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Responsible Funds, May 6: FRR, Northern Trust, Railpen, BMO, UBS, Bridges Ventures

The round-up of the latest responsible funds news

France’s €36bn pensions buffer fund, Fonds de Réserve pour les Retraites (FRR), is tendering for an estimated €600m in mandates for investment fund structures based around debt/loan financing for French companies after it was granted approval in the second half of 2015, by the French government ministries that oversee it, to invest up to €2bn in French private assets designed to boost economic growth. The fund had asked the government for permission to invest in illiquid investments to counter the current period of low interest rates and to take advantage of illiquidity premia. For the new mandates, FRR said it was looking for managers to create and manage investment structures that could take the form of specialist funds, French limited partnerships or special purpose vehicles for long-term investment into French companies. The mandates take the form of two pots of €300m each: the first for buying debt or loan finance, and the second for providing acquisition finance. In both pots, FRR says, up to three mandates could be awarded for each. The deadline for tender submissions is June 6. Link

Northern Trust’s FlexShares exchange traded funds arm has reportedly filed for two ETFs that will use an approach focused on environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria. The FlexShares Stoxx US ESG Impact Index Fund and the FlexShares Stoxx Global ESG Impact Index Fund would both track indices tracking components based on their ESG scores, according to a report on ETF.com. The two funds are set to list on NASDAQ, the report added.

RPMI Railpen, the UK’s £22bn (€27.9bn) rail industry fund, has raised “significant concerns” about the quality of board governance at British consumer products multinational Reckitt Benckiser, and voted against resolutions on remuneration and on the re-election of some board members at the company’s Annual General Meeting today. Railpen, a long term shareholder in the company, voted against its new remuneration policy and also against the re-election of the company’s chairman, Adrian Bellamy, and members of its remuneration committee, including its chair, Judith Sprieser, describing her performance in the role as “underwhelming”. Link

Officials from the California State Teachers’ Retirement System and Japan’s giant Government Pension Investment Fund have reportedly made an informal agreement on corporate governance, according to Pensions & Investments. It said that CalSTRS’ Chief Investment Officer Christopher Ailman asked his peer at the GPIF, Hiromichi Mizuno, to form a coalition while they were on a panel together at the Milken Institute Global Conference in California. It added that Ailman said he would bring Theodore Eliopoulos, CIO of CalPERS into the group as well. It was “very exciting to have the largest asset owner in the world interested in corporate governance” Ailman was quoted as saying.The California Public Employees’ Retirement System’s climate risk reporting shareowner resolution (Resolution 17), overwhelmingly passed at the annual meeting of Rio Tinto Plc. The resolution, which was supported by company management, requires the global mining company to report on environmental risks and opportunities associated with climate change. CalPERS co-filed the resolution along with a coalition of asset owners assembled by CCLA Investment Management, the UK fund manager. Announcement

BMO Investments has launched what it says is Canada’s first impact investing mutual fund by a Canadian bank – the BMO Women in Leadership Fund, which seeks to invest in North American companies that have a female CEO or a board of directors with at least 25% female representation, referencing the Barclays Women in Leadership North America Index. It also introduced BMO Fossil Fuel Free Fund which will invest in a globally diversified portfolio of equity securities that excludes companies primarily involved in the development and infrastructure of fossil fuels.

The final close of the UBS Oncology Impact Fund has been announced at $471m by life sciences venture investing firm MPM, in partnership with UBS. It’s dedicated to investing in cancer therapeutics, with 20% of the committed capital going to public equity investments, and the balance to private companies.

The Bridges Social Entrepreneurs Fund, run by sustainable and impact investing firm Bridges Ventures, won the Institutional social investment award at this week’s Social Investment Awards in the UK. The awards, run by the UK government and UK bank Natwest, recognized the Bridges Fund for crowding in £36m in capital.

State Street, Visa And BNY Mellon are some of the firms listed on the new Bloomberg Financial Services Gender-Equality Index that aims to promote transparency and workplace equality. The index currently lists 26 financial services firm that have “strong commitments to gender equality, including dedicated social disclosure policies and practices”. It provides data across company gender statistics; employee policies, gender-conscious product offerings; and external community support and engagement.

A social impact fund has been created in Germany for the purpose of providing loans for higher education. The fund has been launched by Frankfurt-based Deutsche Bildung AG and, including debt finance, has a volume of €25m. According to Managing Director Ulf Becker, a key benefit of the fund is its flexibility – graduates who are then employed can decide a repayment plan based on net salary and timeframe. Speaking at a presentation, Becker said the fund’s assets had been fully allocated, which is why it was now seeking fresh capital from investors, including foundations and churches.