ESG Round-Up: All-male boards make a return to FTSE100 despite reported progress, campaigners warn

The latest developments in sustainable finance: Institutional investors push for climate disclosure; Pensions shun defence contractor.

The FTSE100 index has seen the return of an all-male board, just a week after international women’s day passed, criticised business campaign group the 30% Club. According to data gathered by BoardEx, there are just eight female CEOs in the FTSE 100 and 18 in the FTSE350. These figures reveal the ambiguous reality on gender diversity across Britain’s biggest companies despite female board representation climbing to almost 40 percent across the FTSE350. “The rise to the top needs to be more inclusive,” said Ann Cairns, global chair of the 30% Club and executive vice-chair of Mastercard, adding that ‘one and done’ boards simply don’t deliver change long term.  

A group of more than 45 large businesses is engaging with the UK government to make it easier for those affected by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to come and work in the UK, The Sunday Times reported. Marks & Spencer, Asos, Lush and recruitment giant Robert Walters are some of the firms involved in the initiative led by British entrepreneur Emma Sinclair, CEO of software group Enterprise Alumni. The project is in its early stages, and many of the details about how it will work in practice are unclear. Many UK businesses have been facing labour shortages due to a combination of covid-19 and Brexit, and many are yet to fill outstanding vacancies. 

More than 680 financial institutions worth over $130trn in assets signed CDP’s letter, requesting environmental information from nearly 10,400 companies worldwide. CDP is a global non-profit that runs environmental disclosure system for companies, cities, states and regions. Companies will be asked to disclose their data on climate change, deforestation, and water security. Allianz, Amundi, AXA, BNP Paribas, CalPERS, State Street and Vanguard are among the signatories, demonstrating rising demand for TCFD-aligned corporate environmental information. This year’s CDP questionnaire will for the first time ask for data on biodiversity impacts with its scope further expanding to land and oceans, waste and food in the future. This year’s questions will also include corporate climate transition plans, which will be vital in assessing the quality of plans, progress over time, and in tracking the real economy transition. 

Australia’s sovereign wealth fund – the $200bn Future Fund – and Norway’s largest pension fund – the $136bn KLP – have banned investment in Israeli defence contractor Elbit, The Guardian reported. The decision comes over the company’s alleged association with cluster munitions, which were reportedly used by Russian forces during the invasion of Ukraine. Cluster bombs contain smaller bomblets that scatter as they drop from the air. Under an international convention they are banned by 110 states because, like landmines, can remain a deadly hazard years after a conflict is over. Israel is not a signatory of the convention but Elbit has repeatedly denied producing such weapons even though in 2018 it took over Israeli Military Industries Systems, which previously produced such weapons.