When I started TBLI, 20 years ago, social media did not exist and thought leaders or influencers working to create a values based investing industry, were few and far between. There was no CDP, no PRI, no Montreal Pledge, no ESG or Impact Investing community (GIIN, AVPN, EVPA, Eurosif, etc.).
The marketing people took over the field thinking that SRI/ESG etc would be a way to get more money to manage. They failed as the placement of SRI funds was not a successful event, initially. What became successful was the realisation that Social, Environmental and Governance factors would be come pervasive and will slowly make their way into the mainstream language. The battle is now for the value of that language: will it weaken in an Orwellian newspeak or will the ideas and the words take over.
I believe that ESG and Impact or what I like to call Value(s) Investing will become all pervasive, and TBLI through all its efforts was instrumental in achieving that. I believe it will provide investors what they all ultimately want; Investments that look at all risk factors, social, environmental, governance and financial, leading to Market Rate Return with a Social and Environmental added value.
I love irresponsible investors and criminals. Not real irresponsible investors and criminals, I mean those that are totally against ESG and Impact Investing. Those that have a clear idea why ESG is a terrible idea and it is a complete waste of time and will always fail. Why do I like this group, because they are the easiest to convince about Sustainable Investing and achieve behavioural change. Remember the financial sector is the most predictable group you will eve encounter.
Recently I was at a conference on ESG investing with mostly mainstream financial alpha males, all totally convinced that they had all the answers. A significant part of the Conference was dedicated to ESG and ESG analysis. At the end of the first day, there was a very nice dinner. Everybody rushed to sit themselves next to the best potential client. I walked slowly and ended up at a big empty table with two men and many empty seats. Next to me was a German, hard core, anti climate change, and sustainable investment. He was very aggressive and didn’t want to be confused with facts or fake news. I thought I was sitting next to Donald Trump, but I wasn’t. My neighbour was actually more educated. The other dinner guest was an ESG fund manager and a big fan of ESG integration and investment.
Did you ever talk to someone who contradicted and denied whatever you said. If I said, it was raining, he said no it isn’t. It’s cold. No its not. Renewable Energy is terrible. Money wasted. Extra financial investing is stupid. Etc. My German challenge had a family office and managed his own money, and according to him, he didn’t do so well, as he often missed his bench mark. After 1.5 hours of listening to his tirades, fake news, silly remarks and unwillingness to keep an open mind, I used the fool proof convincing method.
I said “Remember this day. March 16th. It might take one hour, one day, one week, one month, 1 year or 2 years or 3 years, but you will ultimately adopt ESG and Impact as a way of managing your money, and you will remember this day and me.” Then I turned to my ESG fund mangers and said to my Trump Surrogate that his firm manages Euros 200 billion, and he has beat his bench mark, regularly, for his clients using an integrated ESG methodology”. My ESG skeptic looked shocked and his facial colours changed, a small smile forced its way out of his vault like face and asked “could I have your card so we might speak about your ESG services”.
Don’t you love financial alpha males who hate ESG and Impact. I do.
Impact Investing Myanmar
My wife, Dr. Rieki Crins started The Learning Exchange Foundation (LEF). After successfully creating a vocational hotel school in Bhutan, she has been asked, by the Governor, to set up a hotel school for Karen refugee youth in Myawaddy, Karen State, Myanmar.
As you all know, until 2012, there was a bloody civil war in Burma and the ethnic minorities where became victims of this war. For example, the Karen people had to flee to refugee camps. Now there are several of these camps along the Thai border. These camps have been here for 60 yearsandthere are more than 100.000 people living in these camp, with50% under the age of 25. These young people receive education from various NGO’s but the education, and thus diploma, are not recognized by Myanmar and Thailand. These kids are stuck!
Tourism is booming in Myanmar and there is a huge demand for skilled hotel people. Her hybrid hotelschool ( hotel and school) is ideally placed to address the challenges and needs of the Karen people living in these refugee camps.
Please support this important initiative that is working to create a livelihood for 100.000 refugees stuck in these camps .
We all feel that we are failures, at sometime in our lives. Things don’t work out, ideas or projects seem to fail in our eyes, or they take a lifetime to come to fruition. During that dark, seemingly hopeless period, it is imperative to keep the faith, eyes on the ball and keep tilling the soil. Shoots ultimately will come out.
Recently, my wife, Rieki, experienced the ultimate Frank Capra “It’s a wonderful life” moment. My wife started a Hotel School in Bhutan, called the Bongde Institute for Hospitality and Tourism about 2 years ago. She struggled continuously trying to get the school off the ground in a frontier market, with no funding, no infrastructure, no income, with continuous challenges and obstacles that she needed to overcome. Recently, she finally saw what she had created and what Jimmy Stewart felt like in It’s a Wonderful Life (Experiencing what would have happen if we didn’t exist).
To reward one of her best students, Kinley, Rieki decided to bring her to Amsterdam for an internship at a four star hotel in Amsterdam. This was the first time that Kinley was ever outstide of Bhutan. Kinley started working at the hotel and her work was exceptional. So exceptional, that one day a gentleman who was having a meal there, called her over and inquired about her background. He said “why is it that you are so good at your work in comparison with the rest of the food and beverage staff”. She said “I studied at the Bongde Institute of Hospitality and Tourism in Bhutan”. He said “WHAT. I want to meet the person who started that school”. A hotel school that trained its staff well and was based in Bhutan was quite a shock. It turns out that this man was a very successful hotelier, entrepreneur and had a large enterprise owning and operating 5 star hotels in Asia.
Rieki and the Hotelier met and he was overwhelmed by what Rieki had done and was planning to do next. He offered to take interns from her school, send equipment if needed, and wants to discuss collaboration on her hotel school in Bhutan, and potential hotel development in Bhutan. In addition, he was particularly interested in her next project. Building a working hotel school for the Governor of the Karen State in Myanmar to help the 100.000 refugees, and developing a culturally authentic and carbon neutral hospitality sector.
As the year comes to an end, we normally take stock and think encouraging thoughts for the future. I feel extremely upbeat, in spite of hardships, refugee crisis, elections, referendums, heros dying, Syrian War, corporate governance abuses, financial challenges, and more.
Who would have thought that Donald Trump would become President of the United States. Well, in spite of losing the popular vote by nearly 3 million, he is. Among my immediate and intermediate network, many were upset, angry, and concerned that the progress that had been made on climate change, would end. In addition, we would lose all the momentum that COP 21 set in motion. Fossil intensive investments would gain the uperhand. I don’t share that concern. In fact, maybe this is the ultimate stress test that a carbon free economy needs. The USA has a President and his team, and a great deal of Congressmen and Senators, that are climate deniers. The government seems controlled by those in the camp of fossil intensive industries. If we can survive that, then the system has turned the corner. I believe we have. Just look at the figures, even if Donald and Fox News say otherwise.
Coal companies have gone bankrupt (Peabody) or loss most of their share price, on lack of demand and low prices. Oil prices are at historic lows. If demand keeps going down for fossil fuels, how will increasing drilling and mining help the matter. That train has left the station. If we look at the state of fuel free energy systems, we can only see massive success that can’t be turned back, as that would fly in the face of economics. Trump’s team does seem to have some expertise in making money and should be able to do the math.
2016 has been a year of record low prices for low-carbon technologies. In August, a solar PV project in Chile set a new low price of 2.9c/kWh. The following month, a record low was set for offshore wind in Danish waters of approximately 6.4c/kWh. The third record to fall is that of battery storage courtesy of Tesla’s Powerwall 2 that was announced in November. The Powerwall 2 is nearly half the installed cost per kWh of its predecessor with an inverter built in, making it “the cheapest lithium battery for the home ever made”, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). To make matters all the more impressive, BNEF announced this year that 2015 saw record levels of investment into renewables and record installed capacity.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance, 2016
How electric cars will cause further oil collapse?
The Montreal Pledge is the first agreement of investors that require full transparency of their carbon risk and exposure. You can imagine that very few have signed, as this is not an aspirational statement like most of the international ESG agreements, but a true commitment to de-carbonization. “By signing the Montréal Carbon Pledge, investors commit to measure and publicly disclose the carbon footprint of their investment portfolios on an annual basis.”
Podcast on Corporate Governance-Wells Fargo Bad Form
Great podcast on how Wells Fargo forced its sales teams to force customers to buy products they didn’t want, which led to fraudulent practices. Unfortunately, the employees took a great deal of the fallout.
TBLI VIP Dinners
In 2016, TBLI organised 4 VIP dinners and they were a huge success. The last two we held Dec 6&7, were sold out. In 2017, TBLI will be organising private dinners in various locations during international ESG & Impact Conferences, for a small group of thought leaders (25). The goal is to support each other in our ambition of scaling up Impact Investing.
Support TBLI’s work on building capacity and educating asset owners and managers about liquid and illiquid investments in Sustainability (ESG and Impact Investing). Make a Donation to TBLI Foundation.
I want to particularly thank my immediate family. They have been a great source of strength, inspiration, and sometimes less so. One thing, for sure, they are never boring. Rieki, Sam and Silas. May all your aspirations come true. Let’s keep laughing.
Arthur stay well and hope to see you more frequently in 2017.
To my 90 year old mother in NY. As we say in Brooklyn ‘Ma. Ya did good.” Thanks.
As a sign of defiance in a world of injustice, let us all confront Chat and Cutters, and other abuses, as Larry David does so brilliantly.