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Responsible Funds, Dec. 19: Calvert, Christian Super, Wellcome Trust, Unitus Seed Fund, Equipsuper

The round-up of responsible funds news

The $21m Calvert Government Fund (which invests in US government debt) is to be merged into the SRI firm’s own Calvert Short Duration Income Fund, which has assets of $1.7bn. A special meeting of shareholders in the fund will be held on April 17 next year at Calvert Investments’ HQ in Maryland. “The Board and I believe the reorganization offers you the opportunity to pursue your investment goals in a larger fund with a comparable performance history that may benefit from economies of scale over the long-term,” said Calvert’s President – and CEO as of next month – John Streur in a letter to shareholders. Both funds seek to apply ESG integration across sectors and holdings.

FIM Services, the UK-based forestry and renewable energy investment manager, has announced a final close for its FIM Sustainable Timber & Energy LP (STELP), securing new subscriptions of £33m (€42m) – 32% over the £25m target. Link

Australia’s A$7bn Equipsuper is reportedly developing an ethical investment policy. A Reuters report quoting Executive Risk Officer Nick Vamvakas said the Melbourne-based investor is putting the policy in place in the footsteps of peers including VicSuper, Hesta and CBus.

UK government department the Office for Civil Society is planning a foundation with “more than £100m” to help charities take on social investment, according to press reports. Civil Society News reports that the foundation will receive at least £60m from money repaid to a government loan fund for charities, and will have cash from charitable foundation the Big Lottery Fund. It will work in partnership with social investment wholesaler Big Society Capital.

The Unitus Seed Fund says it has received an investment from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. It said: “Their investment is focused on accelerating the market and entrepreneurial ecosystem in two specific areas catering to India’s low-income population: high quality education and livelihood solutions.” Unitus is a new $20 million seed-stage investment fund based in Bangalore and Seattle that invests in startups innovating “for the masses” in India. Link

Sir Richard Branson recently announced that Virgin Unite Canada, the non-profit arm of the Virgin Group and the Canada-based MaRS Centre for Impact Investing are to partner on a new national impact venture fund. The fund will be managed by MaRS and focus on early-stage for-profit companies with a core social or environmental mission. It has been seeded with $1m from Virgin Unite Canada and has already secured $500,000 more in commitments. “I strongly believe that entrepreneurs have a key role in tackling environmental and social issues with solutions that will last for the long run and help create jobs,” Branson said.Two US legislators have called for a sustainable investment option to be offered to employees of the federal government. Rhode Island’s Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Representative Jim Langevin have introduced the Federal Employees Responsible Investment Act, saying it would direct the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board to select a “Corporate Responsibility Index” as an option for the retirement savings plan for federal employees – called the Thrift Savings Plan, or TSP. “Our bill would allow federal workers to direct their retirement dollars toward more sustainable and socially conscious investments,” they write in political journal The Hill.

Christian Super, the 100% ethical Australian superannuation fund, has reportedly made three new allocations to environmental and social funds. The Sustainability Report said the fund has opted for Mexican student loan firm Laudex, the IFC’s emerging markets renewable energy focused Catalyst Fund, and the Global Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Fund (GEEREF), a fund-of-funds manager advised by the European Investment Bank Group.

DEG, the investment arm of the German development bank KfW, is one of several investors that have placed $66m (€53.5m) with a Brazilian impact fund that invests in small and midsize enterprises (SMEs). DEG contributed $12.5m during the first closing for the fund, known as FIRST. The fund’s other investors are the IFC, France’s PROPARCO, and the Omidyar Network. The fund aims to raise up to $125m from investors.

The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has made a NOK300m (€33.2m) commitment to EISER Infrastructure Partners, which advises Green Africa Power (GAP), an initiative of the Private Infrastructure Development Group Trust. It means total funding for GAP stands at £121m; GAP aims to provide long-term subordinated loans and contingent lines of credit to privately owned renewable power generation projects in Africa. The multi-donor facility will invest alongside commercial lenders and equity investors, focusing on the most under-developed countries in the continent.

The Wellcome Trust says its investment portfolio recorded a total return of 15.4% for the year to 30 September 2014 – equating to £2.5bn on an investment portfolio value of £16.4bn. It means the UK charitable foundation’s assets have risen to £18bn. The trust has returned over £9bn (a cumulative 81%) in the six years since the start of the global financial crisis in September 2008. Announcement