Sustainable Investment Firms Comment on Bristol Bay Watershed Asessment

Jun 27, 2013

With a few days left of public comment on the EPA’s Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, sustainable finance firms are chiming in on the issue. A group of 27 investors who represent 35 billion dollars in sustainable industry holdings are asking the EPA to begin a 404(c) review process, which could halt the mine’s development. They say it makes sense for the environment, as well as their bottom line.   

Boston based Trillium Asset Management says it’s the nation’s oldest firm dedicated to sustainable investment funds.  They handle 1.2 billion dollars through mutual funds.  Jonas Kron  is Senior Vice President for Trillium.  He says the company does not have any direct fishing holdings, but he notes that the Bristol Bay sockeye fishery is an industry with global impact.

"We've been articulating the importance of that fishery from an investment perspective.  Whether that's the jobs provided in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, or if it is the importance of that fishery to grocery retailers we may be invested in ," said Kron.

Kron also points to the jewelry industry losing sales if mining companies have a bad environmental record. Trillium and another firm, Calvert investments, submitted comments on behalf of companies with names like Green Century Capital, Walden Asset Management, and Clean Yield Asset Management.  Also included are institutional investors and non profits like the Alaska Conservation Foundation and The Sierra Club Foundation.

The group in its comments state that the EPA should begin the 404 (c) process to determine the environmental consequences of the mine and have the option to prohibit the mine or restrict waste disposal is if it’s determined to have “unacceptable adverse effect”.

"For widely diversified investors like ourselves, we look to how companies are creating negative externalities that may have impacts on other industries in our portfolio, we take a significant interest in that and want to make sure we articulate that perspective and priority from a significant group of investors to ensure the resources are protected, so that our portfolio as a whole can grow and prosper," said Kron.

Those unaccounted environmental externalities cost the world 7.3 trillion dollars or 13 percent of global GDP. Trillium points to a study from Trucost that takes a broader economic perspective.

"A business may be engaged in some practice t that is highly profitable for that company, but it creates pollution and costs that come to rest on other parts of the portfolio.  For widely diversified investors, there is no escaping that pollution.  The damage that's caused by one industry is going to come to rest in other industries.  The Bristol Bay salmon fishery is threatened, and if it suffers damage, that may or may not have an economic consequence for the mining interest, but it's going to have a consequence," said Kron.

The deadline to submit comments at regulations. gov is June 30th.  So far, the agency has received more than 527 thousand comments.