ESG round-up: Credit Suisse makes climate commitments, still faces shareholder resolution

The latest developments in sustainable finance: At least two EU parties reject green label for gas and nuclear; NYC Pension Fund Trustees generate momentum on workforce diversity disclosures.

Credit Suisse has announced it will introduce new restrictions related to the financing of oil sands, Arctic oil and gas, and around deep sea mining. The Swiss bank has also agreed to an advisory vote on its sustainability report to shareholders in 2023. These commitments follow engagement with the Ethos Foundation, ShareAction and 11 institutional investors that are, however, still set to press ahead with a shareholder resolution on climate change. The investors’ coalition argues that the bank’s commitments remain insufficient as they fail to cover its main financing and exposures to high-carbon assets, which is through capital markets activities. Credit Suisse’s AGM is set to take place on 29 April. 

The Greens and the Socialists and Democrats have confirmed they will reject an EU proposal to label gas and nuclear energy as sustainable investments, officials reportedly told Reuters earlier this week. The European Commission last month proposed including both gas and nuclear in the EU’s sustainable finance taxonomy. The proposal split opinion among EU lawmakers and countries, which disagree on the fuels’ green credentials. While this first section of the taxonomy is not yet complete, the EU is pressing ahead with plans to expand the system to investments that support other environmental issues such as protecting biodiversity. The European Commission’s advisers proposed criteria to judge whether activities across sectors including food manufacturing, fishing, tourism and waste management should be labelled as green. 

New York City Comptroller and Pension Fund Trustees have announced agreements with the boards of 11 companies to disclose annual workforce diversity data following successful shareowner engagements. The Consolidated EEO-1 report is a comprehensive breakdown of a company’s workforce by race, ethnicity and gender annually to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). These reports indicate a company’s progress on representation of employees of colour and women at various levels of the corporation. The Diversity Disclosure Initiative was launched in July 2020 and the number of S&P 100 companies disclosing has increased from 14 to 85 since then. 

The UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has announced that issuers and their advisers should now have adjusted to implications arising from the pandemic and should therefore be able to return to previous practices and methods of publishing appropriate financial information to support investor decision-making. The FCA will from 28 June 2022 withdraw the temporary measures introduced during the pandemic, including the extended filing deadlines and easements around working capital statements and general meetings that were put in place to assist companies raising new share capital.  

Green Century, a mutual funds provider that uses ESG ratings to invest in corporate sustainability champions, has withdrawn a shareholder proposal filed with Lowe’s after the home improvement retailer agreed to disclose the impact of its sourcing on primary forests, which are those that have never been logged and have experienced minimal human disturbance. As part of the deal, Lowe’s agreed to develop a strategy to mitigate climate, biodiversity and human rights risks associated with its wood sourcing. The company has also committed to exploring a requirement that suppliers obtain free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) from indigenous communities.