Daily ESG Briefing: JP Morgan’s new ESG head calls out UK Investment Association over ethnic diversity

The latest developments in sustainable finance

Former Member of Parliament Chuka Umunna has slammed the UK’s Investment Association for threatening to give firms with poor disclosure on the ethnic diversity of their boards an ‘amber warning’ while having an entirely white board itself. Umunna, who has just become Head of ESG for EMEA at JP Morgan, raised the issue on twitter, saying: “It might be an idea to do something about that if making similar demands of companies”. An IA spokesperson said “as signatories of the Change the Race Ratio initiative, we’ve committed to appointing at least one racially and ethnically diverse Board member by 2024”

Amazon has come in last place in a ranking of the world’s major digital platforms on protecting the right to freedom of expression and privacy. The Ranking Digital Rights Index rated 26 of the world’s biggest digital platforms and telecommunications companies on their disclosed policies and practices “affecting people’s rights to freedom of expression and privacy”. Twitter, Verizon Media and Microsoft were at the top of the list for digital platforms, while Telefonica was the highest scoring telecommunications company. Qatari telecommunications company Ooredoo had the lowest score in either category.

Barclays will face a shareholder resolution calling for it to align its financing with the Paris Agreement. The resolution, filed by Market Forces, claims that, despite Barclays updating its climate policies over the past year, the bank has failed to demonstrate that its lending is Paris-aligned. In a report published by World Animal Protection this week, Barclays is one of three banks accused of providing the most funding to companies linked to deforestation in the Amazon. HSBC and BNP Paribas are also identified. 

Finnish pension firm Varma has sold all its investments in coal mines, coal-based electricity generation and oil exploration companies. At the end of 2020, coal and oil accounted for just 2.1% of investments in Varma’s €50.2bn portfolio, and it plans to phase out any remaining coal power plants in portfolio companies by 2030.

The Financial Stability Board plans to assess the availability of data that could help monitor climate risk and financial stability, it has said. The group will also look at ways to support standardised, auditable data, and will work with other sustainability standards bodies, and with central banks via the Network for Greening the Financial System, to promote improved corporate reporting. 

An alliance of LGBT+ advocacy groups has recommended the creation of an ‘LGBT+ lens’ to measure inclusion within investment companies. A report from LGBT Great, Equality Group, LGBT Capital and the Bisi Alimi Foundation, in which investment professionals from 25 global firms were interviewed, found that 70% did not have a particular focus on LGBT+ diversity and inclusion.

The Royal Bank of Canada has become the 100th institution to join the Partnership for Carbon Accounting Financials, known as PCAF. Membership of the group – which seeks to develop a GHG accounting and reporting standard for banks – has doubled since its establishment 18 months ago, with total participant assets now standing at $21trn.