Triple Bottom Line Investing
All companies have not only a financial return, but also a social and environmental return. Whether intentional or not, businesses make an impact on their customers, employees, the community, and the environment. Some companies create value while others extract value. The only question is whether we – as investors – are going to take these non-financial returns into consideration.
At IMPACTfolio, our process involves what we call “triple bottom line” investing by seeking an environmental return, a social return, and a financial return. These three sources of return are what we refer to as our 3 P’s: Planet, People, and Profit.
Quantifying the Results
You may wonder whether a focus on these non-financial considerations will negatively impact your financial returns. Recent research has increasingly shown otherwise. According to February 2020 research from Morningstar, "Investors can build a global portfolio of companies that have positive environmental, social, and governance, or ESG, attributes without compromising returns."
The following charts (click to enlarge) also illustrate that a sustainable or “responsible” approach to investing does not require sacrificing returns over the long term.*
*Source: Russell 1000 Index, CALCOR. Prior to June 19, 2015, CALCOR was known as the Calvert Social Index. CALCOR changed certain of the construction methodologies, including the adoption of the Calvert Principles and a sector-constrained capitalization weighting approach. All data prior to June 19, 2015 reflect the Index’s prior construction methodologies.
We manage two different types of portfolios: CORE and EXPLORE
Our Core portfolios are strategic allocations which means we manage to a specific allocation target and rebalance periodically to ensure that the allocation remains on track. The Core portfolios are optimized for tax efficiency based on your specific tax situation. The graph provides a simplified example of the risk/return characteristics of our Core portfolios.
Our Explore portfolios are tactically managed by using tools to respond to changing market conditions. We look for signs of relative strength as a way of identifying good buying opportunities and, conversely, we aim to sell when we determine signs of relative weakness. See our chart for a visual illustration of this strategy.
Sustainable Development Goals
In all of our portfolios, we invest with purpose by covering a wide spectrum of issues. We use the 17 Sustainability Goals established by the United Nations as a framework for our IMPACT investing approach. Our goal is not to focus on only one or two themes, but to seek out sustainable investing across the board in order to maximize the triple bottom line returns (planet, people, and profit).
Positive Corporate Actions
Sometimes it can be easy to look around at the problems surrounding us and start to feel hopeless or cynical. It can be tempting to wonder what difference you can really make or doubt the impact of these corporations we seek to invest in. But, in fact, there are plenty of stories of companies who are making an IMPACT.
Below there are three examples of how the specific business decisions of companies can move the needle on real positive change.
- 100% of Apple's global facilities are powered by 100% renewable energy.
- Apple has had a 70% decrease in average product energy use in 10 years.
- Apple enforces their policies by assessing and closely partnering with suppliers at every point in their supply chain. In 2019, they performed 1142 supplier assessments in 49 countries.
- Apple's products are free of harmful chemicals like mercury, brominated flame retardants, PVC, phthalates, beryllium, lead in the solder, and arsenic in the display glass.
- Almost 30% of Microsoft's board of directors and almost 20% of its managers are women, and the latter number has grown each year Microsoft has published its diversity report. Microsoft also reports equal pay among female and male employees.
- Microsoft offers a best-in-class working environment for LGBTQIA+ empoloyees, including trans-inclusive health insurance coverage.
- Microsoft has operated carbon neutral since 2012 and continues to reduce their emissions. They are one of the largest purchasers of renewable energy in the United States. By 2030 Microsoft will be carbon negative, and by 2050 Microsoft will remove from the environment all the carbon the company has emitted either directly or by electrical consumption since it was founded in 1975.
- As a Participant of the United Nations Global Compact, BlackRock is committed to aligning their operations with universal principles on human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption, and to take actions that advance societal goals.
- BlackRock partners with nonprofits, start-ups, corporations, and their employees to create impact in line with their mission to help more people achieve financial security and opportunity, whether in our own communities or on a global scale.
- BlackRock met their 100% renewable power goal in the US in 2018 and offsetting 100% of our 2018 global travel-related emissions – their largest source of carbon emissions – by retiring carbon credits from The Conservation Fund’s Garcia River Forest.
Creating IMPACT Through Shareholder Engagement
There are also changes being made at a leadership level through intentional shareholder engagement with corporate leadership on specific issues. Here is an example of how Change Finance, one of the leaders of sustainable investing, is initiating positive change:
A Demand for Median Racial and Gender Pay Gap Data:
An Open Letter to Companies
June 8, 2020
To Corporate CEO's:
In the last week our nation reached a breaking point, triggered by brutality so horrifying it is seared in our minds. But this was not, sadly, an anomaly. It was fueled by generations of inequity. We therefore ask you, today, to take an active and meaningful step toward solving the institutionalized inequality that has forced good people across the country to take to the streets. We ask that you publish median gender pay gap data across your workforce. Continue to read the rest of the letter.