See our video here about the SRI conference.

Sustainable, Responsible, Impact Investing Conference

I attended the 28th annual Sustainable, Responsible, Impact Investing Conference. There were about 800 participants. It was great to see how large the conference has grown over the past 28 years. #AllinForImpact was the hashtag for the conference this year. Click here to see video

It is an annual three day conference. First Affirmative holds its annual meeting for advisors immediately after for another three days. First Affirmative is a network of fee-only (fiduciary) financial planners who provide asset management and financial consulting services to individuals and organizations who want to align their investments with their personal values and/or institutional missions.

There were about 40 presentations at each conference. One could get about 8 continuing education credits for CFP, CFA, and CIMA. The sessions I attended included:

  • The Purpose of Capital
  • Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) Integration Across Asset Classes: Equity Indexes, Green Bonds, and Private Equity
  • The Convergence of U.S. / Mexico Trade and Demand for Organic Products
  • The Cost of a Climate Change Comb-Over
  • Investment Research and Management: A Tool for Change
  • Integrity Is How You Behave When No One Is Looking
  • Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Roadmap to a Truly Sustainable Future”
  • Viva the Revolution! What Women and Millennials Want!
  • Engaging Conservatives on Climate: Completing the Puzzle for Climate Activism
  • ESG Data / Ratings: New Kids on the Block
  • Global Thematic Investing
  • Five Things Every Advisor Should Know About Mutual Fund SRI/ESG Rating
  • Investing for a Better World: From Vision to Impact to Disruption
  • Beware the Major Carbon Polluters! Science for a Healthy Planet and a Safer World
  • Active and Passive, International and Domestic: ESG Integration at the Portfolio Level
  • Responsible Investment Research: The Latest and Greatest
  • Re-paving the Brazil, Russia, India, China (BRICS): How ESG Unlocks End-Market Growth in Emerging Markets
  • California’s Leadership in the Low Carbon Economy
  • The Inevitable: Earthquakes, Tsunamis & the Future of the Capital Markets
  • Mapping the Future of Responsible Investing
  • Investing for a Better World: How the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Are Reshaping Companies and Investing
  • Know What You Own: Truth Beyond the Facade
  • Economic Forcast
  • The Future of Wealth Management
  • Health Savings Accounts with Social Impact
  • Share owner Advocacy and impact
  • Folio Inovations SRI Robo

There was a show room for sponsors which included: First Affirmative, Folio, Calvert, Parnassus, Pax, Donimi, Eventide, JLL, Green Century, Praxis, Trillium, Boston Common, Green America, Iroquois Valley Farms, Jantz, Miller Howard, Serenity Shares, Tides, US SIF, Union of Concerned Scientists and others.

In this and the next blog post, I will summarize my notes on several of these presentations.

ESG Integration Across Asset Classes: Equity Indexes, Green Bonds, and Private Equity

Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) integration is spreading fast. About one out of every investment dollars $5 (over $8 trillion) use ESG factors in investment decisions. Large asset owners include sustainability indexes. ESG factors are being applied to the fixed income space, especially in green bonds. Private equity investments are ready for much more ESG use.


  • Sarah Wilson is Director, ESG Investing, Responsible Investing at TIAA.
  • Thomas Kuh, PhD was Executive Director, ESG Indexes, at MSCI from 2010 to 2017.
  • Ryan Miller is Vice President at Malk Partners where he leads the ESG transactional advisory practice.
  • Jeff Scheer, CFA, is a Director and Partner of Pathstone Federal Street.

Take Aways from Talk:

  • Green Bonds: The green bond market has taken off in recent years. Green bonds have mostly been created to fund projects that have positive environmental benefit, such as wind farms, solar plants, clean drinking water, etc. Recently, green bonds have been issued to support social project, such as housing and sustainability.
  • ESG indexes for benchmarks and ESG reporting as become more common. There is going pressure to report carbon impact and other
  • ESG benchmarks and factors are used more and more
  • Private equity is mostly concerned about shorter duration, 2 to 3 years. Private equity is not as concerned about long term impacts. ESG has not been as much of an issue for private equity but ESG considerations have some influence on selection.
  • ESG reporting by companies is voluntary. It can be difficult to compare companies if not all are reporting. As more and more report on ESG, there is more pressure to report. Report varies greatly from industry to industry.
  • The future for indexes and exchange traded funds (ETF) – they will consider many ESG factors as more data becomes available.
  • The panel stated that the ESG performance question has been answered. It is understood that ESG funds perform as well as traditional. The next issue is to measure the impact and compare funds based on how much impact they have.
  • As ESG factor evaluation scale increases corporations will need to pay attention.

The Cost of a Climate Change

The cost of climate change, to just address energy demand over the next 20 years, has been estimated at over $67 trillion. Non-energy costs associated with a changing climate will add dramatically to that figure. In this session, investment and environmental experts will discuss and demonstrate ways that investment capital can be directed to address this pressing need.


  • Molly Betournay – Molly Betournay is the Director of Social Research and Shareholder Advocacy at Clean Yield Asset Management. She leads Clean Yield’s sustainability research and shareholder engagement efforts.
  • Chris Davis – is senior director of the Ceres Investor Network on Climate Risk and Sustainability (INCR). INCR promotes leading investment practices, corporate engagement strategies and policy solutions for institutional investors.
  • Emily Kreps CDP – Head of Investor Initiatives – North America at CDP – Global environmental reporting system
  • Glen Yelto – Glen Yelton, ESG and Impact Research Analyst, has analytical responsibilities for the Impact strategies on the SNW Investment Team.


  • Investors are moving money towards addressing climate change
  • Renewable energy funds are growing
  • Motivation could be: CO2 emissions reported up significantly this year and the Trump administration´s withdrawal from the Paris accord and the dismantling of the EPA
  • There are many state standards in place
  • Many new initiatives
  • Climate Action 100+ – – a new five-year investor initiative to engage with the world’s largest corporate greenhouse gas emitters to curb emissions, strengthen climate-related financial disclosures and improve governance on climate change.
  • WeAreStillIn – – the broadest cross-section of the U.S. economy ever assembled in pursuit of climate action.
  • RE100 – – Renewable Energy 100 The world’s most influential companies, committed to 100% renewable power.
  • EP100 – – EP100 is a global, collaborative initiative of influential businesses that pledge to double their energy productivity.
  • EV100 – – EV100 is a global initiative bringing together forward looking companies committed to accelerating the transition to electric vehicles (EVs) and making electric transport the new normal by 2030.
  • Rest of world moving forward on climate change
  • We are entering a new age of activism – people can take action through portfolio
  • Sustainability breeds innovation
  • Debate about excluding fossil fuels completely and holding some and influencing the companies
  • Sustainable, Responsible, Impact Investments (SRI) without giving up returns. SRI have been outperforming traditional investments over the past 5 years.
  • Can make an impact through investments: green bonds, shareholder activism
  • Through personal decisions: weatherproof, electric vehicle, eating vegetarian
  • Through being politically active: local as well as national – such as EV fleets for schools
  • Climetrics: – carbon rating of investment funds
  • There are lots of new investments available but they need to get out to the broader market – such as in more 401ks
  • Declining cost of renewable energy including solar and wind have made alternative energy competitive
  • Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) – – disclosure is voluntary now. There is a need to have climate disclosure and building pressure to disclose. There are big problems if the reporting is false
  • Climate litigation could follow what happened with tobacco companies. Causation is harder to show with climate change than with tobacco. Litigation is a risk for fossil fuel companies. However, the Trump administration judicial appointees will probably protect companies
  • Citizen Carbon Lobby – – By building constructive, working relationships with members of
  • Congress we seek passage of Carbon Fee and Dividend, a climate change solution that bridges the partisan divide. Citizen
  • Carbon Lobby could impact stocks
  • Active vs index funds – evaluation is more critical for indexes because they are more permanent owners

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Roadmap to a Truly Sustainable Future

For the first time, we all have a universal framework within which every company and every government of impact investing and innovation can concentrate the capital, the efforts, and the energy necessary to create a sustainable future. This creates an opportunity to deliver through the SDG framework a high functioning impact economy that serves human prosperity and planet with a goal of doing it by 2030.


Patsy Doerr, Jared Dubey, Sergio Fernandez de Cordova, Ron Garan, Priya Mathur, Amber Nystrom
SDGs 17 goals from UN offers a guiding light

  • Goal 1: End Poverty
  • Goal 2: End Hunger
  • Goal 3: Ensure Health and Well-being
  • Goal 4: Quality Education
  • Goal 5: Gender Equality
  • Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation
  • Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
  • Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
  • Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities
  • Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
  • Goal 13: Climate Action
  • Goal 14: Life Below Water
  • Goal 15: Life on Land
  • Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
  • Goal 17: Partnerships for the GoalsSocial Development Goal

As fiduciary financial planners – if we care about our clients’ money, we have to care about the planet

Many money managers using ESG factors throughout their portfolios – women and millenials especially want ESG investing

Viva the Revolution! What Women and Millennials Want

Over 70% of women and a stunning 85% of millennials are changing their financial advisors once they are in the position to make that decision. Women and millennials are the fastest growing groups of impact investors, and are in position to inherit about $60 trillion over the next 30 years. About $30 trillion will be inherited by these groups by 2020.

Speakers: Colborn Bell, Donna Morton, Melanie Pease-Davidson, Stephanie Wilson

Engaging Conservatives on Climate: Completing the Puzzle for Climate Activism

This presentation was interesting. Two conservative Trump supporters spoke. They believe that climate change is man made and want to work to address it. Debbie called herself part of the ‘Green Tea Party’. They spoke about how to engage with conservatives on climate change and why there are so many climate change deniers at this point.

Speakers: Matt Anderson, Debbie Dooley, Bill Shireman, Jerry Taylor

  • Conservative speakers from tea party and libertarian
  • Many conservatives believe that most scientists and environmentalists are liberal and want big government – tribal identity – 75% of Trump supporters and 80% of NASCAR fans support clean energy
  • It’s all about the message and messenger
  • Being hostile to the environment is part of the Republican identity
  • However, since when is it conservative to ignore risks
  • It’s less expensive to address the risks now than clean up a larger problem later
  • Capitalism (a principle cherished by conservatives) is the best solution to climate change is capitalism – carbon tax
  • The messenger important right now – the best Al Gore movie is not going to be viewed by conservatives
  • Don’t speak about climate change – speak about energy, choice, energy security, decentralize energy, self-reliance, stability, stewards of the environment, clean air/water
  • Can get conservatives on board – if solutions don’t involve big government
  • The vast majority of people don’t care about politics
  • The majority views have an out proportioned influence
  • Have mutual respect – avoid other topics – focus on energy
  • Future 500 – – finding common ground between uncommon allies

Things Everyone Should Know About Mutual Fund SRI/ESG Rating

Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) and Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) Ratings, reporting, and data sets are increasingly available and used to help investors understand how different investment compare with respect to ESG/SRI issues.

Growing client interest in SRI/ESG has to an increase in new market entrants, and potential confusion. Ratings providers have stepped in to help streamline the process. But all may not be as simple as it seems. Come learn what everyone should know when engaging these important tools.

Speakers: Kumesh Aroomoogan,, Hendrik Bartel, Amisha Parekh, Ben Webster, Mark Regier, Benjamin Bailey


  • ESG/SRI ratings are not perfect – for mutual funds not that useful
  • Give a rating for their industry, do not judge industries – can be rated high for ESG/SRI and have lots of fossil fuel, military, and global bank companies
  • Fossil fuel can have high ESG rating
  • Military companies can have high ESG scores
  • Sustainalitics rates for Morningstar – MSCI Rates Funds – CSR Hub
  • Ratings from different companies don’t always match – if possible, it is best to use an average from several sources
  • The ratings have a bias towards larger companies and towards global companies
  • Avoidance does not equal impact – engagement needed for change
  • Ratings don’t assess potential for real change
  • The current rating systems are a start – they are good to have – but they are only a start

Investing for a Better World: From Vision to Impact to Disruption

The sustainable, responsible, impact investment industry is growing fast. ESG and SRI being considered is one step by how are we with impacting companies and the global economy? What can the SRI community do?

Speakers: Alice Tepper Marlin


  • 1 in 5 ($8 trillion) use some ESG factor in decision making
  • Disrupting companies should be the goal. For example with Amazon – #4 company by size with a low ESG rating – low rating partially because of poor transparency. One strategy could be to push for electric fleet, recyclable packaging, worker minimum salaries, etc
  • CSRHub rating – – CSRHub is the world’s largest sustainability business intelligence database. Our ratings and tools help professionals benchmark, evaluate, and improve company sustainability performance.
  • Challenge is to make changes

Beware the Major Carbon Polluters! Science for a Healthy Planet and a Safer World

The scientific journal Climatic Change calculated the climate changes impact of specific oil, gas, and coal companies, including ExxonMobil and Chevron. Emissions from the top 90 fossil fuel producers and cement manufacturers account for nearly half of the global temperature increase and 30% of sea level rise.

Speakers: Brenda Ekwurzel – union of concerned scientiest


  • Coal, Oil, Gas and Cement
  • 2/3 of emissions can be traced to just 90 companies – carbon producers
  • 60% of emissions since 1980
  • Oil companies knew about damage of emissions since before 1980 – did not take steps to reduce impact on climate change
  • Climate accountability scorecard to evaluate risk in companies
  • The rise in global atmospheric CO2, surface temperature, and sea level from emissions traced to major carbon producers –
  • Responsible for what? Carbon producer CO2 contributions and the energy transition –
  • Plus combustion
  • A small number of companies are doing a large percentage of damage, including: Chevron, ExxonMoble, …

ESG Integration into a Portfolio

Advantages and differences in using environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors in both active and passive investments, as well as international and domestic portfolios. Differences and opportunities in portfolio construction, company engagement, and diversification versus concentration. Including the latest trends in academic research on the topic of sustainable, responsible, impact investing (SRI) from around the world. The latest work on the performance of responsible investment strategies.

Speakers: Colleen Denzler, Karina Funk, Jessica Huang, aham Mahimwalla
Speakers: Caroline Flammer, Lloyd Kurtz


  • It’s a given that there are not lower returns for SRI vs traditional
  • Different rating systems do not always agree – experts are not agreement – will tighten up with time and we will see less differences
  • Top 20 holdings in the S&P make up 30% of the S&P500 value
  • Ratings within sector cannot compare across sectors – a good rating in one sector is not equal to a good rating in another sector
  • Better to reference multiple ratings systems and look to see if it is included in social indexes
  • Center for Responsible Businesses at Berkeley Hoss – good resource
  • Carbon disclosure increases stock price because less unknowns
  • Performance is the primary concern
  • How to make impacts best – engagement, impact, long term holding, and incentives
  • There are increased risk and costs associated with climate change
  • Government’s actions to curb climate change (2015 Paris) 195 nations, now 194
  • Pressure from activist groups
  • Pressure from shareholders
  • CSR issues proposals – Corporate Social Responsibility
  • 75% of CSR proposals get less than 20% of shareholder votes
  • Over past 20 years, more shareholder proposals, move voting, more approved
  • CSR issues are part of exec compensation – ex Valero energy 13% of compensation based on CSR performance
  • Intel, Xcel also include CSR in executive compensation
  • 37% of companies using CSR in compensation.
  • In mining industry 57% use CSR contracting
  • Managers – longer time horizon, attention towards stakeholders, more sustainable practices
  • CSR contracting – 4.2% of performance bonus exec comp for CSR
  • Using CSR contracting – increased performance – in all and in SRI companies
  • Improve in natural environment and communities

How ESG Unlocks End-Market Growth in Emerging Markets

Past growth in emerging commodity-rich countries, plus huge labor productivity improvement, has created a growing middle class to boost the emerging market. Recent academic research suggests that incorporating Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors with engagement can help improve performance in emerging market equity funds.

Speakers: Geeta Aiyer

Emerging markets have grown at 2x the rate of developed markets

Currency in emerging markets seems to be stabilized

Concerns about emerging markets subsiding – less concerns about many emerging markets

California’s Leadership in the Low Carbon Economy

California is leading in building a clean energy future, electrifying the transportation fleet and accelerating a low carbon economy in partnership with state and local governments around the world. Despite concerns, the enormous environmental and commercial progress of the California clean energy revolution has helped the California economy.

Speakers: David Hochschild, Ken Locklin

  • David – California energy commission
  • Ahead of the rest of the us in clean energy – sceptics worried
  • Unemployment reduced more than overall USA
  • Economy growth higher than overall USA
  • Energy savings with better: refrigerators, TVs, plugin chargers
  • California is 29% renewable
  • Offshore wind – possibility in CA – can be larger – on land wind terbine sizes are limited by truck size
  • 80% of electric demand on coast – including great lakes – offshore wind an option close to these demands
  • 27% new homes in Southern CA built with solar
  • Debate about coal jobs – rediculas – renewable job growth huge – wind cheaper than coal – coal should not be held onto just to save a few jobs that sooner or later will be gone
  • Energy storage – batteries is an obstical – Testla has invested in a $5B battery factory
  • 14k electric charging stations in CA
  • Stanford U is off of natural gas and all other fossil fuels – all electric
  • Companies committed to 100% renewable, include: Apple, Facebook, GM, Walmart
  • Military is a partner – Navy 50% renewable by 2020, Marines have renewable targets
  • High speed rail in the works in CA
  • Natural gas sold as a bridge – but it’s a detour. Not 100% efficient.  Leaks, losses up flues
  • Clean energy getting cheaper – estimated 15-25% cheaper in next 10 yrs
  • Recommend not using natural gas – move directly to renewable energy
  • Energy storage changes everything
  • Offshore wind complements solar as far as production time – wind good in morning and evening when solar power is lower – need diverse energy sources
  • CA committed in finding solutions – $1.5B for R&D
  • Recommend using many small community solar plants
  • Diversified – not all in one location is also better for security (from natural disasters)
  • Lower transmission losses because energy not travelling as far


There are very few Sustainable, Responsible, Impact 401ks
Getting Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) in 401ks is difficult
Need to get in front of CEOs
Almost no SRI options in 401ks
Worried about performance – over 2200 academic studies – 90% say no under-performance, 50% say over performance

Mapping the Future of Responsible Investing

How do the Sustainable Accounting Board Standards (SASB) and the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) interact? How do environmental, social, governance (ESG) factors analysis influence the evaluation of all companies and their impacts on our world.

Speakers: Katie Schmitz Eulitt, Anna Snider, John Streur

• John Streur
• Sustainable development goals
• Atmospheric CO2 have reached new highs
• Most deaths globally today than ever before – shifted away from developed countries
• Income inequality increasing
• Income growth much greater for rich people. 30 years ago, lower income increased faster than rich
• When inequality rises economic growth stalls
• PRI – principles of responsible increasing
• Global Compact – ten principles
• SASB rules of procedure – sustainability accounting standards board
• UN sustainable development goals

Katie Schmitz – SASB
• Socio-economic trends up – earth/sustainability trends poor
• Over $8 trillion – 1 in 5 investment dollars – use ESG
• Signatories to PRI up
• Investors want more ESG information from companies
• SASB formed to independently set industry-specific standards – chair Michael Bloomberg
• Public annual report information about ESG data
• ESG factors affect financial condition or operating performance of companies
• GRI – address several of SDG targets
• SASB – address some 3-4 of the 17 SDG targets
• SASB voluntary disclosure – companies don’t want to disclose – need to have rules about disclosure

Anna Snider – measuring impact
How should investor/advisor use SDG – many consider factors but not directly yet

Know What You Own: Truth Beyond the Facade

Critically assessing companies for clients’ portfolios is an important part of financial advising. This includes portfolio management that reflects clients’ values and financial requirements. In this session, industry experts will discuss important tools to evaluate ESG and impact performance.

Speakers: Andy Behar, Paige Chapel, Cynthia Figge, Bob Helmuth

• CSRhub – Cynthia Figge – has SRI info on many companies
• Not great correlation in evaluators – based on what doing, disclosure, or investigation
• Challenging to accurately evaluate a portfolio – a lot of reporting is voluntary
• How to communicate impact for clients:

Andy Behar As You Sow – non-profit, shareholder resolutions, has a tool to look at carbon footprint of mutual funds – palm oil (avoid) – weapon free fund, mass incarsaration free fund,
• Performace lagging is a myth
• Non SRI investments Risks – if you invest in ESG – would have avoided 90% of foreclosures in 2009.
• Can get a high ESG score with best in class – and still be coal
• Went after mcdonalds to get antibiotics out of poltry – success: Wendy’s, Bking, followed – still need to get Beef and Pork
• Slavery in supply chain – Monster beverage target – got a 0 on supply chain because didn’t disclose
• Fossil Fuel Free – SPYX – pull out carbon underground companies – but still have pipeline companies, Haliburton, – now called Fossil Fuel Reserve Free – but still have Marathon, … smaller reserves – EFAX – FFF with lots of reserve companies (only mining coal for steal companies)

Paige – Aeris – alternative investments – lots of data on ESG, not much data on Impact
Fund managers can provide impact goals
Barrons had an article about the 100 top ESG funds
Put burden on fund manager to show what they are trying to change – what impact do they want

Economic Forcast

  • Tax reform will produce more equity inequality
  • Add $1.5 trillion to deficit
2017 actual2018 prediction
Fed Funds Rate1.252.3
Stock market returns14.3-5% to 5%
Bond market returns3.1-2% to 2%
  • Savings is currently at a rate lower – the US needs wage increase
  • Productivity growth – up 0.6% (low) – productivity is critical to increase wages
  • Expect capital investment surge – difficulty finding workers, need productivity improvements
  • Capex (measures capital expenditures)
  • Uncertainty causes companies to put off large expenses
  • Corporate profits – stagnant at a high level
  • Oil price negative – that’s a positive for renewables
  • Leading indicators – high
  • Business cycle – positive
  • Recession possibility in 2018 low – 15%
  • Shiller Price/10 yr Earnings is at 13.12 – 10yr treasury is at 2.35%
  • Could see correction – but a bear market is unlikely
  • Downward pressure on CAPE ratio
  • Price above earnings
  • Emerging market spread also low
  • NAFTA = since nafta trade up in Mexico and Canada – down in US
  • Pension fund crisis – aging population


  • Ceres, investor network on climate risk, as you sow, cfp, cdp,
  • Collaboration with SRI funds – can share advocacy with clients
  • PPG – still had lead in their paint
  • Cerner Corp – added best practices lobbying policy
  • Fifth Third – resolution on lobbying leads to climate risk
  • Systemic Change
  • Need uniform reporting
  • Adaption of intl human rights
  • Increase board diversity
  • Talk about shareholder advocacy resolutions with clients
  • Can delegate proxies to a 3rd party
  • 2018 focuses
  • Board diversity – targeting nine companies that have 0 women on board
  • Lobbying and political spending – no disclosure, concentration of lobbying on 50 companies
  • Climate
  • Renewable energy – energy efficiency
  • Deforestation
  • Financing climate change
  • Work on growing renewable demand – joined RE100

2018 focuses

  • Board diversity – targeting nine companies that have 0 women on board
  • Lobbying and political spending – no disclosure, concentration of lobbying on 50 companies
  • Climate
  • Renewable energy – energy efficiency
  • Deforestation
  • Financing climate change
  • Work on growing renewable demand – joined RE100


  • 2018 – $3450 individual, $6700 family
  • At 65 can not contribute
  • Covered by high deductible health plan – $1350 ind, $2700 family
  • HSA Qualified Expenses – deductibles, Dental, vision,
  • Can shoebox receipts – save receipts from now for next 30 years – pay for all expenses at retirement (in future)
  • 0.25% / year plus $45/year/account fixed expense
  • Plus manager fee
  • FPS Trust company is the custodian
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