Monday, August 25, 2014

Does our business look like a big dam?

The mythical giant half snake/half what the Tongan people believe is the god and protecter of the Zambezi River basin.  The building of the Kariba Dam in the 60s angered the Nyaminyami who retreated to the dam gorge from where he unleashed his wrath.  The Tonga people have lost their power and identity, many people have died in the building and subsequent floods, to this day the dam's infrastructure is in danger of failing and the economic backlash arguably contributed to crippling the entire "bread basket of Africa"(the country of Zimabawe).

Or...building dams is just bad business.  As a youngster living in war torn Zimbabwe, I was always intrigued by Kariba and since then I've always been intrigued by dams, wondering if they are indeed good or bad.  As this article suggests, they are bad.  They are industrial ventures that are on the other end of the SEA spectrum.  Communities are destroyed, as is the environment and when its all said and done, their financial strength is  model for what not to do in an economics 101 class.  The heavy loans, social and environmental loss are covered in a shroud of corruption, and "energy for the people" marketing.

Big dams is not SEA business and big dam boardrooms should turn their attention to alternatives for the sake of their own sustainability.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The GABA effect...

This morning I did my daily yoga practice in the wake of the death of  95 year old yoga guru B.K.S Iyengar.  As my sequence of poses wound down, I spied a photo of Mr. Iyengar at the front of the studio, which prompted me to reflect on the role yoga plays in my life.  

In conclusion I sank into the final pose of lying down meditation realizing that yoga is what I have been  practicing my whole life, and adding the formal practice of poses, breathing and meditation a few years ago, is simply the next step in evolution.  This life long practice of yoga is what we are doing when we pay attention. These yogic moments are when we root ourselves in the present moment in response to fear, challenge, love...when we choose to act in response to something, we are practicing yoga.  When we strive to make ourselves better, we are practicing yoga.  When we unconditionally help another person, we are practicing yoga.

Yoga for me has been carving out a part of each day, to bring awareness to this way of living.  Yoga for me has been to consciously bring this awareness to each of those thousands of moments each day that I am faced with a choice.  The former is easy compared to the latter.  The latter is harder work, and whose reward far surpasses that comforting feeling of drifting off to sleep in a comfortable bed.

Each day I get my downward dog on, and before I step back into the fray, I discover yogic desert...the GABA effect.  GABA is one of our neurotransmitters, increased levels of which provide a calming effect.  Somehow yoga poses increases the GABA in our system, and without fail each day I experience the this experience of calm and clarity.  A feeling that enshrouds me as I stroll back into my choices!!!

Yoga is me taking responsibility for my own evolution.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What would we eat!

Earlier this year when I was coaching the Cate School Squash team, while on a team trip a few of the Cate kids decided to enjoy fast food burgers for breakfast.  As they very happily chowed down on their burgers and fries and cokes, I asked them if they would eat the burgers knowing they had rat poison in them.  Each one of them said...NO.  Then I asked if they could prove there was no rat poison in the burgers.  To that they also said NO and kept eating.

Unless we surfed big waves, most of us would be lucky to hold our breath for 3-4 minutes.  We would be lucky to survive a week without water.  We could probably go without food for a month or two.  This seems to be the hierarchy of our consumption dependence.  Lets take  air for granted and move onto food and water.

Since our life depends on food and water, then surely our quality of life might depend on them as well. At the extreme if you eat food that is bad or tainted, you would feel sick but still live.  At the other extreme if you eat food that is really what your mind and body needs then you will have more energy and more brain power.  Same goes for what you drink.  This possibility doesn't take much scientific evidence to prove, all we need is a week or two of personal nutrition investigation to feel the potential.

Eating for optimal performance is a forgotten art, and its such a paradox, because we all crave higher performance - at work, at the gym, health, video games, socially, in bed! et al.  But yet we so often forget to evaluate our fuel quality and continue to pump in the regular gas.

There are no magic diets out there - from Atkins to Vegan - non of them will work for us.  Because we are each so different.  Nutrition is not about following a diet plan or an archetype diet or a paradigm of eating, nutrition is a balance of what we eat, when we eat and how we each eat and the only way to know what our individual diet should be is to create it for ourselves.  Through personal investigation we should figure out what makes us perform well.

A good start is to stop eating food that is processed with multiple ingredients.  With ingredients we quite often don't know and even if we do, don't really know its individual effect on our performance.  Whole foods like meat, vegetables and grains that have not been given or grown with any chemicals/antibiotics is where we should start and build from their.

Trace amounts of rat poison wont hurt us on any given day...we probably wouldn't even know the difference, but what would its effect be over time?

Corporate Responsibility is here to stay...

Because...."The costs to business and society of getting it wrong and the benefits of getting it right are increasingly apparent" 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Introducing the SEA fund

Over $1 trillion is invested in 720 socially responsible (SRI) Funds. That is up from $200 Billion in 260 SRI funds just 7 years ago.

 After 15 years of working in the financial services industry and four years of working with humanitarian and environmental NGOs, last year it struck me that sustainable and responsible investing is not a gimmick or a fad, but a potentially lucrative way to invest.  I realized that running a company is an expanded version of how we run our personal lives, and that when we live a sustainable lifestyle, it becomes more abundant. 

 So I began the research and I started to find qualitative and quantitative research and meta-analytical experience fortifying this theory. Which led me to the SRI investment industry and I was happy to find a trillion dollars invested in companies with socially and environmentally responsible management.  But as I started to examine the holdings within these funds, the screening process seemed to fall apart, and I was finding companies that were clearly producing unhealthy products, or complicit in ravishing the environment.  One of the most prominent SRI funds goes as far as write the following in their research disclosure...."we may determine that a security is eligible for investment even if a corporation’s profile reflects a mixture of positive and negative social and environmental characteristics.”

 I have whittled down the the hundreds of funds to only two that seem to follow a strong SRI screening process.  Highwater Global, which is an in-house fund run by Baldwin Brothers with $37 million under management and Portfolio 21, which is an open-end mutual fund with $500 million under management. So why so few? Consensus is that it comes down to distribution.  An SRI fund with strict screening will not fall into any existing benchmark or asset allocation, so there is nothing to compare. Performance may trail any given benchmark in the short term.  But as both Highwater and Portfolio 21 have shown that over the long term, they start to run closer to the broad market, if not out-perform. Fund administration costs and high fund employee compensation expectations are most likely another obstacle. 

 But there is clearly a market for an SRI fund that seeks to invest in companies that do not compromise social and environmental awareness when making strategic decisions… companies that strategize for the long term.  From high profile executives like the leaders of Facebook, Google, Whole Foods, Virgin, Patagonia, Tesla et al, to college graduates who feel strongly about the importance of SRI practices, encompass a broad, wealthy and influential market who are passionate about investing in their future.

Our mission is to place a spotlight on the paradigm of human and environmental interdependence. To provide an environment where people can participate in the mission while also enjoying its benefits. How we use our money is an expression of the energy we wish to extend to the world and a direct correlation to what we get back. An investment fund is an active vehicle, which can lead and teach, connect like-minded people, provide objectivity and improve the lives of investors, and simultaneously offer opportunity to under served and under resourced segments of the community.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Money is conscious how we use our power!!

Consider is the expression of our power.  Where do we invest our power???

Money represents how we use our power, how we respond to power.  How we use money represents our priorities.  If we spend money on someone, whether we are buying them a gift, buying them a meal, perhaps even buying ourselves a new outfit to wear when we see someone...we are we subtly asserting our power.  How about when someone spends money on us, do we feel a bit vulnerable, or that we owe that person - that they have power over us?

If this at all rings true, expand it into the big picture.  Consider what we really want to accomplish - which most likely will include making more money.  Perhaps we want a new car, to run a marathon, to loose weight, to get a promotion or have our own company, to provide for our family, to have our preferred political party elected,  to mend a relationship, to preserve a beautiful piece of nature, to give food to a homeless person, to wake up in the morning with no anxiety, to be seen by others as worthwhile, an investment in our future.  Where and how do we spend our money and where do we resist.  

Take a few minutes to careful consider whats really most important to you and how it aligns with money.  Are there places where you can re-allocate spending, or perhaps take the "conditionality" out of spending and receiving.  How can you best invest in your future and the future of the people around you who matter most?


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Looking for a better Return on Investment?

If we want to prepare for a marathon, we run a few times a week.  If we want to prepare to be a singer, we exercise our voice.  If we want to make any part of our functionality better, we train...we practice.  What do we do if we want our mind to perform better, to make make smarter, more effective decisions/choices...we must train, we must practice.  This article is not new news, its old news but how many of us train our brains, how many of us practice for making smarter choices?  

We have to be careful what we practice...we will get good at it!!!