ESG round-up: New York City targets Apple on workers’ rights

The latest developments in sustainable finance: ClientEarth goes after Glencore, sustainability-linked sovereign debt hub launched.

The New York City pension funds have filed a shareholder proposal alongside a group of other investors at Apple, calling on the firm to commission a third-party assessment of its commitment to collective bargaining and workers’ freedom of association. Parnassus, Trillium, SOC Investment Group and the pension fund for the Service Employees International Union co-filed the proposal, following what New York comptroller Brad Lander described as “deeply troubling” reports that Apple was interfering with efforts to unionise and that the National Labor Relations Board is investigating 14 charges of unfair labour practices. NYC pension funds hold a $3.4 billion investment in Apple.

ClientEarth has joined the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) in reporting Glencore to Australian and UK regulators over allegedly misleading investors in its net-zero claims. The EDO, a legal non-profit in Australia, has made a complaint to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, alleging that Glencore’s decarbonisation pathway fails to represent its coal business. Meanwhile ClientEarth has written to the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority urging it to take action. A spokesperson for ClientEarth said that Glencore’s climate target was set by reference to fossil fuel emissions pathways but that the vast majority of its emissions came from coal, which requires a greater pace of reduction under IPCC and IEA scenarios. In its 2021 report, Glencore says its targets are “aligned with the IEA NZE 2050 scenario, itself consistent with IPCC”.

A spokesperson for Glencore said the firm’s climate strategy “has been publicly communicated and covers our global portfolio of operations”, and that it was happy to assist the Australian regulators with any enquiries. The FCA did not respond to requests for comment by the time of publication and the Australian regulators could not be contacted outside of business hours.

Finance for Biodiversity has launched its sustainability-linked debt hub with support from NGOs and international finance institutions. Responsible Investor first reported news of the hub, which will seek to “creation of standards and tools that incorporate nature and climate considerations into the sovereign bond ecosystem”, in July. The World Bank, EBRD, Climate Bonds Initiative and Nature Conservancy will serve on the advisory board of the programme, which will also seek to develop “data-rich KPI platforms” for sustainability-linked sovereign bonds.

The FAIRR Initiative and Good Food Institute have announced the launch of an environmental reporting framework for alternative protein firms. Newton Investment Management, PIMCO and Unilever joined 49 other investors, firms and NGOs in developing the standards, which allow companies in the alternative protein sector to report on the most material ESG risks, including water and soil management, nature-positive practices and nutrition.

The launch was welcomed by Marfrig-ADM joint venture PlantPlus Foods, which said it allowed the firm to compare ESG risks between alternative and animal-based proteins as well as to disclose on ESG topics most important to stakeholders.

Norges Bank Investment Management has excluded nine companies from its investment universe. Four cannabis firms and three tobacco companies – which were not in the fund’s portfolio – have been removed from its benchmark, along with South Korean metals firm Young Poong Corp and Indian hydropower company NHPC Limited due to “unacceptable risk that the companies contribute to severe environmental damage”.