RI Briefing, February 16: Eurosif on ESG challenges of infrastructure

Eurosif, the European Sustainable Investment Forum, has highlighted the environmental, social and governance (ESG) challenges facing the global infrastructure industry. Its new Infrastructure Report was compiled with research by Dexia Asset Management with a steering committee comprising CDC Climat, CM-CIC Asset Management and Threadneedle.

Eumedion, the Dutch corporate governance forum, has responded to the German Council for Sustainable Development’s consultation on the draft Corporate Governance Code. While broadly welcoming the initiative, Eumedion says it is not in favour of linking a code to the German Stock Corporation Act.

Votes against resolutions presented at French AGMs for CAC40 companies rose to an average 6.3% in 2010 from 5.9% in 2009, according to Proxinvest, the Paris-based proxy research house. The number of resolutions not adopted also rose to a record of 64 against 50 in 2009, suggesting a muscling up of French shareholder activity. For the broader SBF 250 index votes against also rose to an average 5% from 4.6% in 2009. The most contentious issues were the election of executive presidents, board pay, golden parachutes and free stock options.

Dexia Asset Management has published a guide to socially responsible investing for European institutional investors. SRI, a Sustainable and Responsible Investment Approach was written by Isabelle Cabie, Corentin Lecroart, Alain Roder and Cédric Van Neste.

Entertainment giant Walt Disney has joined the Ceres network and will work to “improve its efforts on key environmental and social sustainability issues” and engage stakeholders “to help advance its sustainability strategy, disclosure, and performance”. Announcement

France’s FRR, one of the world’s largest responsible investors, is currently hiring managers for two passive developed markets mandates. It is also looking for a manager to run French treasury bond investments. The move comes as the fund begins to pay down its assets to state agency CADES. The deadline for responses is February 28. Link

The New York City Pension Funds have called on four corporations – Anadarko Petroleum, NewAlliance Bancshares, R.R. Donnelly & Sons Co. and WellPoint – to rein in excessive “golden parachute” payments. The request was made in shareholder proposals. Announcement*CalPERS* says three major proxy firms – Egan-Jones, Glass Lewis and ISS – have backed its proposal for Apple’s board directors to be elected by majority vote. The computer firm’s AGM is on February 23.

Oekom Research, the sustainable ratings agency, has signed up Austria’s VKB-Bank and France’s CM-CIC Asset Management as clients. Link
Kroll Bond Ratings has launched a new credit rating agency, which will adopt a series of corporate governance principles. Ratings will be carried out by NRSRO, a statistical rating group that is more than 40% owned by pension funds and foundations. Kroll CEO and Chairman Jules Kroll said: “The financial crisis forcefully demonstrated that the current ratings system is broken.” The methodology and analysis will be put in the public domain.

The European Corporate Governance Service (ECGS), an independent network of proxy advisers, has added new associate partners in the US, Canada, Australia, Asia-Pacific and Italy. ECGS consists of Proxinvest in France, Ethos in Switzerland, DSW in Germany and Shareholder Support in the Netherlands. It has partnered with Montreal-based GIR for North American research, Melbourne-based SIRIS Asian-Pacific markets and Milan-based Advisor, Sergio Di Nola, for Italy.

The Responsible Investment Association Australasia (RIAA) is launching a series of sector reports giving an overview of the major ESG issues companies face in a chosen sector. RIAA will produce two sector reports in 2011 and three or four in 2012.

Henderson Global Investors is conducting an online client survey. “The last survey was conducted in 2008, and we would now like to gain an update of your investment views,” it says. The deadline for survey responses is March 20. Link

Truestone Impact Investment Management has launched the IM Truestone Global Impact Fund, an Open Ended Investment Company, which aims to deliver measurable social and environmental benefits while generating market rate returns.

Marc Fox, executive director of Goldman Sachs’ ESG (environmental, social and governance) arm GS Sustain, is to give a talk on Socially Responsible Investing at the University of Southern California on February 24. Link