Daily ESG Briefing: Retail investors discover company share price as new form of protest

The latest developments in sustainable finance

Retail investors angry at the arrest of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy campaigner and publisher, Jimmy Lai, are buying up stock in his company, Next Digital Ltd. According to reports, as street protests against mainland China’s intervention in Hong Kong’s rulemaking process become increasingly difficult, an alternative form of resistance has sprung up via financial markets. Through online coordination, Next Digital has seen a 1,500% surge in shareprice since the arrest, pushing the stock to a seven-year high and raising Next Digital’s market value by approximately HK$3.7 bn ($477m).

Unicredit has announced it will cut all financing to projects and companies involved in coal by 2028. The new strategy has been welcomed by Greenpeace, which has been pushing for the Italian bank’s management to take a more ambitious position on climate change. Unicredit will publish details of its policy in September.

The UK’s Local Authority Pension Fund Forum, AustralianSuper, Hesta and the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility have flagged concerns over last week’s testimony from mining giant Rio Tinto on the highly controversial destruction of Aboriginal caves in Australia. The hearing took place at Australian Parliament, and highlighted an apparent lack of senior-level oversight and accountability, with consequent calls for CEO Jean-Sébastien Jacques to resign, after he admitted he did not know the cultural significance of the site, which was blown up to provide access to high-grade ore. 

The State Bank of India has released its sustainability report for 2019-2020, highlighting milestones including the issuance of $800m of green bonds. ‘Responsible Finance – Sustainable Growth’ is the bank’s fifth sustainability report, and the only one from a public sector bank in India. 

Japan has seen the issuance of sustainability bonds leap 64% this year compared with the same period in 2019, with more than $221bn of green, social or sustainability-based notes sold so far in 2020. Although traditionally green bonds have dominated the asset class, social bonds have jumped up the agenda in Japan, mirroring developments globally on the back of social challenges highlighted by the Coronavirus panemic.