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Morningstar Introduces Industry’s First Sustainability Rating for 20,000 Funds Globally

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To help investors evaluate funds based on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors, Morningstar, Inc. (NASDAQ: MORN), a leading provider of independent investment research, today introduced the Morningstar Sustainability RatingTM for funds. The new rating will enable investors around the world to evaluate mutual funds and exchange-traded funds based on how well the companies held in their funds are managing their ESG risks and opportunities.

Morningstar is rolling out the ratings and related ESG metrics today for approximately 20,000 funds globally in Morningstar DirectSM, the company’s research platform for asset managers and wealth management professionals, and Morningstar OfficeSM, the company’s practice management system for independent financial advisors. In the coming weeks, Morningstar will launch the ratings on other platforms, including Morningstar® Advisor WorkstationSM, Morningstar.com®, and other websites around the world.

In support of Morningstar’s sustainable investing initiative, Steven Smit, CEO of Morningstar Benelux, has been named head of sustainability and will be responsible for leading the company’s initiative to bring the new ratings and metrics to investors globally. Jon Hale, Ph.D., CFA, former head of manager research for North America, has been named head of sustainability research.

“Given the widespread and growing interest in sustainable investing around the world, investors need better tools to help them determine whether the funds they own or are considering adding to their portfolios reflect best sustainability practices,” Smit said. “Our Sustainability Rating and related metrics will provide investors with an ESG lens they can use to evaluate funds and, eventually, other managed products. Creating more insight into sustainability investing is a passion of mine and many others at Morningstar. This initiative will help us better serve investors who place particular importance on incorporating ESG factors into their investment decisions.”

The Morningstar Sustainability Rating helps investors gauge how well the companies held in a fund are managing the ESG issues most relevant to their industries and compare funds with one another, across Morningstar Categories, and to benchmarks. Morningstar calculates the rating based on the underlying fund holdings and company-level ESG research and ratings from Sustainalytics, a leading independent provider of ESG and corporate governance ratings and research.

“Many investors are interested in sustainable investing but unsure how to put it into practice,” Hale said. “Our new rating makes it easier to compare funds based on their ESG attributes. In that way, investors can better determine how to incorporate sustainable investing into their portfolios, or assess the extent to which their fund investments are upholding best sustainability practices.”

Hale added, “Some firms say that they invest according to sustainability principles, but it’s been hard to verify. Now investors can draw their own conclusions, using an independent, robust check of that claim that’s based on comprehensive analysis of a fund’s holdings.”

The Morningstar Sustainability Rating calculation is a two-step process. First, each fund with at least 50 percent of assets covered by a company-level ESG score from Sustainalytics receives a Morningstar® Portfolio Sustainability ScoreTM. The Portfolio Sustainability Score is an asset-weighted average of normalized company-level ESG scores with deductions made for companies involved in controversial incidents, such as environmental accidents, fraud, or discriminatory behavior. The Morningstar Sustainability Rating is the Portfolio Sustainability Score relative to at least 10 category peers, assigned in a bell curve distribution. Funds receive Sustainability Ratings described as Low, Below Average, Average, Above Average, and High, and depicted by globe icons where Low equals 1 globe and High equals 5 globes. Morningstar assigns ratings to all funds that have more than half of their underlying assets rated by Sustainalytics, not just funds with explicit sustainable or responsible investment mandates. Of the approximately 20,000 funds with Morningstar Sustainability Ratings, 10 percent received 5 globes, 22.5 percent received 4 globes, 35 percent received 3 globes, 22.5 percent received 2 globes, and 10 percent received 1 globe. Morningstar will update Portfolio Sustainability Scores when it receives new fund holdings data and will base them on the latest company scores from Sustainalytics. Morningstar will update the Sustainability Rating each month using the most recent Portfolio Sustainability Scores.

Morningstar’s initial analysis of the ratings reveals that funds with explicit sustainable or responsible mandates are generally practicing what they preach. Nearly two out of three such funds received the highest ratings, more than double the percentage of funds with Sustainability Ratings overall. It’s important to note that funds with explicit sustainable or responsible investment mandates comprise only about 2 percent of the fund universe.

Morningstar Direct and Morningstar Office users can screen for the Sustainability Rating for funds along with other ESG metrics, such as separate Environmental, Social, and Governance scores. In the future, Morningstar plans to expand the number and types of investments that receive Sustainability Ratings as well as add additional sustainable investing analytics and research.

For more information about Morningstar’s Sustainability Rating, including frequently asked questions and definitions, articles about sustainable investing, and the rating methodology, please visit the press kit and website.

Morningstar will hold a webinar to discuss the Sustainability Rating and Morningstar’s approach to sustainable investing at 9 a.m. CT/4 p.m. CET on Tuesday, March 1, 2016. Click here to register. Follow the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #MstarESG.

Energy

Responsible Energy Investments Could Solve Retirement Funding Crisis

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Energy Investments
Shutterstock / By Sergey Nivens | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/nivens

Retiring baby-boomers are facing a retirement cliff, at the same time as mother nature unleashes her fury with devastating storms tied to the impact of global warming. There could be a unique solution to the challenges associated with climate change – investments in clean energy from retirement funds.

Financial savings play a very important role in everyone’s life and one must start planning for it as soon as possible. It’s shocking how quickly seniors can burn through their nest egg – leaving many wondering, “How long will my retirement savings last?”

Let’s take a closer look at how seniors can take baby steps on the path to retiring with dignity, while helping to clean up our environment.

Tip #1: Focus & Determination

Like in other work, it is very important to focus and be determined. If retirement is around the corner, then make sure to start putting some money away for retirement. No one can ever achieve anything without dedication and focus – whether it’s saving the planet, or saving for retirement.

Tip #2: Minimize Spending

One of the most important things that you need to do is to minimize your expenditures. Reducing consumption is good for the planet too!

Tip #3: Visualize Your Goal

You can achieve more if you have a clearly defined goal in life. This about how your money can be used to better the planet – imagine cleaner air, water and a healthier environment to leave to your grandchildren.

Investing in Clean Energy

One of the hottest and most popular industries for investment today is the energy market – the trading of energy commodities. Clean energy commodities are traded alongside dirty energy supplies. You might be surprised to learn that clean energy is becoming much more competitive.

With green biz becoming more popular, it is quickly becoming a powerful tool for diversified retirement investing.

The Future of Green Biz

As far as the future is concerned, energy businesses are going to continue getting bigger and better. There are many leading energy companies in the market that already have very high stock prices, yet people are continuing to investing in them.

Green initiatives are impacting every industry. Go Green campaigns are a PR staple of every modern brand. For the energy-sector in the US, solar energy investments are considered to be the most accessible form of clean energy investment. Though investing in any energy business comes with some risks, the demand for energy isn’t going anywhere.

In conclusion, if you want to start saving for your retirement, then clean energy stocks and commodity trading are some of the best options for wallets and the planet. Investing in clean energy products, like solar power, is a more long-term investment. It’s quite stable and comes with a significant profit margin. And it’s amazing for the planet!

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Energy

What Should We Make of The Clean Growth Strategy?

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Clean Growth Strategy for green energy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By sdecoret | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/sdecoret

It was hardly surprising the Clean Growth Strategy (CGS) was much anticipated by industry and environmentalists. After all, its publication was pushed back a couple of times. But with the document now in the public domain, and the Government having run a consultation on its content, what ultimately should we make of what’s perhaps one of the most important publications to come out of the Department for Business, Energy and the Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in the past 12 months?

The starting point, inevitably, is to decide what the document is and isn’t. It is, certainly, a lengthy and considered direction-setter – not just for the Government, but for business and industry, and indeed for consumers. While much of the content was favourably received in terms of highlighting ways to ensure clean growth, critics – not unjustifiably – suggested it was long on pages but short on detailed and finite policy commitments, accompanied by clear timeframes for action.

A Strategy, Instead of a Plan

But should we really be surprised? The answer, in all honesty, is probably not really. BEIS ministers had made no secret of the fact they would be publishing a ‘strategy’ as opposed to a ‘plan,’ and that gave every indication the CGS would set a direction of travel and be largely aspirational. The Government had consulted on its content, and will likely respond to the consultation during the course of 2018. And that’s when we might see more defined policy commitments and timeframes from action.

The second criticism one might level at the CGS is that indicated the use of ‘flexibilities’ to achieve targets set in the carbon budgets – essentially using past results to offset more recent failings to keep pace with emissions targets. Claire Perry has since appeared in front of the BEIS Select Committee and insisted she would be personally disappointed if the UK used flexibilities to fill the shortfall in meeting the fourth and fifth carbon budgets, but this is difficult ground for the Government. The Committee on Climate Change was critical of the proposed use of efficiencies, which would somewhat undermine ministers’ good intentions and commitment to clean growth – particularly set against November’s Budget, in which the Chancellor maintained the current carbon price floor (potentially giving a reprieve to coal) and introduced tax changes favourable to North Sea oil producers.

A 12 Month Green Energy Initiative with Real Teeth

But, there is much to appreciate and commend about the CGS. It fits into a 12-month narrative for BEIS ministers, in which they have clearly shown a commitment to clean growth, improving energy efficiency and cutting carbon emissions. Those 12 months have seen the launch of the Industrial Strategy – firstly in Green Paper form, which led to the launch of the Faraday Challenge, and then a White Paper in which clean growth was considered a ‘grand challenge’ for government. Throughout these publications – and indeed again with the CGS – the Government has shown itself to be an advocate of smart systems and demand response, including the development of battery technology.

Electrical Storage Development at Center of Broader Green Energy Push

While the Faraday Challenge is primarily focused on the development of batteries to support the proliferation of electric vehicles (which will support cuts to carbon emissions), it will also drive down technology costs, supporting the deployment of small and utility-scale storage that will fully harness the capability of renewables. Solar and wind made record contributions to UK electricity generation in 2017, and the development of storage capacity will help both reduce consumer costs and support decarbonisation.

The other thing the CGS showed us it that the Government is happy to be a disrupter in the energy market. The headline from the publication was the plans for legislation to empower Ofgem to cap the costs of Standard Variable Tariffs. This had been an aspiration of ministers for months, and there’s little doubt that driving down costs for consumers will be a trend within BEIS policy throughout 2018.

But the Government also seems happy to support disruption in the renewables market, as evidenced by the commitment (in the CGS) to more than half a billion pounds of investment in Pot 2 of Contracts for Difference (CfDs) – where the focus will be on emerging rather than established technologies.

This inevitably prompted ire from some within the industry, particularly proponents of solar, which is making an increasing contribution to the UK’s energy mix. But, again, we shouldn’t really be surprised. Since the subsidy cuts of 2015, ministers have given no indication or cause to think there will be public money afforded to solar development. Including solar within the CfD auction would have been a seismic shift in policy. And while ministers’ insistence in subsidy-free solar as the way forward has been shown to be based on a single project, we should expect that as costs continue to be driven down and solar makes record contributions to electricity generation, investment will follow – and there will ultimately be more subsidy-free solar farms, albeit perhaps not in 2018.

Meanwhile, by promoting emerging technologies like remote island wind, the Government appears to be favouring diversification and that it has a range of resources available to meet consumer demand. Perhaps more prescient than the decision to exclude established renewables from the CfD auction is the subsequent confirmation in the budget that Pot 2 of CfDs will be the last commitment of public money to renewable energy before 2025.

In short, we should view the CGS as a step in the right direction, albeit one the Government should be elaborating on in its consultation response. Its publication, coupled with the advancement this year of the Industrial Strategy indicates ministers are committed to the clean growth agenda. The question is now how the aspirations set out in the CGS – including the development of demand response capacity for the grid, and improving the energy efficiency of commercial and residential premises – will be realised.

It’s a step in the right direction. But, inevitably, there’s much more work to do.

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