RI Briefing, February 8: New UK social impact bond in pipeline

RI’s regular round-up of responsible investing news

The English county of Essex has confirmed plans to progress with Social Impact Bonds to finance “family and community-based work” with vulnerable young people. Essex County Council has completed a feasibility stage and concludes the bonds could be an appropriate funding mechanism to commission a number of teams to work across the county. Link

The UN Principles for Responsible Investment has published a set of case studies looking at how founding signatories to the new Principles for Investors in Inclusive Finance have begun implementing them. The seven principles were launched on January 27 last year at the Responsible Finance Forum hosted by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Link

The European Federation for Retirement Provision (EFRP), the Brussels-based trade body, says pension funds would be “deeply affected” by the European Commission’s proposed Financial Transaction Tax. It called for pension funds and their asset managers to be exempted from the tax. Link

Media giant News Corp. is facing investigations under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) from US authorities including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to a Reuters report. The probe reportedly relates to allegations that journalists at the company’s UK operations paid police officers for news tips.

Sustainability rating agency Oekom Research has evaluated the sustainability of 52 industrialised and emerging countries, and found that Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain and the US “have all failed to attain Oekom’s Prime threshold”. Norway, Sweden and Denmark took the top places, with Germany coming in sixth. The issues evaluated included freedom of speech/press, investment in education and modern infrastructure, the energy mix and the way the country is tackling climate change.

The Thai Stock Exchange’s Corporate Social Responsibility Institute (CSRI) and the Thaipat Institute have announced that their 2012 corporate social responsibility’s direction will focus on strengthening listed companies’ CSR activities by providing guidelines and training to cope with natural disasters and other crises.US sustainable funds firm Trillium Asset Management has signed a partnership with First Peoples Worldwide, the non-profit advocacy group for indigenous peoples. Trillium will undertake custom research and shareholder advocacy focused on how corporate policies and programs can better protect and enhance Indigenous Peoples’ rights. Announcement

Vigeo, the French ESG house, has awarded top-CSR performer trophies to eight companies identified as the highest-performing of the 40 largest publicly traded companies on the Casablanca stock exchange. The categories included environmental strategy, product safety and prevention of corruption. The awards were presented in conjunction with Aswat, the Moroccan radio station. Link

The European Commission has proposed a ‘European Foundation Statute’ to make it easier for foundations to support social causes across the European Union. A single European legal form – the ‘European Foundation’ (FE) – is envisaged, which would be fundamentally the same in all EU countries. Announcement
Sparinvest, the Luxembourg-based fund manager, has announced that its entire range of 32 domestic Danish funds and 15 international funds are now compliant with the UN PRI. “The group’s fund managers believe ESG integration and research information is already adding value to their investment process,” Sparinvest said. The firm has €8.97bn under management.

The International Federation of Accountants has published a report on trends in investor demand for – and use of – environmental, social, and governance (ESG) information. The report, entitled Investor Demand for Environmental, Social, and Governance Disclosures: Implications for Professional Accountants in Business was published by the federation’s Professional Accountants in Business (PAIB) Committee.

An online petition has been launched to try to persuade US university Harvard to manage and invest its endowment “more responsibly”. “We seek to end the disconnect between Harvard University’s ethos of serving society at large and the Harvard Management Company’s disregard for social and environmental impacts in managing the endowment’s $32bn,” it says.
Link to petition