ESG round-up: AXA IM discloses global carbon footprint for first time

The latest developments in sustainable finance: UBS downgrades BlackRock stock; G7 reiterates commitment to climate disclosures.

AXA Investment Managers has included its own global carbon footprint for the first time in its climate action report as part of its net zero 2050 commitment. AXA IM is also targeting a 26 percent reduction in emissions by 2025. The investment manager has reported that its total emissions amounted to 31,208 tCO2e in 2021. Three percent of total emissions were from direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (Scope 1), 1 percent was from purchased electricity or from the consumption of steam, heat or cooling (Scope 2), and 96 percent were from other significant GHG emissions (Scope 3).

UBS Investment Bank has downgraded BlackRock’s stock from buy to neutral due to the firm’s ESG positioning. The bank has also reduced the share price target by $115. In a note from UBS, analyst Brennan Hawken acknowledged BlackRock as a leader in ESG but warned: “As performance deteriorates and political risk from ESG has increased, we believe the potential for lost fund mandates and regulatory scrutiny has recently increased.”

G7 finance ministers and central bank governors have released a statement reiterating their commitment to mandatory climate disclosures and declaring their support for a Just Transition to net zero. They have welcomed the global baseline of sustainability reporting standards which is currently being developed by the ISSB. The statement calls on multilateral development banks and other development finance institutions to align their businesses with the Paris Agreement.

Greenwashing regulations are making French firms less likely to talk publicly about science-based net zero targets, according to a survey by climate consultancy South Pole, which dubbed the phenomenon “green-hushing”. The UK and France were identified as two of the leading regions for science-based targets (SBTs), but despite this, French firms were “ironically among those less likely to publicise their SBTs”. France has one of the most explicit anti-greenwashing regulatory environments. South Pole also found that one in five UK companies with science-based targets do not plan to publicise them.

The Finance for Biodiversity Pledge announced 13 new signatories at the European Business and Nature Summit this week, including abrdn, Aéma Group, Pictet Group, Schroders, Velliv, and Pension & Livsforsikring. The pledge now represents a total of €16.3 trillion in assets held by signatories from 20 countries. The next signatory round will take place in December during COP15.

The World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) has published a transport benchmark, which shows that only 7 percent of companies have committed to phasing out fossil fuels, despite being the sector which relies on them the most. Along with WBA, CDP is also calling for greater efforts to combat climate change, with research showing that transport is responsible for 37 percent of carbon emissions.

The Transition Pathway Initiative Global Climate Transition Centre has found that 51 percent of major global energy companies are failing to disclose their strategy for achieving long and medium-term targets for greenhouse gas emissions. The centre also reported that 89 percent of these energy companies do not disclose what they are doing to decarbonise their carbon expenditures.

The Responsible Investment Association Australasia has published a report showing that almost half of New Zealand assets are “responsible” investments. The findings also suggest that these investments often outperform traditional investments. Of the 52 firms surveyed, 19 had adopted leading responsible or ethical investment practices and a further four were “emerging”, according to the RIIA’s criteria.

SEC Commissioner Jaime Lizárraga has defended the use of emission estimates in the US financial regulator’s proposed climate disclosure rule. He said: “It is not clear to me why this would be different from the assumptions and estimates that companies make in preparing their financial statements today.”

DBRS Morningstar has published research on DEI challenges in leadership roles in the banking industry. The firm found that, at the 28 banks sampled, women represented 32 percent of board positions and 26 percent of executive management teams. The report also found a positive correlation between high gender diversity and high credit ratings in banks.