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Sustainable Investment Highlights - June 2018

Solar energy gets a domestic tailwind and an international headwind. California passed a law requiring solar panels to be built on all new homes being constructed after January 1st, 2020. Solar jobs now also dominate coal; The 2018 U.S. Energy and Employment Report by the National Association of State Energy Officials and the Energy Futures Initiative found that solar energy accounted for more than twice as many jobs as the coal industry over the past year. However, on May 31st Chinese policy makers announced that the country is ending its feed-in-tariffs subsidy program for solar panels.

In climate change news, John Zimmer and Logan Green, the co-founders of Lyft, published a letter on April 19th announcing Lyft’s newest social good initiative: fighting climate change by purchasing carbon credits for every mile driven. Also, according to the 2018 Bloomberg New Energy Finance Electric Vehicle Outlook report, electric vehicle sales hit a worldwide record of 1.1 million vehicles in 2017 and are expected to continue to grow. Meanwhile, China’s recent decision (on January 1st) to stop importing world’s recycling has had huge repercussions on the world’s recycling network, since it was the world’s largest importer of waste; China imported 72% of all plastic waste since 1992. The U.S., the U.K., the EU and Japan were the top exporters to China.

Although there has been positive movement in the venture capital sphere in hopes of reducing gender and minority inequalities, Fortune and PitchBook report that female founders received just 2% of venture capital dollars in 2017. Additionally, the average deal size for a woman-led company in 2017 was just over $5 million while for a man-led company, the deal size is around $12 million. However, the U.K.-based company, Legal & General Investment Management (LGIM), has launched the first gender-oriented fund that focuses solely on U.K.-listed companies. The L&G Future World Gender in Leadership U.K. Index Fund (ticker: GIRL) envisions raising gender diversity standards by prioritizing allocations to companies that achieve higher levels of gender diversity.

In February, Dick’s Sporting Goods made the bold decision to stop selling assault-style rifles and high capacity magazines, and to raise the minimum age to purchase a gun from 18 to 21. In addition, a shareholder proposal requiring Sturm, Ruger & Co. to produce a report by February 2019 detailing its gun safety initiatives and measures to monitor its products’ connection to gun violence was successfully implemented.

Several companies are facing backlash from investors and stakeholders for their roles in supporting the ongoing family separation crisis at the U.S. border. Shareholders of Abbott Laboratories, an American pharmaceutical company, are rallying support for removing the company’s connections to General Dynamics, a defense contractor. General Dynamics is currently contracted with the US Department of Health and Human Services to provide the shelter care for the separated children at detention centers. Many large technology companies are also supporting U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and have made millions of dollars doing so.

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