Daily ESG Briefing: SEC Commissioner voices “serious reservations” about ESG disclosure

The latest developments in sustainable finance

SEC Commissioner Elad Roisman, a 2018 President Trump appointee, has stated that he has “serious reservations” about incorporating ESG disclosures into the US regulator’s reporting requirements – as was recently called for by the SEC’s Investor Advisory Committee. In a virtual address to the Society for Corporate Governance National Conference, Roisman, however, did support additional ESG disclosures by investors who offer green or sustainable products, so as to help identify green wash and protect retail investors. 

AXA Investment Managers has broadened out its gender voting policy to cover companies in emerging markets and Japan. From this year it will “target” listed firms where the Board of Directors does not include any women – or 10% of the board, for larger boards. In addition, it will broaden out its activity in developed markets from next year, targeting companies with less than a third women. Axa said it had voted against 245 companies in 2019 on the basis of gender diversity. 

California State Treasurer Fiona Ma has teamed up with the Thirty Percent Coalition, a network promoting gender diversity, to accelerate the number of women on company boards in the state. California was the first state to mandate gender diversity in boardrooms in 2018. 

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) says it is “considering a goal of devoting over 50% of its annual investments to the green economy by 2025”. The development bank said it will also “target specific emission reductions over the next five years and set a date for a decision on when all the EBRD’s projects are aligned to the Paris Climate Agreement”. Its Board of Directors approved the plan yesterday (8 July) and it will be put out for approval by shareholders as part of a broader strategy in October. 

“Wealthy families, investors and entrepreneurs need to get out of the office and tell the public they are not investing in controversial industries, like weapons and fossil fuels, if they want to improve their personal reputation,” a poll by Transmission Private has found. The communications agency found that 73% of the public would think more positively of a well-known billionaire if they announced they had stopped investing in controversial industries. 

Oat milk business Oatly has secured a sustainability-linked SEK1.925bn financing package from Rabobank, Nordea and BNP Paribas. The SEK725m loan and SEK1.2bn revolving credit facility include Key Performance Indicators with annual sustainability targets.

Australia’s four biggest banks have lent $35.5bn to fossil fuels – nearly triple their renewables financing – since 2016, according to Market Forces. The NGO says Commbank, ANZ, NAB and Westpac are between them pursuing at least 100 fossil fuel projects in Australia that would cost almost $150bn.

European Parliament has approved the establishment of a Just Transition Fund (JTF), with MEPs stressing that a climate transition must not cause disparities between regions to grow any further. The agreed text includes the creation of a “Green Rewarding Mechanism”, allowing resources to be allocated based on the speed with which member states reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The European Parliament plenary is expected to vote on the draft report and give the mandate for inter-institutional negotiations during its September sitting.

A 90-day public comment period has launched for the draft Global Reporting Initiative Oil & Gas Sector Standard, which identifies the 22 most critical ESG topics for organisations with oil and gas activities, including climate change, the environment, health & safety, employment, communities and governance.