Despite the turmoil brought by COVID-19, Green Century° had another superlative year in 2020. Below are our top 10 highlights:
10. Reducing greenhouse gas (GHG)
In May, Boston-based Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Inc.* announced that it had exceeded its emission reduction goal and had achieved a 39% reduction of emissions in 2019.
Last year, Green Century withdrew a shareholder proposal with Vertex after it committed to a company-wide goal to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 35% compared to 2014 levels by the end of 2020. Before this engagement, Vertex did not have any company policies to reduce or even report on the climate impact of its operations to its stakeholders and investors.
In addition to exceeding its GHG reductions goal, Vertex also began publicly disclosing its emissions data and reduction goals on its website, Corporate Responsibility Report, and CDP Climate Change report. Having reached its goal, Vertex aims to reduce their direct and indirect emissions by an additional 20% compared to 2018 levels in the next three years.
9. Launching the Green Century Balanced Fund institutional share class
A new institutional share class of the flagship Green Century Balanced Fund is now available to investors. With this addition, all of the Green Century Funds now offer investors an individual and institutional share class.
The Green Century Balanced Fund institutional share class (GCBUX) requires a $250,000 minimum investment and offers investors an expense ratio reduction of 30-basis points.
The actively-managed Balanced Fund invests in the stocks and bonds of U.S.-based companies that are committed to sustainable solutions. Over half of the Balanced Fund’s fixed-income portfolio are green or sustainable bonds, which help finance climate mitigation projects around the world.1
8. Investors are choosing ESG and those decisions are making an impact
One out of three dollars under professional management in the U.S. is now invested with some consideration of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations, according to the 2020 US SIF Trends Report.
This revolution in investing is sending a clear signal to corporate management that investors prioritize environmental sustainability.
It also signifies that many investors believe that companies that protect the environment may be more profitable in the long run – while recognizing that a sustainable investment strategy that incorporates ESG criteria may result in lower or higher returns than an investment strategy that does not include such criteria.
When Green Century was launched in 1991, many investors were willing to sacrifice performance to invest responsibly but decades of research and performance have demonstrated that responsible investing may be advantageous.
According to a 2018 Bank of America Merrill Lynch study, for example, the stocks of companies with better environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance have higher than average three-year returns and are more likely to become high-quality. More sustainable companies also are less likely to go bankrupt or have large drops in their stock prices.
7. Research demonstrating that our approach works
With the first family of fossil fuel free, responsible, and diversified mutual funds in the U.S. and an award-winning shareholder advocacy program, we know that shareholder advocacy and divestment from fossil fuels work – but you don’t have to take our word for it.
This year, two new studies reaffirmed our approach. You can read more about them on our blog:
- Study Finds Shareholder Advocacy Improves Corporate Sustainability
- Shareholder Engagement and Divestment are Mutually Reinforcing
Both studies show that shareholder engagement can pressure companies to change their behaviors and improve ESG performance. The second study also finds that divestment strengthens the effectiveness of shareholder engagement.
6. Corporations working toward solutions
In June, I interviewed Jeffrey Eckel, the CEO of Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital.* Hannon Armstrong, a holding in the Green Century Balanced Fund, is the first publicly-traded company in the U.S. dedicated exclusively to investing in climate solutions. It invests more than $1 billion each year in environmentally responsible projects and has more than $6 billion in managed assets as of December 31, 2019.
Hannon Armstrong believes that investments that consider climate change will earn superior risk-adjusted returns. Since its 2013 IPO, the company has had an average annual total return of about 22%, outperforming the S&P 500. You can read my exchange with Eckel and learn more about Hannon Armstrong on Green Century’s blog.
In January, the Microsoft Corporation,* a holding in the Green Century Balanced Fund and Equity Fund, announced its pledge to go carbon negative by 2030 – this means that it will soon remove more carbon from the atmosphere than it emits annually. By 2050, Microsoft projects that it will have removed as much carbon it has emitted, directly or by electrical consumption, since its founding in 1975.
Apple Inc.,* another holding in the Green Century Balanced Fund, has also announced its commitment to climate solutions. Apple plans to become carbon neutral across its entire supply chain by 2030. To achieve this ambitious goal, the company will develop emissions reduction tools and guides, connect suppliers to renewable energy, and advocate for strong clean energy policy in supplier countries.
5. Protecting animal welfare and expanding plant-based protein
Green Century continues to pressure food producers to improve the treatment of their livestock and include more plant-based proteins in their array of products.
In 2020, Green Century engaged Hormel Foods* to improve its animal welfare practices. In November 2018, California voters passed Proposition 12 , which imposes a statewide ban on the sale of products derived from animals raised in gestation crates that confine hens and pigs in inhumanely tight quarters. Hormel initially opposed Prop 12, but after engagement with Green Century, the company announced that it would comply with the law.
Green Century also filed a shareholder proposal with Kraft Heinz* regarding the company’s lack of a long-term strategy to diversify its protein products. A report from the Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (FAIRR) initiative recently concluded that large scale animal agricultural operations may both contribute to risk of another pandemic and be vulnerable to its impacts. Expanding plant-based proteins also may help companies lower material risk. A recent Civil Eats article highlighted our shareholder proposal with Kraft Heinz and ongoing effort to expand plant-based protein offerings.
Green Century remains the only investor in the U.S. to file a shareholder proposal related to alternative protein, having filed the first-ever plant-based protein proposal with Tyson Foods* in 2016.
4. Making an environmental impact through Green Century’s one-of-a-kind ownership
As part of Climate Week in September, Environment America, one of our nonprofit owners and partners, hosted a webinar on how wildfires, hurricanes, and other extreme weather events underscore the need for renewable energy. They highlighted several of the initiatives that investors in the Green Century Funds have supported over the years.
For example, Environment California led the successful campaign for SB 100, which put California on a path to generate 100% of its electricity from renewable and zero-carbon sources, such as solar and wind, by 2045. In November, the governor of New Jersey signed the nation’s most comprehensive ban on disposable plastic products into law – thanks in large part to Green Century’s nonprofit owners and partners.
Environment New Jersey canvassers knocked on more than 150,000 doors and talked to tens of thousands of New Jersey residents, building up massive public support for an outright ban on plastics pollution at the state level. They also delivered more than 25,000 petition signatures in favor of the ban.
Green Century’s nonprofit owners and partners also played a central role in the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act. The law will permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which uses oil and gas revenue to expand and improve public land, with $900 million annually. It will also provide $9.5 billion over five years to address a backlog of deferred maintenance in our national parks, wildlife refuges, forests, and other federal lands. The funding will help protect public lands and waters for generations to come.
Green Century is the only mutual fund company in the U.S. wholly owned by environmental and public health nonprofit organizations. This means that 100% of the profits we earn from managing the Green Century Funds are available to support their work.
3. Fossil fuel divestment continues to gain steam
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, I was pleased to host a webinar on fossil fuel free investing with Bill McKibben, celebrated environmentalist, educator, and co-founder of 350.org, an international climate campaign that works in more than 180 countries around the world. Bill literally wrote the book on climate change. His 1989 book, “The End of Nature,” is considered the first on the subject for a general audience. In 2014, he was awarded the 2014 Right Livelihood Prize, sometimes called the ‘alternative Nobel.’
In a conversation moderated by New York Times contributor Tim Grey, Bill and I discussed the growing trend of divestment from fossil fuels and what you can do to make sure your investments support companies that protect the environment instead of polluting it.
Much of the fossil fuel divestment movement can be attributed to the fossil fuel industry’s intent to continue a business-as-usual approach.
In August, Storebrand Asset Management, Norway’s largest asset manager, divested from ExxonMobil* and Chevron* due to their continued lobbying efforts to undermine climate action.
Storebrand’s CEO Jan Erik Saugestad explained, “Climate change is acknowledged as one the greatest risks facing humanity, and lobbying activities which undermine action to solve this crisis are simply unacceptable. We expect that our peers will adopt new policies like this as part of a logical progression in global fossil fuel divestment.” We hope he’s right, and will be ecstatic to have the company!
2. Deforestation recognition and action
Green Century continues to be a global leader on deforestation. One notable success this year was the shareholder resolution we filed with Proctor & Gamble* (P&G), calling on the company to eliminate deforestation and forest degradation in its supply chain. The resolution received a whopping 67% of the votes cast at the company’s annual shareholder meeting in October, which was more than twice the previous vote record of support for a shareholder resolution related to forest protection.
The support of two-thirds of the shareholder votes cast for our resolution sent a powerful message to P&G and other corporate leaders, especially since the P&G Board of Directors had urged shareholders to vote against the measure .
Media coverage of our victory helped amplify that message. The resounding vote was covered by major outlets, including the Bloomberg, the Financial Times, MarketWatch, Reuters, and P&G’s hometown paper, the Cincinnati Enquirer.
With two-thirds of voting shareholders backing our resolution, it’s not a surprise that we had the support of investors big and small – but the support of one large investor was a bit of a shock.
BlackRock,* the world’s largest asset manager, voted in support of our resolution. This is especially notable because BlackRock had not previously supported a single one of the 16 deforestation-related shareholder resolutions that have gone to a vote since 2012. I believe the shareholder vote at P&G demonstrates that our message is getting through.
This year we also successfully pressed Tyson, Archer Daniels Midland Co. (ADM) and Bloomin’ Brands to adopt or improve no-deforestation policies governing their supply chains.
In October, Green Century released a letter, signed by 36 global investors representing more than $4.1 trillion in assets under management, in opposition to a bill that would roll back the environmental protections that have helped stem deforestation across Indonesia.
Green Century and other global investors have been working for years with companies in the palm oil industry to stop harmful practices that threaten Indonesia’s forests and peatlands. Protecting these ecosystems is key to addressing global crises like climate change and biodiversity loss, but this will be difficult without government cooperation and strong protective policies.
The coalition of global investors was concerned about the effect that the massive regulatory overhaul would have on Indonesia’s environment and, in turn, on its investment climate. Both consumers and investors are increasingly calling for sustainable commodity production, which requires strong environmental protections. Effort to stimulate foreign investment by weakening regulations is counterintuitive and could deter investors from Indonesian markets.
1. Our investors
Our number one highlight of 2020 is the support of our investors. None of our work would be possible without you.
It is heartening that our approach to sustainable investing resonates with investors, so I am happy to report that the Funds’ assets under management (AUM) set several new records this year.
As of November 30, 2020, the Green Century Funds had more than $860 million in AUM. Since 2012, the Funds have seen an incredible 748% growth.
Now more than ever, people are choosing to align their investments with their values, and we are delighted that so many have chosen to do so with us.
°Green Century Capital Management (Green Century) is the investment advisor to the Green Century Funds.
1As of December 31, 2020, green and sustainable bonds comprised 53.50% of the total bonds held in the Green Century Balanced Fund.
*As of December 31, 2020, Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Inc. comprised 0.00%, 0.36%, 0.00%; Hannon Armstrong comprised 1.10%, 0.00%, 0.00%; Microsoft Corporation comprised 3.33%, 9.37%, and 0.00%; Apple, Inc. comprised 5.56%, 0.00%, and 0.00%; Hormel Foods comprised 0.00%, 0.08%, 0.00%; the Kraft Heinz Company comprised 0.00%, 0.14%, 0.00%; the Procter & Gamble Company comprised 0.68%, 2.03%, 0.00%; and BlackRock comprised 0.00%, 0.64%, and 0.00% of the Green Century Balanced Fund, the Green Century Equity Fund, and the Green Century MSCI International Index Fund, respectively. Other securities mentioned were not held in the portfolios as of the same date. References to specific securities, which will change due to ongoing management of the Funds, should not be construed as a recommendation by the Funds, their administrator, or the distributor.
You should carefully consider the Funds’ investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses before investing. To obtain a Prospectus that contains this and other information about the Funds, please for more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-934-7336. Please read the Prospectus carefully before investing.
Stocks will fluctuate in response to factors that may affect a single company, industry, sector, country, region or the market as a whole and may perform worse than the market. Foreign securities are subject to additional risks such as currency fluctuations, regional economic or political conditions, differences in accounting methods, and other unique risks compared to investing in securities of U.S. issuers. Bonds are subject to risks including interest rate, credit, and inflation. A sustainable investment strategy which incorporates environmental, social and governance criteria may result in lower or higher returns than an investment strategy that does not include such criteria.
This information has been prepared from sources believed to be reliable. The views expressed are as of the date of this writing and are those of the Advisor to the Funds.
The MSCI World ex USA Index is a custom index calculated by MSCI Inc. The MSCI World ex USA Index includes large and mid-cap stocks across 22 of 23 Developed Markets (DM) countries and excludes the United States. With 1,023 constituents, the index covers approximately 85% of the free float-adjusted market capitalization in each country. The MSCI World ex USA Index is a free float-adjusted market capitalization index. It is not possible to invest directly in the MSCI World ex USA Index.
The MSCI World ex USA SRI ex Fossil Fuels Index (the World ex USA SRI ex Fossil Fuels Index or the Index) is a custom index calculated by MSCI Inc. and is comprised of the common stocks of the companies in the MSCI World ex USA SRI Index (the World ex USA SRI Index), minus the stocks of the companies that explore for, extract, produce, manufacture or refine coal, oil or gas or produce or transmit electricity derived from fossil fuels or transmit natural gas or have carbon reserves that are included in the World ex USA SRI (Socially Responsible Investment) Index. The World ex USA SRI Index includes large and mid-cap stocks from approximately 22 developed markets countries (excluding the U.S.). The World ex USA SRI Index is a capitalization weighted index that provides exposure to companies that have positive Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) ratings and excludes companies whose products have negative social or environmental impacts. It is not possible to invest directly in an index.
The Green Century MSCI International Index Fund (the “Fund”) is not sponsored, endorsed, or promoted by MSCI, its affiliates, information providers or any other third party involved in, or related to, compiling, computing or creating the MSCI indices (the “MSCI Parties”), and the MSCI Parties bear no liability with respect to the Fund or any index on which the Fund is based. The MSCI Parties are not sponsors of the Fund and are not affiliated with the Fund in any way. The Statement of Additional Information contains a more detailed description of the limited relationship the MSCI Parties have with Green Century Capital Management and the Fund.
The Green Century Funds are distributed by UMB Distribution Services, LLC. 235 W Galena Street, Milwaukee, WI 53212. 2/21