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Glossary: Responsible investing

ABCs of responsible investing

This glossary of responsible investing terms helps you understand Nuveen’s unique approach to unlocking investment potential and providing better outcomes for investors, our communities and the planet.

 

Glossary

Best in class

Favoring companies with the best ESG performance, e.g., within a particular sector or industry group. See responsible investing – other RI approaches.

Board quality

Boards play a critical role in crisis management, oversight, and risk management – setting the tone at the top before incidents occur. From an investment standpoint, issues such as director independence, board composition, experience, perspectives and tenure are important because they protect shareholder value. Board composition, executive compensation, business ethics and accounting practices all reflect a board’s judgment and priorities.

Carbon footprint

The sum of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions  – primarily carbon dioxide and other GHGs – for a given company or group of companies comprising a portfolio. For a public equities portfolio, these emissions then are typically pro-rated in proportion to the number of shares held by each company.

Climate change

A change in global or regional climate patterns, in particular a change apparent from the mid- to late-20th century onward – especially warming – attributed largely to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels.

Controversial business involvement

Refers to a security issuer’s activity in an industry that can cause significant social harm like tobacco, alcohol and firearms.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR)

A company’s efforts to evaluate the effect of its operations, processes and philanthropy on the broader community and to set policies and practices that maximize the positive impact of its activities on the company’s key stakeholders.

Divestment

The sale or disposition of securities or other assets based on corporate behavior that is not aligned with specific environmental, social and governance objectives, values or convictions. See responsible investing – other RI approaches .

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Environmental

A responsible investing factor dealing with climate impact, energy consumption, biodiversity, waste management and natural resource use. See environmental, social and governance (ESG).

Engagement

A range of activities performed to exert influence on companies, issuers and other investees to help them innovate and operate more efficiently, i.e., proxy voting, company dialogue, targeted initiatives, market initiatives and policy influence. See responsible investing .

Environmental, social and governance (ESG)

Typically refers to the factors and issues investors consider regarding a firm’s sustainable business practices.

► Environmental: A responsible investing factor dealing with climate impact, energy consumption, biodiversity, waste management and natural resource use.

Example: Waste management – Innovative packaging can reduce waste while also driving down material and transport costs.

► Social: A responsible investing factor dealing with employee engagement and development, labor relations, human rights practice, product safety and consumer protection.

Example: Health and safety – Effective health and safety programs can mitigate unexpected costs caused by workplace injuries, e.g., medical expenses, workplace disruption, productivity loss.

► Governance: A responsible investing factor dealing with management structure, board accountability and independence, executive compensation, audits and internal controls and shareholder rights.

Example: Board diversity – A wide range of competencies, knowledge, and perspectives can lead to better decision-making and more effective corporate governance.

ESG-focused funds

Originally known as socially responsible investing (SRI) funds, portfolios that explicitly apply environmental, social and governance criteria in their investment decision-making process, often in the development of an investable universe.

ESG integration

Including ESG factors within the investment processes to enhance long-term performance and manage risks for clients. See responsible investing .

ESG investing

Examining a company’s exposure to ESG-related risks and opportunities, focusing on the ones most likely to have a material impact on investment performance.

Exclusionary screening

Avoiding companies involved in controversial businesses such as fossil fuels, oil, and tobacco, or other ESG-related criteria. See responsible investing – other RI approaches .

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Global Real Estate Sustainability Initiative (GRESI) and Benchmark (GRESB)

An investor-driven organization that assesses the sustainability performance of real-asset-sector portfolios and assets in public, private and direct sectors worldwide. The index offers environmental, social and governance data, scorecards, benchmark reports and portfolio analysis tools.

Governance

A responsible investing factor dealing with management structure, board accountability and independence, executive compensation, audits and internal controls and shareholder rights. See environmental, social and governance (ESG) .

Green 

Generally refers to the consideration of climate change and environmental impacts in portfolio construction, i.e., investments in clean tech, renewable energy and energy efficiency. See responsible investing – other RI approaches .

Green bond

A fixed income security developed to fund a project that has positive environmental and/or climate outcomes.

Human capital management

A comprehensive set of practices for recruiting, managing, developing and optimizing an organization’s human resources.

Human rights

Moral principles or norms that describe standards of human behavior and are protected as natural and legal rights in municipal and international law.

Impact

Intentionally seeking positive environmental and social outcomes alongside financial returns through investing practices across asset classes. See responsible investing .

Low carbon

Seeking to lower a portfolio’s overall carbon footprint by favoring companies with lower current carbon emissions, no fossil-fuel reserves, or other green investments. Low-carbon strategies may satisfy clients seeking “fossil-fuel-free” and “green” investments. See responsible investing – other RI approaches .

Low-carbon economy

An economy based on low-carbon power sources that has a minimal output of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions into the biosphere, but refers specifically to the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide. The Paris Agreement commits to the transition to a global low-carbon economy over the next 30 years, which many believe will bring substantial benefits both for developed and developing countries and avoid catastrophic climate change.

Materiality

Information that is of the greatest significance in the investment decision-making process. Increasingly, ESG issues are being viewed through a materiality lens.

Net-zero carbon

Achieved by balancing a measured amount of carbon released with an equivalent amount sequestered or offset. Typically the term is used in relation to buildings. A net-zero carbon building is highly energy efficient and fully powered from on-site and/or off-site renewable energy sources. The World Green Building Council states that all buildings will need to be net zero carbon by 2050 to meet the Paris Agreement.3

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Paris Agreement

An accord within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change addressing greenhouse-gas-emissions reduction, adaptation, and finance, beginning in year 2020. At the December 2015 Paris conference, 195 countries adopted the first-ever universal, legally binding global climate deal. The agreement sets out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to below 2°C.

Proxy voting

A ballot cast by one person on behalf of a corporate shareholder who is unable to, or prefers not to attend a shareholder meeting.

Principles for Responsible Investment in Farmland

A set of guidelines developed by a group of UN Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) signatories. The principles have evolved into the PRI Farmland Guidelines, which are designed to guide institutional investors that wish to invest responsibly in farmland.

Responsible investing

An investment philosophy that incorporates environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into investment analysis, portfolio construction and ongoing monitoring across asset classes with the objective of enhancing long-term performance, managing risk and aligning client values.

RI principles at Nuveen include:

► ESG integration: Including ESG factors within the investment processes to enhance long-term performance and manage risks for clients.

► Engagement: A range of activities performed to exert influence on companies, issuers and other investees to help them innovate and operate more efficiently, i.e., proxy voting, company dialogue, targeted initiatives, market initiatives and policy influence.

► Impact: Intentionally seeking positive environmental and social outcomes alongside financial returns through investing practices across asset classes.

Other RI approaches include:

► Best in class: Favoring companies with the best ESG performance, e.g., within a particular sector or industry group.

► Divestment: The sale or disposition of securities or other assets based on corporate behavior that is not aligned with specific environmental, social and governance objectives, values or convictions.

► Exclusionary screening: Avoiding companies involved in controversial businesses such as fossil fuels, oil, and tobacco, or other ESG-related criteria.

► Green: Generally refers to the consideration of climate change and environmental impacts in portfolio construction, i.e., investments in clean tech, renewable energy and energy efficiency.

► Low carbon: Seeking to lower a portfolio’s overall carbon footprint by favoring companies with lower current carbon emissions, no fossil fuel reserves, or other green investments. Low-carbon strategies may satisfy clients seeking “fossil-fuel-free” and “green” investments.

► Social and environmental impact: An approach that actively seeks to deliver a competitive return alongside a positive, measurable social or environmental outcome.

► Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) alignment: Aligning investments to the Sustainable Development Goals – e.g., poverty, health, education, climate change and environmental degradation – to help connect business strategies, objectives and outcomes with global priorities.

► Thematic: Aiming to design a company-selection process that emphasizes specific issues or outcomes, e.g., climate change, gender.

► Value-/mission-driven investing: An umbrella term used by some investors, which applies values alignment as the primary driver of investment activity.

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Shareholder rights

All holders of common shares of company stock have specific privileges and rights governed by the prevailing laws in the state where the company is headquartered. The most important rights possessed by all common shareholders include the rights to: share in the company's profitability, influence management, buy newly issued shares, vote at meetings, and sue for wrongful acts.

Social

A responsible investing factor dealing with employee engagement and development, labor relations, human rights practice, product safety and consumer protection. See environmental, social and governance (ESG) .

Social and environmental impact

An approach that actively seeks to deliver a competitive return alongside a positive, measurable social or environmental outcome. See responsible investing – other RI approaches .

Socially responsible investing (SRI)

Originally, a term used interchangeably with environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing. Typically, legacy SRI approaches have emphasized exclusionary screening.

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) alignment

Aligning investments to the Sustainable Development Goals – e.g., poverty, health, education, climate change and environmental degradation – to help connect business strategies, objectives and outcomes with global priorities. See responsible investing – other RI approaches .

Sustainable investing

An umbrella term often used interchangeably with responsible investing. See responsible investing .

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

A set of United Nations goals with a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. Today, the UN SDGs are an internationally accepted, outcome-oriented roadmap to sustainability for organizations in all sectors.

Thematic

Aiming to design a company-selection process that emphasizes specific issues or outcomes, e.g., climate change, gender. See responsible investing – other RI approaches .

United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI)

An organization that works to understand the investment implications of environmental, social and governance factors and to support its international network of investor signatories in incorporating these factors into their investment and ownership decisions.

Value-/mission-driven investing

An umbrella term used by some investors, which applies values alignment as the primary driver of investment activity. See responsible investing – other RI approaches .

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Investing involves risk; principal loss is possible.

1 Syzygy Consulting, 2018.

2 www.nuveen.com/how-we-invest-in-farmland

3 www.worldgbc.org/thecommitment

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