Responsible Funds, April 24: Canada’s Vancity IM in SRI fund exit from fossil fuels, tar sands

The round-up of the latest responsible funds news

Canada’s Vancity Investment Management (VCIM), the fund management subsidiary of the Vancouver City Savings Credit Union [Vancity] financial cooperative, has fully divested from oil and gas companies within the IA Clarington Inhance Global Equity SRI Class. “This fund has no coal, oil or gas holdings and holds 7.6% in renewable energy and clean technology companies,” it said in a responsible investing newsletter. In the IA Clarington Inhance Canadian Equity SRI Class, VCIM has also divested from Suncor and Canadian Natural Resources, two major oil sands producers. Vancity has had a long-term relationship with fund firm IA Clarington since 2009, when the latter acquired Vancity’s Inhance SRI funds business. VCIM provides services to individuals, unions, non-profit groups, foundations, trusts, First Nation governments and other organizations with more than C$500,000 (€379,599) to invest.

Bridges Ventures Social Impact Bond Fund has invested in two social impact bonds (SIBs), according to an update from Michele Giddens,
 Partner & Co-Founder
 of the UK social investor. She said providers Teens & Toddlers and Career Connect have both already delivered SIB-funded programmes that have produced improved education and employment results for a group of young people in the UK’s North-West; now they’ve been recommissioned to provide the same service on a larger scale. “In other words, it’s the first concrete proof anywhere in the world that the SIB concept really can deliver better social outcomes (and better value) for governments,” Giddens said. She added Bridges has also invested in the first National Health Service-commissioned SIB, designed to help over 11,000 people with long-term health conditions in the Newcastle area. Bridges has now backed 14 UK SIBs, making it “the world’s most active investor in this area”.

ABP, the €344bn pension giant for Dutch civil servants, has allocated €25m to a new fund that will invest in corporate bonds issued by Dutch small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs), press reports say. The fund, called NPEX Ondernemersfonds, will be managed by NIBC, a Dutch merchant bank.

The first projects and transactions earmarked for the new European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) have been approved by the European Investment Bank and the European Investment Fund. Under the EFSI initiative, expected to support €315bn of investment, the EIB will assume risks in projects to encourage greater private and public sector investment. The projects approved “will improve innovation, healthcare, transport and industry, all sectors crucial for Europe’s economic growth” the EIB said. Further operations expected to be submitted to the EIB Board in the coming months include renewable energy and energy efficiency projects, support for research, development and innovation, digital and social infrastructure projects, and more SME lending.US asset management firm Columbia Threadneedle Investments says it has launched a new US mutual fund that invests in municipal and corporate bonds with a “positive environmental and social impact.” In a statement, the Boston-based firm defined that impact as education, health care, housing, water and community services. The fund is called the ‘Columbia U.S. Social Bond Fund’ and its three portfolio managers rely on research provided by ESG firm Sustainalytics to help identify the projects that are to have a positive impact. It follows on from UK arm Threadneedle’s pioneering social bond fund. Announcement

SOAS (the School of Oriental and African Studies) at the University of London has announced today (April 24) it will divest from fossil fuels within the next three years, making it the first London university college to fully divest. The decision was approved by SOAS’s governing body following a review led by a working group of governing body members. In June 2014, SOAS agreed to freeze all new investments in fossil fuels, while the question of divestment was investigated. Oil and gas equities currently stand at £1.5m.

The Hanover Stock Exchange has announced the launch of the “German Gender Index,” an index comprising 50 companies whose management and boards, according to the exchange, have a diverse enough mix of men and women. In selecting the constituents, the bourse said companies that had women as management executives were ranked twice as much as those that did not due to the simple fact that such people had a direct influence on the business. Several Dax 30 companies figure among the constituents, including Adidas, BASF, Deutsche Lufthansa, Daimler, BMW, Allianz, Munich Re and Siemens. “The index provides investors with the means to invest in companies that are particularly concerned with recruiting women as executives,” said the bourse.

SolarCity, a California-based solar power firm, has teamed up Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse to launch a $1bn (€920m) fund to finance 300MW worth of new commercial solar projects in the US over the next two years. According to SolarCity, the deal between it and Credit Suisse – whose contribution to the fund was not disclosed – was closed in February. The fund began financing its first solar power projects in late March. The projects rely on SolarCity technology, including a mounting system that the firm says speeds up installation of solar panels and an efficient battery storage system.