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Chris Pinney

Is It Time to Rethink Corporate Governance?

  For the last fifty years, the mandate and role for corporate governance have been set within well-defined boundaries, in which the business of business was business and the well-being of society was the responsibility of governments. This paradigm was summed up succinctly in 1970 by economist Milton Friedman who noted, “There is one and only one social responsibility of business — to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game.” Today, thanks to globalization and the international economy, we live in a world in…

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BlackRock’s Larry Fink Redefines the Rules of the Game for Business

For the last 47 years, since September 1970, financial markets have been guided by the maxim articulated by Milton Friedman on the “rules of the game” for business. “There is one and only one social responsibility of business–to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud.” On January 18th this maxim was overturned by the CEO of BlackRock, the world’s largest institutional investor. In his letter to CEOs, Larry Fink said, “Society…

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Fighting climate change with active engagement

With a stroke of his pen, President Donald Trump took a major step toward eliminating his predecessor’s landmark climate policy — the Clean Power Plan. Unveiled by President Obama in August 2015, the plan sought to fight global warming by reducing carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. Now, under President Trump, the plan and other environmental policies are in more danger than ever. Some investors might be tempted to approach this new normal by reinvesting in oil and gas. But thus far, the reaction has been more muted. Read more in Pensions&Investments.

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Widening Our View of ESG Investing

ESG investing strategies—investing plans that align with a healthy environment, social responsibility, and good governance—are some of the fastest-growing strategies in asset management. According to a report from the US SIF Foundation, US institutional assets invested in ESG strategies reached $8.72 trillion in 2016, up 32.7 percent from 2014. ESG’s appeal isn’t limited to larger investors; ESG mutual funds are among the most talked-about consumer investment products on the market. Approximately $81 billion of environmentally friendly “green bonds” were issued last year, according to data from the Climate Bonds Initiative, providing institutional and retail investors a way to engage in ESG investing….

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Asness and Sorkin Miss the Point When It Comes to ESG

When a leading investment professional like Cliff Asness and a respected journalist like Andrew Ross Sorkin offer their opinions, mainstream investors tend to listen. It’s unfortunate, then, that both these pundits have recently added to the confusion about the impact of ESG on investment returns. More importantly, neither offer any practical insight into how to breakthrough this confusion and how to use ESG as a value driver for both investors and society. In a recent blog post titled “Virtue is its Own Reward: Or, One Man’s Ceiling is Another Man’s Floor,” Asness laid out his argument for why ESG investing…

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Mainstreaming ESG in Capital Markets: Time for Industry Leadership

To date, the sustainability and social responsibility agenda for the corporate and financial sectors has been driven largely by external stakeholders. Previously this was characterized primarily by boycotts and campaigns against business organized by activists. Today, there is a much greater focus on engaging with business, seen through multi-stakeholder initiatives such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB), which are focused on creating frameworks, standards and metrics for companies and investment managers to demonstrate that they are managing responsibly. While these initiatives have played a critical role in getting environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues…

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Will 2016 be a tipping point for ESG integration in capital markets?

What a difference a year can make. When HMI finished a survey on the current state of play of ESG integration in global capital markets last spring, it seemed clear that the incentive systems needed to drive true environmental, social and governance (ESG) integration in mainstream capital markets, particularly in the US, were a long way off. While the efforts of UNPRI, SASB and the many other SRI programs are to be noted, our research showed that in reality these initiatives alone are insufficient to drive significant change for most mainstream asset owners and managers. As we start 2016, there…

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What will it take to move ESG from the margins to the mainstream in capital markets?

Judging from the $59 trillion in assets under management now committed to the UN Principle for Responsible Investment (UNPRI) and rapid growth of socially responsible investment funds, it would be easy to conclude we are well on the way to integrating sustainability or ESG into mainstream capital markets. A deeper look suggests a different story. Over the past year, the High Meadows Institute has been conducting research to understand the reality of how the mainstream institutions that shape capital markets approach sustainability. We have published a report on our findings available here. Our research shows that while many of the leading…

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Building a Framework for 21st Century Capital Markets

This spring, HMI is partnering with the Journal of Applied Corporate Finance to launch a major research project on the future of capital markets and the role for business leadership in capital market reform. Our goal is to identify the changes are now required if we are to build a sustainable governance and management model for capital markets that can ensure the vitality and independence of the asset management industry while serving the long-term interests of both investors and society. We have chosen to focus on the role of business leadership in capital market reform for three reasons: 1. Importance of the…

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Miles to go Before We Sleep

The UNPRI conference in Montreal last week demonstrated that while progress is being made, there is still a long way to go before sustainability will be fully embraced by mainstream investors. Among the key challenges identified during the conference were: Incentives— PRI’s Managing Director Fiona Reynolds said that only 6% of asset owners committed to the UNPRI report that their performance management and compensation systems for senior executives include metrics that recognize and reward sustainability. As she noted, “What gets measured gets managed. If responsible investment is to become truly mainstream, it must start at the very top of every…

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