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UNDP: From Fragmentation to Integration: Embedding Social Issues in Sustainable Finance

The paper -- "From Fragmentation to Integration: Embedding Social Issues in Sustainable Finance" -- aims to generate momentum within the financial system to tackle inequality and improve a common understanding of the social impacts of a market-based economy. Drawing insights from the climate agenda, it sheds light on how to catalyze action at the policy and regulatory levels through existing sustainable finance initiatives. Based on the collective expertise of several institutions and a global consultation, the paper provides key recommendations for governments, regulators, and financial institutions to: support research on the systemic risk of socio-economic inequality for financial stability; adopt and improve social disclosure standards and risk management tools; and rethink the macroeconomic determinants of sustainable finance.

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Forum for the Future: Finance: an agent of change?

Forum for the Future, a non-profit that works in partnership with business, government, and civil society to accelerate the shift toward a sustainable future, published an exciting new report that builds on much of PDI’s work reimagining the way the financial system addresses systemic risks. The authors of “Finance: an agent of change?” specifically call out the potential of system-level investing and highlight how “The Predistribution Initiative and Responsible Asset Allocator Initiative are together convening investors to explore how to strengthen alignment between investment and stewardship teams, and how to integrate external data on externalities into investment analysis and decision making, at a systems level.” PDI is also lauded for its work with The Investment Integration Project (TIIP) and others to support institutional investors in implementation of system-level investing practices through adjustments to investment governance policies and procedures. TIFD is also highlighted as an example of emerging "research and tools... for those seeking to take a more systemic approach to confronting the impacts on inequality of their portfolio construction and asset allocation decisions." Worth a read for anyone interested in learning more about systems change in the financial sector!

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Why Do We Need Regenerative Investment Structures?

A Company’s Ability to Operate Responsibly Can be Supported or Inhibited by Capital Structures, Time Horizons, and Ticket Sizes It can be difficult for companies to have positive impacts and avoid unintended negative consequences (risks) if those companies aren’t backed by supportive investment structures.

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Fifty By Fifty: Delilah Rothenberg: A step in the right direction, but only one piece of the puzzle

Karen Kahn and Marjorie Kelly spoke with Delilah Rothenberg, co-founder and executive director of the Predistribution Initiative, about the ways in which the private equity model drives inequality. Delilah Rothenberg has been interested in Pete Stavros’ model for sharing equity with all workers for some time. A few years ago, when she first heard about it, she looked at KKR’s 2017 sustainability report, where KKR talked about several portfolio companies where they had distributed shares more broadly. When she did the math, she found workers were receiving equity grants averaging about $25,000 while KKR’s general partners were taking home more than $100 million each in annual compensation.

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The Imperative to Account for Externalities: Why We Must Bridge the Gap Between Non-Financial and Financial

As the world emerges from the pandemic with high inflation, vast inequalities, and rising oil and gas prices, it seems timely to ask how much we can expect of investors and businesses in our current system. While individual investors — people and firms — are taking on climate change and other systemic risks like inequality and biodiversity loss, they are doing so in a system where the odds are stacked against them. The very nature of the system resists change in ways that non-financial disclosure and policy and regulation alone cannot solve. Financial decisions are based on financial analysis, and the current system lacks a mode for accounting for externalities in the calculation of returns. In our current economic system, companies and asset managers are expected to maximize their financial return to investors.

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Is there a Role for Institutional Investors in Addressing the Affordable Housing Crisis?

The Predistribution Initiative (PDI) is focused on ESG implications of investment structures and practices. There is growing concern that as institutional investors migrate up the risk-return spectrum for yield and allocate more to residential real estate (RE), they are driving up valuations and competing with potential individual homeowners, thereby exacerbating the affordable housing crisis. Institutional investors are typically not intentionally causing harm and likely want to avoid these negative impacts, so are there more regenerative investment structures that they can allocate to with exposure to residential RE and risk-adjusted returns?

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Climate Solutions Require Supportive Investment Structures

A recent article by Nathaniel Bullard on Bloomberg.com noted that heady valuations and investor fear of missing out, coupled with the need to fund planetary-scale innovation has provided a tailwind for climate tech. As Bullard alluded to at the end of his post, despite the positive headlines, high return expectations typical of venture capital and private equity investors could compromise portfolio companies’ abilities to effectively deliver strong results, both in terms of financial performance and positive impacts. Moreover, so many investors competing for the same investment opportunities with high-return potential can drive up valuations — some companies may end up overvalued, while other well-deserving companies who have slower growth trajectories may see no capital at all.

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A Huge Amount of Corporate Debt Might Not Be Ok for Society and Investors

Should we worry that non-financial corporate debt is at a historic high (both in absolute terms and relative to GDP)? Though in theory financial vulnerabilities should be of concern, there are reasons to think that alarm bells may not be ringing quite yet. In a recent opinion brief, Robert Armstrong has recently looked at this issue, and come out not “terribly inclined” to put corporate debt on his list of pressing worries. As a starting point, consider that non-financial corporate debt is low relative to the market value of corporate equities. Hans Mikkelsen, credit strategist with Bank of America, has highlighted that the ratio is currently at 25%, at the low end of the historical range. This leads him to some comfort that leverage ratios are not concerning given that “U.S. corporate bond investors have never been backed by more equity value”. Of course, this might simply indicate that stock prices have risen faster than levels of debt, which is, as Armstrong points out, hardly reassuring.

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Thomson Reuters Foundation News: Why the SEC should consider corporate and investor ESG disclosures

The narrow focus on corporate disclosures can result in an oversight of important activities since investment strategies can shift the risk to workers and lead to the deterioration of affordable goods and services writes Delilah Rothenberg.

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Responsible Investor: The state of ESG 2.0: from incremental to systemic change

A new report translates the difficult questions we have on sustainability into suggested investment changes […] “Predistribution Initiative’s ESG 2.0: Measuring & Managing Investor Risks Beyond the Enterprise-level tackles these systemic issues head on, providing a detailed analysis of problematic investment trends in recent years. The paper highlights the inherent contradictions of more ‘traditional’ ESG approaches to sustainable investing, applied commonly at the underlying enterprise or asset level, and the structural impact of asset allocation decisions at the level of the financial institution itself, particularly in relation to global economic inequality, increasingly recognised as posing systematic risk.”

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ESG 2.0: Measuring & Managing Investor Risks Beyond the Enterprise Level

Do environmental, social, and governance (ESG) and impact investing practices in their current forms provide investors with sufficient tools to play a meaningful role in “Building Back Better” following the COVID-19 crisis? Many investors, including those who identify as “Universal Owners,” often seek to manage ESG risk and opportunity through corporate governance interventions. However, certain investment structures can also have negative impacts relating to ESG goals and management of systematic risk. Furthermore, they can undermine the positive impacts sought by investors at the portfolio company-level.

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Responsible Investor: Why jobs, taxes and competition should be the focus of ESG investors

ESG funds’ bias against workers is unintentional, but it is a feature rather than a bug […] A new paper by The Predistribution Initiative, ESG 2.0: Measuring & Managing Investor Risks Beyond the Enterprise-level, foregrounds potential negative impacts from capital structures themselves, not just portfolio companies.

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