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What’s the deal with socially responsible investing? – Global News

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Socially responsible investing — also know as ethical, green or sustainable investing — is the new buzzword in the financial world.

A growing number of institutions and individual investors seem to want to invest according to ethical principles, and the financial industry has been happy to oblige.

Today, investors can choose from a smattering of investment options that carry some variation of the sustainable label.


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By one tally, sustainable investing has now grown to an eye-popping $31 trillion globally, and it’s easy to see why.

The industry’s pitch is very persuasive: sustainable investing is as good for your wallet as it is for your conscience.

But are sustainable investment products as good a deal as the hype would suggest?

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Does sustainable investing pay off?

Whether investing sustainably means sacrificing financial returns is the subject of debate among analysts and investment advisors.

Benjamin Felix, portfolio manager at Ottawa-based PWL Capital, for example, says both the data and the theory point to sustainable investments having lower expected returns.

As more and more investors buy up the stocks of companies deemed to be “good,” they push up the price of those shares, which necessarily reduces the returns investors can expect in the future, Felix said.

And because sustainable investors are guided by moral principles rather than mere financial metrics, they are less likely to ditch their underperforming sustainable stocks, which means their shares will stay overpriced.


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Sustainable investors also necessarily have fewer investments to choose from, something that limits their ability to diversify their portfolios and diminish the risk tied to any one company or industry, Felix noted.

In addition, opting for sustainable investments often comes with higher fees, which eats further into returns, he added.






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Tim Nash, an independent financial planner and founder of Good Investing, offers a different take. A preference for sustainable companies, he argues, steers investors away from corporations that may become the target of government sanctions or consumer boycotts.

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Felix agrees that a company’s track record on issues like the environment and human rights can have an impact on the corporate bottom line. However, he believes the market is already quite good at pricing in those risks.


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But Nash thinks sustainable investors are, in general, quicker to recognize that sustainability issues can have an impact on profits.

They are “ahead of the curve in recognizing these intangible values both on the upside, in terms of reputation, customer acquisition and employee attraction and retention … and also from the risk side.” 

And while sustainable investing does come with less diversification and often higher fees, there are still plenty of investment options to choose from, Nash says.






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Are sustainable investments actually sustainable?

Felix’s biggest reservation about sustainable investing is the criteria the industry uses to quantify sustainability, otherwise knows as ESG metrics.

The “E” stands of “environmental,” reflecting corporate conduct on issues such as carbon emissions and water pollution. “S” is for “social,” which looks at factors such as how a company manages its workforce and the labour practices in its supply chain.

The “G,” finally, stands for “governance,” or how a company governs itself, which includes issues such as who sits on the board of directors and how executives are compensated.

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With a number of data providers compiling their own ESG ratings and indices, there are a number of different definitions and methodologies out there, Felix says. This can lead to confusion for both companies and investors, he adds.






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“If companies are not clear on what ‘socially responsible’ means and what’s going to be rewarded, then it’s going to really [be] for them to know what to do to get a better rating,” he said.

On the investor side, some may not realize that plenty of investment products sold as sustainable involve exposure to oil and gas companies, Felix notes.

“You better know that what you’re investing in is actually reflecting your views and values because there’s a good chance it’s not,” he said.

Nash believes that ESG investment products, as imperfect as they may be, still help move the needle in the right direction. But he agrees with Felix that investors shouldn’t buy into sustainable investments without looking under the hood.

“Don’t do it blindly,” he said. “You need to do your homework.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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'Low-risk' Vernon real estate investment turns into 8-year court battle | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source – iNFOnews

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FILE PHOTO.
(BEN BULMER / iNFOnews.ca)

It was sold as a low-risk, low-stress, self-financing real-estate investment, and involved 14 non-descript condos on a Vernon street more associated with crime than as a place to invest money.

But in the 11 years since a variety of investors bought the rental units, eight of those years have been tied up in bitter litigation fueled by antagonism and deeply entrenched positions.

Following an 18-day trial at the Vernon courthouse, Justice Elaine Adair said that fortunately, the one area of consensus between all the parties involved was that they wanted the units sold.

“Sale of the units would at least bring an end to the prolonged fighting over matters relating to the Strata Corporation and its governance, and reduce the scope of the war to one over money and the division of profits,” Justice Adair said.

Details of the case are laid out in a 101-page, 36,000-word B.C. Supreme Court decision.

According to the decision, the case dates back to 2008 when Rene Gauthier, Odin Zavier, and Thane Lanz formed SWS Marketing to start a business in real estate investment.

Zavier had purchased a marketing licence, which allowed him to take on clients and advise them on marketing plans. Lanz took one of Zavier’s classes and they became friends.

They met Gauthier and the three decided to go into real estate investment. They launched SWS Marketing and although the three were supposed to own the company equally, Gauthier held more than 50 per cent of the shares and controlled the firm.

SWS Marketing got involved in three residential real estate development projects in the Lower Mainland before finding the 14 units in Vernon in 2010.

The following year Zavier bought the 14 units, spread over two buildings for $1.6 million. It worked out at $116,000 per unit, which they thought was a good deal as the units had been appraised at $145,000 each.

The transaction was structured so that, before completion, the company entered into separate contracts of purchase and sale for the individual units with investors.

Zavier, Lanz, and Gauthier were all involved in approaching potential buyers for the units. The investors were spread across the country and they sold it as a “hands-off” deal.

“The Vernon Project was presented as one having positive cash flow, and not requiring much cash up front,” the decision reads.

Investors needed to provide $2,500 and obtain a mortgage. SWS Marketing would manage the rental building and provide the remaining roughly $30,000 for the down payment.

As part of the transaction, each of the new owners also had to sign a Joint Venture Agreement.

These agreements laid out the profit share of 50 per cent between an owner and SWS Marketing.

It’s these Joint Venture Agreements that became to focus of much of the litigation.

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The agreements appeared to have gone smoothly until 2013 when things broke down.

A dispute between Gauthier and Zavier “boiled over” and Lanz sided with Zavier.

“The Fall of 2013 also marked the beginning of the duelling strata councils,” the decision reads. “The ‘Gauthier Council,’ and the ‘Zavier Council.’

Due to their dispute, both Gauthier and Zavier created their own strata councils. Condo owners then chose sides and paid their strata fees to the strata council they preferred. The opposition strata council then sent demand letters asking for payment.

Justice Adair said this created “more confusion.”

Around this time the litigation started.

SWS Marketing, which is controlled by Gauthier, sued Zavier and Lanz, along with eight other owners, the strata council, and nine John and Jane Does.

Gauthier argued that Zavier and Lanz along with the other owners had breached the Joint Venture Agreement on how the profits were divided.

The parties were regularly in and out of court.

“By 2017, some of the defendant-owners had had enough and wanted out of their investments,” the decision says.

Zavier then steered the owners towards a company owned by his wife called the Home Buying Centre.

The company promised to help people who have properties that are difficult to manage.

SWS Marketing then accused Zavier and Lanz of intentionally creating the “chaos” so the owners would give up their units to Zavier’s wife’s company.

Zavier denied that.

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The lengthy court documents go through the long history of disagreements between the parties as they argue about what certain contracts meant.

Both parties accuse the other of being “evasive, obstructive and dishonest” throughout the trial.

There are accusations of forged signatures and very different accounts of who paid for what.

Justice Adair agreed that Zavier and Lanz were both “argumentative and evasive” and she also felt there were concerns about the credibility and reliability of some of Gauthier’s evidence.

“Through their answers, both Mr. Zavier and Mr. Lanz demonstrated considerable antagonism toward Mr. Gauthier,” the Justice said.

The Justice said Lanz was “openly sarcastic and derisive.

“My strong impression was that Mr. Lanz has held a long-standing grudge against Mr. Gauthier, and saw the trial as an opportunity to settle scores,” the Justice said.

Ultimately, following a lengthy analysis of multiple claims and counterclaims, the Justice dismissed the action against Lanz but ruled that Zavier, along with each of the condo owners had breached the Joint Venture Agreement.

However, the court proceedings are not yet over.

The Justice ruled that neither side had put forward an argument about how the court should go about assessing the damages.

“In those circumstances, I have concluded that I cannot make a final order, and it would not be just to make such an order, without receiving further submissions,” Justice Adair said.

The Justice then ordered both sides to come back to court with submissions about how to move forward with damages.

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To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won’t censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above. 

News from © iNFOnews, 2022

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Dozens of MPP investment properties surge to more than $36 million as Ontario housing affordability worsens – CTV News Toronto

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Dozens of candidates running for re-election are sitting on investment properties that are surging millions in value as a housing crisis takes hold across Ontario, according to a review of disclosures by CTV News and a new home valuation tool.

And those eye-popping gains — to at least $36.5 million in investment properties alone according to Canadian app HouseSigma’s Home Valuation feature — is prompting tough questions from critics over whether those assets could be one reason leaders are not taking more action on the housing file.

“It’s no surprise to anyone living in Ontario that housing prices have literally gone through the roof,” said Bilal Akhtar of the pro-affordability group More Neighbours Toronto, who said large investments in the housing market could amount to a conflict of interest.

“Anyone who benefits from home price appreciation are not going to prioritize this. They are going to say, I can push this construction 10 years down the road,” he said.

MPPs in Ontario disclose that they own investment properties, but not exactly where. So CTV News Investigates had to dig into land title records and other sources to find more than 40 properties, owned by 25 MPPs in the most recent parliament.

Once we had identified the properties, HouseSigma’s machine learning and artificial intelligence came in with estimates about what the properties are worth today.

Of the properties we identified, 23 were owned by MPPs elected as PCs, 15 by NDP MPPs, and three by Liberals. The Green party confirmed that Mike Schreiner does not have an investment property.

For example, Willowdale PC Candidate Stan Cho has four investment properties. The two that we could value are worth an estimated $2.3 million today.

In Scarborough, NDP Candidate Dole Begum’s portfolio of four properties, which she shares with her extended family, rose $2.49 million since purchase to $4.41 million today.

Former Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne declared two investment properties, which have more than doubled in value since purchase, to $1.5 million.

Former PC MPP Roman Baber — who was removed from caucus in 2021 over his opinion on COVID-19 lockdowns — appeared to have the largest portfolio, with three homes valued together at $5.21 million, a surge of about $2 million since he purchased them.

Many of these properties are over and above any properties they own as their residence, as a recreational property, or as a property they use to live in Toronto during legislative sessions.

Of the properties bought in the past 10 years, prices have jumped about 77 per cent — a windfall of about $4.7 million on paper.

That’s a figure that has some Ontarians wondering about the impact that amount of money has on our legislators making decisions.

“If you are someone who makes money off the housing market in a direct way, you have a very clear conflict of interest,” said Marguerita Kaliazina, speaking on Danforth Avenue in Toronto.

Reached at a press conference in Hamilton, PC Leader Doug Ford — running to keep his job as premier — said his government had acted to rein in prices.

“I don’t think we’re slow. To the contrary,” he said, pointing to housing starts figures he argued shows there was an increase in housing supply. “Our goal is to cut through the red tape and work collaboratively with municipalities because they’re the ones issuing the permits.”

Ontario’s Housing Affordability Task Force found that house prices have almost tripled in the past 10 years, growing much faster than incomes.

“Housing has become too expensive for rental units and it has become too expensive in rural communities and small towns. The system is not working as it should,” the authors wrote, making recommendations including building 1.5 million homes in 10 years to keep up.

Ford has embraced the 1.5 million homes figure, but has balked at other recommendations of the task force, including adding density in cities and ending exclusionary zoning, which Akhtar said had been left out of legislation introduced in March.

“What they all seem to be lacking is understanding the severity of this crisis and the urgency,” Akhtar said.

The Ontario Real Estate Association, which represents realtors in Ontario, called on all parties to make sure future generations have a chance to own a home, including measures to double the land transfer tax rebate for first time buyers, end exclusionary zoning, and getting dirty money out of Ontario real estate.

“You tended to think that if you played by the rules you could afford a home in the neighbourhood you grew up in,” said OREA CEO Tim Hudak in an interview. “That’s not the case any more.”

Ontario’s NDP have also embraced the goal of 1.5 million new homes, saying in their platform they would end exclusionary zoning and increase the supply of affordable housing in pedestrian and transit-friendly neighbourhoods.

The Ontario Liberals also point to the 1.5 million new homes in their platform, saying they will create an Ontario Home Building Corporation, and allow homes with up to three units and two stories to be built as-of-right across Ontario, including secondary and laneway suites.

While investment properties are one way of measuring wealth owned by MPPs, homes themselves store immense wealth: an an example, records show both Liberal and PC candidates running against Doly Begum in Scarborough Southwest appear to own homes worth in the neighbourhood of $2 million. 

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Al Gore's Investment Firm Unveils $1.7 Billion Sustainable Fund – BNN

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(Bloomberg) — Generation Investment Management, the $36 billion investment firm co-founded by Al Gore, launched a new fund targeting companies that contribute to lower emissions, increased financial inclusion and more accessible healthcare. The $1.7 billion Sustainable Solutions Fund IV will allow Generation to invest in growing companies that “are shifting industries toward sustainability and responsible innovation at scale,” the fund manager said in a statement Wednesday. The new fund is Generation’s response to the “sustainability revolution,” which will have “the magnitude of the industrial revolution and the speed of the digital revolution,” Lila Preston, the firm’s head of growth equity, said in an interview. The asset manager has researched “all pockets of the economy” to identify where the disruption will play out and which companies will perform best, she said.Generation’s latest sustainability fund is opening in the middle of an energy crisis that’s driven fossil-fuel prices higher and left many environmental, social and governance funds underperforming their benchmarks. In the US, ESG funds are down about 15% this year, compared with a roughly 35% increase in the MSCI world index for oil, gas and consumable fuels.Co-founded in 2004 by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and and David Blood, a long-time Goldman Sachs Group Inc. executive, Generation has long shunned fossil fuels and warned that the finance industry is running out of time to shift capital away from greenhouse-gas emitters. Gore, whose 2006 documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” brought the issue of climate change to the awareness of the general public, has repeatedly warned of a “subprime carbon bubble’’ with investors caught on the wrong side of history facing significant losses.Preston said Generation’s new fund will target companies with revenues between $30 million and $300 million. All potential portfolio companies are assessed not only on the quality of their business and management, but also on their so-called system-positive contribution “to ensure they are clearly driving the transition to a more sustainable future,” Generation said.The new fund will target three key areas: planetary health, which focuses on a company’s ability to deliver net-zero carbon solutions in mobility, agriculture, energy and enterprise by cutting waste and emissions and supporting biodiversity;  “people health,” which targets companies that help deliver better, cheaper access to health care; and financial inclusion, which looks for companies that aid access to finance, help reduce inequality and support an equitable future of work.Generation said its analysis measures the “first and second-order effects of a business model on people and planet, including implications of its products, supply chain, organizational culture and broader role in society.”. In October, the firm announced that it’s teaming up with Goldman Sachs Asset Management, Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund and Harvard Management Co. to create a venture that will make investments pegged to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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