Daily ESG Briefing: Company boards offered ‘climate literacy’ training

The latest developments in sustainable finance

Board members in Europe and the US will be offered training in ‘climate literacy’ as part of a new project being piloted this summer. Social media network We Don’t Have Time is rolling out the initiative in response to a study by New York University’s Stern Center for Sustainable Business, which found that just 0.2% of board members at Fortune 100 companies had climate expertise. The course will be based on “a customised Al Gore presentation” and will include training on how to communicate company actions on climate. The pilot will kick off with a session in Swedish on 1 June and a session in English on 3 June. More courses are slated for later in the year. 

The Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA) will kick off consultations with companies and investors on diversity in coming weeks, it has announced. The body, which coordinates Canada's provincial and local securities regulators, is seeking to determine “whether, and how, the disclosure needs of Canadian investors, and corporate governance practices among public companies, have evolved since the ‘women on boards’ disclosure requirements were first adopted in most CSA jurisdictions”. It will focus on broader diversity on boards and in executive officer positions, with a view to updating disclosure requirements. 

The Global Sustainability Standard Board and the Global Reporting Initiative are consulting on draft reporting standards for coal, agriculture, aquaculture and fishing. The drafts are part of an effort to create standards for 40 sectors, starting with those with the highest impact on sustainable development. The proposals for agriculture, aquaculture and fishing cover biodiversity, climate adaptation, food security, workers’ rights and economic inclusion. For coal, the focus is on how companies respond to the low-carbon transition, as well as impacts on local communities and the environment, payment transparency and disclosure on ownership. A comment period is open until 30 July. 

Controversial fast fashion retailer Boohoo has agreed to link its executive bonuses to ESG improvements, after recommendations from politicians. The UK-based firm was subject to an investigation by the country’s Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) – a parliamentary, cross-party group – following accusations last year that conditions for workers in its British supply chains were exploitative and illegal. Now, it has reportedly agreed that 15% of bonuses will be tied to ESG improvements – a recommendation made by the EAC in December. Reacting to the news, EAC Chairman and MP Philip Dunne said the committee would “continue to monitor fast fashion’s attempts to clean up their supply chains and improve their environmental credentials”. 

A Singaporean carbon trading exchange claims it has become the “world’s first carbon negative trading platform” after offsetting its carbon emissions until March 2022. AirCarbon Exchange, which enables the trade of environmental projects and carbon credits, bought carbon credits generated from installing cookstoves in Guatemala. Last month, Swedish energy firm Lundin sold what it claimed was the world’s first ‘carbon neutral’ coal to Italian refiner Saras. 

Former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers has said in the “same way passive investors figured out who was joining indices, getting ahead of ESG investing is a strategy for generating positive alpha”. Summers, who was speaking at a conference about sustainability hosted by Citi, also said he was struck that metrics defining ‘green’ were not very holistic and varied widely, and said that there was a “fair amount of virtue signalling”.