Empty Gestures

I am a huge fan of the tv show Curb Your Enthusiasm. The star and writer, Larry David, is brilliant in his ability to be brutally honest, awkward,  and totally embarrassing with his social dysfunctionality. However, the show makes you laugh, which is essential, these days.  If you never watched it, start today. Every time I am watching a television interview or listening to a podcast interview about something that I find important, I think of Larry David.

Most people being interviewed always say “that is a very good question” even if the question is stupid, useless, empty or just a dead end. What drives me crazy is the standard  one-two punch in responding to the interviewer. First “that is a very good question” then you hear “You know. It is very interesting…”, even if nothing is interesting, which they often prove with their answer. I often think that media advisors or other “experts” on not being authentic, train people with these two repetitive statements. Larry David’s does a brilliant parody on these empty comments.

Let’s  have a real dialogue where people say what they really think and challenge the interviewer in a polite, educational, and engaging way. Empty gestures don’t cut it and just dumbs us down. The stakes are too high and we need to be inspirational, thought provoking and laugh.

A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Come to TBLI EUROPE 2015, Nov. 19-20 in Zurich. You will  be inspired and have your thoughts challenged, and have a great time.

Guest Post Jochen Wermuth

The first Dow Jones Industrial Index only had steam engine rail companies in it, there were only horses on the roads and horse-whip-makers were great investments. Just a few years later there were no more horses on the road, no rail company in the Dow Jones – a new industrial revolution based on the combustion engine wiped out the old economy companies, with many losers and winners like the Rockefellers and JP Morgans at the time. A similar new industrial revolution is under way now with similarly large risks and opportunities.
With solar power being offered at $4cent/kWh in Austin Texas, a price with which oil could only compete at $7/barrel, the fossil fuel economy is dead. There will be huge changes in the world economy with many losers (the old oil, gas, coal companies and their related industries ) and many winners, the new Rockefellers. We  can stand at the spearhead of this new industrial revolution, allowing us to earn outstanding profits and at the same time generating a sustainable future for our planet.
On the risk side, there will have to be write-offs of $21 trillion in oil, gas and coal reserves by listed companies, as they will no longer be profitable to burn because greater energy efficiency and competition from renewables will drive down long-term fossil fuel prices. This is huge and compares to $15 trillion write-offs in the mortgage bubble.
On the opportunity side, emerging markets still consume 4x as much energy as we do say in Germany or in the EU. Thus bringing state-of-art products there we can make a lot of money and have a huge impact. With solar and wind-power now costing less than power from the grid there are also ample business opportunities across the world. Few have realized this, just as few realized for a long time that smoking was bad for your health…
Great background reading in this regard is the book “My indecent proposal to the German Chancellor” which tells the great success story of a farmer’s boy becoming the owner-manager of a multibillion dollar company in the renewable energy space and sets out the plan for Germany to become 100% renewable powered by 2020. A model for a successful business leader in the new industrial revolution, winning against all odds, and a model for any country in the world (in particular those with more sun) to follow.
As missing this opportunity may not only cost each of us money but could destroy life on our plante, my wife Sasha and I have shared with many of you a hard-copy of the book already. Given continued interest we have gotten the author to make the book available electronically and free of charge for TBLI Blog readers in return for my father having edited and translated it to English.
To download your complimentary copy of the Book in different “eBook” formats for almost any common reading device like Kindle, Tablets ( IOS Android ) or Smartphones, please visit There is also a pdf version for PC-, Mac and Linux Users available. If everything else fails, you can also find an adobe flash based ePaper Version that you can read online with any flash enabled Browser. If you have Problems downloading or opening your copy, please contact helmut.zengerling@wermutham.com.
Please have a look and enjoy!

Jochen Wermuth
Founding Partner and CIO
Wermuth Asset Management GmbH
www.wermutham.com
jwermuth@wermutham.com

TBLI Milestone 23x

Who would have thought that when I started TBLI CONFERENCE, over 15 years ago, that we would be celebrating our 23 event. Actually, 24, if you count the time we organized an event for the EU. It has been an exciting ride and the best part of the journey is yet to come. I am really looking forward to greeting you in Zurich Nov. 14-15, 2013. I think it is our best event until now.

If you haven’t registered, please do so now as there are only 3 days left. Register Now!

Social Media:

Help us promote TBLI CONFERENCE by tweeting about TBLI using #TBLI. I would be very grateful

TBLI Roadshow:

Had extremely busy 2 weeks. Met with various thought leaders and potential sponsors in NY, then spoke at SRI in Rockies (Colorado Springs), German Family Forum (Zurich), International Asset Owners Summity (Hong Kong). Met fantastic people. Most memorable part was how everyone knew TBLI and reminded me of our great reputation. That was great to hear.

THAI Demonstrations:

Took a few days of R&R in Bangkok, before returning to Zurich for TBLI CONFERENCE EUROPE New peaceful demonstrations in Bangkok against the govt and the fact that Thaksin Shinawatra is running things behind the scene. A new reconciliation law to allow Thaksin to come back is being contested and supported by large crowds. In typical style, the Thai know how to have a good time even while demonstrating.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/dxbzjfel93l17q4/2013-11-11%2014.00.32.mov

ESG Leaders Awards

The winners of ESG Leaders Awards will be announced Nov. 14th at TBLI CONFERENCE EUROPE, in Zurich. Visit our website to see who is nominated:

Warsaw Climate Change Conference – November 2013

Caring for Climate, the world’s largest initiative for business leadership on climate change, will organize the first annual Caring for Climate Business Forum: Innovation, Ambition, Collaboration on 19-20 November 2013 in Warsaw, Poland.

The first day of the Forum – held at the Sofitel in Warsaw – will feature focused thematic sessions designed to spur climate action and inspire collaboration centered on the themes of mitigation, adaptation, technology and finance. On Day 2, a high-level meeting – held at the National Stadium – will bring together chief and senior executives of Caring for Climate and UNEP-FI signatories with Ministers, Heads of UN Agencies and civil society. To learn more, please visit website
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Writing for Blog

If you want to write for TBLI Blog, please send to robert@tbligroup.com. We have formed partnership with Thomson Reuters to increase outreach of TBLI.

New Impact Investing Strategic Alliance

SoMoLend and GATE Global Impact Launch Strategic Lending Alliance.

SoMoLend and GATE Global Impact formalized a deal that will make investing in business expansion and job growth easier than ever for the nation’s investors and small businesses. The new alliance ensures that industry standardization and best practices through streamlined technology will create and strengthen investor education, awareness and protection.

To find out why and how asset managers are investing in ESG and Impact Investing, and how to create an investment  strategy for this massive market, join us at TBLI CONFERENCE™ EUROPE 2012Largest and longest running event on ESG and Impact Investing.

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…”