Tuesday, September 29, 2015

CEO's can only do so much

This week saw NRG Energy capitulate to investor craving for short term gain.  NRG has successfully been leading the charge amongst traditional fossil fuel companies in implementing green energy portfolios'.  They have lead by example.  As CEO David Crane said to New York Times columnist Joe Nocera almost a year ago “It’s like Wayne Gretzky said,” he told me before hanging up the phone. “We are skating where the puck is going, rather than where it is now.”" Which is in fact the last time NRG was written about in the Times.
Investors being dissatisfied with NRGs stock price has put pressure on the company to divest its focus on the alternative energy and go back to what works now.  Coal powered plants.

In a time when polls and meta-analysis of news and opinion show that the majority of Americans are concerned about climate change, if not for the impact on our lives then definitely for our children's.  With the exception of some of the most conservative of republicans.  I doubt the latter constitute the majority of investors in NRG stock.  Which begs the question, why are we punishing a company for working so hard for the health of our future(thats us and the planet), even with promise of sustainable long term profit?  Based on the business trajectory of NRGs wind, solar and home solar business's it seems like a sure bet for a long term investment, as sure as any other business, including fossil fuels.
Alternative energy works now, just like Fords first assembly line car did when it drove out of the factory.
We need start putting our money where our principles are.  We need to start investing in our future not just talking about it.  Companies like NRG should be rewarded, not punished for working for our well being.
Let's pay attention to where the puck is going, and head in that direction!!!!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

McMansions, Leftovers, Stuff and Time

Taking a leisurely cycle through a flurry of McMansions in beautiful Southern Chester county, it occurred to me how much free and available room there is.  How many houses have spare rooms or space that is not used and is never or rarely even passed through. With that thought fresh in my mind I pulled into a cafe for a coffee to see someone dumping their unfinished breakfast into the garbage.

We live in a world where there is so much discussion and talk about the lack of resources, especially for those people in the lower tax bracket, the really low tax bracket.  Many people who live under the poverty level, or for that matter earn $2 a day or around that amount, struggled for food, shelter, clothing and clean water each day.

Running in parallel each day are millions of homes around the world who have spare rooms, a lot of stuff that is never used, a never ending waste of running water in the form of baths, showers, toilets, gardens, pools etc.  And then millions of people go grocery shopping or go out to eat and a percentage of each purchase makes its way into the garbage, or compost heap.

There is a stark imbalance of resource usage, NOT a stark imbalance of resources, neither is there a shortage of resources.  The latter is even more true because of the resources we use to to get the stuff that we don't use or waste.

And then there is our time.  How do we really spend it, and does the way we spend it really contribute to the well being of all those around the world we have empathy for?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Take aim through a lens!

Whose more of a bad ass? Who is the better tracker? Who had the most exhilarating experience? The photographer with the photo on the left on the wall, or the hunter on the right with the trophy on the ground?
I was a young teenager when the campsite exploded with commotion as two lions chased a buffalo through the campsite. Doors slammed. Campers scrambled for their cars. And then the silence of the African Bush. After navigating the bull elephant grazing on the tree above our tent in the morning, we learned that the lions had killed the buffalo just outside the camp. Lions are at one of their most dangerous when eating. A fact my Dad somehow overlooked when he decided that we should find the kill...on foot. At that time of year at Mana Pools in northern Zimbabwe, the grass stands at around 6 feet, at least I remember it being overhead, as well as I can remember the how terrified I was. But also how Alive I felt! After a while we found an anthill to scramble up. And there we stood, Mom, Dad, sister and myself, on this perch looking for our quarry. I am happy to say we didn't find the kill. Twenty years later in the Kruger Park in South Africa, a ranger, a few others and myself tracked a couple of cheetahs on foot. I took no comfort in seeing that the ranger had armed himself with a couple of throwing stones. This time we found the Cheetahs. We kept our distance
I've never hunted. But if its danger a hunter is looking for, or bragging rights I can't imagine any experience more fulfilling then tracking a dangerous animal. Having fly fished for many years, I know that the adventure of tracking, and learning and sharing the quarry's environment like looking for a large predator is the experience. Its the opportunity to get close to our primal self that we crave - I can imagine that is true for a trophy hunter as well. So why kill it. Take aim through a camera lens for the trophy. Then reward yourself with a long hike back to the lodge for a steak and a glass of wine! It will be the best experience of your life!

Name the Animals

Cecil had a name.  The 800 other lions killed did not.  I have lived half my life in Southern Africa, including Zimbabwe, and I know that the method of luring Cecil to the kill is used a lot.  So in summary what happened to Cecil happens regularly to Lions, Elephants, Tigers, Bears, Ducks and Deer.

Our empathy and awareness increases significantly when something or someone has a name.  If we name a plant, we are much more likely to morn its death.

I don’t know who named Cecil, but that person should be nominated for the Nobel peace prize.  And based on the outcry about Cecil, we all have plenty of time to name all the animals in our community and make sure the world knows their names.  This might not soften the hearts of trophy hunters, but the threat of public cyber stoning and mention of Zimbabwean prisons will make them think twice before they pull the trigger!

Lets name the animals and for that matter lets name all the people as well!

RIP Cecil

The Yoga of Profit

Yoga of profit

"Every investment we make is a statement of intention, a statement of purpose, a speculation about the future of humanity and our role in the scheme of things, not merely a financial speculation" - Woody Tasch, Slow Money

Do you have a few hundred, a few thousand or maybe 10’s or 100’s of thousands of dollars in a savings or retirement account? What is that money doing? What is your intention for that money?

Money has power. More power then a vote. More power then a protest. More power then a war.

Don’t judge something…do something!

The only way to enjoy the long term annualized growth of the companies (which we fund) who have the biggest effect on our lives… invest in them. The best way to influence their intention…invest in the right ones!

For the longest time I wondered how my deepening yoga practice, how this inward journey, translated into the capitalist world I enjoyed and depended on, and the financial industry where I had worked for 15 years. Besides, as aware of my own footprint on the environment and my influence on others, I still drive a car, fly on airplanes, purchase packaged goods, eat food from far away and am totally addicted to a never ending flow of water and electricity. And how much do I really do to improve the lives of others in the community around me. I’m inclined to donate to charities or hand money to a homeless person, but I certainly don’t take 30 minutes of my time and sit with that person and talk over a cup of coffee. Sure I try hard to temper my consumption and consider the providers’ footprint, but whether I'm flying on the most environmentally responsible airline or whether I’m careful about which gas station I use, I am still taking. How much taking is OK? Where is the line?

Then it occurred to me. How our contemplative practice translates into capitalism is very much the same as how it manifests within us. Corporations are living organisms, the sum of all their employees who are like their cells. As our practice transforms us, then surely a corporation that practices mindfulness must transform into a being that feels better and is more compassionate. I had a hard time believing that business people had not figured this out and used it to their competitive advantage or more so that there were high level executives or decision makers whose contemplative practice drove a successful management style.

After two years of research I am happy to report that there are publicly traded companies, household brand names that are humble, that are compassionate and that embody social and environmental responsibility. This small but growing list is companies who put the community and environment ahead of profit. They are driven by building sustainable business’s with the manifesto of increasing our well being and preserving the environment. As Aetna CEO, Mark Bertolini said at Wisdom 2.0, “Profit is not the goal, profit is the output of a mission driven organization who delivers consistent products to its customers”

What are the indicators? A combination of qualitative and quantitative evaluation including financial strength, products that are unequivocally good for us, the lowest possible use of natural resources, happy employees, women make up twenty percent of the board, low CEO pay - relatively, company wide offering of yoga/mindfulness, humble CEOs and a C-suite who have a personal contemplation practice, and compassionate intention written into their Form 10-K annual report. That's the quantitative. Qualitative is reading between the lines, by scanning the news and blogs for indications of embodied social and environmental responsibility, by hearing feedback from users of their products and services. Looking for indications of yogic decision-making. Checking off the yamas and niyamas, the eight-fold path, the middle way, the golden rule.

My research has resulted in an investment portfolio of companies. Companies I invest in and share with others. I feel more confident investing in humble companies with strong ethics, and I am much less afraid of loosing my investment especially when the market crashes. This portfolio has opened my eyes to companies who really care and I always choose their products. Often I will go without a product or service if a compassionate company does not offer it. I plug these companies on social networks for their intention. I go out of my way to give them feedback; quite often they don’t know what they don’t know. Our guidance is important. My hope that a company’s mission, rather then its earnings and products become what its brand name represents.

Corporations have more influence on our well-being and future than anybody except ourselves. There are companies out there who have transcended the “profit at all cost” approach perfected during the industrial revolution. We can play a bigger role in our evolution by investing in the companies that care, by being more mindful of how we spend our money and by bringing awareness through dialogue to the potential of the corporate world helping us into the next age.

"As long as the way we invest is divorced from how we live and how we consume our befuddlement will worsen" - Woody Tasch, Slow Money