Extended Viewer

Samuel Block

Samuel Block

Vice President, ESG Research

Sam Block is head of Materials Sector research, responsible for both company and thematic research and model enhancements. Previously, Sam worked as an engineer at Northrop Grumman Corporation. He holds a B.S. in Industrial and Systems Engineering from The Ohio State University and a M.S. in Environmental Management and Planning from the Whiting Engineering School at Johns Hopkins University.

Research and Insights

Articles by Samuel Block

    Unwrapping the Green Claims of Plastic Packaging

    Podcast | Mar 22, 2024 | Samuel Block

    Plastic is an inescapable reality of the modern world. But trading off its convenience and versatility for environmental and health impacts is getting harder. Companies that make or rely on plastic are being pushed to improve recyclability and reuse. And as tempting as it is to believe everything you read on a label, it looks like the road to a genuine circular economy is still going to be a little bumpy.

    Plastic Packaging: The Unmasking of Regulations

    5 mins read Blog | Jun 7, 2022 | Samuel Block, Shitiz Chaudhary

    A rapid increase in plastic-waste regulations may increase costs and liabilities, or limit market access for companies that are slow to align with them.  

    In the Gold Mines of CEO Pay

    Podcast | May 20, 2022 | Samuel Block

    Executive pay took centre stage during the COVID-19 pandemic. But for mining company, Sibanye-Stillwater, the spotlight hasn’t moved. With disgruntled mineworkers in a 10-week strike, a generous CEO pay package is looking increasingly tenuous.

    McDonald’s Pigs and the SEC’s ESG

    Podcast | Mar 13, 2022 | Samuel Block, Jonathan Ponder

    Carl Icahn, a billionaire investor and storied corporate raider, has mounted a proxy fight at McDonald’s Corp. to change how it sources it’s pork. At the moment, McDonald’s, and all other fast-food companies, source pork from farmers that use what are called gestation crates. These crates have caught the ire of Icahn and the US Humane Society for some time, and they decided to mount a public proxy fight to change the practice. We discuss what this means for McDonald’s and the future of pork producers. Then, we look at the first enforcement action ever made by the relatively new SEC Climate and ESG Task force against Vale over its misleading ESG disclosures on the safety of its tailings dams.

    Sustainable Gas and Assault at Rio Tinto

    Podcast | Feb 4, 2022 | Samuel Block, Elchin Mammadov

    The EU has made a last minute change to its green bible, the EU Taxonomy: It proposed including natural gas as a sustainable transition fuel. The move would have notable effects on investors and companies. And would give natural gas a coveted green label by the EU. Then, a self-commissioned report by Rio Tinto revealed sexual assaults and culture of ‘systemic’ bullying at the Australian mining giant.

    We Need Miners and Cheap Drugs

    Podcast | Dec 10, 2021 | Samuel Block, Namita Nair

    Everyone wants to get into mining these days. The extractive industries have seen a flurry of interest as the rush to decarbonize our economies sparks a race to control the metals those low-carbon technologies need to work. We discuss the ESG paradox this creates: on the one hand, mining is a fundamentally challenging sector when it comes to ESG and on the other hand for renewable energy to be a feasible solution to fossil fuels, we need batteries. Then we discuss a sustainability bond issued by Teva Pharmaceuticals with some of its provisions tied to both better access to healthcare and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

    Vaccine Mandates and Walmart’s Insulin

    Podcast | Aug 6, 2021 | Samuel Block, Namita Nair

    Some companies are mandating their employees receive vaccine for COVID-19 if they want to continue working at the company. The idea sort of seems like a mandatory health and safety procedure, albeit one with a bit more controversy surrounding it than others. Still, the companies that have a fully vaccinated workforce may be in a better place come winter than those without. We discuss how vaccine mandates are similar to the proactive health and safety policies implemented at companies in more dangerous industries. Then we ask whether Walmart has become a social impact company with its new relatively low-cost insulin product offered to uninsured Americans.

    Mines Need Biodiversity and HSBC’s Legal Carbon Reduction Requirement

    Podcast | Jun 11, 2021 | Samuel Block, Gillian Mollod, Aura Toader

    Biodiversity has finally become mainstreamed, and the world is better understanding what its destruction means for our ongoing concern as a species. Many industries play a significant role in global biodiversity loss, and the mining industry is one of the big ones. We look at how mining is impacting biodiversity and where mining is impacting biodiversity. Then we provide you with another proxy season update with the bombshell resolution at HSBC that commits the bank to phasing out coal-fired power and thermal coal mining financing by 2040 that passed at 99%. And that makes it legally binding.

    Mining’s Impact on Biodiversity: A Rising Risk?

    6 mins read Blog | Jun 9, 2021 | Samuel Block, Gillian Mollod

    Will biodiversity losses become the next crisis facing humanity, possibly surpassing climate change? Growing scrutiny on biodiversity risks could have implications for mines that threaten biodiversity or environments of high conservation value.

    Mining Energy-Transition Metals: National Aims, Local Conflicts

    5 mins read Blog | Jun 3, 2021 | Samuel Block

    Investors are scouting for companies that mine the metals needed in new energy technologies. But some mining projects key to the transition from fossil fuels may face opposition from Native Americans for threatening sacred areas or traditional ways of life.

    The last straw: Will plastic become the next stranded asset?

    Blog | Aug 22, 2019 | Samuel Block

    Oil and gas companies are accelerating investment in plastics, in response to the shift away from fossil fuels. But is this pivot sustainable? Could plastic become the next stranded asset?

    Using alternative data to spot ESG risks

    Blog | Jun 7, 2019 | Samuel Block

    The amount of ESG-related information disclosed by corporations is on the rise, but investors still often lack a full understanding of financially relevant risks. How can they gain a better sense of where their investments are most vulnerable to ESG-related disasters?

    Income Inequality and the Intracorporate Pay Gap

    Research Report | Apr 14, 2016 | Samuel Block

    Between 2009 to 2014, we found that the highest executive total summary compensation at a company grew on average by 20% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) compared to 2% CAGR for the average worker.  In our sample of 1,240 constituent companies of the MSCI ACWI Investable Market Index (IMI), we found the largest and fastest growing pay gap occurred within the Consumer Staples and Consumer Discretionary Sectors. We also found a correlation between intracorporate pay gaps and...

    Shale Gas and Hydraulic Fracturing in the US: Opportunity or Underestimated Risk?

    Research Report | Oct 20, 2011 | Samuel Block, Dana Sasarean

    Shale gas presents a huge new potential investment opportunity and could possibly transform the US energy market. However, financial returns from shale gas face pressure due to emerging environmental liabilities, community opposition that limits access to resources, recoverable reserves uncertainties, and natural gas price volatility.Based on MSCI ESG Research’s assessment of companies’ performance on environmental issues, we believe that companies with poor historical performance...