RI Briefing, January 4: €5bn charity sector fund signs up to Stewardship Code

RI’s regular round-up of responsible investing news

The Pensions Trust, the £4.6bn (€5.5bn) pension fund for the UK charity and not-for-profit sector, has signed up to the Stewardship Code. The trust said it “takes its responsibilities as a shareholder seriously” and monitors and encourages its managers to adhere to the code. It become a signatory to the UN-backed Principles for Responsible Investment in 2010.

Apparel firm Patagonia has become the first company in California to take on benefit corporation status. Benefit corporations are a new kind of corporation legally required to “create a material positive impact on society and the environment”. They must also consider the interests of workers, community and the environment. In addition they have to report annually on social and environmental performance. Link

Hotels group Wyndham Worldwide, whose brands include Ramada, Howard Johnson and Travelodge, has signed up to the Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct. The code is a responsible tourism initiative in collaboration with ECPAT International, funded by UNICEF and supported by The World Tourism Organization. Wyndham will implement policies that condemn child trafficking and provide training to help staff and hotel franchisees identify and report trafficking.

ResponsAbility AG, the Zurich-based social investments specialist, has released its Microfinance Market Outlook for 2012. “After a year of rapid expansion, microfinance loan portfolio growth is likely to moderate in 2012,” it says. “Industry experts predict a real growth rate of 15-20%.” Link

The Australian Industry Greenhouse Network – an industry group whose members include the Australian Coal Association, the Minerals Council of Australia as well as large extractives firms – says the country’s new A$10bn (€8bn) Clean Energy Finance Corporation could distort markets, the Australian reported. The CEFC will provide finance to renewable energy, energy efficiency and low-emissions technologies. Link*Dutch civil service pension fund ABP* has sued Swiss bank Credit Suisse in New York State Supreme Court. The fund claims the bank misled it about the quality of residential mortgage-backed securities it bought in the run-up to the financial crisis, according to reports. The lawsuit follows an earlier, Heerlen-based ABP case brought against J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. in New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan.

An appeals court in Ecuador has upheld a ruling that US oil major Chevron Corp should pay $18bn for polluting the Amazon rainforest and damaging plaintiffs’ health. “We ratify the ruling of February 14 2011 in all its parts, including the sentence for moral reparation,” the ruling stated, according to a Reuters report. The company said the judgment was “illegitimate”.

The board of the $47.4bn Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Management (PRIM) has announced that it has divested all its holdings in companies with major ties to Iran’s energy industry. It meets a state law designed to put pressure on the “rogue state” to halt its nuclear weapons programme. “Our prompt response to the call to divest sends a clear signal that the actions of Iran will not be tolerated on the international stage or in the boardroom,” said Treasurer Steven Grossman, who chairs the PRIM Board.
EarthPeople, a Dallas-based sustainability consultant, has announced it has become the first US advisory firm to offer companies plastic assessment and reporting services through the new Plastic Disclosure Project (PDP). The PDP is a project of the Hong Kong and California-based Ocean Recovery Alliance (ORA); its lead operating partner is the Association for Sustainable and Responsible Investment in Asia (ASrIA). Link

The controversial ‘Citizens United’ ruling which freed US corporate spending on political candidates has been bucked by the Montana Supreme Court. In a ruling last week, it upheld the US state’s long-standing Corrupt Practices Act, which bans direct spending by corporations on political candidates or committees. Wall Street Journal story