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Responsible Funds, Feb. 28: Vermont state fund adds fossil-free fund option

The round-up of responsible funds news

The Vermont State Employees’ Retirement Board has added a fossil-free mutual fund investment option for employees contributing to the state’s deferred compensation plan. The new SRI option added is the Pax World Global Environmental Markets (PGINX), which excludes fossil-fuel companies from the fund portfolio. “The addition of a fossil-free fund offering provides employees the opportunity to invest in companies that support a sustainable future, while supplementing their retirement savings,” said VSERS Board Chair Kevin Gaffney.

A new £20m (€24.3m) fund from which charities and social enterprises can apply for loans and investments of up to £1m has been launched by Social and Sustainable Capital (SSC), a fund firm set up in 2012 by two ex-investment bankers (Ben Rick and Adam Knight) with a joint goal of positive social impact alongside financial return. Its first fund, the Community Investment Fund, is jointly financed by the UK’s Social Investment Business and Big Society Capital who have both committed £10m and made initial contributions of £3m each.

The UK Green Investment Bank and Société Générale Equipment Finance have joined forces to provide £50m of finance for energy efficiency projects. Both are committing £25m. The first project to benefit is at Rampton Hospital, managed by Nottinghamshire Healthcare in central England.

Desjardins, the CA$197bn (€128.9bn) Canadian co-operative savings group, said investment into its SRI funds grew by 402% between the end of 2009 and the end of 2013. The group said SRI funds now represent 7% of the mutual fund assets held by its clients. Desjardins’ SociéTerre fund range reached five years of track record on January 31 2014. The returns for the funds have been 6.7% (SociéTerre Sécuritaire boursier), 7.8% (SociéTerre Équilibré), 9.3% (SociéTerre Croissance) and 10.6% (SociéTerre Croissance Plus).

Dutch asset manager Robeco has reportedly combined its natural resources and infrastructure equities funds into one strategy. The new Robeco Global Growth Trends Equities fund will be run by Henk Grootveld and Marco van Lent. It means the Robeco Infrastructure Equities and the Robeco Natural Resources Equities fund have been formally closed.Australian ethical investment firm UCA Funds Management has announced a fossil fuel policy to hold more companies accountable for their environmental impact. UCA, which works for charities and which has A$900m (€588m) in assets currently under management, says it will not directly invest in companies involved in the mining and/or exporting thermal coal, extracting or refining unconventional oil (such as shale oil and deep water drilling), or the extraction and exporting of unconventional methane gas (such as coal seam gas) that involves fracking. Natural gas, coking coal and conventional oil remain eligible for investment. UCA is a social enterprise of the Uniting Church in Australia Synod of Victoria/Tasmania.

Triodos Investment Management has seen a 15% increase in the assets managed in its 19 investment funds for retail and institutional investors – which now have a total of €2.5bn in assets under management. Triodos Investment Funds invest in sustainable sectors such as microfinance, organic agriculture, cultural projects, renewable energy, sustainable real estate, and listed companies who are screened for their sustainable performance (SRI). Parent Triodos Bank said total AUM rose 20% to €9.6bn. Customer numbers rose 18% to more than 500,000.

Australian Ethical, the Sydney-based specialist, has said that 2013 was a strong year for its International Equities Trust. It tweeted that the fund delivered a “stellar 55.2% return (after fees) over the year”.

Terra Firma, the private equity firm controlled by Guy hands, is reportedly approaching a first close of its $2bn (€1.5bn) renewable energy fund. RealDeals, citing unnamed sources, said Terra Firma would target the renewable energy and utilities sector, mainly in onshore wind, solar photovoltaic and hydro. It comes after the firm parted company with Damien Darragh, who was leading the fundraising.

Asset manager WHEB’s new private equity fund, Green Growth Fund 2, has completed its first investment by taking what’s been termed a “significant stake” in Germany-based carbon fibre composites group UBC GmbH. Further details weren’t disclosed. Also, WHEB’s private equity team has announced a successful exit from its investment in recycling and waste management software outfit Advanced Manufacturing Control Systems Ltd.