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3 Sustainable Companies Helping to Solve Global Warming

The challenges of climate change come with investment opportunities. Just ask Galvanize Global Equities.

Securities In This Article
Stellantis NV
Zoetis Inc Class A
GFL Environmental Inc

Can presidential candidates and their colleagues pick stocks? You might be surprised at their investing ambitions, particularly regarding global warming and the energy transition. Consider former Vice President Al Gore, who famously starred in the global-warming documentary An Inconvenient Truth and then went on to found sustainable investing firm Generation Investment Management back when few companies were making climate pledges.

On the other hand, current Republican candidate Vivek Ramaswamy believes that fossil fuels, which have been blamed for global warming, are necessary for human prosperity. Ramaswamy’s asset-management firm Strive eschews environmental, social, and governance investing, which aims to address global warming.

Then there’s Tom Steyer, who lost the 2020 Democratic nomination to Biden after a long track record in investing. Steyer founded Farallon Capital, a well-regarded hedge fund operator that has about $39 billion in assets under management, and he was also a longtime partner at Hellman & Friedman, a San Francisco-based private equity firm. After losing to Biden, Steyer co-founded Galvanize Climate Solutions, a climate-focused investment firm.

Climate change may be the defining challenge of our time. But all challenges come with opportunities, some potentially massive. “We believe this crisis in climate constitutes a huge tailwind for us as investors to outperform both from a purely financial standpoint and also a societal one,” Steyer said to Morningstar in a statement.

Morningstar recently caught up with Seth Kirkham, CIO of Galvanize Global Equities, the public equities arm of Steyer’s firm. “The transition is the most significant driver of corporate capital allocation for the coming years if not decades,” Kirkham says. It is now “pervasive” across all economic sectors.

One big driver is the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act. The “trillions being put to abating carbon in our economy is the biggest growth opportunity in the market,” Kirkham says. Among other things, he notes, the act is also a key part of the deglobalization of the economy, which presents new challenges and opportunities for automotive and other companies.

A 26-year-veteran of investing with a long and successful career in hedge funds, Kirkham looks for strong earnings and cash flows to drive stock prices. In particular, he seeks companies that are already outspoken advocates for the carbon transition and leading on issues like setting targets for reducing scope 3 emissions. Kirkham’s team is also engaging with companies about opportunities to help accelerate the transition, which will eventually translate into stock price strength. Here are three examples.

“GFL, Stellantis, and Zoetis are three investments with whom we have meaningful engagements going, and over time, we believe they will evidence a faster rate of change in terms of scope 3 carbon abatement,” says Kirkham.

Sustainable Investments From Environmentally Friendly Companies

A table showing three companies owned by Galvanize Global Equities.
Source: Morningstar. Data as of Aug. 8, 2023. Note: The Morningstar Quantitative Rating and Quantitative Fair Value Estimate were used for GFL Environmental.

Zoetis ZTS

About two thirds of Zoetis’ sales come from the pet business, which has doubled over the past four years. Galvanize Global Equities thinks sales and returns on capital will keep growing, as Zoetis capitalizes on its scale. That could help Zoetis beat earnings projections from its existing lines of business. The rest of Zoetis’ sales comes from its livestock-related business. About a fourth of greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture, so boosting the efficiency of food production will be critical. Zoetis’ leadership in livestock medicines reduces livestock mortality. Meanwhile, Zoetis is still “in the early stages of its climate journey,” and is making progress, says Kirkham.

  • Morningstar Fair Value Estimate: $170
  • Morningstar Rating: 3 stars
  • Morningstar Uncertainty Rating: Medium
  • Morningstar Economic Moat Rating: Wide
  • Morningstar Comment: Zoetis enjoys a wide moat and secular tailwinds, notes senior analyst Debbie Wang.

Stellantis STLA

Stellantis is one of the world’s top five automakers, with brands like Chrysler, Peugeot, Jeep, Maserati, and Alfa Romeo. Stellantis is the product of the 2021 merger of Fiat Chrysler and Peugeot. You can read more about its efforts to catch up in the electric vehicle market here. Kirkham relates that Stellantis has set ambitious climate targets, with a target of net-zero emissions by 2038. To meet these goals, Stellantis plans to spend EUR 30 billion on infrastructure and technology between 2021 and 2025. At the same time, Galvanize Global Equities thinks Stellantis’ profitability can “well” exceed what the market expects, even with the company’s big investments. The stock trades at 1 times earnings, according to Galvanize, creating “a compelling entry point” as the auto industry evolves for the low-emissions era.

  • Morningstar Fair Value Estimate: $43
  • Morningstar Rating: 5 stars
  • Morningstar Uncertainty Rating: High
  • Morningstar Economic Moat Rating: None
  • Morningstar Comment: Stellantis’ revenue and profit margins “continue to impress,” notes senior analyst Richard Hilgert.

GFL Environmental GFL

This Canadian waste management company services residential, commercial, municipal, industrial, and institutional customers. It is North America’s fourth-largest environmental services company, but in a spot of unfortunate timing, it went public in March 2020, the same month that the COVID-19 epidemic disrupted global business. That led “to an underappreciation of its track record of operational excellence and effective capital allocation,” says Kirkham. He sees GFL reducing its carbon footprint and creating new revenue and profit opportunities as it does so. Landfills alone account for as much greenhouse gas emissions as the entire aviation industry, Kirkham observes. Recently, GFL announced a series of efforts to boost the capital it will commit to clean technologies and plans to align its executive compensation with climate targets.

  • Morningstar Quantitative Fair Value Estimate: $36.11
  • Morningstar Quantitative Rating: 3 stars
  • Morningstar Quantitative Uncertainty Rating: High
  • Morningstar Quantitative Economic Moat Rating: None

Correction (Aug. 11, 2023): This article was updated to indicate that the data points used for GFL Environmental were Morningstar Quantitative Ratings.

The author or authors do not own shares in any securities mentioned in this article. Find out about Morningstar’s editorial policies.

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About the Author

Leslie P. Norton

Editorial Director
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Leslie Norton is editorial director for sustainability at Morningstar.

Norton joined Morningstar in 2021 after a long career at Barron's Magazine and, where she managed the magazine's well-known Q&A feature and launched its sustainable investing coverage. Before that, she was Barron's Asia editor and mutual funds editor. While at Barron's, she won a SABEW "Best in Business" award for a series of stories investigating fraudulent Chinese equities, which protected the savings of investors and pensioners by warning about deceptive stocks before they crashed.

She holds a bachelor's degree from Yale College, where she majored in English, and a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.

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