Perspective and commentary on sustainable investing and emerging enviromental, social and governance (ESG) issues.
By Joseph F. Keefe, President & CEO | Posted May 2015
This article was originally published in InvestmentNews on May 4, 2015. Reprinted with permission.
Mutual fund manager BlackRock Inc. has reportedly revised its proxy voting guidelines and may for the first time oppose the reelection of corporate directors, should it determine that a board’s makeup is insufficiently diverse. At a time when only 17% of Fortune 500 board seats are held by women, this new policy by the largest money manager in the world could be a game changer.
By Julie Fox Gorte, Ph.D., Senior Vice President for Sustainable Investing | Posted May 2015
One of the great teaching tools in undergraduate economics is the Diamond-Water Paradox, which challenges us to think through why water, a necessity of life, is almost free, while diamonds, which pretty much everyone can live without, are expensive. The deus ex machina here is scarcity: Diamonds are scarce, and water isn’t. Rewind the tape: it wasn’t. That’s changing, and fast. [...]
By Joseph F. Keefe, President & CEO, Elizabeth Broderick, Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission | Posted April 2015
On March 10-11 at The United Nations (UN), leaders from government, civil society and the business sector convened to discuss how business can be a force for change in advancing gender equality across the globe. This call for business to play a leadership role in advancing women could not be more urgent. [...]
By Julie Fox Gorte, Ph.D., Senior Vice President for Sustainable Investing, Steve Falci, CFA,® Chief Investment Officer | Posted April 2015
The New York Times Business section article entitled “Study Claims Oil Divestiture May Hurt College Endowments” on February 9 reported on a new paper, fi nanced by the Independent Petroleum Association of America, claiming that universities that divest from fossil fuel stocks could hurt the value of their endowments. Th e author had to take a very precise and extremely circuitous route to reach this conclusion. We believe that there is plenty of room to achieve competitive returns while also divesting fossil fuel companies from investment portfolios. [...]
By Julie Fox Gorte, Ph.D., Senior Vice President for Sustainable Investing, Steve Falci, CFA,® Chief Investment Officer | Posted April 2015
Until recently, sustainable investing has been regarded, at least in North America, as a niche investment strategy. Mainstream asset managers were oft en skeptical of it, primarily for perceived performance reasons. Nevertheless a growing body of evidence has shown that taking environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into account can enhance portfolio management as well as meet the needs of two growing demographics in the market - women and millennials.[...]
By Heather Smith, Lead Sustainability Research Analyst | Posted March 2015
While the business case for gender diversity is well-established with a growing body of evidence linking greater board and managerial diversity with better company financial performance,1 the pace of progress on boards and in C-suites has been remarkably slow. In 2014, the percentage of women on boards globally stood at 12%. Within the S&P 500 Index2, women hold only 19% of board seats and 5% of CEO positions.3 Some estimates show that it will take decades for women to achieve equal representation in the boardroom, and over 80 years to achieve gender parity in the workforce.4[...]
1 See, e.g., Catalyst, Lois Joy, et al, “The Bottom Line: Corporate Performance and Women’s Representation on Boards 2004-2008,” 2011; Catalyst, “The Bottom Line: Corporate Performance and Women’s Representation,” 2007; Mary Curtis, “Gender Diversity and Corporate Performance,” Credit Suisse Research Institute, August 2012; “The CS Gender 3000: Women in Senior Management”, Credit Suisse, September 2014; Andre Chanavat and Katharine Ramsden, “Climb to the Top-Tracking Gender Diversity on Corporate Boards,” Thomson/Reuters, October 2014.
2 Standard & Poor’s 500 Stock Index is an unmanaged index of large capitalization common stocks. One cannot invest directly in an index.
3 Catalyst, “Women in S&P 500 Companies,” http://catalyst.org/knowledge/women-sp-500-companies, January 2015.
4 World Economic Forum, Global Gender Gap Report 2014, October 2014.
By Ellen Kinlin, Women Executives Interviews on the Kinlin.com blog | Posted January 2015
Though it sounds clichéd, it’s nonetheless true: Joe Keefe is a man on a mission. As President and CEO of Portsmouth, New Hampshire-based Pax World Management and Pax Ellevate Management, Keefe is committed to doing whatever he can to move the needle on gender equality for women.[...]
By Pax World Sustainable Investing Research Team | Posted January 2015
The Pax World Funds are active participants in the quickly expanding market for green bond and high impact investments that are funding important environmental, infrastructure and community development efforts globally.
• Green bonds and financing for sustainable infrastructure projects
• Community investment notes and certificates of deposit (CDs)
By Sallie L. Krawcheck, Chair, Pax Ellevate Management LLC | Posted December 2014
Capitalism is the greatest economic model in history. That said, sometimes it breaks, as we’ve seen. But one of its strengths is that it also can shift and change; and we may be on the verge of one such change, a change that could lead to a more prosperous capitalism.[...]
By Julie Fox Gorte, Ph.D., Senior Vice President for Sustainable Investing | Posted October 2014
In September 2014, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appointed five women to Japan’s cabinet, reinforcing his earlier message that taking better advantage of female talent in the workplace is a key piece of his growth strategy for the country. In 2012, the World Economic Forum (WEF) introduced a quota system to help boost the participation of women in the group’s annual meeting. At the time, just 17% of the participants at the meeting were female. It hasn’t worked; in 2014, only 15% of the attendees at the annual WEF forum at Davos were women. Sad though that is, women are still better represented at WEF than in the executive suites of the world’s businesses.[...]
By Sallie L. Krawcheck, Chair, Pax Ellevate Management LLC | Posted October 2014
In recent news: The NFL bumbles through its reaction to charges of domestic abuse by its players. The Census Bureau announces that women are now paid 78 cents for every dollar men earn, up a paltry 1 penny from the prior year.1 Safra Catz takes on the co-CEO role of Oracle2, becoming one of just 25 female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.[...]
1U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Reports, P60–249. Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2013. Issued September 2014.
2As of 9/30/14, Oracle Corporation was 0.9% of holdings of the Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund. Holdings are subject to change.
By Julie Fox Gorte, Ph.D., Senior Vice President for Sustainable Investing | Posted September 2014
Climate change can bring out the best in us and help reinvigorate our economy. That’s usually not the headline of a story about climate change, but it’s a headline we can write if we want to. Or we can keep reading stories about devastating storms, receding glaciers, rising seas, and suffocating droughts. Take your pick.[...]
By Joseph F. Keefe, President & CEO | Posted September 2014
“The best clue to a nation’s growth and development potential is the status and role of women.” — David S. Landes, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations — The above quote, from a learned historian, speaks to a nation’s growth and development potential—and today there is a strong consensus among international development experts that investing in women […]
By Sallie L. Krawcheck, Chair, Pax Ellevate Management LLC | Posted August 2014
June 4, 2014 marked the launch of the Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund (PXWEX). And I believe it also marks a step toward a more modern way of investing.
Over the past few years, the recovering-research-analyst-in-me has given a lot of thought to how businesses can function more effectively. As I reflected on my hard-won personal experiences in financial services—and examined the reams of research on drivers of corporate performance—the topic of diversity kept popping up… as much as I kept trying to push it away.[...]
By Joseph F. Keefe, President & CEO, Sallie L. Krawcheck, Chair, Pax Ellevate Management LLC | Posted July 2014
The business case for gender diversity is now well-documented. The research is compelling: when women are at the table-and better yet, in leadership positions-companies simply perform better. [...]
By Joseph F. Keefe, President & CEO | Posted June 2014
Investing is no longer about style boxes. In the period ahead, it will increasingly be about goals, and about solutions. It will not be just about equities vs. fixed income, or large-cap vs. small-cap, or core vs. value vs. growth, or correlated vs. non-correlated. We saw a plethora of offerings in the so-called non-correlated or alternatives bucket following the 2008 downturn—long/short, market neutral, absolute return—and the financial services industry will continue to come out with new products, some of which are responsive to actual investor needs while others are designed primarily to gather assets and revenue. But new products alone are hardly the solution. [...]
By Julie Fox Gorte, Ph.D., Senior Vice President for Sustainable Investing | Posted June 2014
An externality is something that costs nothing on the part of the person or enterprise that creates it, but imposes a cost or conveys a benefit to others. The world is full of them. My children create them by Skyping with their friends at elevated decibel levels all night. Externalities come in all sizes too. Fortunately for my neighbors, the Skype externality stays within the walls of my house. Companies that emit tons of greenhouse gases (GHG) create externalities that are bounded only by the size of the planet. They get so big, in fact, they aren’t externalities any more. [...]
By Julie Fox Gorte, Ph.D., Senior Vice President for Sustainable Investing | Posted May 2014
Four years ago, Ceres and Sustainalytics produced a report1 that it called a roadmap for sustainability for the 21st century corporation, and noted that while there were pockets of leadership in sustainability, these pockets were surrounded by oceans of incrementalism that were insufficient to address the sustainability challenges confronting us. Th is year, celebrating its 25th anniversary, Ceres released an assessment of the Roadmap report with the uplift ing title Gaining Ground. The bumper sticker: corporations are doing better at integrating sustainability into their souls. [...]
1Ceres, "The 21st Century Corporation: The Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability," 2010.
By Julie Fox Gorte, Ph.D., Senior Vice President for Sustainable Investing | Posted April 2014
Recently, there have been several public calls by prominent officials calling for curtailment of shareholder activism. Daniel Gallagher, a Commissioner of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), is reported to have said that “the commission must clamp down on the filing of shareholder proposals unrelated to the long-term interests of corporations, such as those relating to climate change or sustainability.” [...]
By Joseph F. Keefe, President & CEO, Ian Simm, Chief Executive of Impax Asset Management Group plc | Posted March 2014
Climate change is on the agenda again. With the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide surpassing 400 parts per million for the first time in human history, the Obama administration has begun to focus more on the issue. Strict carbon pollution standards will require new coal-fired power plants to capture and sequester at least 60% of CO2 emissions while rules to regulate CO2 emissions from existing power plants are currently being drafted. [...]
By Joseph F. Keefe, President & CEO | Posted March 2014
Joe Keefe was recently awarded with the 2014 Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs)Leadership Award. Presented at the United Nations headquarters in New York City, the WEPs Leadership Awards salute exceptional CEOs for their championship of gender equality and support for the seven Principles, in particular Principle One, which urges companies to establish high-level corporate leadership for gender equality. Download Joe Keefe's acceptance remarks.
By Joseph F. Keefe, President & CEO | Posted January 2014
The federal government in Washington, DC is at an all-time low in public esteem. This has to do with a lot of things, from intransigent right-wing ideology (e.g., debt ceiling debacle) to bureaucratic incompetence (e.g., Affordable Care Act website), to partisan gamesmanship (e.g., gerrymandered congressional districts), to outright, willful ignorance (e.g., climate change deniers), to a campaign finance system that produces policy makers held captive to the very special interests they are supposed to regulate (e.g., Wall Street, agribusiness, energy companies).The result is a crisis of legitimacy where ordinary citizens have lost faith in the capacity of government to solve their problems. [...]
By Joseph F. Keefe, President & CEO | Posted October 2013
We often hear of a "gender gap" in politics. In the 2012 presidential election, women supported Barack Obama over Mitt Romney by 10 percentage points more than men did. In 2000, they supported Al Gore over George W. Bush by 10 percentage points as well, and in 1996 favored Bill Clinton over Bob Dole by 11 percentage points. A gender gap in party affiliation—with women identifying more as Democrats—has been evident since the early 1980s. [...]
By Julie Fox Gorte, Ph.D., Senior Vice President for Sustainable Investing | Posted September 2013
The idea that burning the majority of the world’s known fossil fuel reserves would change our climate to a degree that scientific consensus regards as dangerous is fairly new. In the few years it has been with us, it has gone viral. Three years ago the idea that fossil fuel reserves could ever be considered "unburnable" was, if not unknown, deep in the backwater of economic discourse. That changed amazingly fast, and the speed with which that idea has permeated our thinking is indicative of the fact that climate change is full of tipping points. [...]
By Joseph F. Keefe, President & CEO | Posted August 2013
In her best-selling book, Lean In, Google's Sheryl Sandberg argues that women need to lean in – essentially, assert themselves – in order to succeed and prosper in our still patriarchal corporate culture. While she doesn’t place the entire burden on women, advocating for example that spouses step up and assume half the household chores, her message is clear: women will need to change their behavior in order to confront the many barriers – external as well as internal – to equality in the workplace. [...]
By Julie Fox Gorte, Ph.D., Senior Vice President for Sustainable Investing, Sissel Waage, Ph.D., Director of Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services, Business for Social Responsibility | Posted June 2013
The discussion regarding biodiversity and ecosystem services is expanding to include more of the world’s corporate leaders. That is a good thing. The voices of Virgin’s Richard Branson, former Puma CEO Jochen Zeitz, and corporate leaders from the Walt Disney Company and Rio Tinto bring heightened awareness to the subject. [...]
By Michael Connor, Executive Director, Advocacy Open MIC, Corey Johnson, Sustainability Research Analyst, Pax World Management LLC, Natasha Lamb, Vice President, Shareholder and Corporate Engagement, Trillium Asset Management LLC | Posted June 2013
"Your secrets are safe with us." That basic message is conveyed every day, directly or indirectly, by businesses that handle the personal information of virtually every American. [...]
By Julie Fox Gorte, Ph.D., Senior Vice President for Sustainable Investing | Posted June 2013
Since the turn of the millennium we have lived through two extremely painful episodes of corporate governance failure, both of which were implicated as significant culprits in the recessions that followed. Something this important deserves the scrupulous attention of every publicly traded company and its shareholders. That, for all practical purposes, includes everyone. [...]
By Julie Fox Gorte, Ph.D., Senior Vice President for Sustainable Investing | Posted April 2013
In 2004, Colorado became the first state in the nation to create a Renewable Energy Standard at the ballot box. That year, citizens called for the state to get 10 percent of its energy from renewable sources. Lawmakers took this mandate and raised the bar further, first to 20 percent—then again to 30 percent. Investors and companies have rewarded the state for its efforts. [...]
By Joseph F. Keefe, President & CEO | Posted March 2013
President Obama has put climate change back on the public policy agenda. Well, Executive Branch policy at least. Congress will of course do nothing, in large measure because one bloc (which happens to be one of our two great political parties) denies the science and receives heavy financial backing from the very special interest that stands to benefit most from doing nothing—the fossil-fuel industry (coal, oil, gas and power companies). [...]
By Greg Hasevlat, Sustainability Research Analyst | Posted March 2013
Technological advancements in how we create, store and access information have changed our lives in ways we could have never imagined. While the electronic devices we use shrink in size, the information we create doubles every two years. As investors participating in this market, we are both excited for its potential to generate value for our shareholders and eager to engage companies on the key environmental and social issues inherent in this system. [...]
By Heather Smith, Lead Sustainability Research Analyst | Posted March 2013
Governments, institutional investors and advocacy groups continue to play a key role in moving companies towards more diverse boards. [...]
By Julie Fox Gorte, Ph.D., Senior Vice President for Sustainable Investing | Posted March 2013
The killing of innocent schoolchildren and their teachers in Newtown, Connecticut was the latest in a long list of dreadful events that spotlight the imperfections of our society. But it has brought the issue of investments in gun manufacturers into the national conversation, really for the first time. [...]
By Joseph F. Keefe, President & CEO | Posted January 2013
Remarks to student environmental action coalition campaign to divest University of New Hampshire's endowment from fossil fuel companies.
"The growing student movement focusing on divestment from fossil fuels, along with the work of Bill McKibben and 350.org more broadly, deserve encouragement and support — for making the debate about climate change more public, more pointed, more urgent and hitting closer to home." [...]
By Joseph F. Keefe, President & CEO | Posted September 2012
"Twenty years from now, we will have either successfully transitioned from our current economic growth paradigm to a new model of Sustainable Capitalism or we will be suffering the calamitous consequences of our failure to do so. Likewise, sustainable investing will either remain a niche strategy or it will have supplanted mainstream investing [...]
By Joseph F. Keefe, President & CEO | Posted July 2010
Speech To The Boston Economic Club, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
"My remarks tonight are set against the twin backdrops of the Financial Crisis and what I will call the Sustainability Crisis—twin crises that should challenge our thinking about investing, certainly, but also about economics more broadly, as they betray deep-seated, systemic problems that neither government […]
By Joseph F. Keefe, President & CEO, Lisa Woll, CEO, Social Investment Forum | Posted April 2010
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-CT) has introduced comprehensive financial reform legislation that will soon go to the Senate floor for debate. The Dodd bill creates a consumer protection watchdog, a financial oversight council to monitor systemic risk and a new office to oversee credit rating agencies. It allows federal regulators to impose strict […]
By Julie Fox Gorte, Ph.D., Senior Vice President for Sustainable Investing | Posted March 2010
Guidance on Climate Risks and Opportunities A major highlight of Pax’s public policy advocacy over the past year is the January 2010 vote of the SEC to issue interpretive guidance on climate risk and opportunity disclosure.1 There are many ways to pursue sustainability in the […]
By Julie Fox Gorte, Ph.D., Senior Vice President for Sustainable Investing | Posted August 2009
Early in July 2009, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) finally ended what Beth Young, a governance expert at The Corporate Library, called its “inexplicable waffling” on the last vestige of broker voting: director elections. The rule came in response to a petition from the […]
By Julie Fox Gorte, Ph.D., Senior Vice President for Sustainable Investing | Posted May 2009
One of the foundations of modern finance is the Efficient Market Hypothesis (EMF), which holds that financial markets are informationally efficient, incorporating all known or relevant information about traded securities. Yet the history of financial markets is studded with revelations of major market participants (and their regulators) ignoring available information, or having no access at […]
By Joseph F. Keefe, President & CEO | Posted April 2009
The United States Senate will likely take up a housing bill next week. The so-called “cramdown” provision – allowing bankruptcy courts to restructure mortgages, including reducing the principal – should be embraced as a relatively simple, tax-free and absolutely essential component. Since 1971, when my company launched the nation’s first socially responsible mutual fund, investors […]
By Julie Fox Gorte, Ph.D., Senior Vice President for Sustainable Investing | Posted March 2009
Outrage over CEO compensation is one of those predictable events, like the annual return of the swallows to San Juan Capistrano. But this year it’s as if a flock of flamingos descended on the old mission, thanks to AIG. While AIG’s recent antics are probably going to hold the egregiousness record for some time, there […]
By Joseph F. Keefe, President & CEO | Posted December 2008
Speculative bubbles, before they inevitably burst, are fundamentally the triumph of short-term thinking over long-term thinking, and of short-term investors over long-term investors.The Financial Crisis of 2008 may be unique and unprecedented but it shares elements in common with previous market upheavals, such as the crisis of 1997–1998 or the bursting of the Internet bubble […]
By Joseph F. Keefe, President & CEO | Posted September 2008
The conference we are gathered at is called “Sustainable Investing 2008.” Had this same conference been held a few years ago, it likely would have used the term, “Socially Responsible Investing,” or SRI, to denote the subject matter. Or perhaps “Ethical Investing,” or “Mission-based investing,” or some other variation.The Social Investment Forum—the trade industry association […]
By Julie Fox Gorte, Ph.D., Senior Vice President for Sustainable Investing, Molly Mahoney Betournay, Lead Sustainability Research Analyst | Posted August 2008
A reputation, Benjamin Franklin once said, is like glass and china: it’s easy to crack and never well mended. In the business world, a company’s reputation is intimately tied to its brand, which is one of the key sources of long-term value. Brand, or corporate reputation, is a fundamentally asymmetric thing. A good brand takes years […]
By Joseph F. Keefe, President & CEO | Posted March 2008
“In the Spring/Summer 2007 issue of The Green Money Journal, I wrote an article (“From SRI to Sustainable Investing”) arguing that sustainable investing is the next stage in the evolution of socially responsible investing (SRI). This shift from SRI to sustainable investing is not only taking shape in the real world, but the interest in […]
By Joseph F. Keefe, President & CEO | Posted February 2008
My remarks today will focus on whether sustainable investing can play a significant role in halting the dramatic decline of the world’s natural environment, including the world’s forests, the preservation of which is the focus of your work at the Pinchot Institute. My simple thesis is that sustainable investing can indeed play such a role, […]
By Julie Fox Gorte, Ph.D., Senior Vice President for Sustainable Investing | Posted October 2007
Every profession probably has its gotcha question, the $64,000 “what did he know and when did he know it” conversation-stopper. In the world of socially responsible investing, the question comes down to performance: “Can SRI possibly perform as well as mainstream investing?” There is a permutation of this question aimed at companies (“Do responsible corporate […]
By Julie Fox Gorte, Ph.D., Senior Vice President for Sustainable Investing | Posted June 2007
It’s annual meeting season, when corporate management and boards meet with shareholders. That means it’s also the season to focus on executive compensation, with pay-watchers looking for the most outrageous stories like birdwatchers awaiting the arrival of the swallows at San Juan Capistrano. Sadly, it doesn’t take powerful optics to see that executive compensation has […]
By Joseph F. Keefe, President & CEO | Posted June 2007
Over the next 15 years, I think we will see a transition from the old world of socially responsible investing to the new world of sustainable investing. By sustainable investing, I mean the full integration of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into financial analysis and decision-making. This transition is critical if our industry is to […]
By Julie Fox Gorte, Ph.D., Senior Vice President for Sustainable Investing | Posted May 2007
Warren Buffett, aka the Oracle of Omaha, is a very smart man, and his investors are happily loyal. So when he says things, we all listen, and many of us assume he’s right. But I have yet to find anyone so smart that they’re incapable of being wrong, and in my opinion Warren Buffett is […]
By Julie Fox Gorte, Ph.D., Senior Vice President for Sustainable Investing | Posted May 2007
Connecticut State Treasurer Denise Nappier is recommending that other investors withhold votes for Michael Boskin, a member of the board of ExxonMobil. While it is hardly unprecedented for a shareowner to withhold votes for a director, this is perhaps the first time a major institutional asset owner has so clearly targeted a board member for […]