Posts Categorized: Issue

Why “Attentiveness” Matters: A Cautionary Tale for Investors

Editor’s Note: The piece below by Uwe Gneiting, a Research and Policy Advisor for the Private Sector Department at Oxfam America, and originally published here on July 13, 2017, struck a chord with Cornerstone’s research team. In October 2016 we published Extractive Company Values, an in-depth report illustrating how mining companies’ “attentiveness” to material environmental… Read more »

The UN Has a Problem

Editor’s Note: Andrew MacLeod is a member of Cornerstone Capital Group’s Board of Directors. He is affiliated to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC, and is the Chairman of Griffin Law, which is a law firm. He worked as an aid worker for the Red Cross in Yugoslavia and Rwanda in the… Read more »

“Governance and Impact” Journal Compilation, First Half of 2017

With this edition of The Cornerstone Journal of Sustainable Finance and Banking (JSFB) we’d like to ensure that everyone in the sustainable investing community is aware that we have shifted from a monthly publication schedule to an ongoing series of blog posts enabling us to provide more timely commentary on behalf of the Cornerstone network… Read more »

Beyond Finance: Considering the Business and Social Potential of the Blockchain (Webcast)

On June 23 Cornerstone hosted Jalak Jobanputra for a discussion on the blockchain’s transformative potential. Jalak is the Founding Partner of Future\Perfect Ventures, an early-stage venture capital fund focused on next-generation technology such as blockchain and machine learning. She was an early investor in the space, and is widely considered to be an expert. Cornerstone’s… Read more »

Finance of the Future

John Wilson was recently interviewed by Sea Change radio’s Alex Wise for his podcast. We discussed how managers balance trying to please dividend-hungry shareholders with keeping an eye on the future, how automation will affect the global economy, and how all of this is ultimately an issue of sustainability. Click below to hear the replay. John… Read more »

Introducing the Colorado Impact Report

We are pleased to publish the Colorado Impact Report: A web of place-based impact investing and community wealth-building opportunities. We have been privileged to work with the exceptional individuals who have made this report possible. At this moment in time, it is particularly important to leverage the wisdom and pragmatism demonstrated by leaders in every part… Read more »

Colorado Impact Report: Weaving A Web of Opportunity and Impact in Colorado

Approximately 10,000 people move to Colorado every month. They move here for myriad reasons, such as our 300 days of sunshine a year, our commitment to the outdoors and healthy lifestyles, and a magnificent geography that is second to none. And, of course, they come because of our robust economy.[1] But this level of growth… Read more »

Colorado Impact Report: Will Denver Become America’s First ‘Community Wealth’ City?

In cities across America, a new form of local economy is emerging. Many call this growing movement “Community Wealth Building,” a framework for economic development built on principles of democratizing wealth, broadening ownership over capital, leveraging existing institutional assets to benefit place, and preventing money from leaking out of our communities. The goal is to… Read more »

Colorado Impact Report: Blending Business & Philanthropy for Colorado’s Children

Since making one of the largest onshore oil discoveries in 1967, oil entrepreneur Sam Gary has been pioneering the idea that business and philanthropy can — and should — work together for those who need it most. Sam founded The Piton Foundation in 1976, yet he was equally committed to supporting the community through his… Read more »

Colorado Impact Report: Advancing Access to Opportunity in Metro Denver

As a community foundation, we listen regularly and deeply to the residents of our region, and base our goals and strategies on their input. Our core values of leadership, equity, inclusiveness, and accountability have guided our work for the past two decades. Our most recent comprehensive community listening process resulted in our current focus on… Read more »

Colorado Impact Report: SOIL–Slow Opportunities for Investing Locally

I often refer to slow money as “the CSA of investing.”  As with community supported agriculture, our efforts revolve around informal, direct relationships and shared risk.  Slow Money funding is flowing in a variety of ways in dozens of communities across the United States (and a few in Canada and France) — peer-to-peer lending, investment… Read more »

Colorado Impact Report: Impact Investing for Community Real Estate

Nonprofit real estate company Urban Land Conservancy (ULC) was established in 2003 with $10 million in cash and $7.5 million in real estate as an impact investment by the Gary Williams Energy Company (now Gary Community Investments, GCI).  With a long-standing commitment to Colorado’s underserved communities, GCI seeded ULC to “conserve” strategic urban properties for… Read more »

Colorado Impact Report: Supporting Communities with Patient and Flexible Capital

Zoma Capital was created in 2016 by Ben and Lucy Ana Walton to execute and manage the family’s investment activities. While we seek to generate best-in-class rates of financial return, we also strive to incorporate the family’s unyielding commitment to addressing some of society’s most pressing social and environmental challenges. Based in Denver, Zoma Capital… Read more »

Colorado Impact Report: Laying the Groundwork for a National Impact Investing Marketplace

Impact Finance Center (IFC), a nonprofit impact investing academic center founded in 2013 and based in Denver, believes that philanthropy is an investment and that every investment has an impact. IFC works with philanthropists and investors to understand those impacts on a broader scale and maximize the benefits of every deployment of capital. IFC uses… Read more »

Colorado Impact Report: Activating Investment through Donor-Advised Funds

Roughly $80 billion is currently held in donor-advised funds in the US.  We believe those funds should be aligned with the donor’s values and targeted impacts until they are ultimately given to their favorite charities.  Unlocking the donor-advised funds held by families in Colorado for impact investing will create a pool of capital that can… Read more »

Colorado Impact Report: Building a B Corp Ecosystem in Colorado

The B Corp community is currently made up of over 2,100 companies in 50 countries.  While each company is unique, they share one unifying goal: “Using Business as a Force for Good.”  In Colorado, the B Corp community has grown from around 30 in 2014 to close to 100 today.  Having such a strong concentration… Read more »

Colorado Impact Report: Boosting Entrepreneurship

For more than eight years, the Rocky Mountain MicroFinance Institute has filled a gap in services to low-income and disadvantaged entrepreneurs in Denver. Under-resourced individuals with an entrepreneurial spirit and a strong work ethic can build a business while creating jobs and prosperity for the community. RMMFI is the only Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) in… Read more »

Colorado Impact Report: “Pay for Success” — A Promising Path to Impact

In 2013, Social Impact Solutions (SIS) formed with a mission of building out Colorado’s emerging Pay-for-Success (PFS), also known as Social Impact Bonds, field. Leveraging the growing interest in impact investing, SIS began working with governmental entities, investors, foundations and social programs to take promising programs to scale with new social finance strategies.  In the… Read more »

Colorado Impact Report: Welcome to the Impact Frontier

While impact investing has been around for decades, the concept of combining purpose and profit is still fairly new. Many investors seek market rate returns, so transitioning to an investment strategy with a triple bottom line has been a challenge. We think about this a lot at PeakChange, our impact advisory firm based in Denver. … Read more »

Colorado Impact Report: Can We Engage Impact Investors at the Community Level?

The Community Wealth Building Network of Metro Denver (CWB) is a burgeoning network comprising individuals and organizations with a shared vision to change the economic paradigm in Metro Denver by focusing on building wealth in economically marginalized communities. The CWB Network got its start following a community wealth building conference held at the Anschutz Medical… Read more »

Colorado Impact Report: Impact Investing in a Portfolio Context

The Colorado Impact Report was conceived to shine a light on some of the field-leading work being done, and innovation on display, in the great state of Colorado.  We have a thriving impact investing ecosystem in Colorado, which we expect to continue to grow and develop.  We hope that our experience can provide lessons and… Read more »

Making Their Voices Heard: Shareholders Vote for Greater Transparency on Climate Change

While reactions to the US withdrawal from the Paris accord may be dominating headlines, a no less remarkable development in climate change response is occurring at the annual shareholder meetings of US corporations. In a milestone for shareholder advocacy, a majority of shareholders voted in favor of proposals at four energy companies asking for greater… Read more »

Advice for Retail Workers in an Automating Age

The “skilling up” of the retail workforce has the potential to enable retail workers to improve their productivity and career prospects, while enabling retail companies to build their future workforces. Purposeful investors can identify these companies and take a long-term investor view to encourage these companies to train and deploy this workforce. The widely reported… Read more »

Access & Insight Webinar: Our Take on the Markets

Earlier this month we kicked off a new quarterly webinar as part of our Access & Insight series, “Our Take on the Markets.” Cornerstone’s Chief Investment Officer, Phil Kirshman, was joined by Equity Strategist Michael Geraghty, Director of Manager Due Diligence Jennifer Leonard, and special guest Geeta Aiyer, President and Founder of Boston Common, to… Read more »

Access & Insight Webinar: The Art of the Possible—Investing to Address Income Inequality

On February 21 Cornerstone Capital Group Research published “The Art of the Possible: Investing to Address Income Inequality,” in which authors John Wilson, Craig Metrick and Sebastian Vanderzeil provided perspective on the factors fueling increasing disparities in both income and opportunity. The report identifies investment opportunities that offer competitive financial returns while helping to address concerns… Read more »

Why the Choice Act Is a Threat to Corporate Stewardship

For over 40 years, some shareholders have been protecting the environment, improving working standards and increasing corporate accountability using a little-known but effective tool called a shareholder proposal. But now this tool is threatened by the legislative push to reform financial regulation. Shareholder proposals allow investors to put questions related to a company’s environmental, social… Read more »

Proxy Voting for Impact: A Conversation About Corporate Governance in 2017

Something we hear frequently at Cornerstone Capital Group is that you cannot invest for impact in the public markets. There is a sense that public companies like Apple, General Motors or Coca-Cola are too big, too well-established, too focused on short-term profitability perhaps, to have impact. In fact, nothing can be further from the truth…. Read more »

Partnering with Rutgers and the G&A Institute

21st Century executives and their teams need the skills, networks, and increased expertise to achieve important CSR, sustainability, environmental, social and community impact goals while delivering value to their organization, investors and other key stakeholders. The Rutgers Institute for Ethical Leadership, in partnership with the Governance & Accountability Institute, Inc., offers a two-day, deep dive… Read more »

To Build a Better World, Build Resilience Among Youth

At Hetrick-Martin Institute, the nation’s oldest and largest non-profit service provider focused on serving LGBTQ youth, we know resilience when we see it. In the financial and risk industries, building resilience is about helping companies or governments achieve success in an ever-changing world of challenges. When it comes to building resilience among young people, the… Read more »

“The Role of Faith in Impact Investing: Islamic Finance and Responsibility” – Webcast

Cornerstone Capital Group recently hosted a live video webinar on the intersection of Islamic finance and social responsibility. John Wilson, Cornerstone’s Head of Corporate Governance, Engagement and Research, interviewed Umar Moghul, an expert on the topic and author of the recently published book, A Socially Responsible Islamic Finance: Character and the Common Good. Among the topics… Read more »

Tackling Water Scarcity for Business

Last week at the New York Stock Exchange, Ecolab hosted an event to unveil a new version of its Water Risk Monetizer (WRM) solution. WRM, a financial modeling tool, was developed through Ecolab’s partnership with sustainability data firm Trucost and in collaboration with Microsoft. The event focused on WRM’s new operating features. Alongside the debut… Read more »

“Super Bugs & Super Risks” — Takeaways from Recent FAIRR Meeting

As part of Cornerstone’s ongoing research on antibiotics and livestock production, we attended the FAIRR Initiative’s event on antibiotic resistance and investment risk in New York City on Monday, March 20. Attendees who were new to the topic received a useful overview, while those that have been following the issue were presented with valuable perspective.

Our Comments to the SEC on the CEO/Worker Pay Ratio Rule

Because our investor clients seek to invest for the long term, we have a strong interest in urging corporate disclosures that enable investors to evaluate risks and make decisions that will affect the long-term health of our clients’ portfolios. Our corporate clients believe that meaningful disclosure that communicates how they are managing environmental, social and governance matters helps them to attract long-term capital.

JSFB November Edition: “Proximity”

With this edition of the Cornerstone Journal of Sustainable Finance and Banking (JSFB), issued in such close proximity to the rather astounding US Presidential election, we see investors driving a dramatic downward move in bonds and a strengthening dollar based upon expectations of fiscal stimulus driving more rapid growth and the prospect of inflation. How close we are to these trends actually materializing is another story entirely. “Proximity” is a central question for so many sectors and for the capital markets.

Proximity Ignites Change

To succeed, the UN Sustainable Development Goals must be clear, digestible, and emotionally resonant—and they must be known across every corner of the planet. To achieve this aspiration, we must not just lean on government, but also mobilize business. By harnessing the power of commerce towards achieving the goals, we will drive impact with brands, executives, corporations, employees, and ultimately consumers.

The Gender Equality Gap: A Problem Too Big to Tackle?

Closing the gender equality gap is among the priorities of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (Goal 5), along with end ending poverty and hunger, and ensuring quality education. In short, it is, has been, and will continue to be one of the most tremendous challenges of our times. What precedes this article is a… Read more »

Social Equity Investing Demands Greater Proximity Between Investors and Beneficiaries

There are financial and social costs to excluding the ultimate beneficiaries of investments. Not only is the process of engaging beneficiaries helpful in its ability to assure passage of regulatory hurdles, it also mitigates against costly mistakes that can be avoided by bringing beneficiaries into the impact investing process early and often.

Place-Based Impact Investing: How to Invest in Your Own Backyard

Interest in impact investing concepts that combine financial returns with a positive social or environmental impact have been growing in appeal.   What seems to be lacking is a model to encourage broad-based place-based impact investing across all asset classes.  For fiduciaries of place-based organizations’ funds, like those at community foundations, pension plans, endowments and many… Read more »

The State of LGBT Entrepreneurship in the US

In August of 2016, StartOut delivered its inaugural study investigating the state of LGBT entrepreneurship in the United States. Focusing exclusively on emerging high-growth companies with a sample size of 140 LGBT entrepreneurs, this study is the most comprehensive of its kind, and is intended to paint a clearer picture of the LGBT entrepreneurial experience in the US.

Systems Thinking in Impact Entrepreneurship

We recently attended the SOCAP conference in San Francisco and came away invigorated by the hive of activity occurring within the social entrepreneurship space. New businesses are proliferating and tackling some of the world’s most daunting challenges. However, we noted that systems thinking was often absent from the discussion. It is important for impact entrepreneurs to incorporate this mindset into their business models from the outset, in order to maximize the scale and scope of the impact that they can create.

Cornerstone Contributes to FAIRR’s Investor Case Studies Report

The Farm Animal Investment Risk & Return (FAIRR) Initiative has issued a second booklet of case studies that showcases how leading investors and investment service providers from around the world are integrating issues relating to factory farming into their investment processes. Cornerstone’s Michael Shavel was asked to contribute to the booklet regarding his work on antibiotics and animal farming.

To “B” or Not to “B”: The Power of Corporate Form

Corporate form has the power to effect significant and desperately needed change. Corporate form serves as the very backbone of our society, shaping the actions of the most powerful institutions of our time (corporations) and providing the functional framework for the behavior of virtually all men and women who work around the world. Therefore, I believe that corporate form can be a very effective extra‑governmental tool for solving the crises.

Hillel’s Voice

In reflecting on the future of capitalism, we draw from wisdom of the great scholar Hillel, who was said to not only advance his own thoughts, but those of his opposition. It is in that context that we revisit an article first published in Forbes a couple of years ago: “Sustainable Capitalism… If not now, then when?”

Solving for Nonfinancial Data as Part of the Investor’s Mosaic: Meeting with the NYSSA and CFA Institute

Bloomberg, the NYSSA and The CFA Institute recently held a sustainable investing conference titled “Sustainability and Value – Using Data and Valuation to Drive Returns.” The day included panel discussions from a variety of participants including the Chief Investment Officer of the State of Connecticut, institutional asset managers, a partner from Jeff Skoll’s family office, Capricorn Investment Group, a professor from Yale and Stanford Universities, and sustainability professionals from Waste Management, Huntsman Corp. and Lockheed Martin.

A Video Interview with BlackRock’s Edkins on “The Shareholder Alignment Frontier” (SAF)

We are pleased to share a recent video interview with Blackrock’s Michelle Edkins and Cornerstone’s John Wilson in which we discuss the value of the “Shareholder Alignment Frontier TM (SAF).” The SAF is a tool inside Cornerstone’s proprietary framework which was specifically developed to help companies make the business case for improved stakeholder relationships through shareholder engagement thus building value for the long term

JSFB Summer Edition: “Explorations and Aspirations”

This month in the Cornerstone Journal of Sustainable Finance and Banking (JSFB), we consider an array of subjects ranging from “smart contracts” in the blockchain to empowering investors with sharper measurement tools. And ultimately, we hope to go beyond “sustainability,” and move towards value creation and regeneration through capitalism.

Exploring the Challenges in Maritime Financing

What would happen if the traditional investors in maritime financing downsized their commitment to funding the construction or secondary sale and purchase of the ships that the global economy relies on for international trade? It could be reality, if the current apathy towards the industry continues and alternatives are not sought. In this article we explore the possibilities, including the role alternative finance may play.

Decision-making in a Context of Uncertainty – Why Investors Should Look at Forced Labor in Their Portfolios

Forced labor is a risk that can affect shareholders drastically, in light of increasing regulation, litigation, media and consumer attention. In order to make informed investment and active ownership decisions, investors need access to information on how well companies are addressing forced labor risks.

Exploring Ways to Close the ESG Info Gap: Perspective from Canada

A growing body of research confirms that investors around the world are incorporating environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues into their investment decision-making. Adding to the evidence, a recent study of institutional investors in Canada found that investors do consider ESG issues when making investment decisions.

JSFB May Edition: “Relativity”

This month in the Cornerstone Journal of Sustainable Finance and Banking (JSFB), we consider the issue of “Relativity” in the capital markets. Einstein showed that even though the laws of physics are the same everywhere, people experience time and space differently. It follows that individual perspectives on change are relative to one’s own current position.

The Power—and Danger—of Suggestion

  There is ample evidence that our minds consistently distort our perception of the world when making decisions under uncertainty, even within our own constructs of reality. Distortion in perception can stem not only from differences in experience and education but also the necessary use of heuristic judgments. We use heuristics[1] — mental shortcuts that… Read more »

Responsible Innovation for Health Technology

Health is becoming personal, predictive, and preventive through advanced technologies – wearable devices, embedded sensors, artificially intelligent robots, and virtual reality headsets. A deluge of data and feedback generated by these technologies nudge consumers to engage in healthier activities, or are aggregated and analyzed for insights about diverse populations across geographies. Major technology companies are investing in solutions powered by “big data” that promise to improve the health of populations worldwide. The opportunities appear boundless.

Well-Being Is Taking Business for a Run

Beyond explicit sustainable investing, more and more stakeholders are expecting companies to marry purpose with profits and to do more good for society. When it comes to the betterment of human health, such as raising the state of physical, mental and social well-being, this responsibility looms large, and the inputs, outputs, and impacts may be difficult to pin down.

JSFB March Edition: “Leadership & Learning”

In this edition of the Journal of Sustainable Finance & Banking (JSFB), we highlight ideas that foster “Leadership & Learning.” Leadership is a process of continually absorbing information and transforming it with strategic and tactical clarity. The commitment of business leaders, from the Board room through operations, in understanding their vital role in innovating for… Read more »

Sustainable Sweden: Innovation and Investments Grow a Small Giant in the North

The pacemaker, the three-point seatbelt and ultrasound—these life-altering inventions all originated in a country that 100 years ago was among Europe’s poorest. Today, Sweden is renowned for its culture of innovation, strong global brands, and a social system that encourages risk-taking and responsibility. For investors seeking to make tech and sustainable investments, as well as for corporations and funds seeking to raise capital from sustainability-focused institutional investors—Sweden is a natural first pick.

The Power of Responsibility – Making Sense of the UN Global Compact

The United Nations Global Compact is the world’s largest voluntary corporate responsibility initiative. Currently it has more than 8,000 business participants from more than 145 countries. Participants are required to support ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption. 

The Monetization of Misery

On December 18, 2015, the eve of the Christmas holidays, the University of California announced that it was withdrawing roughly $30 million worth of its investments in private prison companies. U of C was not the first institution of higher learning to do so; Columbia University had divested itself of all of its shares in the private prison industry the previous June. In both cases, the Trustees’ decision to divest came after months of pressure from black student groups. By their action, Columbia and the University of California joined corporations like General Electric, Scopia Capital…

Investing Together: Creating Investment Opportunities for Generation Selfie

This last July, over 500 young adults, representing an estimated wealth of $750 billion, gathered at the United Nations headquarters in New York as part of the Nexus Global Youth Summit to discuss social entrepreneurship. They did not send their wealth or philanthropy advisors, but instead chose to spend three summer days cooped up in conference rooms to learn how to better use their capital and business acumen to make the world a better place.

Unlocking the Closet: The Economic Imperatives Driving Multinationals to Create LGBT-Inclusive Workplaces

Forward-looking multinational corporations understand that they need to create inclusive work environments in order to recruit and retain top talent, and stay competitive in the global marketplace. But they face a significant hurdle to doing so globally: Many countries still host significant levels of societal discrimination against LGBT people. Discrimination creates hugely significant negative impacts on economies.

What the Investment Sector Can Learn from the Agility of Veterans

What do you do when you don’t know what to do? Leaders create order out of chaos. This ability to calm the storm can be seen across professions and functions, but it is acutely observed in military men and women leaders. Key to managing through ambiguity is learning agility. In fact, today learning agility is often seen as the No. 1 predictor of leadership success, more accurate than IQ, EQ (emotional intelligence), education level, or even leadership competencies.