ESG and Impact Investing- Is it really happening?

If all the stories of ESG fund management, Impact Investing reports, mandates, commitments, one would thing that we are a tipping point. Sustainable investing is just about to breakthrough bigtime, and we all be awash in cash looking for social, environmental, and financial returns. Having done the TBLI conference for over 13 years I am often asked, is the glass half full, half empty or just empty?

We have seen significant money flows in low carbon activities, social investing, cleantech, Esg public equity analysis, Esg fixed income on sovereign and corporate side, and of course lots of ribbon cutting (press releases). Has the definition changed to allow more new members into the club? I think more and more investors for communications reason want to wear the badge that they are doing something. I don’t believe “that all that glitters is gold”. In general, I think there is a great tendency to accept a very weak cola light version, rather than going for the “real thing”. The financial community want to have the membership to the fitness club of sustainability but they don’t want to get on the scales to see if they lost weight.

This behavior is true for asset owners and asset managers; including pension funds, endowments, high net worth, grant making foundations, church, ngo’s. If you look at the dramatic growth of Sri in the Netherlands, 48 billion euros to 480 billion euros over two year period. One would be thrilled, but the reality is that many funds filtered out certain companies, like cluster bomb manufacturers and then claimed the whole portfolio as clean or and Sri or Esg fund. Putting on a nice coat when you are overweight doesn’t make you thin.

Engagement- Schmoozing or pressuring?

Engaging with a company to say “we are talking” without true behavioral change serves whom? Does engagement actually increase the share price or even change behavior? The rockefellers have tried to influence the company that they founded, exxon (formerly standard oil), to embrace fuel free energy system (renewable energy) without success. Does engagement work only when a company is failing financially?

ESG Goals?

Esg and impact are the buzz words, and there is an acceptance by some that social and environmental and governance are risks that need to be priced. The real question is what is the goal for embracing Esg or impact. Is the goal to create an economy based upon well being,like the mission of TBLI? Is the goal to be part of the club? Are investors trying to take out reputation insurance? Is it to be part of the herd that is building in running towards a low carbon, resource efficient economy? Do they feel that as asset owners they have a responsibility to society, because having a pension in a society that is in total collapse doesn’t compute?

Highest Retun on Investment- Lobby not to pay taxes.

Paying taxes are not a requirement or an issue for Esg analysts? A recent study in the US by Planet Money found that returns of 22.000% up to 100.000 % for hiring lobbyists. The results were massive tax savings which generated no jobs, or economic growth. Even conservative think tanks found these tax breaks were bad policy. Companies are successful, as Elizabeth Warren said because of the collective activities of govt. (police, roads, schools, fire dept., clean water, air) which happen because taxes are paid.

In America, there are many repors by JP Morgan, Harvard business school, and Rockefeller Foundation predicting large money flows and potential of impact investing. We need a reality check. Most of those funding reports are not doing impact investing. There is a great deal of chatter but that doesn’t mean there is a lot of check writing. Just ask any social entrepreneur who is trying to raise money. Let’s not crate another bubble. To me it seems like chickens flapping their wings, making a lot of noise, getting a lot of attention, but will never fly.

Deep down, I do believe that asset owners and asset managers will manage more and more of e their money In line with the societal,environmental, and governance impact of the company or project that is being funded. I believe that. In order to convince the controllers of capital to fully embrace ESG and Impact Investing, they need to see three things before the money is moved or analyzed differently. Investors must be shown self interest, opportunity and money flows. If they are shown this, then we will start to see significant changes in behavior. Until then, we will have nice stories, some of which will be fairy tales, but as the song says “fairy tales can come true…”


After fourteen successful years, TBLI is proud of its global network consisting of successful forerunners in ESG and Impact Investing. Together with our partners we are determined to continue working towards our long-term objective: to help shaping the future of a sustainable economy, revolutionizing attitudes towards environmental, social and governance issues, and mobilizing more capital towards ESG and Impact Investing.

We have cause for optimism as we witness more and more financial institutions placing ESG and Impact Investing higher on their agendas. Especially now, in the current times of tough decisions on how the industry will shape up to the future.

It has become increasingly important to find creative solutions to funding growth. Building on the inspiration and generous support from our network, TBLI will now scale up its activities by mobilizing the support of its FRIENDS.

By joining our investment expert network FRIENDS of TBLI™ with a financial contribution (starting from €250) you will markedly help us scale up and finance the innovation of our services. You will also be entitled to a number of benefits offered exclusively for members.

We thank you for your commitment and are looking forward to a fruitful and continued cooperation with you in the future. Your friends are our friends, especially with FRIENDS of TBLI™!

To join the FRIENDS of TBLI™ click Yes I want to become a Friend of TBLI



TBLI CONFERENCE ASIA and EUROPE 2012 are coming up and there is a lot to look forward to!

Mark the dates in your agenda:  May 24-25, 2012 in Hong Kong and November 8-9, 2012 in Zurich, Switzerland.


Do you want to become a Sponsor for TBLI CONFERENCE ASIA or EUROPE 2012? There are several levels of sponsorship available for every budget. Moreover, we are offering guaranteed Speaker slots for higher Sponsor levels as well as the opportunity to become content co-designer for a workshop (all of which is subject to an educational value assessment).

For details see Sponsorship Fees, ESG Leaders Awards, and packages for TBLI CONFERENCE ASIA 2012 and for TBLI CONFERENCE EUROPE 2012 or contact Frank Stevens for Sponsorship information.

ESG Leader Awards

The 2012 ESG Leaders Awards ASIA and EUROPE will celebrate outstanding leadership in the field of ESG Investments. These awards are set to be the biggest yet, bringing prime visibility of those working in the environmental, social and governance space. More information will be available in the New Year! For further details please contact Ms. Alicja Hlibowicka.

The provisional TBLI CONFERENCE ASIA 2012 program is now online. If you would like to be a speaker, please submit speaker proposal 

Know someone who might be interested? Please forward.

We are looking forward to the next year!

ESG Leaders Awards 2011-TBLI CONFERENCE EUROPE 2011


Robert Rubinstein, tbli, esg, TBLICONFERENCE Europe 2011,

The Award of the Future

It is our pleasure to announce the ESG Leaders Awards Ceremony is taking place November 10th, 2011 at the Grange St. Paul’s Hotel***** London, United Kingdom.The ESG Leaders Awards commend the performance of players who have shown outstanding achievements in the ESG and Impact
Investing space. They are not only five trophies; they represent the vision that both TBLI GROUP™ and our network are striving for: “Mobilizing capital for sustainable investment”.

We hope to make these awards the most sought after prizes by asset owners, research and consulting houses and all other players in the ESG space. All nominees are listed in alphabetical order.

Register now for TBLI CONFERENCE EUROPE 2011

Program Details


To All Our Nominees!

° ESG Leaders Award Europe #1 BEST INVESTOR IN ESG.

Sponsor: Thomson Reuters.

This Award is open to institutional capital owners worldwide, including pension funds, foundations, insurance companies, family offices and charities.




The Government Pension Fund of Norway


Sponsor: Aviva Investors Global Services Limited

GES Investment Services

GMI – Global Market Insite




Sponsor: Bank Sarasin & Cie AG

This Award is based on nominations. People nominating had to produce a 100-word explanation why they think this nominee is innovative.

Gate Impact


PRI private equity workstream


Sponsor: IPE

Aberdeen Asset Management

Bank Sarasin & Cie AG

Generation Investment Management LLP

Nordea Asset Management



Open to all:individuals, companies, group of people; research houses, investors, advisers, politicians. Based on nominations.

Mr James Gifford

Mr Ivo Knoepfel

Sustainable Finance Geneva

Mr Reto Ringger

Our Prized Judges

It is also a big pleasure to announce the judging panel for the 2011 ESG Leaders Awards. This panel is composed of carefully chosen professionals who are experts in their fields.

The confirmed list:

Ulrika Hasselgren – CEO of Ethix SRI
Advisors AB, Sweden

Floris Lambrechtsen – Director of Double
Dividend, The Netherlands

Mike Tyrell – Founder of SRI Asset
Management, United States of America

Axel Wilhelm – Managing Director
Frankfurt Office of Sustainalytics,

Angela de Wolff – Founder and CEO of
ConSer Invest SA, Switzerland

Our lively moderator and compere Joanne Sawicki Founder and Director of Ceres Communications will be thrilled to see you there!

Yours sincerely,

Frank Stevens

Conference Director


Stadionplein 65hs

NL-1076 CJ Amsterdam

The Netherlands

T +31(0)20 428 6752 -ext. 20

F +31(0)20 428 6753



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