This Week in Sustainability started slowly as all eyes turned to Trump and his inevitable and inevitably inconclusive impeachment.
By week’s end, stories large and small began to surface as bank investments in fossil fuels, both happy and sad, returned to the news, while the US Security and Exchange Commission made it harder for activists to press companies to address sustainability issues.
Meanwhile, the conservative US Supreme Court actually, kinda, sorta helped out on US immigration and the Dreamers. They also ruled gun manufacturer Remington could be sued by victims of Sandy Hook, but not in time to stop yet another tragic mass shooting on Thursday at Saugus High in California.
All this and more in This Week in Sustainability.
Saugus High shooting, more kids die
This week a sixteen-year-old boy shot up Saugus High School in Santa Clarita killing a 16-year-old girl and 14 year-old-boy, injuring 3 others.
The shooter, a boy about the same age as my own son, used a .45-caliber pistol to shoot his fellow students before turning the gun on himself. He remains in critical condition in the hospital.
The conventional media cannot say this, so I will. This makes me cry. I cry for the vitcims, lives lost before they really got started. And I cry for the boy. I cannot bear to imagine him so confused, alienated, alone, and or ill that he shoots his fellow classmates and then himself.
What is wrong with America?
How many times do we have to utter the word ‘again’ in the same sentence as gun, deaths, and school?
What is truly depressing is that some 60% of Americans actually want tougher gun controls but the combined pressure of a few financially and politically powerful individuals and organizations the likes of the National Rifle Association block all chances for positive change.
US Supreme Court says gunmaker Remington can be sued
Yet there is hope.
In some rather surprising news this week, the decidedly conservative US Supreme Court said it will not stop families who lost loved ones in the Sandy Hook massacre from suing Remington, the gun maker whose rifle was used in the 2012 massacre.
Questioning established legal protection
The decision puts in question the federal Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act which has largely shielded gun manufacturers from such lawsuits since 2005.
Good luck to the families of Sandy Hook. Its time federal laws protect people not gun manufacturers and gun owners.
US Security and Exchange Commission stifles sustainability
In “a blow against shareholder democracy” the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) under Trump, voted to severely restrict shareholders’ rights to force companies to address pressing sustainability issues.
The new regulations will make it more difficult for an investor’s representative to vote at corporate annual general meetings (AGM) on their behalf.
This is called voting by proxy.
Limiting resolutions and resubmissions
Proxy voting is used extensively by sustainability activists, as it allows concerned shareholders to vote without having to go to corporate AGMs (imaging owning shares in 30 companies and going to each of the AGMs to vote).
The new regulations also limit shareholders’ right to put resolutions on the agenda at AGMs.
Before, a small number of sustainability-minded investors could band together and put a resolution, or a demand for action, on an AGM agenda.
By raising the minimum value of shares and by disallowing aggregation of shares to qualify for resolution submission, the new regs make it more difficult to mount an initial proxy effort.
Raising barriers to shareholder activists
The SEC will also raise barriers to resubmitting resolutions that fail to pass the first time out. It will do this by increasing the minimum percentage of votes needed for resubmitting a resolution. (See point 5 in the box above: New SEC Shareholder Regulations)
Resubmission has been an effective strategy to gain incrementally greater shareholder support each year.
While sustainability resolutions seldom win, they often gain enough shareholder support to pressure companies to address the issues raised.
More than 400 sustainability activist proxies
In 2018, there were over 400 sustainability related resolutions in the USA on questions as varied as equal pay for women, improving LGBTQ rights, addressing climate change, etc.
PS – if you want to learn more about Shareholder Activism and how you can join the effort, get my book Invest Like You Give a Damn.
Young immigrant Dreamers safe in America, for now
This week, the US Supreme Court’s signaled it was ready to side with the Trump administration’s efforts to close down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA program, but refused the President’s request to close the program immediately.
The program, also known as the Dreamers program, protects some 700,000 youth between the ages of 16 and 30 from deportation.
The Dreamers, brought to the USA by their undocumented parents, voluntarily registered for the program believing it was a path to citizenship in the only country they have ever known. More than a few Dreamers have served in the US military. Many more are college and university students. None have committed crimes.
Dreamers not yet safe
The Supreme Court ruling punts the ultimate decision on the fate of the Dreamers to a pending lower court decision, while prodding the lower courts “to move “expeditiously” in issuing rulings.”
This means DACA will remain in place for now (although no new applications can be made). The matter could return to Supreme Court later this year.
PS – Early in his administration, Trump pledged to help the Dreamers. But like international allies, political appointees/ employees, political allies, even friends and family, Dreamers and their supporters are now bearing the brunt of a duplicitous US president.
Credit Suisse’s sustainably cool Responsible Consumer Fund
The Swiss investment bank Credit Suisse launched a compellingly new sustainability fund this week.
The Responsible Consumer Fund will target investments in companies promoting a shift to more sustainable models of consumption and production.
Investments will be made in companies with products that are, for example, low in carbon, part of the circular economy, or promote sharing, repairing and/or rentals.
The bank believes consumers seeking net-zero waste and carbon products and services as varied as plant-based foods, sustainable tourism, clean energy, and transportation represent a potential USD 4.5 trillion market annually.
Banks’ mile-wide inch-high climate change commitment
A new report by Boston Commons Assets, a sustainability investment firm, this week, found global banks’ commitment to climate to be a mile-wide and inch-high.
The report shows banks continue to make substantial investments in fossil fuels while providing minimal funding to low-carbon services, green bonds, and to companies with good climate reporting standards.
It would seem, that as with many (most) things sustainable, the time to stand up and applaud the banks is not yet.
European Investment Bank to end investment in fossil fuels
All is not bleak in banking, however.
This Friday we awoke to the wonderful news that the European Investment Bank, the EU’s lending arm, voted on Thursday to convert itself into a ‘climate bank’.
With over USD 550 billion in assets, the bank has already stopped investing in coal. With the new decision, it will no longer invest in any fossil fuels after 2021.
Banking as it should be
Predictably, International Energy Agency (IEA) said the decision was not in line with future energy need predictions and “threatens energy security.”
Note – IEA models are built on extending current unsustainable material consumer economic trends which will necessarily have to change if life-sustaining ecosystems are to be preserved (the corollary of which is almost inevitable total economic meltdown in the not-so-distant future, or, in investment terms: very, very bad return results).
Opening new possibilities for a sustainable future
Ending fossil fuel investments, however, will free up and attract billions for companies and innovations that will limit new carbon emissions and material waste.
The EIB’s leadership opens possibility for the emergence of a new economic vision beyond the business more-or-less-as-usual assumptions of IEA-like models.
Global business leaders’ capitalism rethink 1.0?
Is it a coincidence that a group of global business leaders called for a rethink of capitalism at a meeting in London this week?
Anne Richards and Andreas Utermann of Fidelity and Allianz Global respectively, openly challenged what activist have been doing for years, “our obsession with ever-increasing GDP” and the “primacy of shareholders.”
Finally questioning capitalism’s buisness as usual
To paraphrase Utermann, nominal GDP growth, supported by population growth, [and profit] growth unsustainably borrows from the future by destroying the environment.
What on earth do you think caused them to finally question business-as-usual capitalism?
Meanwhile….Venice is Sinking….
Moments after the Veneto regional council rejected measures to combat climate change, Mother Nature cast her vote by flooding its council chambers.
The chamber, located on Venice’s Grand Canal, was inundated by the acqua alta, or high waters that fill Venice’s streets every four years or so. This is the first time the waters invaded the council , the acqua alta being both deeper and longer than any year since 1966.
Mother Nature is never wrong
While not related to the #ClimateCrisis per se, the foreboding and trepidatious sadness that the Venice flooding provokes is found in the haunting words of Venice is Sinking by the Canadian band Spirit of the West.
Want more sustainability related music? Check out The Sustainable Century Playlist on Spotify….
The Last Word in This Week in Sustainability
Which is your house?
Signs of Change – November 15
Who has to die….?
Thanks and love to all of This Week in Sustainability witting and unwitting contributors:
@MaketheRoadNY – @cathrinejahnsen – @Bentler – @AmericanIndian8 – @XR_NY – @GuardianAus – @doug_parr
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Invest Like You Give a Damn….Want to join a tribe of investors urging dramatic action on the #ClimateCrisis, social justice and equality? Get your copy of my book Invest Like You Give a Damn….. drop me a line if you have any questions or thoughts!
Have a great weekend.