Preserving Natural Capital, Building Financial Capital

October 2005 Volume III Number 4

Net Contents
I. Network Presentation
Key Learnings
Perspectives

II. What’s New
November 17: Luncheon Panel
December 8: Luncheon Panel

III. The Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future
The Concept of the Network
Contact Information
Sponsorship Opportunities

I. Network Presentation
A big thank you to those who took the time to attend WNSF’s luncheon panel on October 18, 2005, “Preserving Natural Capital, Building Financial Capital.” The event was hosted by Praxair and Smith Barney at the investment firm’s offices in New York City. The session featured four specialists on socially responsible investing, emphasizing the opportunities for women, as corporate professionals and personal investors.

Key Findings:

  • SRI is a growing trend
  • SRI is still dominated by specialty firms, but interest by mainstream investment firms is rising
  • Social investors and companies now work more as partners, less as opponents
  • Corporate concern for social investors has to be considered strategically, with an eye to the future
  • A company’s positive rating in an SRI index, like other CSR initiatives, boosts employee morale
  • SRI funds no longer function just as screens against so-called sin stocks
  • SRI returns appear to be equivalent to, if not better than, ordinary investments
  • Individuals, like institutional investors, have the clout to vote their shares on the basis of their values

Perspectives

Moderator: Ann Goodman, Executive Director, WNSF.

Speakers:

  • Bruce Kahn, Environmental Scientist and Financial Consultant, Smith Barney
  • Liz Hirsch, Director of Investor Relations at Praxair
  • Leslie Lowe, Program Director of Energy and the Environment at the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR)
  • Sister Patricia Daly, Executive Director, Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment (ICCR member organization)

Bruce Kahn, Environmental Scientist and Financial Consultant at Smith Barney provided the audience with a brief overview of Socially Responsible Investing (SRI), which integrates personal values and societal concerns with investment decisions. Sustainability is an emerging area of interest in the markets and SRI considers both the investor’s financial needs and investment’s impact on society. Mr. Kahn’s mission is to carry out business that focuses on emerging environmental technology companies and corporations that are leaders in their sustainability and management practices and serve clients that have the vision to make their investments deliver the highest financial returns while also restoring environmental value to our distressed ecosystems. KEY POINTS:

  • Industry people have transitioned to SRI
  • Mutual funds today are negative and positive investing funds, alternative energy, etc.
  • In terms of sacrificing investment returns by SRI, returns are equivalent if not better; growth in eco-efFiciency (companies that are more eco-efficient perform better)
  • “Greenwashing” – are companies doing what they say? The area to adopt better practices is growing
  • Interested investors include individual, endowments and foundations
  • Individuals can actively vote the shares or proxies to mutual funds that they own (shareholder activism is transforming Wall Street)

Liz Hirsch, Director of Investor Relations at Praxair, a global industrial gas company, works with her company to establish goals to educate the SRI community. Praxair’s principal business is a renewable resource – to separate air into its component gases (oxygen, nitrogen, argon) and sell to hundreds of thousands of customers across diverse end markets. To respond to the increasing NUMBER OF questions posed by SRI and CSR surveys and inquiries Praxair (1) rewrote corporate governance policies and standards to exceed those required by SEC and NYS; (2) formed Sustainability Council (2003), chaired by SVP and CFO; (3) established Principles of Sustainability to be integrated into business policy and decision making; (4) published their first Sustainability Report (2003) – sent to shareholders and employees; (5) upgraded the CSR portion of their website and; (6) held first focused presentation for SRI investors in NYC (2004).

Ms. Hirsch continued to explain the importance of CSR to Praxair:

  • Praxair believes that its products and technologies will grow in importance relative to the strategic challenge of global sustainability
  • The “right thing to do” (social and environmental)
  • The business case – CSR contributes to superior financial performance – the more profitable the company, the more likely its strengths and capabilities can be leveraged for the public and environmental good
  • Business growth must be integrated with quality of life
  • Thought process being integrated into day to day decision making
  • Employee awareness
  • Implementation of CSR initiatives is a continuing journey

As Program Director of Energy and the Environment at the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), Leslie Lowe assists ICCR’s members in corporate dialogues and filing resolutions to engage management regarding sustainability and environmental practices. ICCR tries to educate others on the business case of sustainability and is focused on the idea that sustainable environmental management is good management. Ms. Lowe shared her views as an activist on global warming:

  • Companies must be conscious of resource use, emissions, and productivity
  • Shareholder risks include off-balance sheet environmental liabilities as well as those on the balance sheet
  • SEC must do a better job of getting companies to report non-financial liabilities

Sister Patricia Daly’s two decades of dedication has led her organization, the Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment, and ICCR, to become two of the nation’s most effective crusaders for corporate responsibility. As a leader of environmental advocacy, Sister Pat has seen change initiated by congregations of women and men – active members of social and environmental empowerment. Global warming continues to be an economic issue and companies are now saving money by practicing responsibly. Today, ICCR and Tri-State CRI members “sit down and talk” with corporations in order to keep them on top of the science and new initiatives. In terms of lessons to be learned, Sister Pat emphasized the following:

  • Be watchful of changes that take place in the environment in relation to corporate activities
  • Look outside 15 or 20 years in terms of sustainability – what steps does a company need to take in the in the next two years in order to get to where in needs to be in 15?
  • Train new people to think of business planning in addressing the externalities – sustainability should be included in business decisions

II. What’s New

  • November 17 luncheon panel: “Responsible Technology: Business Solutions by/for Women,” with speakers from Verizon Wireless, Microsoft and Intel, co-hosted by Verizon Wireless and Burson Marsteller at Burson’s NYC Headquarters, noon to 2pm.
  • December 8 luncheon panel: “Redefining Diversity for Global Business,” with speakers from Philips Van Heusen (PVH), JP Morgan Chase and others, hosted by PVH, noon to 2pm.
  • For both panels, look for details and on the WNSF website (www.wnsf.org).

III. The Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future
The Concept of the Network

The Network provides a forum for business and professional women to congregate, reflect, and act on the converging issues of corporate social responsibility and sustainable development. Through meetings and simple electronic support tools, the Network aims to facilitate the exchange of experiences and best practices on these vital workplace issues. By creating a new network of executive women, the Network seeks to improve responsible practices in workplaces; sensitize corporate culture more generally to issues of sustainability and social responsibility; and encourage a public commitment locally, nationally, and internationally to sustainability principles.

The Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future is a 501c3 organization. Gifts are tax deductible.

For more information, please contact:
Ann Goodman, Executive Director
Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future
Please direct inquiries to: info@wnsf.org

Board of Directors:

CHAIR: Joyce LaValle, Senior Vice President, Interface Inc.; Muni Figueres, formerly of the Costa Rican Foundation for Sustainable Development; Joanne Fox-Przeworski, Director, Bard Center for Environmental Policy, Bard College; Ann Goodman, Executive Director, WNSF; Sarah Howell, Director, Corporate Communications, BP; Michele Kahane, Special Projects Director, Corporate Citizenship Program, Boston College; Clair Krizov, Executive Director of Environmental and Social Responsibility, AT&T; Kathy Robb, Esq., Partner and Head of Environmental Practice, Hunton & Williams; Deborah Sliter, Vice President of Programs, National Environmental Education & Training Foundation.

This issue of Net Notes was written by Fabiola Dieudonne and edited by Ann Goodman. WNSF thanks founding sponsors AT&T and the Ford Foundation for their generous support.

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