Daily ESG Briefing: UK’s biggest pension scheme pledges Net Zero

The latest developments in sustainable finance

The Universities Superannuation Scheme, the UK’s largest private pension scheme, has announced its ambition to reach Net Zero by 2050. The transition will not rely on offsets, it said, and it will divest from high carbon sectors at financial risk from the transition. 

BNP Paribas has announced plans to “achieve” €3bn in financing linked to biodiversity protection by 2025, and to invest €250m in ecological transition startups. As part of its membership of the act4nature initiative, the banking group has also committed to evaluating all of its corporate customers on biodiversity criteria by 2025, and engaging with clients active in “sensitive countries” over deforestation. The group joined act4nature in 2018 and is among 17 companies to have made new commitments as part of the initiative. 

According to media reports, a UN expert has urged AXA to exit all Israeli banks. Speaking last week, on the eve of the insurance giant’s AGM, Michael Lynk, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, reportedly said “it is impossible for businesses to be economically engaged with the Israeli settlements and still respect their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law”. Axa is understood to have $6m in four Israeli banks that allegedly finance illegal settlements in the area. 

Canada-based software provider Cority has acquired German ESG specialist WeSustain for an undisclosed sum. Cority focuses on data related to the environment and health & safety, and clients include Exxon, Pfizer, NASA and the UN. It is backed by $76bn private equity house Thoma Bravo. In a statement, the firm said the deal “will position Cority for the rapid rise in demand for digitizing and scaling ESG programs around the world”.

The philanthropic arm of green investment house Hannon Armstrong has launched a scholarship programme to support “high-achieving, sustainability-focused students from underrepresented communities”. The Hannon Armstrong Foundation, which is financed by a ‘social dividend’ paid out by the asset manager, will give $200,000 in grants in its first round of scholarships to undergraduates at Morgan State University and Miami University. “Outreach efforts will focus on applicants from underrepresented populations and those who come from disadvantaged communities,” it said in a statement. 

Scottish asset manager Aubrey Capital Management has signed the Principles for Responsible Investment. The firm already has four focus areas for engagement and analysis: human rights, labour, anti corruption and the environment. Meanwhile, digital financial platform Tinkoff Group has joined the Principles for Responsible Banking this week.