Impact Investing — Using Green Thinking to Make Green Dollars

April Rudin writes for the Huffington Post:

Impact, socially responsible or sustainable investing has slowly crept onto the investment scene as an alternative asset class. But it has gained attention, in part, to mitigate the bad karma created by Madoff and others, non-transparency of investments, the recession, low interest rates, a depressed economy, and high unemployment. Socially responsible investing is the feel-good asset class. It’s the intersection of banking, philanthropy and Wall Street. Investors are shunning ‘get rich’ firms who are ruining our planet. Upcoming Gen-X and Gen-Y investors and their dollars want to make a difference. It will therefore be a growing social community of like-minded investors.

Simultaneously, increasing numbers of high net-worth individuals, wealth managers, institutional and other investors want to “doing good while doing well.” These individuals are of the baby-boomer generation. Some have been late adopters and doubted the “depth” of this movement but clearly there is groundswell among those who want to generate return either partially or even wholly through funds or direct investments. This has led to the creation of boutique Wall St. firms which zero in on this specialization and larger financial institutions have creating small teams to focus on locating, understanding and vetting investment opportunities. As it is early, there is still conversation over whether or not impact investing is indeed an asset class or an underlying strategy which will be eventually used in all products.

Read the complete article: Impact Investing — Using Green Thinking to Make Green Dollars

The Rise of the Entrepreneur Activist

Paul Lamb writes for the Huffington Post:

Long gone are the days of street protests and hunger strikes. These days the socially concerned 30 and under crowd are mostly on laptops joining Facebook Causes pages, Tweeting their moral outrage, and texting $5 donations to disaster relief efforts in between TV shows. Slactivism rules… or so we are told.

Such portrayals ignore what many Gen Y and Zers (youth under 18 years of age) are doing in the real world to address poverty, injustice, global warming and other pressing issues of our day.

One increasingly popular hands-on approach is social enterprise.

Social enterprise — the merging of profit making businesses with social causes — presents a very different approach to social change. In the past most changemakers and activists viewed business as the enemy. Today an increasing number view it as a tool to achieve better results and a more practical way to sustain good works over time.

Read Lamb’s article:The Rise of the Entrepreneur Activist

China takes the lead in wind

Initial reports are showing that in 2010 China lead the world with installed wind capacity. The US company, American Superconducter, estimated that there was 16,000 megawatts of new capacity added last year in China. The US ranked second with about 5,000 megawatts of capacity coming online.

This is the second year in a row where China has lead the world in new wind installations. In 2009 there were 13,000 megawatts of new installation in China and 10,000 megawatts in the US. China has 40,000 megawatts of capacity and this should eclipse total capacity in the US. Germany, Spain and India round out the top 5.

Read more: China’s Galloping Wind Market

Climate change campaign back on track

Things appear to be moving forward again but 2011 will be no time for complacency, writes journalist Emma Howard Boyd for The Guardian.

2010 was a challenging year for the battle against climate change, both at a policy level after the Copenhagen talks broke down and from a credibility perspective following the “climategate” scandal at East Anglia University.

However, the recent summit at Cancún has helped put negotiations towards collective action back on track. Most importantly, it has rebuilt trust and co-operation among delegates, who have been able to agree two key policies: a monitoring and reporting framework, and a climate fund managed by the World Bank to allocate up to $100bn (£65bn) a year by 2020 in climate aid to the poorest countries.

Read the Guardian Article: Climate change campaign back on track

Conservative party secretary promises Britain will speed up switch to green energy

Chris Huhne, the UK energy and climate change secretary, has  promised that over the next decade Britain would increase the amount of energy it gets from renewable sources more quickly than any other state in the European Union.

Huhne, a member of the conservative party, was recently quoted in The Guardian as saying

[The UK is] exceeded in our paucity of delivery only by Malta and Luxembourg. This is the legacy we have inherited. The essential legacy is pretty damn poor. We have got massive catch up. We will be the fastest improving country on renewables in the EU between now and 2020. I’m absolutely determined about that and it will happen.

A recent report carried out by Bloomberg Energy Finance for Pew Charitable Trusts corroborates Huhne’s assertion. The report forecasts that, based on current policies, $114bn (£73bn) will be invested in renewable energy in Britain between 2010 and 2020. This ranks as the fourth highest amount in the world. Germany will spend more, but its rate of investment will fall, according to the report.

Huhne’s comments are seen as reassuring environmentalists that David Cameron’s post-election pledge to be the “greenest government ever” remains a priority.

Read more on the developing British Green Economy

Sustainable business success through corporate social innovation

In an article for eco-busness.com, Tania Ellis writes:

Today’s business world is a world of disorder. Global mega crises ranging from security threats, global warming and the depletion of natural resources to food shortage and the growing gap between the rich and the poor, as well as higher personal levels of stress are changing companies’ freedom to operate, their reputations and brand value, the cost of capital and perceived investor risk.

According to Ellis, this reality is leading to the following investment trends throughout the world:

  1. Socially responsible investing (SRI) is increasing the attention on corporate social and environmental practices by identifying companies that benefit society.
  2. Large pension funds around the world are already using screening agencies to assess how companies tackle so-called ESG (environmental, social, governance) issues.
  3. Since the 2008 financial crises the number of large investment managers and private equity firms signing on to the UN-backed initiative Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) has more than doubled. These signatories manage a total of $18 trillion in assets.
  4. As a result of the growth of SRI, companies are increasing reconfiguring their way of doing business by seeking profits through responsible and sustainable actions.

 

To learn more, read the article: Sustainable business success through corporate social innovation

European Wind Companies Seed Competitive Advantage To China

Chinese wind turbine companies have rapidly ascended to a market leading position in China. Five years ago they controlled a tiny percentage of their domestic market but today now control 85% of the domestic market and half of the $45 billion world wide market. The New York Times reported in an article how the larger European wind turbine leader like Gamesa and Vestas handed over their technology to the Chinese to gain access to the lucrative market.
Local rules required that wind turbines sold in China needed to be made with components made in China. This lead to a technology transfer from Vestas and Gamesa to local Chinese companies.
Read More: NYT - To Conquer Wind Power, China Writes the Rules

Electric Delivery Vehicles Are Starting To Move

Electric vehicles are gaining transaction among delivery trucks. The Wall Street Journal and New York Times had articles that highlighted why companies like PepsiCo, FedEx and AT&T are making the switch from diesel or gasoline powered vehicles.

Read More: WSJ – As Electric Vehicles Arrive, Firms See Payback in Trucks

Read More: NYT – Ford Starts to Ship an Electric Delivery Van

Shift to resource efficient economy in EU predicted to create business opportunities

The European Environment Agency (EEA) report released last week concludes that a fully integrated approach to transforming Europe to a resource-efficient green economy can not only result in a healthy environment, but also boost prosperity and social cohesion.

The Executive Director of the EEA, Jacqueline McGlade, told a press conference at the European Parliament that this is “the most comprehensive report that we have up to date on Europe’s environment. Environmental legislation as we’ve known it is no longer able to meet these challenges” she warned.

The President of the European Parliament Jerzy Buzek stressed the urgency of the environmental challenges saying that “It’s affecting our citizens, the quality of water we drink, food we eat, and the air we breathe. There’s no simple solution. So regulators, businessmen and citizens need to act together.”

Representatives from the European Commission agreed with this sentiment and stressed the importance of improving the efficiency of resource usage.

Environment Minister Joke Schauvliege said that “these challenges are an opportunity to shift to a resource efficient economy that would boost the EU, create new business opportunities, drive innovation and provide a crucial contribution to green and sustainable employment.”

More article on the need for developing a green economy in EU

UK economic recovery ‘poses threat to environment’

Butterflies or Business – Europe can have both

Growing demand for resources ‘threatens EU economy’

Why ethical bond investing is a growing opportunity

Tatjana Greil-Castro writes for CityWire

Socially responsible investing has traditionally focused on equities but more and more markets are opening up in the fixed interest arena, says Tatjana Greil-Castro of Muzinich & Co.

Socially responsible investing (SRI) is growing. Statistics from the Investment Management Association (IMA) show that ethical funds had net retail sales of £74 million in the third quarter of 2010, up 25% from the same period the previous year.

Much of the focus traditionally has been on equity investing, with shareholder activism in particular the preferred method for encouraging changes in corporate behaviour. Until recently socially responsible fixed income investing had been limited to micro-finance, community-based lending and some low-yielding government and investment grade funds. Fortunately this is beginning to change and there is now more opportunity for ethical fixed income investing.

Read more