Daily ESG Briefing: Ex- sustainability head at BlackRock claims industry ‘boils down to little more than marketing hype’

The latest developments in sustainable finance

BlackRock’s former Chief Investment Officer for Sustainable Investing, Tariq Fancy, has claimed “sustainable investing boils down to little more than marketing hype, PR spin and disingenuous promises from the investment community”. His comments were written as part of an opinion piece for USA Today. “Imagine the planet is a cancer patient, and climate change is the cancer. Wall Street is prescribing wheatgrass,” said Fancy, who left BlackRock in 2019 to found tech start-up Rumie. 

Citigroup has become the first US bank to announce that it will restrict financing for new coal power plants. In its updated environment policy, the bank said that it will not take any new clients with plans to expand coal-fired power generation after 2021, and that it will expect clients with coal-fired power generation to publicly report their GHG emissions and engage with Citi on their low-carbon transition strategies. After 2025, the bank will no longer extend capital to coal-fired clients without a low-carbon transition strategy.

Human rights NGO Global Witness has filed a complaint with the US advertising regulator accusing Chevron of producing misleading advertisements on its green credentials. The complaint, filed jointly with Greenpeace USA and Earthworks, alleges that Chevron’s depiction of itself as a “clean” company is misleading on the basis that only 0.2% of its capital expenditure from 2010-2018 was on low-carbon energy sources. It also disputes Chevron’s depiction of itself as a “racial and social justice advocate”, alleging that its actions disproportionately harm communities of colour. 

Think tank the AIF Institute has launched a Centre for ESG and Sustainable Investing, with Blackrock and Natixis Asset Management serving as founding faculty members. The Centre will conduct research into ESG and sustainability issues, focusing on practical applications to support institutional investors.

The Nordic Investment Bank issued €4.85bn in ‘response loans’ in 2020 to help member countries and sustainable businesses deal with the impacts of the pandemic. In its 2020 Impact Report, the bank also said that it had raised €643m in environmental and blue bonds. Funds raised from the bonds were used to finance projects including clean transportation and renewable energy.

British firm Evenlode Investment has become a member of the Partnership for Carbon Accounting Financials – a collaboration between financial organisations globally to enable the standardised assessment and disclosure of GHG emissions financed by loans and investments.

Super fund manager Australian Ethical has said it plans to become “one of Australia’s largest investment managers”by 2030. The fund, which has more than A$5bn under management, announced last month an 11% increase in profits and a 22% rise in customers over 12 months, which it said made it the fastest growing super fund in Australia. It has also announced a partnership with consultancy Alpha Vista to review its asset allocation governance framework this week. 

The UK’s Pension Protection Fund has published data on its ethnicity pay gap for the first time, showing that the lifeboat fund has a pay disparity of 23% between white and ethnic minority employees. The PPF is one of the first organisations in the pensions industry to publish its ethnicity pay gap, and does so alongside gender pay gap figures, which show a 25% mean gap in pay between male and female employees, up from 22% in 2019.

Nuveen Real Estate, the real estate management arm of TIAA, has announced that it aims to reach Net Zero across its €110bn portfolio by 2040. The firm says that it will review all its assets, and create a net-zero plan for every building that it owns.