PODCAST – Women in Business, Guns, Lacoste and Lego on the (mostly) Weekly Wrap at the Sustainable Century

 

Tomorrow is International Women’s Day. This makes me a bit sad because when you reflect on it, one day each year hardly seems enough to straighten the gender imbalance and injustices out.

The evidence is everywhere.

Only 6 of 24, or 25% of the awards won at the Oscars last Sunday went to women. This means, as my son pointed out, women took home only 20% of the golden statues if you take from the calculation the two awards only women can win and the two they can’t.

Seems women have some way to go to in the film industry.

It’s worse for women in business. The number of women heading Fortune 500 companies is tiny at 5.4%.

That is so small a Google search simply gives you the women’s names. No list.

Meanwhile, at 91%, white men still get a long fancy list. The number of non-white folk? Even less than women at 4%.

It confuses me as to why the mainstream press continues to write headlines such as ‘More women than ever’ run Fortune 500 firms.’

Like 5.4% is good?

But take heart, I don’t know about you, but the women at the Oscars blew me away with their power, grace, conviction, humor, and talent.

One day soon, I hope I can stop explaining all the unfairness to my 15-year old daughter.

SRI is Working on It

Fortunately, many folks are working on this problem. Greater leading roles for women is something the sustainable and responsible investment (SRI) industry has been pushing for decades.

According to Green America, most SRI companies proactively support more women in business leadership positions.

Some SRI companies stand out.

Calvert Investments is a perennial favorite of mine as their investment decision making is guided by several criteria, including the Calvert’s Women’s Principles.

The principles were established in 2004 and are so good they became the basis for the United Nation’s Women’s Empowerment Principles.

Pax – If you’ve heard me on any of the many podcasts and radio shows on which I’ve been promoting my book Invest Like You give a Damn, you know my stump line: “I want my daughter to have the same opportunities as my boys, damn it.”

And then I go on to plug Pax World Funds.

Pax has managed the Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund for individual investors since 1993! This fund was followed by the Pax Ellevate Global Women’s Index Fund for institutional investors in 2006.

Both funds promote women’s empowerment and diversity, and according to Morningstar, the fund and company investment rating and information service, in 2017 the Women’s Ellevate had a top 30 performance in its class of 1500 plus conventional investment fund peers.

How can anyone not like that kind of trailblazing?

Let’s not forget another pioneer companies. Domini Social Investments looks for companies that have substantial representation of women and minorities in management, senior executive positions in particular. Neuberger Berman , Parnassus, Boston Common Asset Management, Trillium Asset Management,  among others also have serious women in business and workplace investment criteria. Indeed, most SRI funds screen for gender and diversity in one way or another.

That’s not it though.

Most SRI companies are also active shareholders.

Active SRI shareholders are those  ask companies at annual general meetings (AGMs) to improve their social, environmental, and governance performance.

Ever since a Greenpeace activist shareholder threw a dead salmon on the podium at some AGM, SRI shareholder activists have been raising sustainability hell.

Urban myth?  Fake news?

I asked Greenpeace: they are getting back to me about it.

What is not a myth is that Calvert, Domini, PAX, Praxis amongst many, many others have filed dozens of gender and diversity related resolutions over the years.

Says Mark Regier, Director of Stewardship Investing at Everence Financial/Praxis Mutual Funds, and a recent guest on a Sustainable Century Podcast, it’s all about, “respecting the dignity and value of all people” and “demonstrating a concern for justice in a global society.”

Great words, big words, and backed by action (and rarely the Greenpeace type). More often than not, SRI shareholders are constructively engaging companies to help them implement profitable and brand enhancing sustainability practices. That takes a lot of dedication, hard work and great research.

Praxis, for example, has supported shareholder actions against modern slavery and human trafficking, and even got the Wyndham Hotels to improve training and procedures to protect people from human trafficking on hotel grounds.

Praxis was also involved in getting Delta Air Lines to be the first US airline to sign a tourism code of conduct. The code protects children (often young girls and boys), from sexual exploitation in the travel and tourism sectors.

On that note, I want to shout out to the folks at Delta: be proud, disassociating yourselves from the National Rifle Association and its indefensible position on automatic weapons, and gun control is a great thing (you don’t want their business anyway).

It’s time for us men to #Sitdown.

With so few women in big business leadership positions, this is a sustainability issue of the century. The many SRI professionals engaging companies on this theme are my heroes for their trailblazing work.

By the way, if you want to get a perspective on women and SRI, see an number of excellent gender and business papers by Julie Gorte, Kathleen McQuiggan, and Joe Keefe at PAX.

I would be remiss not to mention some of the great SRI leaders including Amy Domini (Domini Social Investments), Geeta Aiyer (Boston Commons Asset Management), Lisa Woll (SIF USA), Natasha Lamb (Arjuna), Mindy Lubber and Shelly Alpern, (CERES), Julie Gorte (PAX), amongst many others.

According to my top secret shareholder advocacy source, there are also many unsung female heroes in SRI: Julie Tanner (CBIS working on human trafficking), Susan Baker at Trillium (chemical foot-printing), Leslie Samuelrich at Green Century (where she and a largely female team take the most principled stand on Fossil Fuels Free investing, and have done great work on fracking, mining and  deforestation), and there is Heidi Soumerai who has quietly done amazing work on diversity “like forever.” Again, there are many, many more.

I also want to mention the Interfaith Centre for Corporate Responsibility a leading light for years on SRI shareholder advocacy. Thanks to all of you at ICCR.

Shifting Gears…

Guns are still in the news, and I remain stunned by what Americans will tolerate for an archaic amendment to their constitution.

If I were able to understand the idea gun ownership as a right I suspect I would fall into the constitutionalist camp on the issue, and, like the comedian John Oliver, assert that if you want the right to carry some heat, pack a musket.

This past couple of weeks, the horrible news of the mass murder at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and the politicians mostly anemic response embarrassed me, and I am not even American.

Their cowardly ‘non-response’ was countered by what I call a ‘wait and see’ but maybe positive reaction from corporate America.

Dicks Sporting Goods, REI, Kroger, Walmart, and L.L. Bean stood up in different ways for more and better gun control.

I like Mountain Equipment Co-op’s (MEC – Canada’s leading outdoor retailer) response of suspending purchases from the five brands owned by Vista Outdoor which has holdings in an assault rifle manufacturing firm.

I’ve been a member of MEC for as long as I can remember and love them. But let’s face it, Vista probably had to check their records just to see who they were!

All companies making a stand is great, but we need really need the BIG companies to stand up.

So, my question: where the hell is Amazon?

According to Bloomberg, Amazon declined to comment on the whole gun thing.

Shame.

That kind of surprised me, because when I went to Amazon I saw the company sells all sorts of balls.

Anyway, and more optimistically, Blackrock continues to talk about guns.

The company said, that the “terrible toll from gun violence” in the U.S., something that “requires response and action from a wide range of entities across both the public and private sectors.”

Nice words, but no action yet. Let’s wait and see.

In the meantime, I urge all investors with kids in school, hell, all parents, everyone that has anything to do with Blackrock, to call them, write them, stand outside their offices with signs, let them know you want them to use their $6.2 trillion under management to help leverage what more than 60% of Americans want: get more effective gun control.

Moving on

The amped-up political crazy the last few new cycles eclipsed a couple great sustainability scores this past week or so.

In The Drum, John Glenday reported Lacoste is putting its brand behind a campaign to save the world’s most endangered species.

How?

In collaboration with the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Lacoste is replacing its iconic crocodile logo in “favor of a menagerie of ten critters that are threatened by extinction.”

Nice sentence John, and a brilliant sustainability brand strategy by Lacoste! It reminds me of those fantastic Benneton world leaders kissing each other. Who can forget President Obama kissing former Chinese leader Hu Jintao in their global ‘Unhate’ campaign.

Unfortunately, it is only planning to make a limited production run of each of the ten animals, each corresponding to the number of animals thought to exist in the wild.

That means just 30 vaquita porpoises and 450 Anegada Rock iguanas shirts. I imagine there is going to be demand for bigger production runs on those shirts!

Brilliantly, Lacoste will take the shirts to the Paris Fashion Week. Go get ‘em Lacoste (but I’m still not wearing a polo shirt!).

Another iconic brand stepped up these past few days. Lacy Cooke reported in Inhabitat that Lego plans to roll out trees, leaves, and bushes manufactured so you can eat them.

Ok maybe not.

But the game company will be making their endlessly fun bricks with a plant-based plastic sourced from sugarcane.

This is part of the company’s goal to make packaging and core products sustainable by 2030.

The new plastic is made of a sugar cane-based polyethylene, which has the same properties as its nasty chemical polyethylene cousin. Same look, same quality, and the same amount of (now sustainable) fun.

But there is more.

Lego’s sugarcane will be sourced sustainably as well. What does this mean?

Lego will get its ethanol inputs using the Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance guidelines. The group is an initiative of one of my favorite organization, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Lego will also use the Bonsucro Chain of Custody Standard, which provides consumers assurance that sustainability claims of companies are being met throughout the length their input supply chain.

The first “green” figures/ bricks will appear in LEGO sets later this year.

Finally, I encourage you to checkout some of the great CSR and SRI sites about, including two of my favorites:

  • Green Biz
  • Green Money Journal (and not just because my book Invest Like You Give a Damn is featured in the March issue, but also because of interviews/articles by Hazel Henderson, Robert F. Kennedy Jr, and many others!)

Also, if you want to get to know me better, I did an hour long interview with host Peter Fritz on The Midlife Tribe! Goodness!

Well that’s a wrap for this week.

I know there was a lot of interesting and important news out there I surely missed, so if you have a story you want discussed, or someone interesting you want interviewed, just let me know.

 

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