ESG round-up: European companies’ Paris alignment on lobbying not reflected by industry associations

The latest developments in sustainable finance: Accenture UK buys Avieco; deadline for FRC lab project on net-zero commitments; NZ government seeks feedback on anti-slavery legislation.

The proportion of European companies that have aligned their lobbying with the goals of the Paris Agreement has increased over the past four years, but this is not being reflected by their industry associations, according to an analysis of climate policy lobbying by InfluenceMap. The direct climate policy lobbying of 26 percent of companies appears fully aligned with delivering the goals of the Paris Agreement, compared to just 4 percent in 2018. When it comes to industry associations, 11 percent are fully aligned with delivering the goals of the Paris Agreement, while in 2018 that was 6 percent. The anti-climate pushback from these industry associations suggests that elements of the European Green Deal could be at risk ahead of key votes in the EU Parliament, InfluenceMap warns. The findings are part of InfluenceMap’s new Europe-specific interactive platform, which tracks the real-time policy engagement of more than 70 relevant companies and 30 industry associations.

Accenture has agreed to acquire Avieco, a UK-based sustainability consultancy. Avieco’s team of more than 60 professionals will bring expertise in ESG measurement and reporting, net-zero strategy and regulation, and real-time data analytics to Accenture’s sustainability services in the UK.

Interested parties have a few days left to participate in FRC Lab, a Financial Reporting Council project looking at how net-zero commitments are reported. The Lab is inviting companies, investors, service providers and other stakeholders to make their interest known by 15 April. The project will look among other things at how net-zero targets are linked to remuneration and how investors use this information for decision making.

The New Zealand government is seeking feedback on a legislative proposal which targets modern slavery, worker exploitation, forced labour and people-trafficking. The proposal would create new responsibilities across the operations and supply chains of all types of organisations in New Zealand, with more responsibilities for larger organisations. The ministry of business, innovation and employment will accept submissions until 7 June.

Social media giant Twitter has announced that Elon Musk will no longer join its board as a director. His appointment was due to become effective on 9 April after it was revealed last week that Musk had bought a 9.2 percent stake in the business. Musk is by far the largest shareholder in the company, holding over four times the 2.25 percent stake of Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey. Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal said in a statement that the board had had “many discussions” about Musk joining it and with Musk directly before Musk decided not to proceed with the appointment.

The former head of Goldman Sachs in Malaysia, Roger Ng, has been convicted by a US jury for his involvement with 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), the sovereign wealth fund which became one of the world’s largest financial corruption scandals. The fund was established to finance public development projects and promote foreign direct investment. Prosecutors claim Goldman Sachs helped to arrange laundering of some of the money through bond transactions that the investment bank closed in 2012 and 2013 which raised $6.5 billion for the fund. In 2020, Goldman reached a $3.9 billion settlement with the Malaysian government for its role in the corruption scheme and also paid nearly $3 billion to authorities in four other countries to end an investigation into work it performed for 1MDB.

A former senior executive at Rio Tinto, Chris Salisbury, has been proposed to the leadership team that will oversee the development of an uranium mine in Western Australia. Salisbury stepped down in 2020 after the destruction of Juukan Gorge, a 46,000-year-old sacred site in Australia. Salisbury was appointed chair of uranium exploration company Deep Yellow in May 2021 and has now been proposed as chair of a $658 million merger between the company and Vimy Resources. Environmentalists and traditional owners have raised concerns over these proposals, the Australia Broadcasting Corporation News reported. The proposed merger will be voted upon by shareholders in June.