Daily ESG Briefing: US fossil groups thank DOL for ESG intervention, citing waning access to capital

The latest developments in sustainable finance

Members of the US fossil fuel industry, including the North American Coal Company and Western Energy Alliance, along with conservative think tanks and organisations, have signed a letter backing a Department of Labour rule which aims to make it more difficult for pension and 401k administrators to shift workers’ savings out of fossil fuel assets and into ESG investments. The Western Energy Alliance said in the letter last week that it “represents over 300 companies engaged in all aspects of environmentally responsible exploration and production of oil and natural gas”. It added: “We have observed how ESG advocacy has negatively affected the industry’s access to capital over the last few years, and greatly appreciate that [the Department of Labour] is addressing the larger issue through this rule,” the alliance wrote. “The rule will help ensure that activism regarding pension plans does not morph into a halt to investment in the sector that provides nearly 70% of American energy.”

A recent S&P Global Market Intelligence Trucost analysis found that Beyond Meat Inc’s weighted environmental disclosure ratio, which shows what percentage of its environmental impacts it discloses, is 0, based on the most recent data for 2018. It sets the maker of plant-based meat alternatives in stark contrast to larger companies like Tyson Foods, which received a disclosure ratio of 98% for 2018, and Hormel Foods, which received a disclosure ratio of 99%. Across the board, the research found larger US publicly-traded companies tend to be more transparent than smaller ones about their climate risks, with 89% of US listed firms with more than $5bn in energy and utility sectors, had a weighted carbon disclosure ratio above 75%. The analysis also concluded that energy, utilities and materials companies generally disclose more than other industries, regardless of their size.

A first-of-its-kind dataset by Four Twenty Seven tracks wildfire potential under a changing climate. The Moody’s affiliate has highlighted areas of the globe where the frequency and severity of wildfire conditions are anticipated to worsen and emerge. In areas already exposed to wildfires, by 2030-2040 climate change will prolong these seasons, adding up to three months in Western Australia, over two months in regions of northern California, and a month in European countries like Spain, Portugal and Greece. 

UK non-profit InfluenceMap has accused Japan’s Business Federation, Keidanren, of being dominated by energy-intensive sectors, even though they represent less than 10% of the economy, resulting in lobbying for pro-coal policies. 

Top Glove Corp Bhd, a subsidiary of Malaysian glove giant Top Glove, will refund up to RM50m in backdated recruitment fees to its foreign workers in the hope the US will lift its ban, imposed on July 15th, on the import of its products. US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) suspended imports due to suspected foreign labour issues. The move comes as investors launch an engagement programme over recruitment fees and treatment of migrant workers in Gulf States, announced yesterday.