Category Archives: Responsible Investing

Investing your portfolio: Where are the customers’ yachts?

The wife of a successful entrepreneur once remarked to me that she had pointed out to her husband that there will always be someone else with a bigger yacht in the marina.  She was hinting that it’s fine to work, but there’s a point at which you ought to stop and spend a bit of time with your family and friends.  She’s since divorced (for him it’s the second time!).

livingoffthepeopleAnother boating analogy was shared by The Economist recently in a comment about the asset management industry entitled Living off the people.  As an asset manager, investing other people’s money, it was pertinent to my profession.  The article offers a synopsis of the fund management industry and the challenges it faces today, the principal one being “Is there any use for fund manager’s at all?”  The evidence has been around for decades, and now is being more actively referenced, that paying someone to beat the index is a fool’s game.

You can’t consistently beat the index, and if you have to pay someone to try, that’s going to cost you even more, so don’t even try.  Just invest in a low fee index fund, like one offered by Vanguard.  The article points out that a quarter of American billionaires work in finance and investment and concludes with a quote from a pre-war Wall Street mogul “Where are all the customers’ yachts?”  Instead pay a computer pennies to put yo u on the efficient frontier.

Continue reading Investing your portfolio: Where are the customers’ yachts?

Are you beginning to get it? The what, why and how of system change.

parisattack20151115There has been an outpouring of love and solidarity because of the tragic and terrific blood-letting in Paris this weekend.  It has been a synchronous focus on thought, feeling and action by millions around the world.  That is good.

The answers proposed have ranged from black to white, from vengeance to forgiveness.  (My preference is at the “healing the wounds” end of the spectrum, rather than at the “ripping more flesh apart” end.)  The personal grief is inevitably traumatic.  The reasons for young people to wreak blood and havoc and kill themselves are difficult to imagine, let alone comprehend.  But there are answers – there must be: we are humans and we can do it all.atomtoworld2

So what will we choose?

Walking around the garden as the light fades and the wind builds to another stormy night, it seems clear that the warnings are coming thick and fast.  It seems as though everyday another report comes in of violence, terror, corruption and injustice, and of storm, drought, flood, habitat destruction and species loss.  You can  see, hear, feel the immorality of human systems and the pain of nature.  Do we look, listen, touch?

There are two kinds of people: People who can see what’s going on and do something about it (i.e. you, people with access to media, educated etc).  The more resources they have, the more they can do something about it.  The other kind of people who are those who are too poor to be able to know what’s going on (most people know corruption when they see it and crazy weather when it passes), or if they do, live subsistence lives so have fewer choices.

It is increasingly evident that of those of us who can act, some act and others don’t.  Some have realised that the system must change and others continue to turn a blind eye.  Those who have realised it start with awareness and gradually start to change their behaviour, from diet to lifestyle to job to investment, commitment and philanthropy.

eatingmoneyOthers who turn a blind eye, should open them.  Elites – the people who influence and control human system (millionaires etc) – seem to be predominantly in the blind eye department.  That’s bad.

It must be that rich people are ignoring the obvious because they are the ones that determine the system, which is not working, and they remain largely ignorant of how to change the system and what to change it to.  Even when the how and what are obvious, admission of the need and course are slow, implementation is sluggish and patchy.

Here’s a quick example:  behaviour change is nurtured with education,  but education systems are well behind the curve. (Many observe that terrorism is inculcated by misinformation which would be hindered if critical thinking, even thinking, was a basic product of universal education.)

And a biosphere dysfunction example: 2015 is the hottest year on record and climate has risen 1 degree already yet fossil fuel companies are still subsidised and the so called “Sustainable Development Goals” are still talking about growth.

That’s the situation in a nutshell.  Things are bad.  We know how to change.  Too few of the people at the top are changing.

That’s a dangerous recipe.  You, like me, can make a difference.  Let’s all take a step in the right direction.  Slow down.  Take a breath.  Say sorry.  Change the system from fear and greed to love and sharing.  Do it now.  May be we’ve still got time.world02

For some it’s not about people, nor ethics; just numbers.

moneyvspeoleA former hedge fund manager who bought a drug company has hiked the price of a generic drug 55x to  pay for the purchase.  The drug was $13.50 a dose but is now $750.00.   It costs $1 to produce.  The drug treats toxoplasmosis and is widely used by sufferers of AIDS.

So clearly Martin Shkreli, the capitalist in question, is all about the money.  No morals.  No philanthropy. In fact rather the opposite.  What does that say about our society?  When the winners take all?  It’s not that he should be punished.  It’s not that his wealth should be confiscated.  It’s that we should ask ourselves what kind of civilisation we are choosing when this kind of behaviour appears “justifiable”, because it doesn’t seem just to me.

If the highest achievers, the brightest stars, the richest, the winners are only interested in taking more, shouldn’t we all wonder what morals our civilisation promotes?  It’s not that people are bad – everyone’s “good”.  But the result of all our choices promotes a dynamic which appears quite feudal and therefore inflexible, often unfair and probably dysfunctional.  Certainly we are seeing the cracks in our civilisation – economic crisis, immigration crisis, food crisis, …

eatingmoneyThe solution?   Change our choices.  Each of us can make small changes which determine the shape of civilisation.  What we eat, what we wear, what we consume, what we waste.  Our individual behaviour results in the civilisation we have, including a hedge fund manager taking more stuff from people in already difficult circumstances.

BBC: US pharmaceutical company defends 5,000% price increase

Interpol now targetting individuals for trading endangered species.

Interpol is now asking for assistance from the public in tracking down nine key suspects.   This is the first time that individuals have been targeted.

The trade in wildlife crime is said to be worth around $213bn per annum, according to the UN.

The move has been welcomed by Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites). They are concerned not just with the impact of environmental crime on species but also with the effect on political stability.

Members of the public who have any information on the possible location of the fugitives can use this form to contact Interpol. Information can also be given anonymously to any national crime stoppers programme.

BBC: Wildlife crime wanted list released

Here they are:

Continue reading Interpol now targetting individuals for trading endangered species.

Malnutrition costs the global economy over 3 years’ GDP growth

The Global Nutrition Report said that  globally, malnutrition led to “11% of GDP being squandered as a result of lives lost, less learning, less earning and days lost to illness.”

And the numbers are made more appalling by the fact that they cut both ways: not enough food and too much food.  Every nation except China (whose regions could probably be included if you separate urban and rural) had crossed a “malnutrition red line”, suffering from too much or too little nutrition.

On the sad side of the spectrum the UN World Food Programme estimates that poor nutrition causes nearly half of deaths in children aged under five, that’s- 3.1 million children each year.  In addition lack of food restricts brain and immune system development.

_78913064_overweightwoman2paAt the fat end of the wedge the problems include obesity, diabetes, vascular disease.

Ironically half of the countries are grappling with under-nutrition and also over-nutrition problems!

You would think that bi agribusinesses and food companies would have helped but they seem to exacerbate the problems by pushing sugar to the overfed and pulling livelihoods from the underfed.

The global nutrition report.

BBC: World is crossing malnutrition red line, report warns

Genetically Modified Organisms and the deterioration of health in the United States

Genetically Modified Organisms and the deterioration of health in the United States by N.L. Swanson, 4/24/2013

Read this pdf: GMO-health

Extracts:

Peddlers of both chemicals and genetically engineered seeds claim that GMO food is “identical to non-GMO products.” They claim that genetic engineering is no different than plant hybridization, which has been practiced for centuries. It is the reason they gave, and the EPA accepted, for not having to submit GMO food to rigorous testing to obtain EPA approval. It’s up to the companies that manufacture GMOs to research and determine the safety of their products.

Not only are the bacteria genes themselves potentially toxic, but the plants can be sprayed directly with herbicides, the herbicide-resistant plants absorb the poisons and we eat them. It’s difficult to understand how this can be considered “essentially” the same as plant hybridization.

Of the 144 crops approved by the FDA, 75% have been genetically engineered to either withstand direct applications of herbicides or they contain an insecticide Bt toxin, or both. In the mid-’90s, scientists figured out how to combine more than one trait in the same plant. These were first released in 1997 and are called “stacked gene traits.”

In 2012, 93% of all soy, 88% of the corn and 94%U.S. was genetically engineered.

Glyphosate use increased 6,504% from 1991 to 2010

Glyphosate residues of up to 4.4 mg/kg have been detected in stems, leaves and beans of glyphosate-resistant soy, indicating metabolism of the herbicide. This means that the Roundup ReadyTM plants are absorbing the herbicide and you cannot simply wash it off

Cancers of the thyroid and liver especially seem to track with the advent of GE crops and associated glyphosate applications. Thyroid cancer seems to affect women more often, while males are more susceptible to liver cancer.

The Academy of Environmental Medicine has issued a position statement on GMO food stating, “…several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food consumption including infertility, immune dysregulation, accelerated aging, dysregulation of genes associated with cholesterol synthesis, insulin regulation, cell signaling, and protein formation, and changes in the liver, kidney, spleen and gastrointestinal system.  “There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects. There is causation as defined by Hill’s Criteria in the areas of strength of association, consistency, specificity, biological gradient, and biological plausibility. The strength of association and consistency between GM foods and disease is confirmed in several animal studies.” They further state that “because GM foods have not been properly tested for human consumption, and because there is ample evidence of probable harm,” they call on physicians to educate the public and warn their patients to avoid GM foods.

People are ill and they are not waiting for scientists to tell them that GMOs are making them ill. Rachel Linden said in an interview on Weekly Women’s GMO Free News, “I don’t know why science has replaced common sense. I don’t need to check with my doctor to know how I feel when I eat GMOs and how I feel when I don’t eat GMOs. I don’t need a scientist to tell me forty years from now that they were wrong about GMOs. I’m going to decide for myself right now.” Case studies are piling up of patients who have shown dramatic improvement after taking their doctor’s advice and eliminating GMO food. Wouldn’t that be so much easier if they had labels?

Big pharma being paid to poison our planet. New GMO and agent-orange/glyphosate mix to hit earth in 2015.

Argentina-GM-human-pics4The US EPA is set to approve new GM seeds and toxic sprays made by Dow Chemical in the face of scientific opposition.

There are millions of dollars on the table.  Dow will take market share and expand the use of mono-culture and toxic sprays.  These initiatives are inherently unsustainable, but in the short term will make money for executives and shareholders of Dow.

GM, monoculture and toxic herbicides and pesticides are unsustainable because they require huge fossil fuel inputs to operate.

They are dangerous because they encourage the development of super-weeds and introduce risks of transgenic hybridisation which can decimate habitats and local species.

The extensive use in Argentina of genetically engineered soy crops combined with spraying since 1996 is well documented.  The tragic consequences of this strategy, which has enriched politicians and landowners at the expense of normal people, are visible.

According to Dow, heavy use of Roundup, herbicide Monsanto brand glyphosate, triggered an explosion of herbicide-resistant “super weeds” that are hard for farmers to fight and which can choke off crop yields. Such weeds now infest roughly 70 million acres of U.S. farmland.

OCA: Condemns EPA Approval of Dow Enlist Duo Herbicide

Genetic Literacy Project: Natural Resources Defense Council sues EPA to block rollout of Dow Enlist Duo GMO system and  Enviros file suit to block new Dow AgroSciences GMO herbicide and seeds and  Enlist Duo: Everything you need to know about new dual herbicide resistant crops

Scientific American: EPA Approves Dow’s Enlist Herbicide for GMOs

Forbes:  Dow Chemical Receives USDA Approval To Commercialize Its Enlist Corn and Soybean Seeds In The U.S.

Reuters:  U.S. regulator set to approve Dow’s Enlist herbicide

Dr Mercola:  Glyphosate: The Toxin So Dangerous It’s Causing Catastrophic Birth Defects and Argentina—A Poster Child for the Health Hazards of GMO Crops

CTV News:  Birth defects, cancer in Argentina linked to agrochemicals: AP investigation

Care2: Monsanto Pesticides are Making Argentinian Kids Very Sick

Sustainable Pulse: Dr Swanson: GMOs Cause Increase in Chronic Diseases, Infertility and Birth Defects

EcoChildsPlay: GMO soya causing birth defects in Argentina thanks to glyphosate

WTSP:  Argentines link health problems to agrochemicals

GMO Evidence

Argentina-GM-human-pics2

Tell nestlé to stop trying to patent the fennel flower.

Keep nature free.

They want to charge you for water, although it falls from the sky.

They profit from selling the main cause of obesity, sugar, a drug more addictive than cocaine to children.

Next I suppose they will pay-off governments to profit from the air we breathe.

Tell Nestlé to stop trying to patent the fennel flower.  Sign this petition.

And stop buying their products and sell any of their shares you own.  All of them.

Why Naomi Klein Must Not Blame Capitalism

I haven’t finished reading the book; I don’t want to know who wins, capitalism or the climate, but I assume it’s capitalism because the book costs $30 and it’s printed on dead trees.”
–Stephen Colbert, interviewing Naomi Klein (23 Sept 2014)

colbertandkleinKlein’s new book This Changes Everything sets out the urgency of climate change and how Big Capitalism works. Much of her argument chimes perfectly with Astraea’s view – that climate change is happening; that it’s extremely urgent to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; that our relationships with nature must change; and that globalisation is giving multinationals unprecedented access to cheap labour, and monetising other people’s disadvantages. That’s the negative side of capitalism.

But she misses the point. Capitalism is a tool. Just a tool. It can be used for good and for evil. No better means of exchanging value has appeared. In fact, when Klein describes the globalisation and free trade zones as deals between Big Business and government to get easy access to cheap labour and similar advantates, she’s not describing capitalism. She’s describing collusion, corruption, cronyism. Business and government have failed us in policies and priorities, but it would be misleading to pretend that capitalism is broken – as Colbert’s remark underlines, it worked perfectly to get Klein’s book into many people’s hands, quickly.

Capitalism gives us power, and with power comes responsibility. If we don’t like the world, we must change it. Educate ourselves as to how things are produced, choose products with no or recycle-able packaging, choose local holidays instead of flying abroad, choose organic foods, choose ethical labels.

We use capitalism every day to promote our beliefs and choices. Everything we buy is recorded and analysed, and retailers make their purchasing decisions based on what we buy today. They market to us based on our prior purchases (and even “views”, online). That’s why, for example, when I was pregnant, my purchasing patterns signaled to stores that I would soon need baby goods, and began to receive promotional material months before the baby arrived.

Unfortunately, people who ‘value goals such as achievement, money, power, status and image’ tend to behave in unsustainable ways and hold more negative attitudes toward the environment (Klein quoting Kasser & Crompton 2009). Those are the very same people who tend to run those powerful multinationals.

Individuals know that their decisions always impact others – whether at high levels or in the local shop. That’s where the paradigm shift must happen: we must care, individually and collectively, enough to change our own behaviour. Fast.

So don’t blame capitalism – just make it your weapon of mass improvement.

It might already be too little too late. But do you really want to wait any longer to start trying?

Read our book about a personal story of change – from venture capitalist to organic farmer http://www.abigpicturestory.com/

Your money and your life. What kind of deal is that?

EDF wants to extend the life of a 40 year old nuclear reactor which has cracks in it.

So, what do you think that’s about?  Money.

EDF can patch the reactor to get another decade out of it and all the revenue that comes with it.  That is small marginal investment for large incremental cash flow.  They get the cash.  We get the risk.  Or at least the people within a few hundred kilometres of Hunterston get the risk.

Regulators need to do their job and put precaution first,  irrespective of how many three course lunches they are plied with.

BBC: New cracks in Hunterston reactor