ESG round-up: SEC extends deadline for comment on climate disclosure rules

The latest developments in sustainable finance: Philippines Commission on Human Rights finds major polluters liable for climate impacts; BofA pledges £1.2m for Oxford research.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has extended the comment period on its proposed corporate climate disclosure rule until 17 June from the original 20 May date to allow more time for responses. Commissioners at the regulator approved the long-awaited proposal in March, voting three to one in favour. If adopted, the rule would require larger listed companies to disclosure their “material” value chain emissions, known as Scope 3 emissions.

The Philippines Commission on Human Rights has found major polluters morally and legally liable for the impacts of the climate crisis based on a “willful obfuscation of climate science, which has prejudiced the right of the public to make informed decisions about their products”. “Fossil-based companies may also be held to account by their shareholders for continued investments in oil explorations for largely speculative purposes,” the commission added. The verdict follows a seven-year investigation into the contribution of 47 of the world’s most polluting companies to climate change and could establish grounds for future legal action, according to Greenpeace. All of the named companies, which include BHP Billiton, BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Eni, ExxonMobil, Glencore, OMV, Repsol, Sasol and Shell, declined to participate in the inquiry.

Bank of America has pledged £1.2 million ($1.5 million; €1.4 milion) to support the University of Oxford’s Smith School in its research into greenhouse gas removal, “spatial finance” and the integration of nature-related factors into financial decision-making. The commitment, BofA’s first of this type in Europe, is intended to support two research teams at the school for three years, as well as providing money for a new research fund, which will focus on “groundbreaking but otherwise unfunded sustainable research opportunities”.

India narrowly avoided being excluded from Kempen’s sovereign bond portfolios as it applied a new ESG screen across its entire investment portfolio, according to reports in Bloomberg. The new screen has also seen “a number of assets from China” fail to meet the mark, while India is at risk of falling below the threshold when the scores are updated. Kempen said that the US “isn’t really anywhere near the top” of its ranking, with poor performance on environment and a “not perfect” score on freedom.

A $6.5 trillion coalition of asset managers including Aviva, Federated Hermes, M&G and Schroders has signed up to a new corporate culture standard intended to improve DE&I standards at investment firms. The ACT framework – which stands for action, challenge and transparency – was launched by City Hive on Monday. The think tank said the new standard “measures authentic change rather than shiny metrics or polished promises”.

Real estate projects with poor ESG credentials will find it increasingly difficult to access finance, Aeon Investments has claimed. A new report by Aeon that looks at ESG in commercial real estate lending found while lenders had previously stuck to imposing stricter borrowing terms on projects that displayed few ESG benefits, they are now increasingly offering preferential terms to greener projects, especially via sustainability-linked loans or specific green lending products.