3p Contributor: Dale Wannen

Dale Wannen Dale Wannen is President of Sustainvest Asset Management, an investment advisory firm focused on sustainable and responsible investing (SRI). Prior to Sustainvest, Dale was a portfolio manager at Harrington Investments and specialized in ESG investment strategies, securities analysis, and shareholder advocacy. Prior to this position, Dale was a financial advisor with UBS Wealth Management Services in San Francisco. He is often a guest speaker on the topic of ESG investing and shareholder advocacy.Dale has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. He earned a B.A. in Economics from Rowan University and currently is a volunteer with Mentor Me Petaluma, Rebuilding Together Petaluma, and the founder of Green Drinks Petaluma.He also currently sits as Board of Director and Treasurer of San Francisco human rights organization, Global Exchange, teaches Economics for the Oakland non-profit Game Theory Academy and is a committee member for the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in San Francisco. Previous volunteer work has included Treasurer and Board Member for bird conservation organization, San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory (SFBBO), committee member of the Petaluma Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee (PBAC), and President of the Social Venture Finance Club at Presidio Graduate School.Dale currently holds the Series 65 FINRA license and has previously held the Series 6, 7, 63, 66 and California Life and Health Insurance Certification. He is a member of National Association of Professional Financial Advisors (NAPFA) and the Financial Planning Association (FPA).Dale lives in Petaluma, CA with his wife Lauri and their Malamute Shadow.

Recent Articles

Your Investment Portfolio’s Naughty and Nice List for 2014

Dale Wannen
| Wednesday December 17th, 2014 | 0 Comments

naughty-or-niceAs most of us rush to get our holiday shopping done over the next week (or chose to do so while sitting with our tablets at the kitchen table), we’ll be checking off our lists of who has been naughty or nice. You know who you are! One item to possibly check off your list is to figure out which companies in your portfolio are being naughty or nice.

SustainVest Management continues to monitor sustainability criteria for clients’ positions in their portfolios, keeping a keen eye on which companies are performing well and also the ones that are doing poorly. The below is referenced from a recent Consumer Reports list. After reading the info below, you can show off at your family holiday gatherings with some interesting information, both good and bad!


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Big Endowments Are Divesting: Are You?

Dale Wannen
| Monday October 27th, 2014 | 1 Comment

3277809462_f98a9ac7f6_zThe divestment train has left the station. It’s hard to pass a headline that doesn’t include the words ‘divestment’ and ‘foundation’ in the same sentence these days. And rightfully so: As technology and innovation in renewables start to take hold, the good old boys at the coal mining and fossil fuel companies are starting to lose investors. Recent campaigns include:

  • Stanford University, an $18.7 billion portfolio, got out of all coal mining investments.
  • The city of Oakland unanimously approved a measure divesting city funds from all investments in any company whose business is extraction, production, refining, burning or distribution of any fossil fuels.
  • Rockefeller Brothers Fund, heir to the oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller, announced the divestment of fossil fuels in the fund.

The list goes on and on. Somewhat piggybacked nearly 40 years later on the anti-apartheid campaigns of the early ’80s, this divestment campaign started a few years back at universities and colleges and has now spread to over 300 college campuses across the country through organizations such as Responsible Endowments Coalition. But it seems as if this divestment movement is taking hold not only with the universities, but also with a number of different institutions, including small and large family foundations and local municipalities. This eventually will trickle down to individual households who have various IRAs, 401(k)s and brokerage accounts. Several steps to help create a personal fossil-fuel free portfolio include:

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Resolution 2014: Make My Investment Portfolio Responsible

Dale Wannen
| Monday December 23rd, 2013 | 0 Comments

stock marketBy Dale Wannen

As we enter 2014, many of us are now pondering a New Year’s resolution.  Some of us may improve our diets by eating more of that organic rainbow chard or scrumptious kale while others may consider getting up a little earlier to sweat it out at that 6:00am bootcamp or Crossfit class.  One resolution that you may want to consider is to create a healthier investment portfolio. As we get our monthly statements and quickly gaze at the positions, one cannot help but be upset by seeing big polluting oil companies or  greedy banks show up as holdings. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Below are the top 8 questions when it comes to the world of sustainable and responsible investing (SRI).

What is sustainable and responsible investing or SRI?

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Is Your Portfolio Melting the Polar Caps?

Dale Wannen
| Thursday August 1st, 2013 | 0 Comments

green moneyOk, so climate change is happening. Scientists (yes, those who acquire knowledge) have told us that the earth has warmed 0.8 percent since the late 1800s. They have also reported that the concentration of carbon dioxide has gone from 280 parts per million in 1750 to over 400 parts in 2013. But what does this have to do with my 401k or investment portfolio you ask? Everything!

When you click the BUY button in your brokerage account, you are becoming an owner in the stock of a company just as if you were buying a pint of ice cream from the local Whole Foods. USSIF’s most recent paper, Investing to Curb Climate Change, outlines the various, fairly simple steps to make positive changes when it comes to your portfolio.

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Coca-Cola Sued Over Sugar-Laden vitaminwater

Dale Wannen
| Friday January 25th, 2013 | 8 Comments

vitamin wMy daily ritual of drinking a glass of orange juice was something that was passed down from my parents.  However, with Lebron James and Ellen DeGeneres pushing these vitamin and energy infused bottles of goodness, it seemed like the newest generation was shifting this morning ritual to vitaminwater.  After all, using the word “vitamin” in front of the name surely implies that there is some nutritional or healthy value. It must be good for you, right? Wrong!  These drinks hold about as much nutrition as that piece of lint in your pocket.

In retaliation for this misinformation, the non-profit Center for Science in the Public Interest, is suing Coca-Cola (Coke bought vitaminwater for over $4 billion in 2007) on the grounds that vitaminwater labels and advertising are filled with “deceptive and unsubstantiated health claims.”  vitaminwater contains about 33 grams of sugar, while Two Hostess Ding Dong cake snacks have about 36 grams of sugar. Instead of taking the silent plea here, Coke attorneys are defending the lawsuit by stating that “no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking vitamin water was a healthy beverage.” What!?

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Shareholders at Procter and Gamble Question Packaging Waste

Dale Wannen
| Wednesday October 10th, 2012 | 0 Comments

As I spun a few squares of Charmin toilet paper off of the roll to complete my morning duty, I wondered who makes this product?  I then hopped into the shower and washed my hair with Pantene Shampoo, put Duracell batteries into my non-functioning mouse, used a Bounty paper towel to clean spilled coffee off of my desk and then used a Swiffer to clean the floor where the coffee dripped as well.

Astonishingly, all of these products are made by the largest maker of packaged goods in the world, Procter and Gamble. Along with the products come absurd amounts of packaging. Yesterday, this absurd amount of packaging was the focal point of a shareholder proposal at P&G’s annual shareholder meeting in Cincinnati, Ohio. Approximately 5.8 percent of shareholders voted in favor of the resolution.

The shareholder resolution, co-filed by the non-profit organization As You Sow, Green Century Equity Funds and Trillium Asset Management, asked Procter and Gamble to adopt Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) policies with respect to its packaging materials.  What EPR does is shift the financial responsibility of collecting and recycling all of those plastic Gillette razor packages and Tide detergent bottles from taxpayers and local governments back to the big companies financially benefiting from selling all of those products.

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Goldman Sachs Gambling on Social Impact Bonds

Dale Wannen
| Monday September 24th, 2012 | 1 Comment

So the big boys have entered the room.  It was recently reported that Goldman Sachs has invested $9.6 million into the nation’s first ever Social Impact Bond or SIB. This bond addresses the recidivism rates in NYC prisons and will be used to help train and counsel at-risk incarcerated youths.  SIBs, in a nutshell, are a new investment tool that fund social programs in the hope that the goals are reached and in turn create a profit for the investor (If you are unfamiliar with SIBs an explanation can be found here).

With Goldman Sachs entering into this arena, it seems as if big banks are starting to take notice of a possible way to profit. Whether this is a plus or minus remains to be seen. Goldman’s investment will be guaranteed by Mayor Bloomberg’s wealthy philanthropic group, backing their $9.6 million. If the recidivism rate drops by 10 percent over a 4 year period, Goldman could profit up to $2.1 million. Granted, let’s keep in mind that Goldman Sachs brought in about $37 billion in revenues last year  and Goldman employees make 8 times the average worker.

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Dale Wannen
| Friday July 27th, 2012 | 0 Comments

I hate to admit this, but while perusing the aisles of a large chain supermarket last week, something moved me to purchase my first can of SPAM.  As I opened up the rectangular can, a feeling of nostalgia took over and I created a somewhat delicious fried spam sandwich.  Now, when it comes to finding a truly sustainable dinner at the supermarket, a can of SPAM or Dinty Moore stew doesn’t exactly come to mind.

However, for this Fortune 500 company, Hormel Food Corporation, which produces such classically unhealthy foods and has been scrutinized by shareholder advocacy campaigns for spreading of pig manure on fields as fertilizer, credit earned is credit due.  Hormel recently announced impressive results in terms of metrics when it comes to minimizing their negative impact on the planet.

Over the past five years, the company surpassed three key sustainability goals including water reduction, packaging and solid waste minimization.

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Shareholder Resolutions Flourish at JP Morgan Meeting

Dale Wannen
| Thursday May 17th, 2012 | 0 Comments

As an advocate of shareholder activism, I seldom see more than one or two shareholder proposals on proxy statements.  However, yesterday’s JP Morgan shareholder meeting contained 7 shareholder proposals and had me smiling like a kid in a candy store.  Now this is what shareholder advocacy is supposed to look like.

Considering the bank’s recent lost bet of $2 billion in derivative trading and CEO Jamie Dimon’s $23 million pay package, this is an opportune time to perhaps take a brief look at what small and big shareholders were advocating for at one of the world’s largest banks:

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Goldman Sachs Loses Battle with Largest Public Union in U.S.

Dale Wannen
| Friday March 30th, 2012 | 0 Comments

Ever wondered why CEO of Goldman Sachs hasn’t been fired yet?

Realizing the pressure of a recent shareholder resolution, Goldman Sachs was able to get the largest public employee and health care workers’ union in the country, AFSCME, to pull their proposal regarding Lloyd Blankfein’s role as both CEO and chairman of the board. Originally, the proposal was to be voted on in the upcoming May shareholder meeting and had the potential to garner a majority vote hence kicking Blankfein out of this dual role. AFSCME was concerned about the conflict of interest inherent in having one person essentially managing himself. In exchange for pulling the proposal, Goldman agreed to change its board structure and appoint a “lead director” to its board.

Coincidentally, this action taken by Goldman comes less than a month after disgruntled employee Greg Smith wrote the New York Times Op-ed Why I am Leaving Goldman Sachs. In this sultry piece Smith describes the dilapidated culture at the investment bank referring to clients as “muppets” and has now many large investors questioning the ethics at the 143 year old firm.

President of AFSCME, Gerald W. McEntee, released a statement on their agreement with Goldman stating:

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Shareholder Resolutions Break Records in 2011

Dale Wannen
| Tuesday January 3rd, 2012 | 0 Comments

Corporations and governments around the world took notice of the power of the masses in 2011 with the Occupy movement taking center stage.  But behind the scene, investors used the power  of their proxy and sent strong messages to executives and board members in record numbers to advocate for change at the companies they invest in.

The Records

  • The average shareholder support level rose above 20%
  • 21 resolutions received more than 40% support
  • 5 resolutions received more than 50% support

The Issues

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How Shareholders are Battling Excessive Executive Compensation

Dale Wannen
| Thursday June 30th, 2011 | 4 Comments

In case you didn’t get the memo, excessive executive compensation was supposed to become a thing of the past after their actions played a major role in the recent financial meltdown.  For the past year, shareholders have been able to fight for change due to the recently implemented Dodd-Frank bill. Dodd-Frank is the most sweeping financial reform the US has seen since the great depression and includes a number of sweeping changes, including the right for shareholders to weigh in on executive compensation and corporate affairs with a non-binding vote.   Allowing owners of publicly traded companies to vote on such an important matter would seem to shift things in a positive direction.  Right?  Wrong.

Surprisingly, shareholders voted to reject executives’ (excessive) paychecks at less than 2% of almost 2000 publicly traded companies.  This is a dismal number considering the current median pay of CEOs sits at $8.4 million, a 35% increase from 2009.  In a recent Bloomberg Businessweek report Investor Say on Pay is a Bust, there are two strong parties advocating head to head, for and against this legislation.

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Socially Responsible Investment Firm Divests Chesapeake Energy

Dale Wannen
| Wednesday March 23rd, 2011 | 6 Comments

In times when oil prices are on the brink of huge increases and radiation leaks from Japanese nuclear reactors seem out of control, natural gas is the latest panacea of energy companies looking for cheap, quick solutions. While energy providers are jumping on the natural gas bandwagon, impact investors are jumping off just as quickly due to environmental concerns like fracking.

Harrington Investments, Inc., an investment advisory firm specializing in socially responsible investing (and my employer), announced today that it is divesting its entire holding in Chesapeake Energy Corporation (CHK) due to the corporation’s poor environmental record and its lack of accountability to shareholders.

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Sustainability Shareholder Proposal Turned Down at Microsoft Meeting

Dale Wannen
| Tuesday November 16th, 2010 | 1 Comment

On a typical cold and rainy morning in Seattle this week, Microsoft shareholders, board members and executives gathered for the annual shareholders meeting to discuss the trials of the previous year, along with prospects of the future.

This is the shareholders’ only time to speak their minds directly to Bill Gates, and only one shareholder resolution was on the ballot, introduced by shareholder activist John Harrington (full disclosure, he’s my boss), addressing Microsoft’s commitment to sustainability.

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Kiva Jumps into the Student Loan Business

Dale Wannen
| Tuesday September 28th, 2010 | 1 Comment

Despite the fact that many would-be students cannot afford the cost of college in the US, at least there are loans for the determined. The Obama Administration pours loads of cash into the hands of those eager enough to pursue a degree and all the Dominos pizza that comes with it.  In fact, a recent overhaul of the student loan program in the states makes it even more accessible for young Americans to enter college. In countries less fortunate, your options are very limited as far as attending university.  Imagine a vehicle in which people from all over the world would be able to donate as little as $25 towards individuals wishing to pursue higher learning.  Imagine no further.  Kiva, the pioneer in micro-lending for entrepreneurs in less fortunate countries that has loaned more than $150 million to 408,000 entrepreneurs in 53 countries, has entered the student lending business

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