Daily ESG Briefing: Eight US firms under pressure over political donations after Capitol Hill attack

The latest developments in sustainable finance

AT&T, Comcast, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon Technologies, Boeing, Home Depot and the United Parcel Service are under pressure over their alleged donations to “election objectors” – 147 members of congress believed to have supported false allegations of election fraud in the US in recent weeks, contributing to deadly riots on Capitol Hill. New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, who advises the city’s pension funds, called on the eight listed firms – which the Centre of Responsive Politics found to be among the 20 largest contributors to the lawmakers in question – to “immediately suspend contributions to the members of Congress who so dangerously undermined our safety and national security”.  He said the companies had so far “remained silent or taken limited, unsatisfactory actions” in the aftermath of the riots, adding: “It is in shareowners’ interests for portfolio companies to promote policies that align with political stability, economic growth, accountability and justice.” Cisco, Dow Chemical and Goldman Sachs are among those to have already agreed to permanently suspend their political donations to ‘election objectors’. 

The US Office of the Comptroller of Currency has finalised its new ‘fair access’ rule, which will restrict banks’ freedom to exclude sectors like weapons and fossil fuels. Commenting, responsible investment body Ceres said the regulator’s “attempt to push the rule through without adhering to the required procedures flies in the face of administrative law”. “The claim that the OCC reviewed and considered each of these comments in just 10 days, as is required by the Administrative Procedures Act, is dubious at best," said Steven Rothstein, Managing Director of the Ceres Accelerator for Sustainable Capital Markets. 

Blackrock's 2020 coal policy has been described as "half-hearted" by NGOs because it allegedly relates only to its actively-managed portfolio, and only companies with more than 25% of their revenues from coal production are excluded. As a result, Reclaim Finance and Urgewald say $85bn is still invested in coal firms. In their new report, One year on: BlackRock still addicted to fossil fuels, the pair say BlackRock's current policy means it is heavily invested in companies with plans to expand their coal exposure, which they describe as "an unequivocal breach of the decisive climate action required by the Paris Agreement". 

Norwegian shipping company Odfjell is to issue the first sustainability-linked bond in the industry, managed and advised by DNB Markets, Nordea and SEB. The NOK850m four-year deal will have its coupon linked to the issuer’s success at reducing its fleet’s carbon emissions. 

Amazon, KraftHeinz, McDonalds, PepsiCo and Walmart are among 10 consumer goods companies facing a shareholder proposal from As You Sow on plastic packaging. The non-profit is asking each company to estimate how much of its plastic packaging leaks into the environment, describe strategies or goals to reduce use of plastic packaging, and evaluate opportunities for dramatic reductions in plastics used for packaging.

The UK’s Investment Association and Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA) have partnered to launch a steering group of asset owners, investment managers and other relevant stakeholders, to examine how stewardship and a focus on long-term investment can be better integrated into the investment process. The new coalition is co-chaired by Richard Butcher, Chair of the PLSA, and Archie Struthers, Global Head of Investment Governance and Oversight at Standard Life Aberdeen.