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Daily ESG Briefing: Candriam to take on human rights concerns for facial recognition technology

The latest developments in sustainable finance

Investment manager Candriam has kicked off a Facial Recognition Technology initiative to address ESG risks posed by the technology. It will advocate for improved corporate disclosure around its use and work with other investors to engage with companies that develop or use facial recognition technology, warning that increased surveillance risks human rights violations. The Principles for Responsible Investment supported the move, saying: “While the technology holds undeniable promise and could be a force for good, the way facial recognition technology is designed and used today carries risks and social implications for people that warrants investor action on this topic.” 

CPA Canada and the Canadian chapter of the CFO Leadership Network, part of Prince Charles's Accounting for Sustainability initiative, have launched a consultation to gather feedback on a potential unified national plan toward a net-zero economy. The organisers say that the project "offers a starting point for future conversations on this important topic". Based on responses to the consultation, an Implementation Roadmap will be developed to provide actionable recommendations for key Canadian economic sectors.

The International Accounting Standards Board, the independent standard-setting body of the IRFS Foundation, is seeking comments to help shape its priorities over the next five years.  It welcomes views on its strategic priorities, balance of activities and financial reporting priorities from 2022 – 2026. The IRFS Foundation is also considering the establishment of a sustainability standards board to operate alongside the IASB. Hans Hoogervorst, Chair of the IASB, said: “The Agenda Consultation provides an important opportunity to help shape the Board's priorities and the future of financial reporting—I encourage all those with an interest in financial reporting to share their views.” 

A study based on RepRisk data has revealed a causal relationship between extreme  ESG risk exposure and CEO turnover. Researchers found that when companies scored more than 60 on RepRisk's reputational risk scale – indicating severe negative media attention on ESG issues, CEOs were more likely to be fired in the following year. 

A review from BankTrack shows that most African banks lack basic human rights policies. The NGO found only four large banks headquartered in the continent have made a clear commitment to respect human rights: South Africa’s Standard Bank, Nedbank and ABSA Bank, and Zenith in Nigeria. However, none have a clear due diligence process or detailed reporting on human rights, the review said. State-owned Bank of Egypt came in last place in the assessment, scoring no points against the criteria, which were based on UN standards. Ryan Brightwell, Human Rights Campaign Co-ordinator at BankTrack, said the findings are “hardly surprising” but showed the need for legislation to mandate human rights due diligence in the banking sector. 

One third of FTSE 100 companies have committed to net zero, the UK Government announced today. Firms including AstraZeneca, Legal & General and Aviva have signed up to the UNFCCC’s Race to Zero campaign to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. The push comes as part of the UK’s preparations to host the COP26 conference in Glasgow this year. Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “It is fantastic to see so many of our biggest companies already pledging to reach net zero. But more can be done, and so today I am calling on more fantastic British companies to step up, follow suit and pledge to join the fight against climate change.” 

Insurance losses from natural disasters in 2020 could reach $300bn, Swiss Re revealed today. Hurricanes, wildfires, flooding, severe storms and drought across the world contributed to making it the ninth-highest year on record in terms of economic losses from natural disasters. The insurer warns this is likely to climb higher in the future due to climate change and population growth.

Danone has signed up to Responsible Tax principles set out by Sir Richard Branson’s non-profit, The B Team. The French firm joins companies including Maersk, Shell and Unilever in endorsing the principles, which are designed to establish best tax practices across sectors and regions. As part of the commitment, Danone has started reporting on its yearly tax contribution on a worldwide basis. It is also working towards B Corp certification by 2025. 

The White House has pledged to generate 30GW of offshore wind power by the end of the decade in a move it says will drive economic growth “from coast to coast.” The US Government is making $3bn in loan capital available to offshore developers, alongside investment in R&D and port upgrades. The move promises to create thousands of “good-paying, union” jobs in development and construction. It comes as part of President Biden’s plan to ensure the US achieves net zero emissions by 2050.