What is “ESG”?

guy carrying earth

(Originally published on LinkedIn April 4, 2019)

For those of you interested in socially responsible investing, employers, or entrepreneurial pursuits, many terms get thrown around like “triple bottom line,” “circular economy,” “P3” (people, planet, profit), “impact investing,” etc. that can be difficult to parse through. But the concept and term that seems to be gaining use by companies and investment professionals now that is an actually somewhat quantifiable standard is “Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG)” criteria. I was not very familiar with this term or how it was defined or practiced, so I went and did some digging that I thought I’d share.

ESG criteria are a set of standards for a company’s operations that socially conscious or sustainability-minded investors can use to screen potential investments. It can also be a guidepost for choosing an employer, or for starting a company, since as Jigar Shah says in his book Creating Climate Wealth, an entrepreneur should never start a venture as a way to make money, but instead focus on solving real problems. In broad strokes, ESG criteria are broken down into the three interrelated areas indicated in the title. Environmental criteria consider how a company performs as a steward of nature. Social criteria rate how a company manages relationships with its employees, suppliers, customers, and the communities in which it operates. Governance involves a company’s leadership, executive pay, accounting practices, and shareholder rights. Examples of ESG criteria used by investors include the company’s impact on climate change or carbon emissions, water use or conservation efforts, anti-corruption policies, board member diversity, human rights efforts, and community development.

Environmental criteria take into consideration a company’s energy use, waste, pollution, carbon emissions, natural resource conservation, and animal treatment. Particular emphasis is placed on how a company manages environmental risk and which of those risks might affect the company’s income.

Social criteria evaluate the company’s business relationships. Whether suppliers reflect the company’s values, whether profits are donated to community causes, how the company values its employees’ health and safety, and fiduciary responsibility on behalf of shareholders are all considered.

Governance gets into whether a company uses accurate and transparent accounting methods, represents common and minority shareholders fairly e.g. allowing them to vote on important issues, whether the company avoids conflicts of interest among its board members, whether there is diversity among the leadership and board, and whether the company engages in illegal behavior or uses political contributions to obtain favorable treatment.

All of the ventures I’ve been involved in founding have tried, not always successfully, to apply these criteria in one form or another. We have tried to 1) reduce greenhouse gas emissions (environmental), 2) create jobs (social), and 3) increase domestic energy security while operating with efficiency and transparency to government, shareholders, and employees (governance). We have tried to create economic impact and community development via use of drought-resistant crops and reuse of waste materials to make biofuels and co-products in efficient capital facilities that displace fossil fuels and improve human and environmental health. In more recent ventures my goal was to recover industrial wastes in an “industrial symbiosis” approach to create cradle-to-cradle use of resources so that waste could be converted to energy, wastewater recycled, etc. in order to achieve similar goals, with water conservation emphasized.

ESG is a paradigm, a target to aspire to, rather than a completely achievable end goal, difficult to endeavor and creating all sorts of internal and external conflicts. But, with all of the issues of environmental sustainability and social and economic equity that we face today, it is a target worthy of study and consideration.

My Top 20 Favorite Movies of 2017

Here are my updated top 20 movies of 2017, with mini-reviews. Notably critically acclaimed ones I haven’t seen are noted in the footnote under the list (I reserve the right to edit this list further later). Note several films featured at this year’s True/False Film Festival in Columbia Missouri are on the list.

1. Lady Bird (I rated #1 through #7 all 5 out of 5 stars)
This movie has (or at least for a while had) the highest rating of all time on Rotten Tomatoes, and I think could be the best movie of the past decade and maybe even the best since Sideways, imo. At the same time really creative and rang incredibly true especially if one went to Catholic school. A masterpiece of writing and acting.

2. The Post
Fairly Hollywood, but so important and well done it has to be up here, with the First Amendment and the free press under siege more than perhaps at any other time in the country’s history right now.

3. Coco
Visually and musically stunning and with an intense spiritual message about how we hold those who have passed in our hearts and keep them alive through our memory of them. The best Pixar movie to date?

4. Brad’s Status
I’ve loved Mike White since the very start of his career (Chuck and Buck) and I think this film rates so high in part because I heard an NPR interview of him where he got choked up talking about how much his Dad means to him and how the Ben Stiller character somewhat represents his Dad. Incredibly powerful.

5. I Am Not Your Negro
In-your-face bringing to fruition of an unfinished James Baldwin project profiling MLK, Medgar Evers, and Malcom X and having seen it at two film festivals with the creators and Harry Belafonte in attendance at Q&A’s added to the power of the experience.

6. Still Tomorrow
Perhaps the best film at True/False I saw this year, about a famous Chinese poet with cerebral palsy – great character and great poetry.

7. Marshall
Impactful Thurgood Marshall biopic.

8. The Florida Project (#8 through #20 all 4.5 stars)

Nerve-rackingly colorful and stark realism of the seediness and desperation just outside Disney World with stunning acting including by Willem Dafoe.

9. The Shape of Water
Brilliantly visually and magically crafted update of The Creature From The Black Lagoon that makes an unforgettable commentary on disability, marginalization, fascism, and love. Roy Moore won’t understand this movie one iota.

10. Darkest Hour
Gary Oldman on the subway as Churchill rivals any scene in any of The Godfather movies. Great companion to Dunkirk.

11. Meyerowitz Stories
Incredibly funny — what Woody Allen would have been able to do if he was 10 times the writer he is.

12. The Glass Castle
Adaptation of Jeannette Walls’ memoir and really about her father – Woody Harrelson brilliant as usual in that role.

13. Dunkirk
Some say Christopher Nolan’s best film – some historical inaccuracies, and it brushes off the sacrifice of the 4,000 soldiers that Darkest Hour honors, but a terrific film and displaces the beginning of Saving Private Ryan as the most (seemingly) realistic audience battle experience of any movie I’ve seen.

14. Lucky
Harry Dean Stanton’s final movie and basically autobiographical of him. Great art house poetry.

15. The Big Sick
Another autobiographical film, about Silicon Valley star Kumail Nanjiani – powerful story of love and death.

16. Our Souls at Night
We watched this because a close friend’s daughter who was a film student at Colorado College at the time was Redford’s personal assistant on the film. Filmed in Florence, Colorado but should have been filmed in Yuma since Kent Haruf based his last book, and all his books, on a fictional version of Yuma. Classic Redford and Fonda and a really touching story about love. Heart-wrenching movie for me in part because Haruf is the most literarily relevant well-known writer to the Northeastern Colorado region where I spent the second half of my formative years.

17. Get Out
No doubt the first of many great things to come from Jordan Peele – acerbic commentary on the horror show of race relations in America.

18. The Greatest Showman
Yet another movie where you sit there slack-jawed thinking, why isn’t Hugh Jackman a huge rock or Broadway star on top of everything else? Up there with Into the Woods and Les Misérables and La La Land among the best musicals of the last several years. The performances are spellbinding.

19. Dina
Another love story about those who don’t fit in and another favorite from the 2017 True/False fest.

20. Whose Streets?
Another standout from True/False, also a favorite of The New Yorker, about the Ferguson police misconduct.

Note: Dozens of other really good movies could not fit on this list. Have not yet seen The Disaster Artist, Downsizing, Ex Libris, Faces/Places, or A Quiet Passion.

Why every man but the “president”?

We are in a watershed moment of sexual and cultural mores today in the United States. Every day news breaks of another man accused, and often punished swiftly and immediately, for behavior that is either outright criminal or way outside of of the spectrum of what is considered acceptable in today’s culture (and outside of what should have ever been considered acceptable in any culture at any time). Today Matt Lauer, himself a newsman, is all over the news, swiftly fired with no warning and apparently very little due process like many before him. And Garrison Keillor fired too. I am not arguing against those actions, nor against any of the swift and probably, at least in these initial moments of this paradigm shift, proper backlash against any of the men who have perpetrated awful behavior whether heterosexual or homosexual that has come to light over the past few weeks since Harvey Weinstein broke the dam thanks to the New York Times. What I am questioning is the incredible damage it is doing to young boys and girls and adult men and women and whole industries and constituencies and the whole country and world right now, right this minute, that we are not holding the president of the United States to the same standard to which we are holding all of these other men in arguably much less important functional roles in society albeit the behavior and crimes are all the same. Weinstein. Affleck. Toback. Bush. C.K. Conyers. Dick. Dreyfuss. Franken. Halperin. Hoffman. Jurvetson. Piven. Price. Spacey. Seagal. Tambor. Takei. Simmons. Ratner. Sizemore. Stallone. Thrush. Moore. Rose. Lauer. Keillor. And many more, most having already faced or facing severe consequences ranging from criminal investigations to getting fired to issuing humiliating and probably career-ending public apologies to dropping in election polls to be being generally and immediately convicted in the court of public opinion.

Every man except Trump.

Not only have the at least 17 women who have credibly accused Trump — just as or more credibly than the accusers of any or all of the above alleged perpetrators — been not believed and called Liars, but Trump, whose name is so distasteful to me I really wish we could come up with a code or stop saying it out loud like we do with the similarly culpable mass shooters to whom we deny Fame by refusing to say their names, continues to tweet and assault and mis-lead his way to being perhaps the most destructive force in the history of the United States, continues to get away with so much more than just the sexual assault and harassment that should have alone long ago gotten him fired, forced to apologize, forced to resign, drop out of campaigns, or be put in jail or at the very least banished from public thought.

I do not have any worthwhile speculation or answers to why this is happening. If you started reading this piece hoping for answers, sorry. I only believe deep in my heart of hearts that there will be a horrible Reckoning for all of us who are pretending to have this watershed moment, pretending to have a cultural sea change, pretending that men are having a new Awakening and a new dialogue with themselves and each other and with women about our behavior and forcing real change, when we can’t even be bothered to hold the supposed president of the United States to account.

Why do we even have time to talk about Matt Lauer today? Let’s start with Trump and then work even farther down from there.

Shame on us.

Dark posts and dark times 

​Everyone should read this article about dark posts and Cambridge Analytica, which helped push Brexit, manipulates Facebook only for Republican candidates, and on whose board sits Steve Bannon. It looks like the election was determined by Facebook via fake news and dark posts that tilted toward Trump severely. Please be aware of this as you look at Facebook: you’re being manipulated. I was aware of the fake news thing through the election and I ignored many many posts by wacky left-leaning fake news sources (I obviously wasn’t targeted for alt right messages since Facebook knows my leanings), concentrating on the Washington Post and the New York Times and other legitimate publications. I didn’t know about dark posts though. This is scary. I think Mark Zuckerberg is probably Progressive and did not mean for Facebook to be used in a negative way to throw the election, but this needs to be fought against hard.https://www.google.com/amp/mobile.nytimes.com/2016/11/20/opinion/the-secret-agenda-of-a-facebook-quiz.amp.html

Donald Trump is the Archenemy of the First Amendment

Trump is absolutely an enemy, the enemy, of free press and the First Amendment, the biggest such threat in our lifetimes who wants to censor the press and the internet like China does, one of the key reasons he is being lumped in – by the nation’s top journalists and writers and thinkers – with fascists like those who came to power in 1930s Europe. He has been very clear that he intends to nominate supreme court justices who will weaken the First Amendment. If Trump is elected, free press will all but end during his term and I can’t imagine the resulting damage to freedom and democracy around the world. He has banned the Washington Post (heard of that one?). Let me repeat that for you: He has banned the F-ing Washington F-ing Post and revoked its press credentials!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.

Trump believes the Washington Post is “dishonest and phony”. He believes the Washington Post is “dishonest and phony” (see first story below). So we want to support someone who believes that, and who would want reporters at the Post, and maybe people I know who are reporters and editors, to be fired and threatened? Not me, I can tell you that unequivocally. Trump hates journalists and will retaliate and sue and censor and threaten violence and make fun of disabled reporters and kick reporters out of events and block any attempt by journalists to report honestly on him. Why do I know that? Because that’s precisely what he has done throughout the campaign – all of those things, consistently and repeatedly – and of course it will get much worse when he has actual power. Don’t take my word for it. It’s all out there on the record:












The Last Day of the Republican Party

An explanation about all my Facebook posts lately: 2-3 years ago I vowed to not do any more “political” posts on Facebook. However, the Trump debacle has caused me to change this temporarily, because we have a responsibility to speak up and inform our fellow citizens, friends, and family members who don’t already understand that, for the first time in our lifetimes in the U.S., we have a major party political candidate that we must not and cannot support. If Trump accepts the Republican nomination tonight and officially becomes its leader, today will be the last day it will be possible to simultaneously be a quality person, or claim to be a good Christian, and be a Republican. Today it’s about Trump. Tomorrow, if Trump officially becomes its leader, all good and smart people must leave the Republican party or work hard to change it and remove Trump from it. The Republican party must be eliminated or reformed if this frightening demagogue takes control. I will stop writing about this on Facebook hopefully soon and use my blog instead, but this is really serious. This isn’t just politics.

This psychopath must be stopped


I’ll be following this … we can’t go this direction, folks. It would be child abuse and unpatriotic and horrifying to allow a mentally ill psychopath who wants to create the new Hitler Youth to get elected to public office.

An Extremist Running for Texas’ Board of Education Won Big on Super Tuesday. That’s Not Just Texas’ Problem.


Where do these people come from?

I’m starting to understand how Hitler came to power, and the danger is not over. We have really stupid, ill people who are electing and supporting dangerous idiots under the false banner of fake religion and fake conservatism. Who are these people? Who raised and educated them? What can be done?


True/False Northern Colorado Bureau report


Okay film buffs, this is your unofficial True/False Film Fest Northern Colorado Bureau correspondent, reporting from the MO-X shuttle on route from Columbia to Kansas City before flying back to Denver tonight. Excellent festival as usual this year (our 6th in a row) highlighted by great conversation and food and laughs with family and fellow fest-goers, the buskers, Q&As with directors and producers, the smart young people producing their films early in their careers, and the more seasoned professionals with their Hollywood narrators presenting their latest more slick fare fresh off their Sundance debuts.

This year, I’m not sure if I saw anything that’s destined for Academy Award greatness as has been the case the last three years in a row (Boyhood last year, 20 Feet from Stardom the year before that, and Searching for Sugarman in 2012). This year’s closing night film, Jerry Rothwell’s How to Change the World, an exposé of early Greenpeace history, is certainly a possibility and was certainly a highlight of the festival, perhaps in my top 3. I think my favorites this year were the several Polish shorts and features we saw, one of which, The Case of Bronek Pekosiński, shared its director of photography Ryszard Lenczewski with Ida for which he was nominated for the Best Cinematography Oscar this year. Pekosiński’s director, Grzegorz Królikiewicz, was there in person with a translator at our screening for a fascinating in-depth Q&A. These films are part of the Ragtag Theater’s Neither/Nor series of vintage films and were absolutely fantastic. Another highlight was a secret screening that I can’t talk about yet but that I think we’ll all be hearing more about soon, about a major American literary institution and its formidable and eccentric cast of characters.

Saturday night’s feature film at the Missouri Theater, “Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck,” was not a highlight of the festival, nor was its drunk director’s making a quasi-coherent idiot of himself in the Q&A afterwards. Icky. Although the film was well-made, and brought out many new details that I did not know about regarding the genesis and nature of the rejection and pain that drove Cobain’s art as well as the failure that mostly nullified it, it did not cast Cobain’s music or influence as being things that have withstood the test of time (as heavily into Nevermind and Cobain’s fuck-you aesthetic as I was when it came out almost 25 years ago — I believe I went so far as to make my own “Corporate magazines still suck” t-shirt with black magic marker ala the famous Rolling Stone cover and then wear it to a few gigs … yes this is the part where you roll your eyes), and really just made me feel bad for Cobain and the unfortunate and unsuccessful path his brief life took. If Dave Grohl would have been interviewed for or involved with the film, that might have given it some credibility, but he was not, probably because the unfortunate Courtney Love was.

The Polish films, on the other hand, especially three shorts from the nineties by Marcel Łoziński that we saw at the Big Ragtag, were brilliant, and beautifully highlighted themes of what the films suggest is important in life: health, acceptance, love, and balancing all that with having enough money so that you can make and go see effete documentaries at yippy film fests rather than being the subject of them (did I just say that out loud?).

More at http://truefalse.org/.

How to be a man in 2015


This piece from The Guardian is fascinating and led me to look on Wikipedia for whether there is any such thing as “masculism” or “masculinism” (there is, it’s called both).

Can we be both male feminists, as I consider myself, and masculists at the same time? Can we embraced masculism without it being androcentric (see the Wikipedia entry) and exclusive of women?

As men we spend so much time talking negatively about ourselves, to perhaps try to make up for past or present crimes of men like a national apology for slavery, even those of us who aren’t raping or harassing or discriminating, and perhaps do a disservice to ourselves and our feminine counterparts who play such critical roles in our lives. Just to write about this takes me out of my comfort zone … but why do we as men continue to deny ourselves permission to talk about the things and address the things that women talk about, insisting on stoicizing ourselves and punching through our quiet desperation decade-in and decade-out in denial of anything like depression or weakness to perhaps our detriment and to our early graves from our obligatory heart attacks?

Maybe a redefined concept of both feminism and masculism that doesn’t include dominance or exclusion is in order. But then comes the little voice from somewhere deep in the DNA, no, you have to be at least somewhat dominant, you have to make more money, asset your creativity more, be stronger, because she (the collective, feminist, editorial “she”) has all the sexual power. But does she? And even if so, we don’t have sexual relationships with every person of the opposite sex with whom we have interactions, so should notions of femininity and masculinity in every day life be tied to or metaphors for private physicosexual (I feel justified making up that word right now if it doesn’t already exist because I have come across the word “physicochemical” in my work) power dynamics? The scene around the fire in Quest for Fire comes to mind. And if the racism analogy holds any water, well, we’ve seen how entrenched our culture still is in racism and how many still want to hold onto antiquated power norms during this embarrassing last few years in the U.S. I’m no social scientist, but I do wonder what it takes for quantum shifts to take place, or if they are possible when it comes to race and gender equity.

These are questions way beyond my puny man-brain capacity … but there I go again … .