By Leigh Gallagher, assistant managing editor
FORTUNE -- A trio of high-profile investors debated the investment community's acceptance of environmental risk in a late afternoon panel at Fortune's Brainstorm Green conference in Laguna Niguel, Calif., earlier this week. David Blood, cofounder of Generation Investment Management, Goldman Sachs' Abby Joseph Cohen and asset manager-turned-environmentalist Tom Steyer, the founder of Farallon Capital Management who is now focused on finding solutions to climate change, all agreed on one thing -- the risks are huge. But they had different thoughts on whether investors care or not.
Cohen pointed out that for years many investors took as gospel academic research that came out in the 1990s that showed that portfolios based around socially responsible investing didn't do well. "For several years the results of these academic papers were used by university endowments for why they shouldn't be investing in a green manner," she said. "We thought that work was probably not right."
Goldman (GS) did work in the mid-2000s, she said, that showed that investors were indeed paying attention to carbon energy intensity and other factors; Goldman's research showed that a "cleaner" company had a higher p/e and lower cost of debt capital: "There was a premium on being more sustainable company in this space."
During the financial crisis these correlations went away, Cohen said, adding that she sees movement back towards such correlations -- and that her division has committed significant resources to think about these issues. One such way: a framework to evaluate companies called Sustain, which looks at metrics like ESG (environmental, social, and governance) factors, quality of management, community issues, and the like. Cohen has said this framework has revealed a high correlation between companies that are financially sustainable and those that are paying attention to such issues. And she said the company's analysts study these results. She pointed out, however, that the company's portfolio clients in the U.S. are not as interested in these issues as they are in other parts of the world.
Blood said the markets are very efficient and "good weighers" of information and that right now, they are suggesting there won't be a global price on carbon anytime soon and that the probability of fossil fuel reserves being burned is high. "The markets have judged that they don't care," he said.
Both Blood and Steyer said that the markets may have realities forced upon them in ways that will be significant. "If the scientists are right and events occur the way they're predicting them," Steyer said, "it will bring political reactions that will be dramatic."
He said he was confident in the private enterprise in finding solutions, but only if the incentives and parameters and rules for them to do so exist.
The panelists made the point that the problem is global. But Steyer said responsibility still lies with the U.S. to lead. "We are the essential problem," he said. "We are the biggest historical polluter and biggest polluter per person. If we're going to go overseas and ask people to accept rules, we're going to need to lead and accept sacrifices."
"We are the essential country for technology, for money, and for morality," Steyer said.
Drops Apple from "conviction list" but ups its Q2 revenue estimate and rates it a Buy.
FORTUNE -- It could have been worse for Apple (AAPL).
In a flurry of notes issued Tuesday, Goldman Sachs' Bill Shope lowered his forecast for the entire PC industry and downgraded Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) from Neutral to Sell.
Apple got a mixed review. Although Shope removed the company from Goldman's coveted "conviction list" and lowered his price target MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Apr 2, 2013 10:58 AM ET
Dismisses shareholder suit as silly sideshow; says visits to Apple Store are like Prozac
FORTUNE -- Apple (AAPL) is streaming Tim Cook's remarks live on its website here.
We invite you follow along with us.
Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein did the introduction. The questions will be posed by Bill Shope, Goldman Sachs' chief Apple watcher.
Q: Starts with a question about distributing Apple's cash to shareholders.
A: "Apple doesn't have a depression era mentality," in MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Feb 12, 2013 10:22 AM ET
His Goldman Sachs keynote, scheduled for 4:15 p.m. ET has been shifted to 10:15 a.m.
FORTUNE -- Not sure what this means, but the much-anticipated presentation that Apple (AAPL) CEO Tim Cook was scheduled to give at Goldman Sachs's (GS) technology conference Tuesday has been moved.
It was originally scheduled for 1:15 p.m. Pacific (4:15 p.m. Eastern). Now, according to Apple's Investor Relations page, Cook will speak at 7:15 a.m. Pacific (10:15 Eastern).
In MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Feb 11, 2013 12:22 PM ET
Wall Street's great vampire squid strikes again
FORTUNE -- Last Tuesday, the day before Apple (AAPL) released its holiday quarter earnings and two days before the company lost $60 billion in market value, Goldman Sachs (GS) sold $30 million worth of so-called structured bonds tied to the performance of Apple's stock, SEC filings show.
At the time of the sale, Bill Shope, Goldman's Apple equities specialist, was predicting that the company's shares MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jan 29, 2013 7:15 AM ET
Microsoft quietly gears up to take on Google Apps; one iPad lovers' take on the Nexus 7.
As tablet race heats up, Apple may try smaller device [THE NEW YORK TIMES]
Apple's plan for a tablet with a smaller screen is part of a textbook business strategy: to lure customers who want different sizes of tablets into the iPad product family, say analysts and technology industry executives. ... The strategy would most likely MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Jul 16, 2012 9:46 AM ET
In a survey of 1,000 customers, 21% said they wouldn't leave the platform for any price
FORTUNE -- According to Goldman Sachs' Bill Shope, Wall Street tends to view Apple (AAPL) as a hardware company that is only as valuable as its next hit product -- as if its famously loyal iPhone and iPad customers or its unusually sticky iOS software platform were worth nothing.
So he conducted a two-part study to MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jun 29, 2012 12:20 PM ET
The company managed, however, to stay off Goldman's list of the funds' favorite shorts
FORTUNE -- Goldman Sachs (GS) on Thursday issued its Q1 2012 Hedge Fund Trend Monitor report, which lists both the 50 stocks most important to hedge funds as well the 50 "Very Important Short Positions For Hedge Funds."
Apple (AAPL) doesn't appear on the second list, but it tops the first:
Stock: Number of funds with stock as top 10 holding.
1. MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - May 25, 2012 10:21 AM ET
In two weeks, the company's value had been pulled down by nearly one Amazon
FORTUNE -- In the words of Jason Schwarz:
"If you can keep a good stock down then you are able to load up for the ride back up. It's like a slingshot -- the harder you pull, the more propulsion you generate." -- Apple: Seven reasons shorts love it
There was a lot of pent-up value in Apple (AAPL) MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Apr 26, 2012 7:04 AM ET
Since February 14, the stock has hit 27 new highs in 31 trading days
"We're not going to go have a toga party or do something outlandish, and so people don't have to worry [the cash] is going to burn a hole in our pocket." -- Tim Cook
Conventional wisdom had it that Apple's (AAPL) share price would take off once the company declared a dividend.
Turns out, all it took was a MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Mar 27, 2012 5:02 PM ET
|November jobs report: Unemployment falls to 7%|
|Five key numbers behind the jobs recovery|
|Where should you put your money now?|
|2 million Facebook, Gmail and Twitter passwords stolen in massive hack|
|Sick days: A luxury many hourly workers don't have|