Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Responsible investing

Al Gore just won the coveted Nobel Peace Prize.

I am aware that Mr. Gore is a fairly controversial fellow. He did win the popular vote in the 2000 election for President before losing the Electoral College count. No reason to go down that path any further! This is not about politics or personalities.

Last week I opened my on-line McKinsey Quarterly to find an interview with Gore and his business partner, David Blood. I found this conversation most interesting and commend it to you.

Is there a way to do business with an eye and a heart for the social good?
In other words, can a person do well while paying attention to doing good?

Here's the McKinsey introduction to the interesting interview:

As McKinsey research indicates, executives around the world increasingly recognize that the creation of long-term shareholder value depends on a corporation’s ability to understand and respond to increasingly intense demands from society. No surprise, then, that the topic of socially responsible investing has been gaining ground as investors seek to incorporate concepts like sustainability and responsible corporate behavior into their assessments of a company’s long-term value.

Yet socially responsible investing has always been an awkward science. Early approaches simplistically screened out “sin sectors” such as tobacco. Subsequent evolutions tilted toward rewarding good performers, largely in the extraction industries, on the basis of often fuzzy criteria promulgated by the corporate social-responsibility movement. These early approaches tended to force an unacceptable trade-off between social criteria and investment returns.

Three years ago, former US Vice President Al Gore and David Blood, previously the head of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, set out to put sustainability investing firmly in the mainstream of equity analysis. Their firm, Generation Investment Management, engages in primary research that integrates sustainability with fundamental equity analysis. Based in London and Washington, DC, Generation has 23 employees, 12 of them investment professionals, and a single portfolio invested, at any given time, in 30 to 50 publicly listed global companies.

For the entire interview, check out the link below. You'll have to go through a simple registration process, but, in my opinion, it will be worth your time.

I'd love your feedback on this one!



Jeremy Gregg said...

There is a similar trend going on the philanthropic world, where foundations are being scrutinized for their investments. Most famously, the Gates Foundation has been accused of holding assets in corporations that are creating the very same public health problems in third world countries that the Foundation is trying to address through its grants.

I take this as another sign that charity alone cannot solve injustice.

Charity is important, and many studies actually show how it improves both personal and community financials. However, as charitable as any of us tries to be, we likely put far more money into our purchasing and investment decisions.

If we can make those decisions with the same sense of justice as we make our charitable decisions, we will soon find that there is not such a need for our charity.

On another matter, Mr. Gore received $750,000 for his portion of the Nobel Peace Prize. He donated 100% of it to the Alliance for Climate Protection, a bipartisan non-profit organization that is devoted to changing public opinion in the U.S. and around the world about the urgency of solving the climate crisis.

I applaud his integrity, and his decision to apply his award to support the cause that helped him to earn it.

Politics & Culture said...

What does Al Gore's spreading of bad science and propaganda have to do with world peace?

I suppose he's in good company. Arafat, Annan and Gorbachev (a terrorist, a corrupt UN leader, and a communist dictator) also won the award.

Anonymous said...

Al should have plenty of money for investing since he has an interest in the company that sells carbon offsets, the biggest fake scheme ever devised by man. I don't see him cutting his consumption of anything while advising everyone else to ride their bike to work. He uses more electricity in a month than most people use in a year, not to mention his private plane.

He won't cut his consumption of anything while blaming the little man for destroying the planet. He is on the Marie Antoinette diet--that plan allows him to consume anything he wants while allowing you to starve.

Anonymous said...

Larry, why on posts like this do reasonable people never say anything in response to comments like the last two? Your post was about socially responsible investing. 2/3 of the responses have to do with hatred for a person. Sad.

For the record, your post raises an issue we should be thinking more seriously about.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing socially responsible about taking money from a fake scheme to benefit himself.

geraldine grainger said...

Anyone who doesn't take global warming seriously can't, in all honesty, be taken seriously themselves. Politics and Culture, you've got to be kidding. Whatever world you live in must be snuggly-wuggly, and an overwhelming majority of scientests in THIS world must be complete idiots, or on the take.

If you can't see the connection between peace, climate and the decisions made in the business world, you are indeed living in a dream.

Back to what the post is about...what jeremy said:
"If we can make those decisions with the same sense of justice as we make our charitable decisions, we will soon find that there is not such a need for our charity."

Anonymous said...

As a believer in God, I also believe in heaven. The religion of entreme environmentalism believes global warming is going to wipe us out. We're doomed!

But they say very little about China for its environmental sins. The reason is, China is communist and environmentalism is the modern home of the socialist movement. They don't want to take on a fellow traveler.

Manmade global warming is a religion, complete with dogma and doomsday prophecies. The goal is bigger government with global warming believers in charge and more restrictions on how you live your life.

Jim said...

Social investing and social responsibility are interesting topics. My doctoral dissertation was in this area -- specifically investor reactions to social responsibility disclosures. My results showed that "sophisticated" investors paid less attention to social responsibility disclosures than did "less sophisticated" investors. However, my research is about ten years old now so who knows?

From an accounting standpoint, the difficult aspect of social accounting has always involved measurement issues. Accountants like to measure things with currency and they like their measurements to be reliable. A lot of social accountability measurements are "fuzzy" as was referenced in the McKinsey cite. As a matter of fact, one accounting researcher once referred to this field as phantasmagoric accounting. Coming up with truly useful social accounting information will require coming up with reliable ways to measure the issues associated with such. Finding ways to integrate those to the financials of a company are very difficult issues.

Anonymous said...

Oh boy! About half the comments here make the point clearly that fundamentalists of whatever religious stripe share a fairly predictable, common mind set complete with conspiracy theories and fear. Islam, Christianity, whatever. . .spirit remains the same. Amazing!

geraldine grainger said...

anon 8:53 PM

Also as a believer in God, also as a Christian...

Environmentalism is not religion. It's socially responsible science.

I don't know any environmentalists who do not list China as a major environmental offerder.

Man-made global warming is just that: man-made. The problem is, those who deny its existence, either from ignorance or from the profit motive, still contribute to the problem which will kill the rest of us if something isn't done post haste.

Where to people like you get your information? Good grief.