Daily ESG Briefing: Investors intervene over Vietnam coal plant

The latest developments in sustainable finance

Nordea Asset Management has spearheaded a letter by 21 investors, representing €4.7trn in assets under management, to financial institutions and companies involved in the construction of Vung Ang 2 – a coal plant in Vietnam. The letter is urging them to withdraw from the project, citing the high climate-related financial and reputational risks associated with it; the call also stresses the important role listed companies play in addressing climate change, as well as the risk they pass along to investors when failing to address climate risk exposure. “Vung Ang 2 is fast becoming the prime exhibit in the case against companies taking on transition risk on coal plants, not to mention the obvious conflict with the commitments of those same companies to align with the Paris agreement,” Eric Pedersen, Head of Responsible Investments at Nordea Asset Management, said.

Progress on diversity across the investment industry has remained disappointingly slow, according to research from Willis Towers Watson. In a report, titled: Diversity in the Asset Management Industry, the consulting and risk management firm sets out an action plan to accelerate the pace of change, which it believes will lead to better investment outcomes. 

2° Investing Initiative is planning to build upon its MeinFairMögen.de (MyFairMoney) responsible investing platform, launched in Germany earlier this month, to provide a similar, free, independent platform for retail investors and advisors in the French market in 2021. This new platform, part of the Finance ClimAct project, has the potential to be replicated in additional European countries in the coming years, it says.

The Independent Petroleum Association of America has launched The ESG Center; a platform to advise companies on “how to build an authentic and effective programme” for the ESG agenda, it says. However, the move by the trade association, whose members include large oil companies and family owners of low-volume wells, may sit awkwardly with its agenda in Washington where it has endorsed the Trump administration’s environmental rollbacks.

California’s board diversity law led to 670 board seats being filled by women, according to a report in Fortune. The report, commissioned by the California Partners Project, a non-profit co-founded by the state’s First Partner, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, concluded that, while in 2018 nearly 30% of public company boards in California consisted of men alone, that figure has now gone down to less than 3% following the bill introduced that year by then-Governor Jerry Brown. This required publicly-held companies headquartered in the state to have at least one woman on their board of directors by the end of 2019.

Co-founder of Redington, Dawid Konotey-Ahulu, managing partner of Livingbridge, Wol Kolade, and president of Capstone Investment Advisors, Jonathan Sorrell, are among the figures in the investment management industry who are behind the launch of the 10,000 Black Interns programme. It aims to improve and transform the career prospects of young black people in the UK and comes two months after the successful #100blackinterns initiative.

MSCI has launched the MSCI Climate Paris Aligned Index Suite to help investors seeking to tackle climate change holistically by reducing both their transition and physical risks, identify green opportunities, and align their investment strategies with the 1.5-degree warming scenario as targeted by the Paris Agreement. The eight new indexes build on the provider’s existing suite of climate indices.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the global business body, has entrenched net zero into its membership rules. Members will have to set out detailed science-aligned strategies for achieving net zero emissions and boosting nature recovery within the next two years. These changes could have big implications for the WBCSD’s 200 member firms, representing a combined revenue of more than $8.5trn, which include Shell, Chevron, BASF, Volkswagen, BP and PepsiCo.