Responsible Funds, May 22: Erste AM, NN Investment Partners, John Laing, CCLA, Australian Ethical

The round-up of the latest responsible funds news

Erste Asset Management says the volume of the assets it manages sustainably has risen to €3.9bn, making it the market leader in its home country Austria. It added that as part of its sustainable approach, it engaged with many of its investee companies, attending annual general meetings (AGMs) and voting. This year, it plans to vote at 260 AGMs, up from 178 in 2014. It is also engaging with 34 companies on agricultural supply chain labour standards. Link

NN Investment Partners, the former ING Investment Management, has teamed up with Dutch development bank FMO to launch an emerging markets corporate debt fund. The pair said the offering would “mirror” loan investments made by the FMO in emerging markets – meaning institutional investors would benefit from its expertise and track record and could be certain that the investments upheld its ESG (environmental, social and governance) standards.

CCLA Investment Management, the investment house which provides asset management to the Church of England, charities and local authorities, won the award for Ethical Investment Fund of the Year (Corporate) at this year’s Better Society Awards. “The judges declared our five-year-old Charities Ethical Investment Fund the winner for ‘engagement work including the Living Wage, strong performance and delivering a good income which is so vital to charities’,” CCLA said. Ethical Investment Fund of the Year (Consumer) went to Columbia Threadneedle Investments. The Asset Manager of the Year award went to Schroders and Cazenove. Link

Toronto-based GreenSoil Investments has launched its third fund, the GreenSoil Building Innovation Fund (GBIF), with an initial close of US$25m. It will invest in companies that “generate returns for real estate owners, operators, and developers through innovation, smart resource utilization, and efficiency improvements”. The fund, to be managed by Thomas Espiard, is targeted to reach US$80-100m. Announcement

Australian Ethical’s Smaller Companies Trust has won the Responsible Investments category at the 2015 Money Management awards. “The Smaller Companies Trust recently celebrated its 20th anniversary having delivered regular upper quartile performance over the whole period,” the firm said.

Sustainalytics was named the best SRI or green bond research or ratings firm at the GlobalCapital Bond Awards in London this week. Oekom was second and Vigeo third. The overall “most impressive” SRI or green bond issuer award went to the European Investment Bank while Crédit Agricole CIB was named “most impressive” SRI or green bond lead manager.John Laing Environmental Assets Group Limited (JLEN), the London-listed environmental infrastructure firm, plans
to raise £45m (€63m) by issuing new shares; it will use the proceeds to pay back debt and grow its business. The capital hike follows JLEN’s recent acquisition of three renewable energy parks in the UK for £42.5m. According to JLEN, the purchases were financed by a draw down of a £50m credit facility. JLEN Chairman Richard Morse said: “We are pleased with performance since the successful IPO in March 2014 and well placed for the next phase of growth that this equity raising will allow us to achieve.”

AXA Investment Managers (AXA IM) of France has reported a 22% gain in ‘core’ sustainably managed assets to €6bn at the end of 2014. In its latest responsible investment report, the firm said it voted at 4,208 AGMs last year and engaged with 56 companies on issues such as board diversity and executive pay. AXA also said it had become a market leader in social impact investing, running a fund for institutional clients with €200m in assets. Another highlight was a mandate from French pension fund ERAFP for a €400m high-yield bond that takes ESG factors into consideration. The firm added it now has €82bn in ESG integrated assets under management. Link

Following a recent close, Hermes Investment Management’s GPE Infrastructure Fund has taken in another €1.6bn from institutional targets, exceeding a target of €1.1bn. With the new money, the GPE fund has a total of €4.3bn in assets from 18 institutional clients. They include 11 corporate pension schemes, six local government schemes in the UK and one foundation. Renewable projects are one of the targets of the GPE Fund.

Social Investment Scotland (SIS), a development finance institution, has launched what is says is Scotland’s first social investment fund. In a statement, SIS said the fund hoped to raise up to £500,000 (€701,000) from UK investors, adding that the money would go to support between five and ten social enterprises. As an incentive, the fund offers a rebate on the relevant tax equalling 30%. Said Alastair Davis, SIS’s Chief Executive: “Since announcing this fund to the market, we’ve received significant interest from UK investors. They now can help support and grow Scotland’s thriving social enterprise sector.”