altered in some way—timbered, converted to agriculture, or disrupted by development. Project Drawdown considers temperate forest restoration
In the last year, the climate crisis seems to have finally gotten its due in mainstream culture. The deniers are still dishing distractions, but the voices for change are now front and center. Perhaps Greta Thunberg’s sailboat journey to the United Nations was the turning point? Was it the asset manager BlackRock finally making a public declaration on the urgency of sustainability? Or maybe Amazon’s Climate Pledge to achieve “net-zero” carbon emissions by 2040? Certainly, the wildfires, floods, and sixty-degree weather in Antarctica make it harder to pretend the climate crisis hasn’t begun. Whatever future historians peg as the tipping point, it’s clear that we must mobilize a massive change in our entire global economy.
Natural Investments continues to purchase offsets for the carbon impact of our business activities. Our primary carbon impact comes from air travel for conferences and meetings.
Nowhere in any of the 2020 economic outlook reports was there any mention of a global pandemic, yet here we are. While journalists from sensible corners of the news media world have for years issued warnings about the health and economic risks of pandemics, the prospects for such an event seemed distant and abstract to most. The machinery of the global economy chugged on.
The novel corona virus outbreak began with a single known case on December 10 in Wuhan, China. By the month’s end, the new virus was identified by Chinese health officials. In mid-January, cases were being reported in other countries, and the virus began to spread rapidly. Throughout March, new infections and upsetting mortality reports issued by countries around the globe worsened as the days passed.
A letter to our clients:
After over 10 years of an upwardly trending stock market, the moment for severe volatility has finally arrived. It’s always difficult to predict the conditions that will cause a mass sell-off of equities, but in our 35 years of financial advising we’ve seen a variety of precipitating causes for downturns, not all of which are based on economic fundamentals. We are all keenly aware of the cyclical nature of markets, and that growth is not a constant, and in general our concerns about the limits to natural resources raise broad concerns about financial expectations in the years to come. This is in part why we design our portfolios to have a mixture of fixed income and equity securities. Nevertheless, as we have seen several up and down cycles over the years, we know that these phases are not permanent, and that the prudent approach is often to ride out the storm.
Table of Contents:
Investing with Your Values by Carrie Van Winkle
A Hard Reckoning for Capitalism by Michael Kramer
Returning to the South: Part 2 by Tiffany Ann Brown
Market Report by Scott Secrest
In the News: News excerpts we found interesting this quarter
Download a full PDF copy here: Investing With Intent: Winter 2020.
We’re witnessing a watershed moment in history that will redefine the parameters of our global economic system. The traditional capitalists who created this system believe the sole purpose of business is to make money regardless of the cost to our environment, people, or the rule of law. This short-termism ignores the consequences of corporate practices and favors regulatory policies that benefit the largest businesses (as well as the politicians who depend on them to preserve their power).
Yet the harmful effects of systemic self-interest have become increasingly obvious—from inequality, exploitation, and injustice to the collapse of natural systems—spurring a movement of people around the world who want business and government to address these problems and raise operational expectations for business.
The U.S. stock market closed the year with significant gains. Large company stocks in the U.S. were up 31.5%, small company stocks rose 25.5%, and bonds returned 8.7%. Foreign stocks were also up, rising by 22%.
When we entered 2019, the stock market had just endured steep losses in December 2018, the worst December for stocks since the Great Depression. The markets rebounded swiftly and forcefully in the first quarter of 2019, contributing to a good year for stocks.