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Responsible investing columnist

2021 Eco-Fund Guide: The Ultimate Guide to Responsible Investing

Though 2020 rattled the economy, sustainable investing is booming. Which ETFs and mutual funds come out on top?

With spring returning after a long hard winter, it’s a good time to take stock and see what has been growing. While we survived multiple lockdowns that have left the economy teetering, there was a silver lining to the fresh hell of this past year: sustainable investing went mainstream.It feels like years have passed, but I have a clear memory of January 2020. Brushfires were burning in Australia, and I was watching CNBC in the morning. I spat out my coffee in astonishment when Jim Cramer, an animated host on the investment news channel, declared, “I’m done with fossil fuels … we’re seeing divestment all over the world … the world has changed.” The acronym ESG (referring to environmental, social and governance indicators) was on the lips of every investment expert.

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New BlackRock ETFs let Canadians divest from fossil fuels – sort of

iShares’s new ETFs are game-changers for DIY sustainable investors, though not entirely fossil-free

Ecologists understand that diversity helps to build a resilient ecosystem. Likewise, investors understand that diversification brings a more resilient portfolio. Finding the right mix of global stocks and bonds has been a winning ticket for long-term investors – and now they’re available to sustainably minded investors, too.

Do-it-yourself investors who want to divest from fossil fuels can now purchase a single fund and get a broad mix of global stocks and bonds. The new iShares ESG ETF portfolios (available in Canada through any online brokerage) are part of BlackRock’s – the world’s largest asset manager – commitment to put climate change and sustainability at the centre of its investing approach. These portfolios are game-changers for sustainable investing, making it so much easier and more accessible for smaller investors who want to use a buy-and-hold strategy.

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How sustainable are Wealthsimple’s new socially responsible funds?

Pandemic Portfolio looks into whether Wealthsimple’s new ETFs let people invest in a better world

Pandemic Portfolio is a series from Corporate Knights and the Toronto Star that looks at companies and funds relatively well-positioned to weather the economic storm triggered by COVID-19.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic is pushing every industry into the future, and the investment industry is no exception. Canadian investors are increasingly embracing the shift away from more expensive mutual funds and into lower-cost exchange-traded funds (ETFs). According to a report from the Investment Funds Institute of Canada, more than $18 billion has flowed into ETFs so far in 2020, compared to only $4 billion into mutual funds. As the stock market crashed and recovered in March, ETF investors stayed the course by investing $3 billion, while mutual fund investors panicked and sold more than $14 billion.

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Pandemic Portfolio: Spotlight on the NAACP Minority Empowerment ETF

A closer look at the ETF driving corporate diversity

The stock market has been steadily climbing up to pre-pandemic levels, disconnected from the real economy, where unemployment remains high and consumers are cautious. In its June 10 statement, the U.S. Federal Reserve acknowledged that conditions have improved but said it would “stay the course” with low interest rates and bond purchases to keep supporting an economic recovery “that is going to take some time.”

Meanwhile, protests have erupted across the world calling for racial equality and police reform. Although these protests have had little impact on the market, they’ve raised a good question: can investors support companies that promote minority empowerment while earning market-rate financial returns?

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Pandemic Portfolio: Two stocks positioned for an economic recovery – and a second COVID wave

Consumer staples like ice cream and cleaners give Unilever a leg up in pandemic, while Cisco rides teleconferencing wave

Welcome to Pandemic Portfolio, a biweekly series from Corporate Knights and the Toronto Star that looks at companies relatively well-positioned to weather the economic storm triggered by COVID-19.

 

Financial markets seem to have found a comfortable trading zone, oscillating between the hope of a quick recovery and the fear of a second pandemic wave.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell suggested in an interview that GDP could fall by as much as 20–30%, with unemployment hitting Depression-era levels. However, the Chairman also expects a quick recovery by the end of this year and noted the unprecedented response from central banks and governments to keep markets liquid and provide emergency benefits to struggling people and businesses. This mixed message has the bulls and bears of the market duking it out day-to-day, keeping prices relatively flat over the past month.

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Pandemic Portfolio: Two stocks to watch as COVID-19 drags on

Which green stocks are holding up? We look at spice giant McCormick and renewable energy utility Northland Power

Welcome to Pandemic Portfolio, a biweekly series from Corporate Knights and the Toronto Star that looks at companies relatively well positioned to weather the economic storm triggered by COVID-19.

 

The Bank of Canada struck an optimistic note in its April Monetary Report, suggesting that “Canada’s economy will begin to recover as the health impacts of COVID-19 fade, businesses begin to reopen and gradually resume their operations, and people start returning to their normal lives.”

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Pandemic Portfolio: Three companies well-positioned to weather the crisis

Which eco-friendly companies will continue to profit during a longer period of pandemic-induced economic pain?

Welcome to Pandemic Portfolio, a bi-weekly series from Corporate Knights and the Toronto Star that spotlights companies relatively well positioned to weather the economic storm triggered by COVID-19.

The stock market’s reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic was swift and harsh, crashing more than 33% in about a month. The market has bounced back somewhat from those mid-March lows, sparking optimistic talk of a “V-shaped recovery,” where the economy quickly returns to normal, though RBC CEO Dave McKay suggests a longer downturn, with a “U-shaped recovery,” is more likely.

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Impact bonds offer a safe haven for investors

Green bonds remain largely unaffected by financial markets all while investing in community

It would be normal to feel a little shaky about the markets right now. There’s lots of volatility and concern about panic behaviour as COVID-19 spreads. Investors are looking to buy bonds in a flight to safety, but interest rates are on their way down so traditional bonds will offer very low financial returns.

Now is a really good time to look at impact investments as a way to further diversify your portfolio.

An impact bond is a loan to an organization – often a non-profit - that offers investors a financial return in addition to making a direct positive social or environmental impact. Each bond has a different minimum investment, interest rate, and maturity date. Different impact bonds will generate different types of impact.

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Are BMO’s new ETFs a game-changer for responsible investors?

It’s RRSP season, and Canadians are figuring out how to invest their savings by the March 2 deadline.

For most, the default setting is to walk into their bank, buy mutual funds, and walk out as quickly as possible. The problem is that people rarely have any idea how much they’re paying in fees and they have no clue what companies are inside those funds.

That’s why the new trend is to purchase exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that have much lower fees and are much more transparent than mutual funds, making it easier for Canadians to invest with their values.

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Which of these mining companies will survive the transition away from coal?

With coal mining on the ropes, we pit Glencore against BHP Group to see who's leading in the shift to greener energy

Coal mines are in trouble. Investors continue to flee the sector, while once-giant companies like Murray Energy are declaring bankruptcy. With the coal mining sector on the ropes, now is a great time to pit two of the largest companies — Glencore and BHP Group — against each other to see who is leading the transition away from coal.

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