August 2, 2016 – On July 26th, Trillium CEO Matt Patsky participated as a speaker on the ‘Policy Forum on the Business Case for a Sustainable Economy’, held by the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) and coinciding with the DNC Conference in Philadelphia. Patsky spoke on a panel titled, “Responsible Capital – Investing in a Prosperous America”, which examined innovative strategies private companies, foundations and impact investors are using to achieve societal impacts. The forum highlighted how capital markets and the tax system can be reshaped to benefit a broader cross-section of Americans and was timed to help influence DNC attendees.
Patsky explored two topics: How Trillium measures success and in what ways the government can be more effective through public policy. We measure success as meeting client’s financial needs and leveraging the client’s assets. We use corporate engagement and shareholder advocacy as tools to promote meaningful change, and improve business practices towards more positive social and environmental impact.
Patsky also discussed Trillium’s successful engagement with companies to increase diversity in corporate board rooms and senior management ranks. As research has shown, companies with diverse board rooms and senior management have better shareholder returns over the long-term than those without. With many corporate board rooms represented entirely by straight white men, Patsky posed the question: How can we work to increase diversity? Patsky cited a recent shareholder proposal filed by Trillium that received a 54.7% favorable vote, asking transportation company J.B. Hunt to adopt corporate-wide policies on LGBT non-discrimination. Trillium believes that companies and workers benefit from consistent, corporate-wide efforts to prevent discrimination and provide an inclusive work environment for all employees.
Panel members addressed the types of public policy needed to achieve positive societal impacts. As an example, Patsky commended the US Department of Labor’s announcement in October to rescind a 2008 guidance letter which discouraged investors from considering environmental and social factors when assessing potential investments. The new Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) guidance demonstrates support for responsible investors who integrate ESG issues into their investment process. Patsky suggests investors can help shape this policy agenda, citing a letter, crafted in collaboration with Domini Social Investments and other leading firms sent to the Department of Labor in 2013, making the case that consideration of ESG factors can mitigate risk and create long-term value.
Fellow panelists included Toni Johnson, Vice President of Knowledge and Influence at the F.B. Heron Foundation and Marilyn Waite, Sector Manager of Energy at Village Capital. With several social and environmental issues at the forefront of this year’s election, Trillium continues to contribute to the ongoing public conversation on the importance of sustainability in long-term economic development.
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