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Friday Funds: Belgian sustainable funds label leads pack

The latest responsible fund news

Belgium’s ‘Towards Sustainability’ fund label, which launched at the end of last year, has already certified 410 investment products – with combined assets of more than €175bn – and claims to be the biggest scheme of its type in the EU. The initiative was set up by Febelfin, the official Belgian federation of the financial sector. Luxembourg’s LuxFLAG scheme, launched in 2006, has 183 badged funds. French sustainable finance specialists Novethic rank Towards Sustainability among the most stringent labels in Europe. 

UBS Asset Management now has more than €10bn in its sustainable ETF range, placing it second to BlackRock, which manages €11.7bn across its ESG iShares range. 

BlackRock has expanded its ESG ETF range with three new products as it seeks to double its ESG ETFs and index funds range by the end of 2021. The iShares MSCI EMU SRI UCITS ETF provides exposure to 'top ESG performers' within the European Monetary Union markets, while the iShares $ Corp Bond ESG UCITS ETF invests in USD-denominated corporate bonds with high MSCI ESG ratings. Lastly, the iShares Smart City Infrastructure UCITS ETF is a thematic fund investing in smart cities.

Comgest, a Paris-based investment boutique, has launched a fossil-free version of its flagship emerging markets growth strategy. The Growth Emerging Markets Plus Fund will exclude companies involved in fossil fuel extraction, reserves, power generation and uranium mining. It has raised $250m so far from its seed investors, the National Trust, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Guardian Media Group and the NESTA Trust. 

HSBC Global Research says 29 stocks with fundamental ‘buy’ ratings from HSBC analysts and which derive over 25% of revenues from climate change themes like clean power and energy efficiency, have outperformed the FTSE World index by 12% over the last two years and by 7% year-to-date. 

NN Investment Partners has launched a dedicated corporate green bond fund – its third green bond fund to date. The €276bn Dutch manager has €2.4bn of assets across the three strategies, which also include a fund for corporate and sovereign issuance and a short-duration fund to hedge against interest rates.

CPR Asset Management, the thematic equities arm of Amundi, has launched a fund investing in companies tackling social inequality on the basis of five criteria: Labour & Income, Health & Education, Diversity, Taxation, and Human Rights & Access to Basic Needs. The non-benchmarked ‘social impact’ fund will have around 70 stocks and aims to outperform global equities over a minimum of five years.

The $310m Vermont Community Foundation (VCF) has pledged to invest with a focus on strengthening civil society, protecting the environment, community improvement and economic durability. VCF plans to allocate $30m of its discretionary assets to the new SRI pool over the next year.

Global Impact Platform, an impact fund database launched by investment consultancy Phenix Capital, reported that €116bn has been committed to impact investment strategies targeting developed markets – representing a growth of 78% between 2014 and 2017. Across the funds, SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-being), SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure) and SDG 13 (Climate Action) are the most targeted SDGs.

Gresham House Energy Storage Fund has raised £31.2m (€36m) through an oversubscribed share issue to complete the acquisition of a 50MW project and to finance a 10MW extension of an existing site. The LSE-listed fund owns a 174MW portfolio of utility-scale operational energy storage systems which it expects to double to 330MW during 2020.