Savvy investors all around the globe are taking an ethical stand against corporations that don’t adhere to their values. So which businesses make the cut with OpenInvest clients, and which unscrupulous companies are failing in their ethical and environmental responsibilities? OpenInvest users have the opportunity to include or exclude individual companies. We’ve taken a look at which companies people are seeking out – and which companies they’re cutting.
While many finance companies, banks, oil, and gas giants neglect to put people and the earth before profits, it is often forward-thinking tech companies who are paving the way with a more socially responsible and environmentally-friendly ethos.
The ‘Hot’ List
Commendably, 96% of Apple’s energy use came from renewable energy in 2016. Its newest location, Apple Park, will be the largest LEED Platinum-certified building in North America and the tech giants intend to plant 9,000 drought-resistant trees at the site in Cupertino, CA. In the long term, Apple has made a commitment to reduce the mining of raw materials in favor of recycled materials. Meanwhile, Apple is scaling back the use of toxic substances and lowering customer energy consumption with its Nest Learning Thermostat, which can reduce heat use by 10-12% and air conditioning by 15%.
Like Apple, Amazon has committed to sustainability and clean energy. To date, the company has launched 18 wind and solar projects across the US, with at least 35 more in the pipeline. Ultimately, these projects will generate enough clean energy to power more than 330,000 homes a year. The company’s long-term goal is to power its global infrastructure using 100% renewable energy. Amazon’s Seattle headquarters features green roofs that filter rainwater and reduce cooling loads, while six other Amazon buildings have LEED Gold certification for sustainable design and construction.
Technology and manufacturing company Tesla says it is determined to create sustainable energy products so compelling there will be no alternative. As well as reducing CO2 worldwide with its sleek, electric cars, Tesla is making its mark with solar energy, creating understated roofing to convert sunlight into electricity, integrated with battery storage. Tesla also prides itself on integrity and fairness, vowing to ensure social and environmental responsibility and ethical conduct throughout the supply chain.
Google prides itself on its efforts to advance equity and inclusion with the company’s grant funding currently focused on supporting organizations addressing racial bias and inequity in the US. The company has made a five-year commitment to award $1 billion in grants and enable 1 million employee volunteer hours. While Google is not perfect and has recently faced pressure from investors over gender and diversity, they have vowed to continue to develop products and programs that create an opportunity for everyone.
Tesla and Google have both faced criticism recently: the former for accusations of interfering with unions; the latter for taking a censored version of their Search feature to China. As public opinion swings, activist investors could start divesting from the tech giants and begin to force change in them.
The ‘Not’ List
Monsanto’s potent weed killer Roundup is widely believed to have harmed insect populations, especially butterflies and bees, as it destroys the native habitat of pollinators. The company, which once supplied Agent Orange, a chemical linked to birth defects and cancer, to the US military during the Vietnam War, is also facing liability lawsuits after allegations that the herbicide in Roundup can cause a form of cancer. Never far from controversy, Monsanto has also been accused of bullying and bankrupting farmers to prevent them from savings seeds that were genetically modified to resist Roundup.
Last year, a Harvard study concluded that ExxonMobil misled the public about climate change. An investigation of the company’s research and public statements uncovered a stark difference between what the oil company knew about the human-made effects of climate change and what it informed the public. ExxonMobil has faced a legal backlash from former employees who say the value of shares they acquired are now in jeopardy due to the deception. Furthermore, in May last year, almost two-thirds of ExxonMobil’s shareholders told corporate executives to adhere to the Paris Climate Agreement, regardless of what the Trump administration decided – and ExxonMobil has all but ignored these demands.
Oil corporation Halliburton has received much negative publicity for its unethical business operations. From accusations of overcharging the US army for food, oil supplies, and waste-management during the Iraq war1 to continuing business with countries that were prohibited from trade by the government,2 the company is generally viewed as unscrupulous by impact investors.
Bank of America
From 2015 to 2017, Bank Of America financed the fossil fuel industry to the tune of $3.12 billion. This included tar sands oil, Arctic oil, ultra-deepwater oil, liquified natural gas export, coal mining, and coal-fired power. During the financial crisis of 2008, the bank received one of the largest federal bailouts and subsequently had to pay billions of dollars in lawsuits relating to defective mortgages and misleading investors.3
Until recently, Bank of America was also loaning money to the gun manufacturers that make AR-15-style rifles. But fortunately, thanks to pressure from activists, they’ve stopped. Wouldn’t it be great to turn all of these not companies into hot companies?