Millennials are Changing the Investment Conversation

3p Contributor | Thursday August 7th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in “The Millennials Perspective” issue of Green Money Journal. Click here to view more posts in this series. 

Justin Conway, Calvert Foundation

Justin Conway, Calvert Foundation

By Justin Conway

Amidst all the talk about the trillions of dollars in wealth transfer and flood of stats coming-out about millennials, I thought I’d spend some time talking about what I see millennial investors doing as it relates to investing. I do so from my role at Calvert Foundation, working with investors, their financial advisors, their brokerage firms, and the entrepreneurs and organizations creating local solutions in their communities. I also do so as a millennial myself, if you allow for the term to refer to those born in the earliest quoted starting window of 1978–2000 as many do, and I’ll ride my borderline millennial status to use “we” throughout.

While we have very diverse perspectives, I certainly identify with the studies that say millennials are more inclined to want their jobs, purchases and investments to have a positive impact on the world. Here are some of the exciting things I already see millennials bringing to investing.

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Third Party Quality Assurance for Sustainability Reports on the Rise

Bill DiBenedetto | Thursday August 7th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Assurance in the USSustainability reporting should be comprehensive, transparent, non-biased and standardized, and the best way to improve the quality of reporting, according to the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), is to get those sustainability reports externally assured, i.e. reviewed by a third party.

GRI pioneered the use of a comprehensive “Sustainability Reporting Framework,” comprising reporting guidelines and sector disclosures, to help enable organizations to identify and better manage risks and opportunities.

In a new report, Trends in External Assurance of Sustainability Report, GRI reports that over the past 12 years it has witnessed “a tremendous and rapid uptake of sustainability reporting, and an increasingly growing trend towards external assurance by organizations worldwide.” The report, released last month, notes that 45 percent of GRI-based sustainability reports published by organizations worldwide last year were externally assured, compared to 38 percent in 2011.

In the U.S., the number of companies publishing externally assured, GRI-based sustainability reports rose from 10 percent in 2011 to 16 percent in 2013. “This growth is both expected and welcome,” the reports says.

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The Role of the Corporate World in Sustaining the Environment

3p Contributor | Thursday August 7th, 2014 | 0 Comments

14722757476_13e4e7d9b6_zBy Robert Cordray

Even though phrases like ‘global warming,’ ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘environmentally-conscious’ have only started to emerge over the last few decades, the real history of ecology and the environment dates back even further.

Although the history books may not mention the push for ‘green,’ they do mention ecological impacts that have made an enormous impact on the modern world today. But regardless of the history of environmentalism, the green movement itself has only started gathering momentum over the last half of the century. In terms of business, this has become quite apparent.

Pioneer companies

Early companies never really considered how corporate business may impact the environment. If any actual thought was given, it was only with regards to the raw resources that were readily available for use. No one bothered to consider the long-term effects of such practices. As forests were burned to the ground in the name of progress, companies set a bad example that haunts the world to this day. Even today, as more organizations and people strive to remedy the damage of the past, several companies still see the world as an expendable commodity.

Still, everyone is affected on some level in terms of environmental impact due to corporate business. Therefore, the time has come for those companies responsible for damaging the environment to be held accountable for their actions. Here are some environmentally-safe policies that every business and household should ideally adopt and follow:

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Want Better Stock Returns? Invest in Employee Satisfaction

Raz Godelnik
| Wednesday August 6th, 2014 | 0 Comments
Zappos Office Tour

Zappos office tour

How much is a happy employee really worth? I bet many companies still ask themselves this question, wondering what the real value of employee satisfaction is.

Fortunately, academic researchers are here to help with a new study looking at the relationship between employee satisfaction and stock returns, using lists of the “Best Companies to Work For” in 14 countries as their database. In addition, the researchers investigated how this relationship depends on the country’s level of labor market flexibility.

And the results? The researchers, Alex Edmans of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and Chendi Zhang and Lucius Li of Warwick Business School in the U.K., found out that “employee satisfaction is associated with positive abnormal returns in countries with high labor market flexibility, such as the U.S. and U.K., but not in countries with low labor market flexibility, such as Germany.”

In other words, greater employee satisfaction contributes to higher stock returns, at least in labor markets that are more flexible. The difference between the two different types of labor markets, the researchers suggest, may be due to several reasons: First, when firing is easier, employees tend to value more satisfactory jobs. Second, in low flexibility labor markets, regulations usually guarantee minimum standards for worker welfare, and hence employees are less likely to value the marginal benefit of whatever additional perks they enjoy at work.

Should we be surprised by these findings?

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Twitter Admits Lack of Employee Diversity, Promises Change

Mike Hower
| Wednesday August 6th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 3.39.29 PM Seventy percent of Twitter’s worldwide workforce is composed of men, and nearly 90 percent of its U.S. workers are white or Asian, according to new employment data provided by the social media company.

Women are grossly underrepresented in Twitter’s workforce, making up only 10 percent of the company’s computer programmers and highest-paid tech workers.

This is not groundbreaking news to anyone privy to the goings-on in Silicon Valley. The lack of diversity also is seen at other major tech brands such as Google, Facebook, Yahoo and LinkedIn, which is an incessant topic of debate.

In March, for example, the Rev. Jesse Jackson spoke at HP headquarters about Silicon Valley’s poor record of including blacks and Latinos in hiring, board appointments and startup funding. After Twitter released its data, Jackson released a statement criticizing the company’s diversity numbers as “pathetic” but called the disclosure of the problem a “step in the right direction.”

And a step in the right direction it is. Twitter is among the first major tech companies to acknowledge it has been hiring too many white and Asian men to fill high-paying technology jobs, which is commendable. The company already supports programs that teach women how to program computers, and is introducing internal training programs working to weed out biases.

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Helsinki Mulls a Future Free of Car Ownership

Leon Kaye | Wednesday August 6th, 2014 | 2 Comments
Helsinki, Finland, sharing economy, public transportation, car ownership, Sonja Heikkilä, Leon Kaye, Kutsuplus

Public transport is going under massive change in Helsinki.

With its 600,000 residents spread across 276 square miles (715 km2), the population density of Helsinki, Finland is relatively low compared to other major European cities. Buses, trams and ferries fortunately make it easy to move about the city and greater metropolitan area, but city transportation officials believe Helsinki can do even better as it continues to grow. By leveraging telecommunications and nudging the various cogs within the city’s transport system to improve their services, Finland’s capital could achieve what for now seems impossible: making car ownership obsolete.

To that end, Helsinki is considering a holistic transportation plan that would enable users to map out their route via a smartphone. True, many cities already have similar technologies enabled for residents and visitors, but in Helsinki, this would be far more seamless. Rather than paying for each leg of a trip, or requiring passes and memberships (as in for a bike-sharing program), Helsinki’s citizens would simply pay by the route, kilometer or a set monthly fee.

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How Can We Fix Our Broken Food System? Start With the Base of the Supply Chain

3p Contributor | Wednesday August 6th, 2014 | 0 Comments

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy Don Shaffer

Social equity in the food supply chain was a strong thread running through the annual Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems Funders forum this June in Denver. If we’re going to fix our broken food system so that it delivers healthy food to the whole population while enabling farmers to make a decent living, we’ll need new models and alternatives across the entire supply chain.

The most potentially transformative enterprises, however, often face the greatest funding hurdles. The forum’s theme, “Stronger Together,” reflects a growing recognition that collaborative funding strategies involving investors, foundations and communities are essential to getting these types of enterprises off the ground.

We know this approach can work. A growing number of social enterprises supported by what we call ‘integrated capital’ are successfully addressing problems related to food production, processing, aggregation and distribution in ways that contribute to social equity and agricultural sustainability. They’re flying under the media radar, but they’re worth examining as models for the field.

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Redefining Gross Domestic Product to Account for Sustainability

3p Contributor | Wednesday August 6th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on CityMinded.org.

Fall-sceneBy Meghna Tare

In 2010, Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff published a study “Growth in a Time of Debt” that became one of the most famous, most talked about economics papers since the financial crisis. In an era of economic recession, it answered a basic question everybody was asking: How much debt is too much? They had a number: 90 percent.

According to their study, countries above a debt-to-GDP ratio of 90 percent grew much more slowly than countries below this ratio. It was all glory for these two Harvard professors until a 28-year-old grad student and his professors published a startling finding: Reinhart and Rogoff had made a simple Excel error in one part of their study. The authors of the new critique also questioned other elements of the study and argued that, in fact, there is no healthy debt threshold.

Countries are ranked by GPD or GDP-per-citizen, implying that countries with higher rankings are doing better overall than countries with lower rankings. But GDP doesn’t actually tell us much about the value of natural capital, like clean air or healthy forests. Such natural goods and services, despite their great economic contributions, are largely viewed as free. We need a better metric that accounts for not only monetized economic wealth but, more importantly, includes vital environmental and social factors. GDP is an inaccurate representation of a nation’s wealth, but could be improved with a more holistic approach.

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Recycling is Built Into Bacardi

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday August 6th, 2014 | 0 Comments

PR_BacardiCathedralOfRumRecycling old materials is built into Bacardi Limited, the largest privately-held spirits company in the world, and is part of the company’s history. Bacardi founder, Don Facundo Bacardi Masso, opened his first distillery in 1862, and repurposing old whiskey barrels was part of his original plan. Flash forward to the present, and Bacardi is still recycling. Bacardi Bottling Corp.’s 92-acre Jacksonville, Florida site recycles materials used to bottle Bacardi rum. The site is the only bottling plant for Bacardi rum branded products sold in the U.S. A variety of materials are recycled at the bottling plant including glass, plastic, aluminum, paper and wastewater.

Bacardi also focuses on reducing the weight of its packaging and reducing hazardous waste. Packaging makes up about 57 percent of its spending on raw materials, totaling about 400,000 tons. Packaging is also responsible for half of the company’s extended carbon emissions, which include emissions from its own operations and those of its suppliers. Since 2008, Bacardi has reduced the weight of its packaging by 23,000 tons, a 7.1 percent reduction. The company’s hazardous waste decreased by 1.5 percent in 2013.

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Metal Roofing: An Unlikely Way to Reduce Waste and Save Energy

3p Contributor | Wednesday August 6th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Red Metal RoofBy Paul Kazlov

As consumers become more educated about the need for sustainable living, many homeowners and homebuyers are prioritizing eco-friendly living in their home purchases and renovations. To meet the public outcry for conservation, recyclability and sustainability, those in the home improvement and construction industries are seeking solid alternatives that will adhere to even the most rigorous standards of eco-friendliness and sustainable living. Of the various home improvement green solutions, metal roofing is definitely one that is gaining great popularity even among the most skeptical homeowners and buyers.

The rise of metal roofing

Made of various metal materials — such as tin, aluminum, copper, and galvanized steel — metal roofs are known to withstand some of Mother Nature’s most wicked rages. Be it heavy rainstorms, hailstorms or snow, metal roofs will keep homeowners safe and away from the elements. In addition to being fire-resistant and impervious to the most unforgiving weathers and troublesome pests, metal roofs are also an environmentally friendly roofing solution for their superior energy-saving features, unmatched longevity and high recyclability.

Energy efficiency

Considered a ‘cool’ roof, metal roofs are an energy efficient roofing solution that will save homeowners up to 40 percent in their energy expenditure. Using a solar spectrum reflectometer and an emission meter to conduct a three-year study on the energy efficiency and service life of metal roofing systems, Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Buildings Technology Center found that the high solar reflectivity and emissivity levels of cool metal roofing can greatly mitigate urban heat island effects. Moreover, while white coatings on other roofing materials displayed a 25 to 40 percent drop in their initial reflectance, the metal roof tested retained most of its initial solar reflectance during the study. In fact, researchers found that pre-painted metal was able to keep almost 95 percent of its reflexivity.

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Toledo Loses Drinking Water to Algal Bloom From Farm Runoff

RP Siegel | Tuesday August 5th, 2014 | 1 Comment

CyanobacteriaA friend and I happened to be traveling through the far reaches of Western New York this weekend, and the weather was getting hot. So, we took a little detour to a park with a beach that fronted on Lake Erie. The place was pretty deserted except for a family who were picking up rocks and an old man looking for sea glass. The water was green with large sections that were brown. A couple of the kids were ankle-deep in the water. Hoping for a swim, my friend asked the mother if anyone swam around there. She made a face and said, “I wouldn’t.”

We didn’t and that was probably a good thing. On our way out we saw a sign that said, “No Swimming by Order of the Health Department.” When we got home we heard the news about Toledo, Ohio, which lies along the western edge of Lake Erie, where health officials had advised residents not to drink the water coming out of their faucets. The order also said not to use it for brushing teeth or give it to pets. Children and the elderly were also advised not to bathe or swim in it.

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Review: MGM Resorts CSR Report

| Tuesday August 5th, 2014 | 1 Comment
MGM

MGM Resorts employees perform in a show about sustainability.

Las Vegas — land of excess — seems like a strange home for corporate responsibility. But even casinos (or “gaming and hospitality companies,” as MGM Resorts prefers to be called) find value in looking deeply at social and environmental issues related to their operations. It makes sense since these are enormous operations. MGM Resorts employs 62,000 people at 23 resorts worldwide. Many of the 39 million people who visit Las Vegas annually will stay at an MGM property like Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, Mirage, Luxor, New York-New York or Circus Circus. That’s a lot of people descending on a desert property, with a huge potential environmental and social impact. But as I learned, MGM Resorts is deeply focused on both employee satisfaction and minimizing its environmental footprint.

Diversity, philanthropy, sustainability

MGM’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) program is focused on diversity and inclusion, philanthropy, and sustainability (the company’s word for environmental efforts). Diversity is a core focus and approximately 65 percent of MGM Resorts’ employees are minorities. MGM Resorts was the first organization in the gaming and hospitality industry to voluntarily adopt a formal diversity and inclusion policy in 2001, and the CSR reporting initiative grew out of the reporting efforts on that policy. Environmental efforts were added to the report in 2005.

The report is titled “Inspiring our World,” which is also the name of the MGM Resorts’ employee show. The Vegas-style production was developed by and for employees to “deepen the company’s corporate culture and motivate employees to excel in guest service while making positive contributions to the communities they call home, embracing diversity and being exceptional environmental stewards.” According to Phyllis A. James, MGM Resorts International Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer , the goal was to showcase the value of sustainability and share some of the big wins MGM Resorts had made in the world of sustainability. Unfortunately for us, the full video is unavailable online so we have to be content with b-roll.

The Inspiring Our World show is a fantastic example of using the company’s core skill set — entertainment — to both drive employee engagement and share the message of sustainability in a non-linear way. No one says CSR reporting needs to come through boring .PDFs full of graphs and charts (although they can certainly help). Wouldn’t it be incredible if MGM Resorts created a similar show in future reporting cycles to talk about their sustainability? That would win them some awards for innovation and certainly lots of press from the sustainability world.

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When it Comes to CSR, Tiffany’s Shines Bright

Leon Kaye | Tuesday August 5th, 2014 | 3 Comments
Tiffany and Co., jewelry, corporate social responsibility, CSR, diamonds, blood diamonds, Leon Kaye, environmental stewardship, precious metals, gemstones, transparency

Tiffany & Co. just released its latest CSR report.

A business that has existed since the 1830s and is entrenched in American culture would not necessarily feel compelled to ensure it is a leader in ethical and responsible business. But Tiffany & Co. has long been a sustainability leader within its sector. Twenty years before many luxury goods companies began to pay attention to the sourcing of raw materials and how people working within their supply chains were affected, Tiffany’s developed policies that are increasingly becoming more mainstream throughout the jewelry industry.

In its latest corporate social responsibility report, Tiffany & Co. outlines how it sources its precious metals, diamonds and gemstones, as well as the steps it has taken to ensure transparency while mitigating its environmental and social impacts.

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Survey Finds That U.S. Leads the World in Climate Denial

RP Siegel | Tuesday August 5th, 2014 | 28 Comments

4538083341_7ae99b218d_zThis may confirm suspicions that many of us have already had. Besides leading the world in consumer debt and military spending, the U.S. can now add climate denial to that list. That is, according to a Global Trends survey by the U.K.-based market research firm Ipsos MORI. The study polled 16,000 people in 20 leading countries on eight different topics, including the environment.

Not only was the U.S. last, but it was last by a considerable margin. Consider the following question: “To what extent do you agree or disagree, the climate change we are currently seeing is largely the result of human activity?” A mere 54 percent of respondents from the U.S. agreed. Compare that with 93 percent from China and 84 percent from both Argentina and Italy. India, France, Turkey, Spain, Brazil, Belgium, South Korea and South Africa all scored 75 percent or higher. Other similar questions yielded similar results. These results were in alignment was data compiled by Pew Research a year ago, which examined the issues that people in various countries considered the greatest threats.

Tied for second-to-last with 64 percent were Great Britain and Australia. What do these three English-speaking countries have in common? Among other things, global media holding company News Corporation, the world’s second-largest media conglomerate, owned by Rupert Murdoch. Canada, which is also blessed with Murdoch’s version of the news, was only slightly better, with 71 percent agreeing.

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