Responsible Funds, September 13: AFL-CIO’s activist equity fund reaches $4bn

The round-up of responsible funds news


The US labour union-backed AFLCIO Equity Index Fund, a collective investment fund for pension funds which promotes good corporate governance, has grown to more than $4bn. “It shows that the pension plans of union workers have a strong interest in pooling their investment dollars and demonstrates their belief in the power of shareholder activism,” said American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations President Richard Trumka. The fund, launched in 2011 and one of several pension investment vehicles licensed by the AFLCIO, votes in line with the AFLCIO Proxy Voting Guidelines and is managed by ASB Capital Management. Link

New York-listed Prudential Financial has invested, via its Social Investments Program, $10m in LeapFrog Investments to help fund investments in companies that provide insurance, savings, pensions, investment products and other financial services to emerging consumers in Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia. LeapFrog raised an initial $204m for its LeapFrog Fund II from Prudential and other leading global insurers, reinsurers, banks and asset managers. Announcement

ResponsAbility, the Switzerland-based asset manager, says its flagship Global Microfinance Fund invested a total of $38m (€28.6m) in 16 microfinance and fair trade firms last August. As a result, Global Microfinance, which has $818m in assets, is invested in 278 companies around the world, 222 of which deal in microfinance and 56 in fair trade. Over the past year, it has gained 3.4% (in USD); since its inception almost 10 years ago it’s up 43.8%.

The Foresight Solar Fund Ltd., a closed-ended infrastructure investment company specialising in UK solar power, says it plans to float on the main market of the London Stock Exchange to raise £200m. Proceeds will be invested in a portfolio of UK ground based solar power plants. It follows similar renewables listings such as Greencoat UK Wind, the Renewables Infrastructure Group and the Bluefield Solar Income Fund.

Ludgate Environmental Fund, the London-listed resource efficiency investment vehicle that is in the process of winding up, has thanked shareholders for their “continued support”. Chairman John Shakeshaft, paid tribute to fellow directors for developing investments in “uncertain and occasionally difficult companies”.The World Bank’s International Finance Corp. arm has backed a fund promoting affordable housing in South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. IFC and the National Housing Finance Corporation of South Africa announced investments of more than $63m in private equity firm International Housing Solutions’ IHS Fund II.

Australia’s NGS Super, the fund for education and community-focused organisations with 105,000 members and over A$5bn (€3.5bn) in assets under management, is reportedly planning a stand-alone SRI fund option. The Sustainability Report, citing NGS CEO Anthony Rodwell-Ball, said the option would be launched for members later this year.


UK transport firm FirstGroup and Intel, the US computer chip giant, are the new members of the Global Challenges Index (GCX), the German sustainable equity index created by ESG rating agency Oekom and the Hanover bourse. The firms replace Swedish paper firm Svenska Cellulosa and Austrian packaging firm Mayr-Melnhof who no longer meet the index’s sustainable criteria. In the case of Svenska Cellulosa, it’s alleged that a sub-contractor lured forestry labourers from Cameroon to Sweden under false pretences and then forced them to work. Mayr-Melnhof, meanwhile, was not transparent enough about its raw materials. The rebalancing of the GCX, in which €129m is invested, takes place twice annually.

Environmental data firm Trucost has teamed up with the GreenBiz Group to launch the Natural Capital Leaders Index, in an extension of their annual ‘State of Green Business’ report. The new metrics are designed to recognize companies demonstrating natural capital leadership – and in addition, break new ground by identifying those that are truly ‘moving the needle’ by decoupling growth from natural capital impact. The 2014 State of Green Business report will be published on January 21.

Index firm STOXX has announced the results of the annual review of the STOXX Sustainability and STOXX Global ESG Leaders indices, among a series of reviews. All changes will be effective on September 23, it added.