Are Homebuilders socially responsible?

Homebuilders such as Toll Brothers say that investors don’t care whether or not they’re being socially responsible. However, several are moving in the direction of responsible corporations and CSR.
I think SRI investors should consider these companies especially those that are manufacturing homes that are green-friendly and with renewable resources.

Are Glassdoor reviews correlated with strong corporate performance?

Glassdoor, one of my favorite tools in SRI/Impact Investing, has announced it will be taken over by Recruit Holdings for $1.2Bn.    Recruit Holdings, thankfully, has said it will maintain Glassdoor (a California company founded 10 years ago) as an independent entity.  It will utilize Glassdoor’s tool in its recruiting work (which is headquartered in Japan).

The Glassdoor story reminded me that it is such a powerful tool not only for job-hunting (as mentioned above) but to notice happy employees and their relationships with their employers.  This is a key tool I use to detect employee satisfaction.  I examine the company rating (1 worst through 5 Best) as well as a historical evolution and trends.  Many of our readers are familiar with Glassdoor so I will leave it up to you to get to know their offerings.  The key takeaway you should know is that reviews cannot be deleted.  Sure, some companies arm-twist new employees to post rosy reviews, but historical reviews are not deleted.

Other important rating measures includes the percentage of reviewers that approve of their CEO and the percentage that would recommend their employer to a friend.  Companies with ratings of 4.0 (out of 5.0) and 80% and greater CEO approval have been noted to have stronger financial performance as well as better governance.

It follows that stronger company performance should be at least indirectly tied to share price out-performance for those companies that are publicly-traded.  There haven’t been many studies in this area other than a recent study out of a UK business school.  Now that Glassdoor’s historical data is nearing the 10 year mark, it would be interesting if someone performed a global analysis of stock price performance versus Glassdoor ratings.   Another idea would be to examine the performance of IPO (initial public offerings) based on their Glassdoor ratings as the company has many privately owned firms in its database.  As a side-note, Glassdoor itself was talking to bankers recently about its own IPO before being swooped up.

Last month Snap (the Snapchat app for teenagers) share price plunged over 20% in one day after releasing earnings and metrics that shows the company may be losing control of its business (Elon Musk take note ! )  If a prospective investor were to have examined Snap’s Glassdoor ratings they would have at least thought twice before pulling the trigger given its lackluster ratings (see below).

Can vegans eat this stuff ?

Now that there may be lab-grown meat, the question is whether or not Vegans will feel compelled to eat such a product . The lab-grown meat would still be as if one were actually eating real animal meat.

Co-Founder, Co-Editor & Journalist – LIVEKINDLY
Memphis Meats, an alternative meat startup, has recently finished a round of fundraising and they gained support from some big names. Major meat packer, Cargill was one of the contributors to the $17 million that the company obtained. Alongside Cargill, Bill Gates and Richard Branson also chose to invest in the company.
Memphis Meats are currently working on lab grown meats. This meat is grown in tanks from the cells of the animals that the meat traditionally comes from. These cells are then fed nutrients in order to grow muscle tissue which will then be consumed as meat. Although their product isn’t available on the market yet, they have successfully produced chicken, beef and duck.

Startups like Memphis Meats aim to solve the world’s protein problem. Currently, the earth’s population are consuming more meat than is sustainable. Animal agriculture is devastating to the environment. As the earth’s population is set to increase until 2050, and the world’s appetite for meat continues to grow, this is presenting a huge problem.
Many people have turned to a plant-based diet to tackle the issue, but for people who love the taste of meat, they can’t see this being an option. Companies Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat have both created burgers out of plants that are supposed to replicate ‘the real thing’. However, for some people Memphis Meats’ creations might be one step closer to the real thing as it is grown out of the same cells that can be found in the meat they currently buy.

Cargill’s decision to invest in Memphis Meats, and expand[ing]’ their consumers ‘protein choices, mirrors Tyson’s move to invest in Beyond Meat. This suggests that meat companies are experiencing the effects of the public’s changing opinion on meat.
Although some animal rights activists are still concerned about the ethics of lab grown meat, it could be seen as a stepping stone to reducing the harm caused to animals. If lab grown meat became popular, as big investors appear to believe it will, it could dramatically reduce the number of farms which would have a positive ethical and environmental impact.

Image credit: Flickr | Gizmodo | Impossible Foods

Paper Cups are really bad for the environment, Really?


 Image result for coffee cup

The following is a transcript of a speech given to Toastmaster’s International.  Company names have been omitted.

Doesn’t our company spend money on the stupidest things?!  Below is a press release from May 2017.
 “Following Sustainability Week and a pilot conducted in 2016, “blank-co” replaced paper cups in our 787, Jersey City, CBS and Time-Life office locations with “blank-co”-branded ceramic mugs for each employee.  This is part of the Bank’s regional commitment to reduce its environmental footprint, which is one of the four pillars of the Group’s CSR strategy, and in line with the Group’s recent announcement regarding Carbon Neutrality.”  (How’s that for a run-on sentence?)
With that bit of corporate news, I would like to have a unilateral conversation with you on the debate of using paper cups.
Love for coffee has a bigger price tag than meets the eye.  The paper cups that are used when we ‘take away’ coffee are slowly building up and polluting our environment.  Let not the word ‘paper’ fool you that it’s not as harmful as its plastic & foam counterparts.  Most paper cups are coated with a petroleum based plastic resin which makes them more durable and prevents coffee from leaking.  Further, the ink that’s printed on custom coffee cups does not bode well for our environment.
According to “BLANK CO”, “Our 4,500 U.S. “BLANK CO” staff use more than 2 million paper cups per year.”  I was astounded of that number (2 million) that we were using as an organization.  If you consider that the average employee has 10 U.S. holidays and another 5 weeks paid vacation days, then it turns out that we consume 2 paper cups/day.  I’m not sure about you, but that seems high to me.  For example, I was using about 4 cups/week or about 0.8cups/day.
Over the years, “BLANK CO” actually had a 2-part solution.  In the past (part I), “BLANK CO” had replaced paper cups with bioplastic cups.  Does everyone know what a bioplastic is?  Bioplastics are plastics made from renewable resources such as vegetable oil and corn starch.  But bioplastics too have side effects:
·     The cups got old, cracked (Earthquake), and dangerous to your health
·     And just because the cup was made of corn-based plastics, doesn’t mean that it was fully biodegradable.  Sometimes little plastics pellets remain after they’ve finished decomposing.
·     When they do degrade in a landfill, they produce Methane which is 20x more potent than carbon dioxide.  And they produce carbon dioxide too.
·     Also, think of all of the natural biodiverse forests that were destroyed to plant more corn to supply the raw materials.  This goes against the spirit of “BLANK CO”’s CSR policy on Palm Oil.
Part II.  The present-day solution, as you know, is replacing the paper cups with ceramic cups.  They’re pretty and interesting to look at.  I have one with a tree and I’m looking to add to my collection. There’re some problems and secondary effects with using ceramic cups:
·     First of all, they require a significant amount of energy to produce.  It takes 70x as much energy to produce compared to foam cups.
·     It takes significantly more energy to ship ceramic cups (as they’re so much heavier) and require more packing.
·     There is much energy (from the hot water) and use of liquid detergents each time your ceramic cup is cleaned in the sink
·     A ceramic cup must be used 118x before it breaks-even with its disposable counterpart.  Some articles say that this number could be as high as 1000x, meaning you would have to clean your cup 4 years just to break even (in terms of energy efficiency).  However, the average person works at a company less than 5.
My solution is, well, I don’t have a particular one.  What I do have are ideas.
I think it would have been better if “BLANK CO” sought ideas throughout the company in a sort of fun contest.  My solutions would have been to:
·     Simply ask people to drink less coffee (think of the hotels you go to with their towel policies)
·     Purchase paper cups that have a biodegradable lining.  Yes, they’re more expensive, but not that much more (about 20-30% more).
·     Ask employees to bring a spare ceramic cup from home
In conclusion, “BLANK CO” is honestly trying to reduce our environmental footprint.  It tried by introducing bioplastic cups years ago, and more recently, by replacing paper cups with ceramic cups.
I think the science is all over the place.  What is clear is that we live in a decadent and spoiled society and asking us to use fewer cups (of ANY kind) would be a quick win.
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