Daily ESG Briefing: George Serafeim’s ESG consultancy latest to be snapped up

The latest developments in sustainable finance

KKS Advisors, the ESG consultancy co-founded by influential Harvard scholar George Serafeim, has been acquired by DuPont Sustainable Solutions for an undisclosed sum. The consultancy, which says that it leverages “academic insights, finance knowledge, and strategy expertise to help investors, foundations, corporations, and NGOs develop bold and effective strategies that pave the way to a more sustainable society”, will retain its name and brand following the acquisition.

A number of Britain’s biggest pension funds have joined a new “stewardship council” set up by the UK’s Department for Work and Pensions, to share stewardship best practice and research, and support schemes wishing to “take part in more thoughtful investment”. Funds with more than £550bn in combined assets, including the Universities Superannuation Scheme, BT Pension Scheme and a number of local government pension pools, have joined the group, which met for the first time yesterday. 

Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan (OTPP) and Macquarie Asset Management have together bought a 31.6% stake in US electricity and gas utility Puget Sound for an undisclosed sum. OTPP has bought the shares from fellow Canadian pension fund Canada Pension Plan Investments, which reportedly started looking for buyers in March in the hope of raising around $700m. British Columbia Investment Management, Alberta Investment Management and Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System all hold significant stakes in the utility, which has committed to become Net Zero by 2045. However, charity Shift Action said that Puget Sound’s lobbying activities and planned construction of a gas export terminal in Tacoma were “not the actions of a utility fully committed to a climate safe future” and called on the firm’s pension fund owners to take action to accelerate its decarbonisation process.

The Washington State Department of Financial Institutions has issued an alert to financial services industries asking them to integrate climate risk into their governance, risk management and strategic plans after temperatures in the state broke records on Tuesday, reaching a high of 49°C (120°F). The note does not constitute new regulation or guidance, but the department said that it will be asking regulated financial institutions what steps they are taking to address climate risk. 

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and European Financial Reporting Advisory Group (EFRAG) have announced a collaboration on the construction of new EU sustainability reporting standards. EFRAG’s Project Task Force on European Sustainability Reporting Standards is leading the development of the new standards, set out in the EU’s Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive, and the partnership will allow the GRI to share its technical expertise. In 2020, it was estimated that around 54% of EU companies use GRI standards for their non-financial reporting requirements.

A coalition of international organisations including central banking body the Network for Greening the Financial System and the UN Sustainable Insurance Forum have launched a ‘Climate Training Alliance’ for central banks and supervisors. The Alliance will allow central banks and supervisors access to training from NGFS members, as well as the Bank for International Settlements, in an attempt to improve the accessibility of climate-related risk training, especially in emerging markets.