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ethical impact investingOne of the benefits of living in a developed nation with a strong economy is investing and making money off the success of the market. Traditional investing holds profits above all else, and generally shun factors such as environmental impact and workplace equality. Ethical impact investing tries to marry consciousness investing with profit to help both investors and companies active in creating a better world reach greater success.

According to the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN), impact investing consists of “investments made with the intention to generate positive, measurable social and environmental impact alongside a finical return.” Examples of ways that companies can qualify for impacting investing include: reducing their carbon footprint, installing green energy and creating a more diversified board of directors and executive suit. In terms of viability, the GIIN reports that impact investing portfolios “overwhelmingly meet or exceed investors expectations for both social and environmental impact and financial return.”  Ethical impact investing portfolios do not sacrifice profits for impact or the other way around, they are the best of both worlds.

Who Does Impact Investing?

Many firms including the biggest in the world operate some form of impact investing. Blackrock calls their form of impact investing, “sustainable investing” and focuses on “investing in progress and pioneering.” Blackrock runs funds which are made up of multiple companies which meet a certain criterion. For example, Blackrock’s “02 SDG [sustainable development goals] fund” is made up of companies which help to “advance the U.N.’s sustainable development goals.”

Companies in this fund include: Tesla INC, Procter and Gamble Vesta Wind Systems and New Oriental Education and Technology. Blackrock’s funds are incredibly diverse with the highest percentage weight in the 02 SDG Fund making up only 4.72 percent of the weight. Having a diverse fund helps the fund stay stable in case any of the companies or markets crash.  And the proof is in the numbers — with the Blackrock fund outperforming the market. According to Investopedia, the average return of the U.S. market on average is 8 percent while the average return of Blackrock’s 02 SDG Fund is 9.3 percent.

Goldman Sachs also works towards ethical impact investing, but through a geographical lens which seeks to relive certain communities of specific ills. For instance, Goldman Sachs reports that it “invested over $300 million in the City of New Orleans [with an] integrated, place-based approach [which] has provided more than 1,450 units of…housing [and] over 1,300 new jobs.”

Goldman Sachs post-2008 has helped to create housing and jobs for an area ravaged by natural disaster. One of the projects that Goldman Sachs operated in New Orleans was the Harmony Oaks Apartments which Goldman Sachs poured “$61.2 million in financing to support the rebuilding effort [post Katrina].” Rather than having citizens invest in a fund, Goldman has corporations and projects apply for a grant which they can then be approved or denied for.

The Bottom Line

In terms of accessibility to the average investor, Goldman Sachs falls behind Blackrock’s fund management. Blackrock also includes companies from around the globe in their sustainable investing funds, while Goldman Sachs only offers impact investing related grants in the U.S. Blackrock also runs two other sustainable investment funds with one centered on low-cost sustainability, “01 ESGU” fund and one focused on reducing carbon footprint, “03 CRBN” fund. For investors who want to see a direct correlation with their profits and their impact, investing in Blackrock sustainability funds offers an effective, profitable alternative to traditional investing strategies.

Spencer Julian
Photo: Flickr

Evan McMullin
Former GOP adviser Evan McMullin announced his bid for the presidency in August. McMullin, an Independent, has an impressive resume and has proved himself to be an advocate for refugees.

McMullin served as a CIA operative in Africa, the Middle East and Asia for over 10 years. He also worked as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs and a policy director for the House Republican Conference, where he pushed an agenda spotlighting international affairs, homeland security and gender equality.

McMullin is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He speaks Arabic and holds both a master’s degree in business administration from the Wharton School of Business and a bachelor’s degree in international law and diplomacy from Brigham Young University.

Most remarkable, however, is the 40-year-old Utah native’s special interest in helping refugees. To begin his career, McMullin volunteered as a U.N. refugee resettlement officer in Jordan’s capital Amman, evaluating and relocating Syrian refugees displaced by civil war.

Years after completing his work for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), he still feels strongly about the plight of asylum seekers. During a January GOP Debate, McMullin reaffirmed himself as an advocate for refugees by tweeting, “People who talk tough about ISIS, but then spend all of their time attacking refugees, know little about keeping America safe.”

Evan McMullin further demonstrated his concern for those affected by war when he gave a TedX talk at the London School of Business in May. His speech focused on the crisis in Syria and the atrocities committed by Bashar al-Assad’s regime. During the lecture, McMullin recalled his time with the UNHCR, saying it “left him with a deep sympathy for the world’s most vulnerable people.”

In July 2014, feeling “compelled to help,” he persuaded a Syrian refugee to testify before Congress and expose the Assad administration’s brutalities. The refugee was a double-agent, a government employee turned spy for the Syrian opposition, who was forced to fake his own death to avoid being discovered by Assad. As an asylum seeker himself, he pleaded with Congress to take action against Syria’s war crimes.

Evan McMullin believes that while governments condemn political violence, they lack the willpower to end genocide. He hopes to raise awareness about refugees and the factors that drive them to flee, such as government-sponsored civilian killings.

In light of this information, what would a McMullin White House look like? As an activist, international relations expert and advocate for refugees, perhaps McMullin could instill a greater sense of humanitarianism into foreign policy and strengthen the U.S. as a global leader. According to McMullin, “the world’s humanity depends on it.”

Kristina Evans

Photo: New Republic

charitable companies
Corporations and charities aren’t two ideas that necessarily go hand in hand. Corporations generally exist to make money; charities give it away (or use it to give away items or resources to people in need). However, some companies do freely give their profits to charities, showing that even the corporations that make the biggest profits are also invested in people who make the least. Here are the five most charitable companies.

1. Kroger

The biggest grocery store chain in America is also one of its most charitable companies, in terms of percentage of profits. In 2010, Kroger donated more than 10 percent of its overall profits – approximately $64 million – to charities at both local and national levels. Kroger’s charitable endeavors include not only donations, but also employee volunteering efforts programs and participation in programs to feed the hungry. Kroger’s store loyalty card-holders can also choose local charities to which they would like a portion of their bill to be donated, allowing communities to rally around local causes.

2. Macy’s

Charity may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a company that sponsors showy events like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, but this department store actually gives a significant amount of its profits to charities around the country. Macy’s consistently gives approximately $40 million annually to charitable organizations, and encourages its customers to give back around the holidays with its “Thanks for Sharing” campaign.

3. Walmart

Walmart giving does not total much of its overall profits (less than 1.5 percent, actually), but because this corporation is such a behemoth, its charitable donations, dollar for dollar, are more than almost any other company in the world – it was knocked down to #2 in 2013 by Wells Fargo. Walmart donates over $300 million per year to charity. The company also donates significant amounts of food to charities and hunger-prevention programs.

4. Goldman Sachs

Another surprising company that ranks high on the corporate giving list is Goldman Sachs. Despite its alleged role in causing the recession of 2008, Goldman actually works in some ways to prevent poverty by donating millions to charity. In fact, during a time period in which its own profits dropped by 35 percent, Goldman increased its charitable giving by a whopping 300 percent, bringing them to $315 million total. Though the company has been accused of using charitable donations to bolster their image after the fiscal crisis, the fact remains that few companies have donated more than Goldman.

5. Target

Target makes the top 10 charitable corporations list, with its donations coming in at five percent of total profits. Target’s employees are some of the most generous with their time as well, as Target runs a substantial employee service program. Target’s goal is to transform for the better every community with a Target store, and by giving to charities that support education, hunger prevention and public safety, they’re doing just that.

Elise L. Riley

Sources: Forbes, Business Insider
Photo: CrainsNY

2
Eudomar Tovar is the Central Bank President in Venezuela and has taken the spotlight most recently for blaming a nation-wide blackout on sabotage. Accusations have been made that the Central Bank has been using their gold supply in a deal with Goldman Sachs and Bank of America to increase hard currency.

Tovar vehemently denies that the Central Bank is doing any sort of business with either Goldman Sachs or Bank of America. Henrique Capriles, an opposition leader, claims that Central Bank was involved in a value swap with Goldman Sachs for the equivalent of $2 billion dollars (USD) in gold ounces. Central Bank has also been accused of dealing with Bank of America to pay off debts owed to foreign governments. Tovar denied any such deals and claimed they were unofficial proposals, but did not elaborate or further explain the Bank’s position in regards to these claims.

The main problem is that Venezuela is experiencing a shortage of basic goods, and could potentially use its huge reserves of gold to procure a loan from such companies such as Goldman Sachs or Bank of America. Main Central Bank officials have complained that they are due a huge amount of hard currency from Washington, and that the red tape and delay in receiving this currency is causing inflation and product shortages.

Furthermore, a decrease in oil supply has caused tension on the dollar value, making some think that Venezuela is in desperate need of cash. The value of gold has decreased as well, putting a dent in the net worth of the country’s enormous gold reserves. As it stands, only government channels have access to the dollar due to harsh capital requirements, which often causes delays and bottlenecks day-to-day cash flow.

Leaders of the South American nation do not believe in free market capitalism and have tightly controlled the cash flow for decades. Consequently, the country falls more deeply into poverty every year, while the tyrannical government is not improving the situation.

President Maduro replaced the recently deceased President Chavez, who had a reputation for spending funds that could not be liquidated. Shortages have increased, inflation has risen to 55% and an inside Bank official claimed that Venezuela was indeed conversing with Wall Street. However, all three parties involved had no comment to offer on these claims. The economy is in a downward spiral, encouraged by the fact that stores cannot buy new inventory due to the cost of goods being higher than the retail price.

Questions are circulating about methods of intervention and whether American aid is appropriate, as well as questions regarding the depth of corruption in the Venezuelan government. Basic economics further show that public spending is good for the economy, when business have the right to compete with each other for capital gain.

The absence of a free market suggests that if Bank of America or Goldman Sachs loaned Venezuela the cash they need, it would just be reinvested into a corrupt system and exacerbate the problem. Solutions must involve correcting the dishonest practices of the government and its leaders so that the citizens will not continue to suffer, but instead thrive.

– Kaitlin Sutherby

Sources: Reuters, The Wall Street Journal: The Pope, State and Venezuela, The Wall Street Journal: Blackout
Photo: Vintage 3D

birds_flying_geese
Some big-name companies and corporations gave large donations last year to assist in the fight against poverty. According to a U.S. study in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, corporate philanthropy actually increased by 2.7 percent in 2012, contributing significantly to poverty reduction initiatives worldwide. Big businesses decided to give and, most importantly, give more. Of the businesses that made up the majority, the most influential of those in terms of global poverty were Walmart, Chevron Corporation, Goldman Sachs, Exxon Mobil, and JPMorgan Chase & Company.

Walmart is one of the top ten companies that give the most charitable donations. Walmart donated $311,607,280 in cash and $755,868,381 in products to 50,000 different charities in 2012. Since the creation of their “Fighting Hunger Together” campaign in 2010, the company has given away over 1 billion pounds of food to people in need. They have partnered with Feeding America, ConAgra Foods, General Mills, Kellogg Company, Kraft Foods, and Unilever to provide meals to these people. Their Golden Spark campaign also assisted in this effort. Through October 14, 2012, Walmart randomly awarded 40 “Golden Sparks” valued at $50,000 each to consumers who participated in the Fighting Hunger Together Golden Spark promotion. The winners chose a community to receive the funding to start or expand a backpack program that provides vital meals to food-insecure children during weekends when they do not have access to free and reduced-price school meals.

Chevron Corporation gave $262,430,000 to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. The corporation’s largest grant last year was $11 million to the Niger Delta Partnership Initiative Foundation. This donation went towards fighting poverty in Nigeria through increasing local incomes, employment opportunities, and promoting economic health.

Goldman Sachs gave $241,278,912 overall last year. Its biggest contribution to the fight against global poverty has been its creation of the 10,000 Women project. This project provides women around the world with educational opportunities in areas such as business and management in order to attain independence. It also offers them access to positive mentors. Overall, the project focuses on empowering women to obtain networking and career opportunities. Women such as Linlin, who is now involved in early childhood education in Beijing, China, attest to the project’s helpfulness. “10,000 Women taught me the fundamentals of business management,” Linlin said. “It also helped me become braver and more confident.”

Exxon Mobil gave $213,374,183 in cash and $2,433,200 in products. Its grants mostly contributed to science and math education as well as career opportunities for women. It donated almost $3 million to Vital Voices Global Partnership, which supports the Business Women’s Network efforts in Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East. Malaria No More received $1.8 million. This corporate giving was used to expand the organization’s NightWatch program, a malaria communications platform that uses celebrity voices to reach vulnerable populations through text messaging, television, radio, and music, reminding them to put up mosquito nets. The program has gained support from celebrities, leaders, businesses, and even endorsement from the Ministry of Health. It has empowered families to keep themselves safe from the threat of malaria by ensuring education is present in places such as Tanzania and Cameroon.

JP Morgan Chase & Company gave $183,471,434 overall last year. Specifically, it donated $2,180,000 to GAVI Alliance to improve global access to immunizations. A triumphant success story regarding the foundation’s donation can be viewed here: Donation Supports Roll Out of Two Vaccines in Ghana. These pneumococcal and rotavirus vaccines are meant to combat pneumonia and diarrhea – illnesses that account for 20% of Ghana’s child mortality rate.

– Samantha Davis

Sources: Chronicle of Philanthropy, Walmart, Chevron, Niger Delta Partnership Initiative Foundation, Niger Delta Partnership Initiative Foundation, Goldman Sachs, Philanthropy.com, NightWatch Program, GAVI Alliance