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Living With Climate Change: Do your relatives pick fights on climate change? Push back with investment tips, says Morningstar panel


Avoid religion and politics, including big-thinking topics like climate change, at the Thanksgiving table if you want to keep the peace, some family therapists advise.

But people shouldn’t feel they have to quash their own convictions, either, particlarly as tightly fought elections and contested candidate races increasingly define politics, and as a deluge of information flows from social media

and traditional media sources — some backed by experts, some promoted precisely for its lack of expert babble.

One of those sensitive holiday-gathering issues may be climate change. It’s a topic that includes the sometimes harrowing heat, drought and severe storm predictions that expert bodies issue. But it also means exploring the transition to cleaner energy

already underway and speeding up in coming years and decades, which could upend the market for gas-engine cars most people still drive and the appliances they buy.

Related: Food for thought this Thanksgiving: Most people consider the Earth sacred and believe God gave us a duty to protect our oceans, forests and clean air

It can also mean mulling sustainability practices at favorite brands, new, often high-paying “green” jobs, investing with Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) factors in mind, and making sense of a mixed bag of political comments when it comes to what naysayers have labeled “woke capitalism.”

Investing research giant Morningstar featured Environmental, Social and Governance fund managers and research experts, professionals responsible for tracking, explaining and selling this growing feature of investing, on a Twitter Spaces discussion this week. ESG, for instance, might factor in how diverse a board of directors is, whether a companies warehouses are at flood risk, and just how transparent said company is about these factors with its investors, customers and employees.

The Morningstar panelists tackled the timely issue of sensitive holiday table talk and how people who care about climate change and social issues might engage constructively with relatives who appear not to. The thrust of the discussion centered on avoiding fights and particularly sensitive jabs, but not shying away from sharing personal opinions that aren’t merely talking points, but help define who we are as people, as a country, and as a shared world, especially when armed with science- and economics-based reasoning.

This sharing, the panelists said, helps explain to others why ESG, and active participation in the energy transition, can provide growth and income opportunities for investors, especially when other sound investing practices are employed, and of course, ESG can help foster more inclusive workplaces, where we all spend such a huge chunk of our lives.

A recording of the full discussion can be found here.

Lisa Woll, CEO of US SIF, a forum for responsible and sustainable investment, said she often has to explain to friends, family and her professional connections that ESG isn’t an investing theme per se, rather a layer of screening or scrutiny applied to stock-picking already facing a more thorough checklist.

And, she said, the work of select conservative state officials and a stable of conservative judges at the federal level who have pushed for “anti-woke” investment of state pension money means she’s having these discussions more than ever.

Leslie Samuelrich, CEO of Green Century Funds, said she patiently explains that her “rationale for including ESG data is when I’m thinking about [whether a] company is really poised for long-term investment. How are they going to be performing in the economy 20 years from now? 25 years from now, when I want my assets to be there for me, you know?”

“I want to invest in the leaders. I want to invest in the people in the management teams that are considering these things,” she continued. “So to me, that’s the arguments for ESG. And that’s exactly what I say at the Thanksgiving dinner table.”

It’s also true that climate changec can be counted among the topics that tend to split generations.

Majorities of Americans say the federal government, businesses and other actors are doing too little to reduce the effects of climate change, according to a Pew Research Center survey. And those surveyed expressed support for a variety of policy approaches aimed at addressing the issue.

It’s the degree of change that tends to divide mostly younger Americans with a long life ahead, who may hear the climate-change clock ticking, and their older relatives or co-workers who may also be factoring in cost, convenience, warmer retirement destinations and other life-bending changes sure to come with an aggressive response to climate change.

On the whole, the Pew study found the public has limited appetite for some of the more dramatic proposed changes to energy consumption, such as phasing out the use of fossil fuels

entirely or ending the production of gasoline-powered vehicles by 2035, and pushing only electic or hybrid vehicles

Notably, many of the car manufacturers are well on their way to adding EV options to their lineups.

The Pew survey found members of Generation Z (born after 1996), as well as Millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996), are more open than older Americans to some of the farther-reaching policy proposals related to climate change.

Morningstar’s Sarah Newcomb, director of financial psychology, also joined the panel. She stressed that intentional listening can be the most generous offering at any table.

“Really get curious, ask them questions, start listening,” she said of conversations that don’t go the way that those open minded to the climate-change fight and sustainable business practices expected.

“Don’t worry about trying to correct, think about how to connect,” Newcomb advised. “ESG investors… are typically also in favor of diversity and inclusiveness. And I think it can really be a good exercise in being inclusive in your heart when there is diversity of thought.”

Also read:

Avoid politics at Thanksgiving dinner, and discuss these timely financial questions instead

What is ‘Zombie Debt?’ Why homeowners are facing foreclosure on old mortgages.

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