The full agenda for the November 17th 4th annual BSAS Sustainable Investing Seminar is now available. We are pleased to again have an outstanding lineup of speakers and panelists joining us in Boston.
The full agenda is below. I’ve included notes for individual sessions. The notes are not formal session descriptions; they capture the session themes and topic ideas as developed in my conversations with the speakers.
- Additional seminar information and registration is here at the BSAS web site.
- A PDF version of the agenda (without session notes)
- Michael Greis, CFA, Principal, Riverbend Advisors and Chair of the Seminar Committee
- John Streur, President & CEO, Calvert Investments
John will describe Calvert’s approach to investment and engagement in pursuit of its mission to connect the global capital markets to positive change. Central to that approach is identifying companies that are effectively dealing with risks that their business poses to society and the environment, and those that are leaders in seizing the opportunities in solving those most pressing social and environmental problems
John also plans discuss some key drivers and developments that our industry should embrace to capitalize on these opportunities. The central importance of increased transparency and disclosure, for example, is evident in the overwhelming response to the SEC’s Concept Release examining business and financial disclosure. Initiatives such as SASB’s industry standards and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals offer ways to map investment opportunities to industries and companies able to capitalize on them.
I also anticipate that, with our theme of “Mainstreaming Sustainable Investing” in mind, John will have some thoughts to offer on recent developments at Calvert.
- Anna Snider, CAIA, Head of Due Diligence, CIO Office, Merrill Lynch
Anna’s role includes overseeing the due diligence of investment offerings made available to investors and advisors. Due diligence is a demanding process even for well-known and well-defined products. The explosion of sustainable investing products over the past several years has added a new dimension of challenge to that work.
Anna will share some examples of the due diligence and selection process for sustainable investing products and how it is evolving. She will discuss different models for offerings in the industry today, how providers can best differentiate themselves and some emerging trends in sustainable investing products.
- Anna Snider, CAIA, Head of Due Diligence, CIO Office, Merrill Lynch – Moderator
- Noel Friedman, CFA, Business Manager, ESG Research Products, MSCI
- Jon Hale, CFA, Head of Sustainability Research, Morningstar, Inc.
- Sarah Smith, Director of Institutional Relations at Sustainalytics
The introduction of fund ratings is bringing sustainable investing to a much larger audience and responding to the growing demand for information to help guide investment choices. But ratings by definition are a reductionist exercise. With the breadth of ESG factors and issues considered by sustainable investors, it is vital that investment professionals understand what these ratings do and don’t measure.
Anna Snider, in her role as an industry executive with this responsibility for her firm, will lead a conversation with our panelists. Topics will include the benefits and limitations of the current ratings, fund vs. firm ratings, how professionals in different roles are using ratings, and directions for future offerings.
- George Serafeim, Jakurski Family Associate Professor at Harvard Business School
- Sr. Patricia Daly, OP, Executive Director, Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment
- Moderated by Cheryl Smith, CFA, Managing Partner, Trillium Asset Management
Some in investment management view “engagement” as, at best, a qualitative footnote and, at worst, a distraction for corporate executives and investors. In fact, the opposite is true. Engagement is active ownership that can, and often does, drive real change. Activists like religious communities have engaged on issues that “matter” for years, issues that companies and investors only later come to understand as “material”.
Sister Pat will open by discussing the impact of engagement on several industries and share what makes engagement effective. George will then review recent research suggesting that companies that respond to engagement on material issues outperform. Together, Cheryl, George and Sister Pat will then dig more deeply into questions that examine how engagement fits into a larger view of corporate change, change that drives business success and societal progress. Where has engagement been most effective, and what are the common elements to success? What are the obstacles making progress on key environmental, social and governance issues? How can those be addressed? How have changes in business models and practices affected competitiveness? How do we move from creating effective change in companies to changing entire industries?
- Gareth Davies, Head of Responsible Investment, Columbia Threadneedle – Moderator
- Andreas Feiner, Founding Partner and Head of ESG Research & Advisory, Arabesque Asset Management
- Quyuen Tran, Equity Portfolio Specialist, Wellington Management
- Laurent De Greef, Director, Global Head of Consultant Relations, Acadian Asset Management
The idea of quantitative sustainable investing may not be familiar – in fact it may strike some as a non-sequitur, but the application of quantitative methods and models to sustainable investing is very real, and advancing rapidly. Our panelists will discuss why and how their firms use quantitative approaches to sustainable investing, and engage in a conversation about future directions.
- Andreas G. F. Hoepner, PhD, Senior Academic Fellow, PRI and Associate Professor of Finance,
ICMA Centre, Henley Business School
- Pernille Jessen, Head of Credit, Unipension Denmark
The increasing volume of research and data examining – and demonstrating – the impact of ESG factors on equity performance has been an important factor in the growth of sustainable investing. As investors are increasingly considering ESG impacts on the fixed income portion of their portfolios, the demand for research and performance data on ESG factors in fixed income will increase.
Andreas will describe the current status of fixed income ESG performance research and recent financial data science analysis his lab has done. Pernille’s research experience informs her work and perspective leading a fixed income team and ESG activities for a Danish asset owner with a commitment to sustainable investing in support of their beneficiaries.
- Steve Lydenberg, CFA, Partner, Strategic Vision, Domini Social Investments; Founder & CEO, The Investment Integration Project
- Tim Youmans, Research Director, CECP’s Strategic Investor Initiative
The growth of sustainable investing is generating increased attention on the systemic impacts of investment decisions made by asset managers, asset owners and corporations – impacts on the environmental, social and governance systems on which they all depend. When investors are focused on building long-term value in their portfolios and companies are articulating their long-term growth potential, systemic impacts – and any feedback loops they may generate – become even more important.
Steve’s current work with TIIP is focused on how the cumulative decisions of investors – as represented by portfolio managers – can disrupt these systems, making all portfolios suffer – or can strengthen and enhance them, generating gains for all. Tim’s work with the Strategic Investor Initiative is focused on an effort by corporate CEOs to attract strategic investors who share their vision of building resilient and sustainable businesses through adoption of long-term value generating strategies. After sharing the perspectives from each side, they will discuss possibilities for collaborative approaches that could benefit investors, corporations and society.
- Sarah Williamson, CFA, CEO, Focusing Capital on the Long Term
Sustainable investing as long term investing is a recurring theme of our seminars. In a seminal February 2014 article, Dominic Barton, Global Managing Director of McKinsey & Company and Mark Wiseman, President & CEO of the Canadian Public Pension Investment Board (CPPIB), argued that short-termism is damaging long-term wealth creation and the economy. The two organizations collaborated on an initiative to promote “focusing capital on the long term”.
Two years later, the response to that initiative led McKinsey and CPPIB, together with Dow Chemical, BlackRock and Tata Sons, to form FCLT Global, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to developing practical tools and approaches that encourage long-term behaviors in business and investment decision-making. The partners selected Sarah Williamson, an investment industry veteran with over 21 years at Wellington Management Company, to lead it. Sarah will discuss the progress made by the initiative over the last two years, the commitment of the expanded group of partners to moving the work forward and the milestones expected over the coming year.