Coronavirus Round-up: “We have to maintain our focus on the long term” – PRI’s Fiona Reynolds

The latest Covid-19 / investment news

Fiona Reynolds, CEO of the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), has said in a LinkedIn post responding to questions about the responsible investment community’s response to Covid-19 that: “We have to maintain our focus on the long term while trying to understand the very real issues companies are facing right now.” She called for collective action, adding that the PRI can “bring the responsible investment community together to ensure a well thought-out, measured approach that looks to prioritise social and environmental outcomes”.

The San Francisco Employees' Retirement System has issued a call to action for all businesses to find a way to reorganize their manufacturing, distribution, resources, and service capabilities to “win the fight” against COVID-19. It said: “As institutional investors, we are asking all companies in the S&P 500 to report what actions they are taking to win the fight against COVID-19.” It is asking companies to reply via social media using the #sp500covidfight hashtag.

The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), the US faith investment body, and the Shareholder Rights Group, the association of investors formed in 2016, have urged companies to observe a nine-point series of best practice guidelines at virtual AGMs during the outbreak. Top of the list is that each company should commit that the virtual-only format is a one-time accommodation due to the crisis.

The creation of the Audit, Reporting and Governance Authority (ARGA), the body that will replace the Financial Reporting Council, could be on hold because of the outbreak. The FRC published its 2020/21 strategy for reform stating that ARGA’s creation, as well as other reforms, require primary legislation. The FRC stated that 20 of the 83 recommendations of the Kingman Review would be fully implemented by the end of 2019/20, with on-going work aimed at implementing over 35 more. The Covid-19 crisis might postpone such primary legislation. The FRC strategy stated: “Primary legislation is required to create ARGA and give it formal powers to implement fully the recommendations. We await the Government’s decisions on whether it will implement those remaining areas of public policy that require legislation.”

Barclays has added ESG Fundamental Research to its research offering, saying it is an opportunity to reflect on whether Covid-19 will accelerate the integration of sustainability. “Prior to the outbreak of Covid-19, finance was already at a tipping point, where the integration of sustainability concerns was becoming the norm,” said Jeff Meli, Global Head of Research at the bank. “Today’s launch of Barclays’ Fundamental ESG Research is an opportunity to reflect on whether Covid-19 will accelerate this trend even further – creating a greater sense of urgency and responsibility toward everything from consumer behavior to climate change, supply-chain practices and the future of work and mobility – and potentially alter the nature of the investment process as a result.”

Some workers at solar investment firm Bluefield are likely to be designated as ‘key workers’, the company says. Bluefield Solar, a fund which invests in UK-based solar assets, said some of the 19 employees of sister firm Bluefield Operations are anticipated to be categorised as such. Bluefield has a capacity of 478 Megawatt peak (MWp).

Lawyers at New York-based Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison have looked at the impact of Covid-19 on performance-based pay at companies. “Without making appropriate adjustments to incentive compensation programs to account for the impact of Covid-19, companies run a risk of not properly incentivizing and compensating their employees at a time that increased dedication is necessary to maintain company stability,” they say.

The AXA Research Fund, a long-time supporter of open research advocate Thomas Landrain, has interviewed him about his new OpenCOVID-19 project which aims to fight the virus through a digital global open science coalition. So far, more than 2,000 contributors have joined the program via a collaborative scientific platform called Just One Giant Lab (JOGL).

Denmark’s MP Pension is allowing self-employed members to pause their payments throughout the crisis, according to a European Pensions story citing the fund for teachers and lecturers. Affected beneficiaries will not have to pay into the scheme, though they will still be insured for the next three months.

The International Capital Market Association (ICMA) says its Green Bond Principles/Social Bond Principles AGM in New York in May has been postponed, as has its annual AGM and conference scheduled for Vienna in June. “We will be in touch with members about alternative arrangements for the two AGMs within the next few weeks,” ICMA said.