Responsible Funds, June 3: ERAFP, Mercer, NatureBank, EU, Raffa, Calvert Investments

The latest responsible funds news

France’s public service additional pension scheme (ERAFP), a 100% SRI investor with €23bn in assets, is launching an open call for tenders to select two extra-financial rating agencies to assess the social responsibility of ERAFP’s investment in various asset classes. The tenders are divided into two lots: Lot 1 – SRI rating of Corporate issuers and Lot 2 – SRI rating of Non-corporate issuers. The offer is advertised on the website These contracts will last four years and may be extended by two years. The deadline for the submission of bids is July 4.

Consultancy firm Mercer is planning to launch a global equity ESG fund. Jillian Reid, a responsible investment consultant at Mercer, revealed the plans at a seminar on ESG organized by investment research firm Style Research. She told the audience it had pleasingly found a number of managers it would be able to work with based on its ESG and thematic themes. She said: “It will be a global portfolio of highly rated strategies. Investment with foresight for a five-year plus time horizon integrating Mercer’s best ideas in portfolio construction, ESG, stewardship, sustainability and stakeholder reputation.”

NatureBank Asset Management and Anholt Services have agreed an $11 million investment partnership to develop sustainable cocoa in the Dominican Republic. Anholt is a philanthropic investment firm financed by the TK Foundation. It will provide the capital for the initiative, which will see the sustainable development of a series of greenfield and existing cocoa producing sites in the country. Frankfurt-listed NatureBank specialises in sustainable commodities and ecological investment services. It will, via its German subsidiary, ForestFinest Consulting, design and develop the project.

US financial services giant TIAA claims there is “a lack of understanding… of what responsible investing really is” after its latest survey showed more than one third of advisors cannot assess responsible investment performance. Results of the TIAA Global Asset Management survey show that 36% of advisors claim not to have the ability to measure responsible investments adequately, despite 77% of the high-net worth investors surveyed saying they want their investments to have a positive impact on society. It said 275 advisors and 1,103 investors in the US responded to the survey. 40% of investors said they didn’t know if they had any responsible investments in their portfolios.

Global microfinance network FINCA has launched a branch in Nigeria after starting pilot operations in the country around a year ago. FINCA Microfinance Bank Nigeria, known as ‘FINCA eXpress’ is starting in partnership with Enhancing Financial Innovation & Access (EFInA), a UK-funded financial sector development organization that promotes financial inclusion in Nigeria, and MasterCard Worldwide.The European Commission is launching a consultation on the main barriers to the cross-border distribution of investment funds in order to increase the proportion of funds marketed and sold across the EU. “Greater cross-border distribution allows funds to grow and become more efficient, allocate capital more efficiently across the EU, and compete within national markets to deliver better value and greater innovation,” it says. The consultation supports the creation of a Capital Markets Union and refers not just to the UCITS structure but also ELTIFs (European Long-Term Investment Funds) and EuSEF social entrepreneurship funds. The consultation closes on October 2. Link

US-based non-profit consulting firm Raffa has launched Raffa Social Capital Advisors (RSCA) that will support social entrepreneurs seeking investment. Tom Raff, CEO of Raffa, said: “We are helping match investors with the social entrepreneurs we are vetting and coaching so that both the companies can succeed and the investors can see a return – in profits and in impact.” Raffa has appointed Rich Tafel, CEO of Public Squared, as Managing Director of Raffa Social Capital Advisors. Announcement

SRI fund firm Calvert Investments says its Calvert Balanced Portfolio fund has initiated a 2% allocation to an Unconstrained Fixed Income strategy. “This strategy is managed with an absolute return focus, as it is not managed relative to the constraints of a traditional fixed income index,” it said in a filing. It added it believes the allocation, which could increase over time, “will improve the risk and return profile for the overall fixed income allocation”. Over the six-month period ended March 31, Calvert Balanced Portfolio Class A shares (at NAV) returned 3.95%, underperforming its benchmark, the Russell 1000 Index (7.75%). Over a 12-month view the return is -2.83%.

Nairobi-based venture capital firm, TLcom, is launching a fund focused on technology start-ups in sub-Saharan Africa. The company, which also has offices in London, is hoping to secure €9 million of investment from the European Investment Bank (EIB) to help seed the fund, which will seek out opportunities in fast-growth ventures that use technology and “innovative business models” to accelerate access to “severely underserved” areas such as financials, business services, commerce and energy. It will focus mainly on Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana. The European Investment Bank is considering making an equity investment in the fund on the basis that it aims to “generate a substantial return on investment… coupled with a significant development impact”. It could provide “innovative and affordable solutions” to local people, create jobs and provide finance and expertise to small businesses in Africa, the EIB claimed.