At the 2006 Skoll World Forum
, Al Gore and David Blood, Generation Investment Management
, shared their ambitious goal.
Here's a video of that session:
This recent McKinsey article, Investing in sustainability: An interview with Al Gore and David Blood
, offers an update and some light Q & A ...
.... executives around the world increasingly recognize that the creation of long-term shareholder value depends on a corporation’s ability to understand and respond to increasingly intense demands from society. No surprise, then, that the topic of socially responsible investing has been gaining ground as investors seek to incorporate concepts like sustainability and responsible corporate behavior into their assessments of a company’s long-term value.
Yet socially responsible investing has always been an awkward science. Early approaches simplistically screened out “sin sectors” such as tobacco. Subsequent evolutions tilted toward rewarding good performers, largely in the extraction industries, on the basis of often fuzzy criteria promulgated by the corporate social-responsibility movement. These early approaches tended to force an unacceptable trade-off between social criteria and investment returns.
Three years ago, former US Vice President Al Gore and David Blood, previously the head of Goldman Sachs Asset Management, set out to put sustainability investing firmly in the mainstream of equity analysis. Their firm, Generation Investment Management, engages in primary research that integrates sustainability with fundamental equity analysis. Based in London and Washington, DC, Generation has 23 employees, 12 of them investment professionals, and a single portfolio invested, at any given time, in 30 to 50 publicly listed global companies.
- What do you mean by the term “sustainability,” and how does it influence your investment philosophy?
David Blood: Sustainability investing is the explicit recognition that social, economic, environmental, and ethical factors directly affect business strategy—for example, how companies attract and retain employees, how they manage the risks and create opportunities from climate change, a company’s culture, corporate-governance standards, stakeholder-engagement strategies, philanthropy, reputation, and brand management. These factors are particularly important today given the widening of societal expectations of corporate responsibility.
Al Gore: When, several years ago, David and I were separately looking for ways to integrate sustainability into investing, mutual friends told each of us of the other’s search. We discovered immediately that we had a common goal, and that led to a series of meetings and a friendship and, ultimately, to a decision to form a partnership. We researched the history of sustainable investing under its various names and decided to start a new partnership in order to design it, from the ground up, according to the architecture that we believed was essential to address the challenges in the investment-management industry.
- What principles drive your approach?
David Blood: The first principle, categorically, is that it is best practice to take a long-term approach to investing. We think that the focus on “short termism” in the marketplace is detrimental to economies, detrimental to value creation, detrimental to capital markets, and a bad investment strategy. It’s common corporate-finance knowledge that something on the order of 60 to 80 percent of the value of a business lies in its long-term cash flows. And if you’re investing with a short-term horizon you’re giving up the value creation of a business.
The second principle is that the context of business is clearly changing. We are now confronting the limits of our ecological system, and at the same time societal expectations of business are widening. On top of that, multinational businesses are oftentimes better positioned than governments to deal with some of the most complicated global challenges, such as climate change, HIV/AIDS, water scarcity, and poverty. Technology and communications have changed, and we’ve reached a point where civil society is now demanding a response from business.
Interested in learning more about social enterprise? Take a browse through the Vancouver Social Enterprise Book Store (Vancouver | United Kingdom | United States) and see what other social entrepreneurs recommend reading.
Labels: Blood, Generation IM, Gore, McKinsey, Skoll, TBL