ESG round-up: Meta sued for prioritising profits over investors and society

The latest developments in sustainable finance: Larry Fink supports use of coal and gas, urgent call for UK human rights law.

A shareholder in Meta Platforms has filed a class action against the tech giant arguing that the company has ignored costs it imposes on society and diversified investors through its pursuit of profits. James McRitchie, a seasoned filer of shareholder proposals, is behind the lawsuit filed in the Delaware Court of Chancery this week. “We are pleased to see a lawsuit that seeks to hold Meta directors accountable for putting profits before the mental health of its users, the safety of abused workers, stable political systems and public health,” said Frederick Alexander, chief executive of US non-profit The Shareholder Commons.

BlackRock chief executive Larry Fink has made comments in a group interview with Handelsblatt, El Mundo, Les Echos and Corriere della Sera suggesting that the economy should currently take priority over the environment. “Gas will be with us for another 100 years,” he said, praising the German government for building new LNG terminals and extending the use of coal despite the known long-term harm to the environment. He said that Europe’s inclusion of gas in the taxonomy shows the EU has “come to the more sensible realisation that that we may have to temporarily use more coal and gas”.

A group of 63 organisations have written to UK prime minister Liz Truss calling on the government to “urgently” introduce a “mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence law”. The signatories include British Retail Consortium, Tesco, Mars, abrdn, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. The letter said the legislation would place Britain “at the forefront of setting standards for renewed prosperity and sustainable trade worldwide” and “levelling the playing field for business”.

Staying on due diligence, the PRI has released a position paper on the EU Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence directive, welcoming the European Commission’s proposal. The report advises a series of improvements, including strengthening requirements on ESG-linked pay; harmonising the directive with other sustainability legislation, including SFDR and CSRD; and clarifying the role of the Just Transition.

The European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) will endeavour to become “the centre of expertise in the identification and assessment of sustainability risk”, according to a new strategy. The plan outlines key sustainability priorities for the period of 2023-26, including mitigating and adapting to climate change greenwashing-related risks. It aims to perform climate stress tests, establish a prudential and conduct framework that integrates sustainability risks fairly, and address protection gaps to improve awareness of risk their insurability.

Candriam has published an update on its facial recognition technology (FRT) investor initiative to address human rights risks posed by technology. Along with 20 other investors – including Aviva Investors, Columbia Threadneedle, NZ Super Fund, Robeco and Domini Impact – Candriam surveyed 15 companies to understand how they mitigate human rights risks related to FRT. The report raised major concerns including the potential for racial and gender bias, the accuracy of the technology, privacy concerns and general misuse. Microsoft, telecoms firm Motorola Solutions and aerospace company Thales were recognised for their efforts to manage human rights risks within their use of AI and FRT.

Ceres has published a report analysing unaddressed climate risks in the derivatives market. The top five US bank derivative providers hold around 95 percent of the US derivatives market and therefore have considerable leverage to accelerate the net zero transition. Among the report’s four key findings are that derivatives have the potential to change a bank’s climate risk exposure, increasing it by up to 3x in certain cases, and that the availability and cost of derivatives have real-economy climate effects and can incentivise or discourage decarbonisation in high-emitting sectors.

The Science Based Targets initiative has launched Forest, Land and Agriculture (FLAG) guidance, the world’s first standard method to set science-based targets that consider land-related emissions and removals. The methodology details how food, agriculture and forestry companies can help prevent the impacts of climate change by setting short and long-term FLAG science-based targets and accounting for removals in near-term FLAG science-based targets. Companies setting FLAG targets are also required to publicly commit to zero deforestation by 2025.