In the Loop: Biodiversity ligitation, RI in the Big Apple and nominative determinism

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ANZ facing biodiversity risk litigation

Source: Getty

This week saw the launch of a pioneering legal action by an ANZ shareholder, seeking greater insight into the Australian banking heavyweight’s biodiversity risk management.

Stockholder Catherine Rossiter, represented by Equity Generation Lawyers – the law firm which oversaw the 2018 climate lawsuit against Aussie superannuation fund REST among others – is seeking copies of ANZ’s internal risk management framework over concerns that the bank may not be properly managing climate change and biodiversity risks.

The “application for preliminary discovery” was filed on Thursday with the Federal Court of Australia.

Litigation is increasingly being deployed by investors and NGOs against governments and companies to force change on ESG issues, but the law firm behind this latest effort claims it will be the first to lead on the “looming biodiversity crisis”.

ANZ acknowledged the application filed in the court but would not make further comment.

The week in RI

Regulation was a key theme in our coverage again this week. In the EU, MEP Paul Tang told our deputy editor Elza Holmstedt Pell that the bloc needs to step up on transition finance to avoid a sustainability backlash.

Supply chains were also in focus, as Responsible Investor understands, the Spanish Presidency of the European Council is set to propose an initial exclusion of financial institutions from the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive.

At country level, French policymakers released details of the new SRI fund label, while in the US a major investment industry association called on the Securities and Exchange Commission to learn lessons from the controversies around labelling under SFDR.

Meanwhile, the latest batch of climate scenarios released by the NGFS indicated that regulators and central bankers see the chances of an orderly green transition diminishing.

Also this week, we reported on investors’ response – or lack of it – to ESG failings at ArcelorMittal in the wake of a fatal accident at its Kazakh subsidiary; a new report from the Climate Bonds Initiative showing that the proliferation of transition planning frameworks is confusing investors; and efforts by the IPDD’s US workstream to engage government officials on deforestation.

On the asset owner side, CalPERS revealed plans to set a KPI for sustainable investments to outperform in every asset class, while in the UK, Phoenix Group lamented the lack of opportunities to invest in climate solutions.

And finally, Ulf Erlandsson of the Anthropocene Fixed Income Institute proposed an innovative bond structure that could help MDBs and policymakers to channel private finance into sustainable development.

Quote of the week

“A whole cottage industry of nonsense firms”

A UK government official on the ESG ratings industry, as reported in the Financial Times. Which seems an odd way to describe a sector now dominated by the likes of MSCI, S&P, Morningstar and Moody’s.

Back in the big apple

We are very much looking forward to returning to New York next week for the 15th edition of RI USA.

Our editor Lucy Fitzgeorge-Parker will be chairing the event and moderating panels on topics including interim net-zero targets, ESG litigation and the impact of EU regulation on US corporates.

Also on the ground will be our features editor Paul Verney, who will lead sessions on climate lobbying, racial equity and engagement, and E&S shareholder proposals.

Lucy and Paul will also be conducting the keynote interview with:

  • John Skjervem, chief investment officer, Utah Retirement Systems
  • Maria Lettini, chief executive, US SIF
  • Ethan Zindler, climate counsellor to the Secretary, US Department of Treasury

For this and much more, join us at the Convene at One Liberty Plaza on Wednesday and Thursday. Full agenda and registration details available here.

Say my name

Nominative determinism has long been a feature in the ESG market, with Aviva Investors’ CRIO Steve Waygood showing us the path to a brighter future and Federated Hermes’ stewardship head Bruce Duguid pushing companies to better corporate responsibility.

We hear rumours that a certain prominent RMI energy analyst is also looking to usurp Sean Kidney at the Climate Bonds Initiative.

However, with biodiversity rising up the agenda, the Benjamin Badgers and Emilia Foxes of the world now have an avenue to fulfil their destiny.

Nuveen’s new head of nature-based solutions Nick Moss certainly has a lot resting on his green shoulder and we understand that Fidelity International’s nature lead answers to Harriet Wildgoose.

Aviva Investors Sustainability Media awards

On Wednesday, the editorial team headed over to Undershaft for the Aviva Investors Sustainability Media Awards 2023 – and it was well worth the trip.

Top billing goes to Gina Gambetta, who won the coveted Best Contribution to Sustainability Journalism award.

The judges were particularly impressed with her global scoop on financial institutions funding the State Financial Officers Foundation, which was picked up (unattributed!) by everyone from the FT to the New York Times.

Gina was also highly commended in the Biodiversity Article of the Year category for her coverage of nature in the AGM season.

Other RI reporters also had a good evening. Fiona McNally was runner-up for DE&I Journalist of the Year, Dominic Webb was highly commended for both Climate and Environmental Journalist of the Year and Social Article of the Year, and Paul Verney was shortlisted for Climate and Environment Journalist.

Responsible Investor itself was runner-up for Publication of the Year and also for Editorial Campaign of the Year, for our Women in Finance survey and feature series around International Women’s Day.

Many thanks to Mark Versey, Steve Waygood and Aviva Investors for a great evening and for their continued support for the sustainability media sector!

Bruxelles, ma belle!

It can sometimes be hard to remember that there was a pre-SFDR period in the sustainable finance space. But it also feels like time has passed quickly since the publication in 2018 of the high-level expert group report, which kicked off the EU’s huge sustainable finance regulatory push.

Indeed, this seems like a good time to assess where we’re at, and our deputy editor Elza Holmstedt Pell will head to Brussels next week to moderate two panels at The decade of sustainable finance – half-time evaluation hybrid event, co-organised by MEP Paul Tang and QED.

A range of big names are lined-up to speak at the event on 14 November, including the European Commission’s Valdis Dombrovskis; ESMA chair Verena Ross; EIOPA chair Petra Hielkema; Helena Viñes Fiestas of the EU Platform on Sustainable Finance; the PRI’s Nathan Fabian; and JPMorgan’s head of EMEA ESG & Green Economy Investment Banking, Chuka Umunna.

For the full agenda and to sign up to attend or stream the event, click here.

Today’s letter was prepared by the RI editorial team