Daily ESG Briefing: HESTA sets up group to engage Aussie firms on gender

The latest developments in sustainable finance

BlackRock Australia and Aberdeen Standard Investments are among those backing Aussie superfund HESTA’s new 40:40 Vision campaign. The gender equality initiative seeks to lobby the country’s 200 biggest businesses to hire women in at least 40% of executive jobs by 2030. HESTA’s chief executive and inaugural Chair of the 40:40 Vision Steering Group, Debby Blakey, said investors were concerned at the slow progress towards greater gender balance among the leadership of major listed companies, with just 30 ASX200 companies having at least 40% women in executive leadership in 2020.

Eaton Vance’s subsidiary Calvert Research and Management has expanded its new responsible investment research institute to cover Europe and Asia. Originally launched in North America in the summer, the Calvert Institute for Responsible Investing will focus on the role of investment in environmental degradation, climate change, racial inequality and social injustice. It will put research out and coordinate collective action.

The head of policy at the UK’s Pensions Regulator (TPR) has warned that if pension trustees “don’t consider climate change risks and opportunities or exercise effective stewardship, investment performance may suffer”. In a blog post, David Fairs, Executive Director of Regulatory Policy, Analysis and Advice, described how pressure to consider climate in investments is mounting not only from government and regulators, but also savers.

India’s government received no bids for two-fifths of the 38 coal mines it put up for auction, according to Reuters. Of the 23 that did receive interest, only 20 received more than one bid.  

The EU’s Recovery and Resilience Facility, the main pillar of its €750bn Next Generation EU plan, prioritises economic growth over sustainability according to a paper by Finance Watch, which it says creates “a paradox in which recovery to business-as-usual will be unsustainable and therefore not resilient”. The group’s ‘10 Principles for a Sustainable Recovery’ recommends that the Facility is redesigned to support only sustainable businesses, or companies that are transitioning towards sustainability or enabling other activities to become sustainable. Additionally, the EU should require all (and not just 30%) of the NGEU’s borrowing to be funded with green bonds or taxonomy-transparent bonds, the report says. 

Danish pension fund AkamdemikerPension is the latest shareholder in Samsung Group to call for the company’s construction unit, Samsung C&T, to end financing and construction of new coal-fired power plants across the world. Already Legal and General Investment Management, Nordea Asset Management and KLP have publicly opposed plans to participate in the construction of new coal plants. AkademikerPension CEO Jens Munch Holst discussed the issue with the Korea Times.

US state and federal regulators have put $280bn of public money at risk by failing to require that oil and gas companies provide sufficient financial assurance for cleanup operations when drilling new wells, according to a new report by Carbon Tracker. The price estimate in ‘Billion Dollar Orphans’ is based on the cost of plugging 2.6 million documented onshore wells, and excludes costs to plug an additional estimated 1.2 million undocumented onshore wells. Taxpayers end up footing this bill when no financially viable operator is capable of plugging a well.