RI Briefing, July 27: TIAA-CREF releases 2011 Socially Responsible Investing Annual Report

RI’s regular round-up of sustainable finance news.

TIAACREF, the $470bn (€325bn) US pension investor, has released its 2011 Socially Responsible Investing Annual Report. Highlights include the CREF Social Choice Account seeing its assets under management top $10bn. TIAACREF was ranked highest among 46 mutual fund companies for its support of shareholder resolutions on climate change by Ceres. “The ranking reflects the fact that TIAACREF was one of only eight companies that voted in favour of climate-related shareholder resolutions more than half the time during 2010,” TIAACREF said.

A new study has questioned the effectiveness of investment principles such as the UN-backed Principles for Responsible Investment, the Equator Principles and other measures from the European Investment Bank and the OECD. Investing for sustainable development? A review of investment principles – trends and impacts by Just Economics said they “appear to be encouraging minor alterations to investment decisions, within commercial constraints, rather than altering the underlying basis of decision making.” Investment principles’ potential to support sustainable development was “not yet being realised”.

Brazilian exchange BM&FBOVESPA has announced the questionnaire to decide the companies to be included in its 2012 Corporate Sustainability Index. The survey was drawn up by the Sustainability Study Center (GVces) of the Getúlio Vargas Foundation. Eligible companies must register by July 31 and answer the questions by September 16. New features include a focus on transparency, climate change and revised questions on the Global Reporting Initiative and the Carbon Disclosure Project. Website

The US SIF, the Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment, has welcomed new legislation that would enable federal employees to select an SRI option in their Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). The SIF said the Federal Employees Responsible Investment Act (FERIA) could result in more than $30bn of extra SRI assets.The ACCA Research and Insights Conference, a free virtual conference organised by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, has gone live. Participants include Prince Charles, Prof. Mervyn King, Ceres’ Mindy Lubber, the International Corporate Governance Network’s Christy Wood, Governance for Owners’ Peter Butler, Fair Pensions’ Catherine Howarth and Aviva Investors’ Anita Skipper. All content will be available to access on demand until October 27. Link

Christian Aid has joined campaign group Fair Pensions as its newest member organisation. The charity joins existing members such as Action Aid, Amnesty International, Greenpeace, the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility and EIRIS. Link

Some 20 leading executive search firms have announced a new voluntary Code of Conduct covering boardroom appointments in response to the Davies Review of Women on Boards, which was published in February this year. The firms have pledged to draw up longlists with women representing at least three out of 10 boardroom candidates.

The Investment Management Association, the UK fund managers’ trade group, says ethical funds under management increased by 21% to £6.9bn at the end of 2010 – although the number of funds dropped to 57 from 61. The figures came in the IMA’s latest Annual Survey. Link

A group of 10 US public pension funds with assets in excess of $1trn has intervened in the stalemate between President Obama and Congress on the deficit negotiations. “It is critical that the debt ceiling be raised to avoid a default,” the funds said in an open letter. Signatories include: the California Public Employees’ Retirement System; Florida State Board of Administration; Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association; New York State Common Retirement Fund; State of North Carolina; New York City Retirement System; Maryland State Retirement Agency; California State Teachers’ Retirement System; Los Angeles County Employees’ Retirement Association; Ohio Public Employees Retirement System.