I’d like to share a piece written by Marco Trbovich from Tricom Associates, Inc. on the Responsible Investment Forum I attended on February 22nd in Atlanta, GA in conjunction with the BlueGreen Alliance’s Good Jobs Green Jobs Southern Regional Conference. This forum was put together by Thomas Croft from Heartland Capital Strategies and author of Up From Wall Street (definitely a must read). Also special thanks to the Emerald Cities Collaborative and Emerald Cities Atlanta in coordinating the days events. Overall I found it an invaluable experience, and I am looking forward to continuing the discussion as these forums move on to Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Detroit.
This piece originally appeared on Heartland Capital Strategies, and has since been reposted by the AFL-CIO, Huffington Post, and others with the title: Atlanta Mayor Joins Heartland Forum to Urge Investments in Sustainable Economy. Many thanks to Marco Trbovich, Vice President of Strategic Communications for Tricom Associates for writing this up. Give it a read, and give some thought about how the investments you are making for your future might be able to be put to better use.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed led a presentation on his city’s initiative to retrofit a wide range of commercial, public and residential buildings in a 400-block area of downtown that proved the highlight of a gathering of investors, pension fund managers, business, labor and community leaders at Heartland Capital Strategies’ first Responsible Investment Forum.
The forum, sponsored in collaboration with the Blue Green Alliance, addressed the need for greater alternative investments to sustain the real economy, an investment arena largely abandoned by Wall Street.
In contrast, the responsible investment specialists attending the forum were characterized by Heartland Managing Director Thomas Croft as “a community interested in forging a new alternative path for responsible investment in manufacturing, community development and clean economy growth,” an approach that Heartland brands as “doing well by doing good.”
Mayor Reed urged forum attendees to consider investing in the Better Buildings Challenge, the city’s retrofitting initiative to create a more sustainable economy, improved air and water quality and job growth.
“Capital goes where it is needed and stays where it is well cared for,” he told the gathering. Aided by staff of the Better Buildings Challenge and the Emerald Cities Collaborative, the Mayor provided a comprehensive presentation on how investments in the project would be managed to minimize risk.
Many of the participants in Heartland’s one-day forum committed to further conversations to discuss possible investments in the Atlanta project, which hopes to put many of city’s 57,000 unemployed union tradesmen to work in the massive undertaking.
Financing a Sustainable Economy
The Atlanta forum was the first of four being sponsored by Heartland Capital Strategies in conjunction with the Blue Green Alliance’s Good Jobs, Green Jobs regional conferences. Inspired by the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), Heartland promotes investments and projects essential for revitalizing America’s productive economy and community prosperity.
Heartland’s commitment to responsible investment is based on the United Nations ESG principles, which call for investors’ attention to environmental concerns, social well being, including respect for labor rights, and the character of corporate governance, as well in addition to rates of return.
Throughout the day, forum presenters shared innovative ideas on how responsible pension investors and fund managers could maintain high rates of return while directing alternative investments toward domestic job creation in energy, manufacturing, housing and infrastructure, clear social benefits that derive from responsible investment.
Craig Overmyer, Managing Director of Hopewell Ventures, cited the complex challenges facing efforts to fund innovative alternative investments that stimulate job growth. He characterized sustainability as creating “an eco-system that keeps going,” which requires the considerable task of identifying gaps in the market and finding solutions for that gap.
“You have to identify a problem and the constituents so that you cover all your bases before the decision on the investment arises. You have to match returns of competitors and then you must lead by finding other constituent leaders” willing to advocate for ESG principles. To overcome the fits and starts in regulatory and tax policy that hinder alternative investment, he added, “We need a national energy policy to establish continuity and consistency in policy and regulation.”
Jennifer von Bismarck, President of Towpath Renewables added that the current U.S. map of states with Renewable Portfolio Standards “looks like 29 different countries,” which she said made it especially difficult for investors and pension funds in particular to assess ROI and long-term viability.
Ups and Downs of Investing Responsibly
Landon Butler, who founded the $5 billion Multi-Employer Property Trust (MEPT) in 1982, offered a compelling overview of the explosive growth in construction investment trusts, financed by construction union pensions, since passage of the 1968 Fair Housing Act.