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MySocialGoodNews is dedicated to sharing news about
social entrepreneurship, impact investing, philanthropy
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Crowdfunding for Social Good

Devin D. Thorpe

Devin Thorpe

Monthly Archives: April 2017

Life is Good® and World Champion Gymnast Aly Raisman Launch New T-Shirt Collection to Inspire Women and Girls to be Strong, Powerful and Kind

Press Release – Boston, MA (April 25, 2017) – Positive lifestyle brand Life is Good® has joined forces with World Champion Gymnast Aly Raisman to launch a new collection aimed at empowering women of all ages by celebrating courage, authenticity, kindness and unwavering optimism. These new T-shirts are available today at LifeisGood.com/Aly.

“Partnering with Life is Good to design this line is exciting, because their brand is based on using the power of optimism to help people live their best lives, something I believe in wholeheartedly,” said Raisman. “The line is a vehicle to help share values like kindness, courage, and authenticity, in order to empower the girls and women who inspire me every day. As simple as it sounds, I think everyone struggles with just being themselves, especially at a young age with so many unfair pressures. Embracing your uniqueness and just being kind are values I hope to support through this line and beyond.”

The new Aly Tee Collection features three designs for women ($32) and girls ($20):

  • Power in Kindness – Celebrates our strongest muscle, kindness, with silhouette artwork in Dusty Orchid
  • Be Yourself – Celestial design with “Be yourself – everyone else is taken” in Night Black reminds women and girls that they are unique and beautiful in their own way
  • The Bravest – Pastel American flag print with “Land of the free because of the brave” in Bright Teal is a subtle nod to Aly and Life is Good’s USA pride, while also celebrating courage

“According to a recent study*, a girl’s self-esteem peaks when she is 9 years old, and 7 in 10 girls believe that they are not good enough or don’t measure up in some way. Life is Good and Aly want to help change that. Our brand has always been about using art to get positive, meaningful messages across,” said Lisa Tanzer, President of Life is Good. “Aly is such a positive role model, so to partner with her to inspire values that are central to our brand and also to her personal mission is really exciting for us. As Captain of the U.S. Gymnastics squad, Aly set a wonderful example for women of all ages, showing that positivity, kindness, and teamwork are a win for everyone. The messages on Aly’s T-shirts share these same important sentiments.”

To learn more about the collection, visit: www.LifeisGood.com/Aly

*CAROL MCGRAW, “Media, hormones, peer pressure do a number on girls’ confidence”, The News-Sentinel, Mon, Jul. 31, 2006

ABOUT THE LIFE IS GOOD COMPANY

The Life is Good Company is a $100 million lifestyle brand dedicated to spreading the power of optimism. The company donates 10 percent of its net profits to help kids in need through the Life is Good Kids Foundation. To date, the foundation has positively impacted 8,000 childcare providers who care for over one million kids every year, many of whom are facing early childhood trauma. Life is Good® is a registered trademark of The Life is Good Company. Please visit LifeisGood.com for more details, and follow Life is Good on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

ABOUT LIFE IS GOOD KIDS FOUNDATION

The Life is Good Kids Foundation is an accredited 501(c)(3) that partners with organizations serving the most vulnerable children to improve the quality of their care. The Foundation’s Playmaker program connects with schools, hospitals, camps, and a variety of social service agencies to give childcare professionals the resources they need to make a positive, life-changing impact at a pivotal time in a child’s development. For more information, please visit LifeisGood.com.

About Aly Raisman

Aly Raisman, who is represented by Octagon, is the two-time team captain of the gold medal winning U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Teams in 2012 and 2016. The first American gymnast to win gold in the floor exercise, Raisman is the second most decorated American gymnast of all-time with six total Olympic medals and one of two U.S. gymnasts to make back-to-back teams in more than 15 years. A native of Needham, Massachusetts, Raisman is a leader on and off the floor as an advocate for positive body image and empowering everyone to be comfortable and confident in their own skin. Follow Aly on Twitter:@Aly_Raisman and Instagram/Facebook: @AlyRaisman

Tech Coast Angels Invested $14.1 Million into 55 Companies and Completed Six Exits in 2016

During its 20th Year, Angel Network also Launched Angel Syndication Network to Share Deals with over 20 Other Angel Groups

Press Release – IRVINE, Calif. – April 25, 2017Tech Coast Angels (TCA) invested $14.1 million in a total of 55 companies in a diverse mix of industries in 2016. TCA’s total investment for the year was its fourth highest since the network’s inception in 1997, and its two largest deals in 2016 were Echo Labs and Movocash – each at over $1 million from TCA. TCA had six exits including five acquisitions (Retrosense Therapeutics, WeGoLook, Clearcare, Hipmunk, and HitFix) and one optional exit (grandPad) upon receiving strategic investment from Acer. This brings the total exits to 68 in the angel network’s history.

Ninety-one percent (91%) of the deals were seed or Series A rounds. Sixty-two percent (62%) of the companies in which TCA invested were initial investments by TCA, up from 35% in 2015. The investment increase in new and early stage companies reflected a wide berth of opportunities in 2016, however the report cautions that such investment activity may be similar to “experiencing an Indian Summer,” as this cycle seems to be drawing to a close.

These investments were across a broad range of industries, but the largest investments in dollars were in life sciences (35%), internet/apps (20%), software (15%) and financial services (16%).

“Although the year started slowly for investments, TCA finished strong in 2016. Additionally, we started a new syndication network to build better deals with great companies regardless of geography,” said Jeff Draa, 2017 Chairman of Tech Coast Angels. “While the diverse experience of our over 300 members helps us as a network to invest with confidence in a wide range of industries, the amount of solid expertise and knowledge also greatly benefits the companies in which we invest, guide and mentor. Together, that formula has helped us achieve results in liquidity events that surpass the averages for other angel groups.”

TCA also participated, along with CommonAngels from Boston, in research that was published in a joint study by Harvard Business School and MIT last calendar year, which may be the first quantitative analysis showing that companies receiving angel funding achieve greater success in many areas (including employees, survival, patents granted, etc.) than companies who did not receive angel funding.

Access TCA’s full 2016 year-end report for more details. The report includes a summarization of 2016, the investment outlook for 2017, the list of companies added to our portfolio, and various infographics.

About Tech Coast Angels:

Tech Coast Angels (TCA) is one of the largest and most active angel investor networks in the nation, and a leading source of funding for seed-stage and early-stage companies across all industries in Southern California. TCA members are accredited investors who individually invest in startup companies, and as a group, TCA has invested up to $6M in a single company. The companies TCA invest in go through well-structured, transparent, and time efficient screening and due diligence. TCA members are themselves founders and executive level business leaders who have extensive knowledge in the investment process and world-class business practices. TCA members thus provide companies with more than just capital; they also contribute counsel, mentoring and access to an extensive network of investors, customers, strategic partners and management.

TCA is a catalyst in the growth of the thriving Southern California entrepreneurial ecosystem of innovation, funding mostly emerging technologies and life science companies. The most recent Halo Report rated TCA as #2 nationally in a number of funded deals. A recent analysis by CB Insights ranked TCA #1 out of 370 angel groups on “Network Centrality” and #5 overall in “Investor Mosaic.” Since its founding in 1997, TCA has invested over $190 million in more than 335 companies and has helped attract more than $1.5 billion in additional capital/follow-on rounds, mostly from venture capital firms. For more information, please visit http://www.techcoastangels.com.

Arbor Day Program Provides Safe Rigging for Schools

USITT is calling on the backstage community to promote safe stages with the third annual Rigging Safety Day on Arbor Day, April 28.

USITT launched its first #RigSafe day in 2015, playing on the word “arbor” as a support for stage rigging. Theatre and entertainment groups around the world shared information, memes, videos, and safety tips for the system of weights, pulleys, and machinery used to hang and move backdrops, lighting, curtains, and other equipment to stage live shows.

“Arbor Day is a day for all of us to celebrate safety and training for everyone in the industry,” said USITT Executive Director David Grindle. “From the school or community theatre to the touring shows and spectacles, rigging safety is taken seriously by everyone in our industry. Use Arbor Day to thank a rigger, to celebrate safe practices, or to promote a renewed commitment to safety.”

Helping schools stay safe is the mission of the USITT’s Rigging Safety Initiative (RSI), a program launched by USITT and founding sponsor JR Clancy in 2011. Since then, USITT has approved rigging inspections and training at more than 120 secondary school stages, impacting more than 150,000 students. The program receives support from both corporate and individual donors. All monies go directly to providing inspections and training.

RSI applications are reviewed in spring and fall; the next deadline is Nov. 15. Schools that are selected and inspected receive a detailed rigging report — what’s working properly and what potential safety problems can be prevented with routine care.

“I love to visit high schools and talk to them about our industry,” said Jill Maurer, Clearwing Systems Design Engineer. “Having never had exposure to outside professionals while I was in high school compels me to educate possible technicians about how they could work and live in our industry.”

Join the initiative by sharing rigging safety tips on social media under the hashtag #RigSafe. Help USITT extend its impact on rigging safety through contributions at www.usitt.org/giving.

USITT, the United States Institute for Theatre Technology, is a national non-profit association for the live entertainment production industry. It provides hands-on learning, mentorship, and networking opportunities for emerging and working professionals in the backstage arts. Its Annual Conference and Stage Expo is the only complete production event in North America, featuring over 250 training sessions and 280 exhibitors of the latest tools and resources for creating live entertainment. More information is available at usitt.org.

Athena Publishes Research on Constructing Impact Portfolios

Press Release – LINCOLN, Mass.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Athena Capital Advisors, a registered investment adviser that provides investment management, advisory, and outsourced CIO services to private clients and institutions, has released new research on a framework for constructing diversified, multi-asset class investment portfolios that seek both financial and social return.

Building Impact Portfolios, follows release of Impact Investing: History & Opportunity in January 2017. While the earlier paper reviewed the broad landscape of impact investment strategies that are available across asset classes, the new one describes an approach to combining individual investments into a comprehensive and coherent portfolio. It also builds on “Social Finance and the Post-Modern Portfolio: Theory & Practice,” which appeared in the Spring 2016 edition of The Journal of Wealth Management.

“Much of the dialogue about impact investing has focused on specific investments,” observed Athena’s William McCalpin, Managing Partner, Impact Investments. “Identifying and diligencing individual opportunities that align with client interests is important, but so too is organizing them into a portfolio. The paper describes how we are approaching the portfolio construction process in order to solve for each investor’s risk, return, and impact objectives.”

Mr. McCalpin will discuss the firm’s approach during Big Path Capital’s 8th Annual Impact Capitalism Summit in Chicago on April 25 and 26.

“Since Athena’s founding more than 20 years ago, we have used the principles of modern finance to build and manage client portfolios,” said Lisette Cooper, the firm’s founder and chief investment officer. “Building Impact Portfolios describes how we are extending Modern Portfolio Theory to incorporate the third dimension of impact and using that framework to address the needs of the growing number of clients interested in social return.”

ABOUT ATHENA CAPITAL ADVISORS

Founded in 1993, Athena Capital Advisors is an independent, privately owned, registered investment adviser located in Lincoln, Massachusetts and New York City. As of December 31, 2016, the firm had approximately $5.5 billion in assets under management. Athena offers clients investment advisory and management, investment administration and reporting, external chief investment officer, and wealth planning services. Its clients include both taxable families and tax-exempt institutions. Athena uses a research-driven approach to strategic and tactical asset allocation to provide solutions that are customized to each client’s particular circumstances and objectives. For additional information on Athena Capital Advisors, please visit www.athenacapital.com.

GIIN Report Highlights The Power of Guarantees In Impact Investing And Gives Recommendations For Their Use

The in-depth study of guarantees in impact investing includes case studies featuring key industry players the Kresge Foundation, Citi, Fannie Mae, and more.

Press Release – NEW YORK, April 25, 2017 – A study published today by the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) takes an in-depth look into the application, benefits, and scalability of financial guarantees in impact investing. Scaling the Use of Guarantees in U.S. Community Investing provides examples of how guarantees have been successfully used to leverage additional capital into high-impact deals, allowing investors with varying risk appetites to productively engage in impact investing.

The report shows how impact investors are utilizing guarantees as a credit-enhancement tool to stimulate increased private-sector investment in solutions to social and environmental problems.

Key findings of the research include:

  • Guarantees are a powerful financial tool that can help channel private capital into impactful deals at the right terms to meet investees’ needs.
  • Guarantees help mitigate risk for certain impact investors, thus enabling greater amounts of capital to reach organizations generating positive social and environmental impact.
  • Guarantees enable investors to gain experience in a new sector, help prove the viability of a business model that generates social impact, or facilitate access to capital at favorable terms for nonprofits.
  • Promising areas for greater use of guarantees include energy efficiency, community-based renewable energy, healthcare, healthy food access, and expanding small business lending.
  • The main providers of guarantees in U.S. community investing have been foundations and the lenders gaining protection have been banks.
  • Guarantee use in U.S. community investing has been concentrated in the affordable housing and community real estate sectors.
  • The median size of a guarantee is USD 2 million and the median fund or project size is USD 20 million.

The research includes cases studies that showcase the use of guarantees and other unique deal structures:

  • Healthy Neighborhoods Loan Pools I and II – In order to revitalize undervalued Baltimore neighborhoods, Healthy Neighborhoods created two loan pools, partially guaranteed by a group of foundations, totaling USD 53.6 million over a six-year period. This has resulted in increased home sale prices and numbers of rehabilitation permits issued, and shortened the time homes stay on the market.
  • The Collaborative for Healthy Communities – The Kresge Foundation provided an unfunded guarantee to support co-lending among three CDFIs to expand financing for healthcare centers in high-need states.
  • M-PIRE Pilot and Green Rewards – Multifamily Property Improvements to Reduce Energy (M-PIRE) leveraged a loan-loss reserve from New York City Energy Efficiency Corporation (NYCEEC) to assist Fannie Mae in incorporating projected energy savings into its underwriting practices. This enabled Fannie Mae to provide larger loan sizes to finance efficiency improvements and develop its green mortgage products.
  • Housing Partnership Equity Trust (HPET) – The MacArthur Foundation provided a stand-by purchase agreement to ensure a liquidity source for senior investors participating in high-impact, affordable and sustainable housing investments. The agreement assisted HPET in purchasing properties worth USD 244 million as of September 2016.

The report also includes a list of key considerations to be used in structuring a guarantee. This resource was developed by leading practitioners who participated in the GIIN’s Guarantees Working Group, comprising 34 individuals representing 23 organizations.

This report was produced with the support and guidance of the Kresge Foundation.

“The use of guarantees is not new in impact investing, but this valuable tool is extremely underutilized,” said Amit Bouri, CEO and co-founder of the GIIN. “Increased awareness of successful examples of investor collaboration through guarantees—and blended capital more broadly—could help spur much-needed, additional investment into solutions to pressing social and environmental problems. There is an enormous opportunity for different types of investors to collaborate to amplify impact.”

About The GIIN

The Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing the scale and effectiveness of impact investing around the world. Impact investments are investments made into companies, organizations, and funds with the intention to generate social and environmental impact alongside a financial return. Impact investments can be made in both emerging and developed markets, and target a range of returns from below market to market rate, depending upon the circumstances. The GIIN builds critical infrastructure and supports activities, education, and research that help accelerate the development of a coherent impact investing industry. For more information, please visit www.thegiin.org.

American College of Education Partners with The Kids In Need Foundation

Leading online graduate degree provider for educators pledges support of national nonprofit organization, now helps impact over 4 million students nationwide

Press Release – INDIANAPOLIS – American College of Education (ACE), a regionally accredited online graduate institution dedicated to providing affordable programs for educators, recently announced a partnership with The Kids In Need Foundation, an organization dedicated to providing free school supplies nationally to students most in need. With the addition of this nonprofit partnership, ACE now helps impact over 4 million students nationwide.

Last year alone, The Kids In Need Foundation helped 200,000 teachers and 5.4 million students in some of the most challenged communities in the country. According to the 2015 Kids In Need Foundation School Supply Impact Survey of more than 11,000 teachers nationwide in low-income communities, when kids have new school supplies of their own, grades, classroom behavior, and engagement improve, self-esteem increases and attitudes toward school and learning are strengthened.

ACE recognized a common goal of helping teachers help students and initiated a relationship with the organization in 2017.

“I look forward to our partnership with The Kids In Need Foundation,” said Monica Carson, Senior VP of Enrollment Operations at ACE. “In under-served communities around the nation, we know teachers often take on the burden of purchasing school supplies for their students when they can’t afford them. By providing students with supplies, we are helping to alleviate a stressor for teachers — an undertaking in line with our own mission.”

In 2017, ACE will invest up to $20,000 in its partnership with The Kids In Need Foundation. The college will serve as a founding partner of the Kids In Need Supply Boxes, which will provide supplies to over 2,000 students in grades K-12 across the country.

“We are grateful to American College of Education, an organization that understands the value of learning, for their donation to our mission to ensure that every child is prepared to learn and succeed,” said Dave Smith, executive director of The Kids in Need Foundation. “Access to school supplies contributes to not only academic success, but also success outside of the classroom. Support for students in need of supplies can help kids develop strong self-esteem and a passion for accomplishment.”

Commissioners Proclaim May 9-10 as Centre Gives Days in Centre County

Press Release – State College, PA – With green Centre Gives stickers on their lapels and holding Centre Gives signs, the Centre County Commissioners proclaimed May 9th and 10th as Centre Gives days in Centre County!

Centre Gives is all about local people supporting Centre County – loving where they live and giving where they live,” explained Molly Kunkel, Executive Director of Centre Foundation.

Commissioners Michael Pipe, Mark Higgins, and Steve Dersham voted unanimously and for the second year in a row to make the proclamation.

Dersham noted that Centre Gives is part of what makes the Centre County such a special place to live.

This year there will be 147 non-profit organizations participating. These organizations serve Centre County residents in the areas of arts, animals, education, environment, and health & social services.

Higgins referenced the friendly competition of this 36-hour online giving event, mentioning that Lancaster believes itself to be the most generous community in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Centre County residents will have the chance to claim the mantle of most generous community on May 9th and 10th by visiting CentreGives.org.

“Our community is generous and full of savvy donors,” added Kunkel. “During Centre Gives, donors know that their donations will go further. They count on the stretch pool’s affect to allow their favorite local non-profit organizations to have a greater impact in Centre County. Donors also enjoy competing for the $25,000 in prizes that are offered through the event.”

Gifts go further during Centre Gives. Gifts help participating organizations receive a larger portion of the $200,000 stretch pool, as well as compete for $25,000 in prizes.

“This year, we’re excited to partner with the Hamer Foundation, which has generously doubled the Centre Gives stretch pool to a total of $200,000!” explained Kunkel. “The Hamer Foundation’s expansion of the stretch pool embodies the spirit of Centre Gives – a generous community that comes together in support of our local resources, neighbors, and organizational assets. It is a truly generous and visionary gift that all Centre County residents will be able to enjoy.”

Since Centre Gives launched in 2012, over $4,000,000 has been invested into Centre County’s local non-profit network. There have been over 23,500 gifts made, which have benefited over 130 local organizations.

Centre Gives 2017 is sponsored by many forward-thinking members of our community, including the Hamer Foundation, Knight Foundation, First National Bank, PSECU, Balfurd Dry Cleaners, and Tom and Sara Songer of the Torron Group.

Centre Gives 2017 will kick-off at 8:00 am on Tuesday, May 9th at CentreGives.org. Follow the fun on social media using #CentreGives and make sure to support your favorite local organization before the fun ends at 8:00 pm on Wednesday, May 10th!

For information, please contact Centre Foundation’s office at 814-237-6229.

Centre Foundation’s mission is to inspire and facilitate a culture of giving to create a more vibrant community.

Report: Fortune 500 Companies Accelerating Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency Efforts

Clean energy actions saving companies $3.7 billion a year, cutting annual carbon pollution equivalent to 45 coal-fired power plants.

Press Release – WASHINGTON, DC, April 25, 2017 – Despite efforts in Washington to sideline action on climate change, a growing number of Fortune 500 companies are taking increasingly ambitious steps to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, procure more renewable energy and reduce their energy bills through energy efficiency, according to a new report released today from World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Ceres, Calvert Research and Management (Calvert) and CDP.

Sixty-three percent of Fortune 100 companies have set one or more clean energy targets. Nearly half of Fortune 500 companies – 48 percent – have at least one climate or clean energy target, up five percent from an earlier 2014 report. Accompanying this growth is rising ambition, with significant numbers of companies setting 100 percent renewable energy goals and science-based GHG reduction targets that align with the global goal of limiting global temperature rise to below two degrees Celsius.

Findings from the new report, “Power Forward 3.0: How the largest U.S. companies are capturing business value while addressing climate change,” are based on 2016 company disclosures to CDP, which holds the world’s largest collection of self-reported corporate environmental data, and other public sources.

“American businesses are leading the transition to a clean economy because it’s smart business and it’s what their customers want,” said Marty Spitzer, World Wildlife Fund’s senior director of climate and renewable energy. “Clean energy is fueling economic opportunity from coast to coast without regard for party line. Washington policies may slow this boom, but these companies are making it very clear that a transition to a low-carbon economy is inevitable.”

The report highlights the financial benefits companies receive from their clean energy investments: Nearly 80,000 emission-reducing projects by 190 Fortune 500 companies reporting data showed nearly $3.7 billion in savings in 2016 alone. The emission reductions from these efforts are equivalent to taking 45 coal-fired power plants offline every year. Praxair, IBM and Microsoft are among the companies saving tens of millions of dollars annually through their energy efficiency efforts.

The 240 companies with targets have set one or more of the following goals: GHG reductions, energy efficiency improvements, or renewable energy sourcing. Two hundred and eleven companies have set a GHG reduction goal, making it the most common target.

“We are encouraged to see significant improvement in both the number of Fortune 500 companies setting climate and clean energy goals and the ambition of those goals – in particular commitments to setting science-based and 100 percent renewable energy targets,” said Anne Kelly, senior director of policy and the BICEP network at Ceres. “But in order to meet our national and global emissions goals, more companies will need to join the champions highlighted in this report, both in setting goals and in becoming vocal advocates for continued federal and state policies in support of climate and clean energy progress.”

Ten percent (53) of companies have set renewable energy targets, and almost half of those (23) have committed to power 100 percent of their operations with renewable energy – among those, Wal-Mart, General Motors, Bank of America, Google, Apple and Facebook. The growth in the number and ambition of renewable energy commitments is mainly the result of recent sharp declines in renewable energy costs, which saves companies money, and of price certainty that comes with renewable energy.

“Corporate commitment to energy efficiency and renewable energy is an accelerating trend that illustrates broader recognition within the business community of the importance of clean energy and the financial benefits it can yield,” said Stu Dalheim, vice president of corporate shareholder engagement for Calvert. “Many of the largest companies in the U.S. are achieving significant cost savings through clean energy programs and mitigating longer-term risks associated with energy price volatility.”

Some of the strongest efforts are also among Fortune 100 companies, with nearly two-thirds (63 percent) adopting or retaining goals. The report also shows strong improvement among the smallest 100 companies in the Fortune 500, with 44 percent setting goals in one or more categories, up 19 percentage points from the 2014 report.

The report shows a significant spread in target setting among different sectors, with Consumer Staples (72%), Materials (66%), and Utilities (65%) sectors leading in setting clean energy goals and the Energy sector (11%), including oil & gas companies, significantly lagging.

“CDP and the investors we work with, representing over US$100 trillion in assets, engage thousands of the world’s largest companies to measure and manage climate-related risks” said Lance Pierce, president of CDP North America. “Voluntary corporate disclosure highlights the compelling business case for corporate clean energy procurement and clearly demonstrates the transition underway in the energy markets. Companies in turn have benefited, identifying billions of dollars in savings and new opportunities through their disclosures to CDP.”

The report includes key recommendations for companies, policymakers and investors to continue to scale clean energy efforts, such as:

  • Companies should continue to set, implement and communicate clean energy targets, while supporting local, state and national policies that make it easier to achieve their climate and energy commitments.
  • Federal and state policymakers should establish clear, long-term low-carbon polices that will help companies meet their clean energy targets while also helping the U.S. meet its carbon-reducing commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement.
  • Investors should consider allocating their investments to companies well-positioned for the low-carbon economy. Investors should continue to file shareholder resolutions and engage in dialogues with companies to encourage them to set climate and energy efficiency targets and position themselves for a low-carbon future.

For more information and to download the full report, click here.

Major US Investors Oppose Legislation That Would Stifle Filing of Shareholder Resolutions with Companies

“Most severe attack on shareholder rights in 50 years,” says one investor; new investor research paper outlines wide-ranging benefits of shareholder proxy tool

Press Release – WASHINGTON, DC, April 24, 2017 – Many of the country’s largest investors are coming out strongly against proposed legislation that would prevent most investors from being able to file shareholder proposals with companies on key issues they want further action on, such as board governance matters, corporate policies or emerging risks like climate change.

The proposal, part of a larger bill aimed at replacing the Dodd-Frank Act, would sharply raise the ownership threshold for investors who could file shareholder proposals that are voted on at corporate annual meetings. Shareholders would need to hold a minimum of 1 percent of the company’s outstanding stock for three years to file resolutions. Currently, shareholders with as little as $2,000 in shares for a year or more can do so.

The proposal by House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) would undo a shareholder proposal process that has been in place for a half century. In effect, even the nation’s largest institutional investors, including the nation’s largest public pension funds, would not be able to file shareholder resolutions with companies. A hearing on the bill is scheduled for Wednesday, April 26.

“This misguided legislation would greatly diminish shareholders’ ability to protect and enhance their investments and drastically reduce corporate accountability,” said New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, trustee of the $186 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund, which has filed dozens of resolutions in recent years asking companies to assess their climate change risks and develop mitigation strategies. “The Common Retirement Fund’s positions in individual companies are in the tens or hundreds of millions, with some over $1 billion, which makes it outrageous and inequitable that we would not be able to make requests of corporate boards through shareholder resolutions.”

“It makes no sense to dramatically change a process that doesn’t need changing, seeks to undermine the fundamental right investors’ have to ensure their publicly invested dollars are being used ethically and is in every shareholder’s and the company’s best interest,” added Anne Sheehan, director of corporate governance at the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS). “The damage it will do to shareholder/company relations is just chilling.”

“This is the most severe attack on shareholder rights in 50 years. It would virtually end investors’ ability to file shareholder resolutions with companies,” added Timothy Smith, director of environmental, social and governance shareowner engagement at Walden Asset Management.

A research paper released today by three investor groups, collectively managing trillions of dollars in assets, outlines numerous benefits investors have seen from the shareholder proxy tool, including inclusion of more independent board directors, stronger disclosure on political spending, widespread adoption of international human rights principles and wide-ranging actions to mitigate climate change risks. Last year, investors filed about 1,000 shareholder proposals with companies, including about 500 focused on corporate governance issues and more than 400 focused on environmental and social issues.

“The process as currently structured and administered works well for investors and issuers; it is fair, efficient and effective,” concludes The Business Case for the Current SEC Shareholder Proposal Process, issued by Ceres’ Investor Network on Climate Risk and Sustainability, the Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment (US SIF) and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. “We believe the proposed modifications would harm the interest of investors, companies, society and the capital markets.”

“For seven decades, the shareholder proposal process has worked for companies and investors,” Sheehan said. “It’s been an equitable way for large and small investors to communicate their concerns to public companies.”

“The shareholder proposal is a critical tool to help us get the attention of senior management,” said Adam Kanzer, managing director of Domini Impact Investments, adding, “The quality of one’s ideas is not correlated with the size of one’s investment.”

“The shareholder proposal language in the bill is clearly an overreach,” said Jonas Kron, senior vice president at Trillium Asset Management. “For example, raising the ownership requirement to 1% would leave only 11 investors with enough shares to file shareholder proposals at Wells Fargo. None of those investors have ever filed a shareholder proposal. In the meantime, smaller, but no less important, institutional investors in Wells Fargo have filed strongly supported proposals on a range of very important governance and management issues that should be raised with Wells Fargo management and directors.”

About US SIF

US SIF: The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment is the leading voice advancing sustainable, responsible and impact investing across all asset classes. Our mission is to rapidly shift investment practices towards sustainability, focusing on long-term investment and the generation of positive social and environmental impacts. US SIF members include investment management and advisory firms, mutual fund companies, research firms, financial planners and advisors, broker-dealers, community investing organizations, nonprofit associations, and pension funds, foundations and other asset owners. US SIF produces a highly regarded conference each year. A New Climate for Investing in Impact will be held in Chicago from May 11-12. Learn more at www.ussif.org.

Lighting up Highland Park: National Nonprofit Surprises Five Residents With Light Installations Powered By The Sun

Military veteran, pastor, mother and business owner among recipients of One100 Awards for clean energy leadership

Press Release – Detroit, Michigan – A military veteran, a pastor, a mother, a business owner and a community organizer each received a big surprise yesterday, April 23rd: a solar-powered light installed on their home or business, to thank them for their clean energy leadership.

“What a wonderful surprise — and something our neighborhood needs,” said Lucy Frye, better known in the community as “Nandi.” She is the owner of Nandi’s Knowledge Café in Highland Park, a Michigan city surrounded by Detroit. “Our families and businesses thrive when we have safe streets and community spaces. For my business, this solar light will make a real difference.”

Frye was recognized for her work with the Highland Park nonprofit Soulardarity, which local residents formed after the utility DT Energy repossessed more than 1,000 of the community’s streetlights in 2011 because of increasing energy costs. The non-profit is now working to raise money – both through a crowdfunding campaign and city government collaborations – to replace all of the original lights. This approach is expected to save the city $3 million.

“The loss of our streetlights plunged virtually every street in Highland Park into darkness. People were afraid to go out at night,” said Bridgett Townsend, board president of Soulardarity and lifelong Highland Parker. “But thanks to these amazing people, we are building a homegrown collective that is lighting up the night with solar-powered lights owned and controlled by the community, and independent of any utility.”

The solar-powered lights presented on Sunday were part of the 100% campaign’s One100 Awards, which are designed to honor individuals across the country who are giving their 100% to promote clean energy. So far, awards have already been given to individuals in Buffalo, New York and San Bernardino, California. The 100% campaign is part of the national non-profit The Solutions Project founded by the actor Mark Ruffalo and dedicated to making clean energy more accessible and affordable for everyone.

“Organizations like Soulardarity are showing what’s possible when communities bring together bold innovation and deep caring,” said Sarah Shanley Hope, The Solutions Project’s executive director. “Clean energy is a breakthrough technology, but it’s when we combine it with human energy and political power that we really see lives improving.”

Highland Park residents agree.

“Solar lights are making our neighborhoods safer, but they are also doing more than that,” said Paul Bond, a military veteran who received a One100 Award and was honored with a surprise solar light on his home. “We need jobs and opportunities in clean energy for veterans and other people who live here. Soulardarity is an on-ramp for people right here in our community to become leaders in clean energy.”

In addition to Frye and Bond, three other Soulardarity activists received One100 Awards and were recognized with solar-powered light installations:

  • Rick Smith, assistant pastor at the Prayer Temple of Love
  • Phillis Judkins, North End community activist
  • Cindy Mondy, mother of six children between the ages of three and 15

“We’re extremely thankful to the 100% campaign for recognizing our hard work and for this generous award,” said Townsend. “You don’t start something like this to get national recognition but we hope to inspire other communities and show them that it is possible to do something good for people and the clean energy economy.”

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