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RI Briefing, July 5: EU, UN Global Compact, Illinois SURS, ÖVFA

The European Commission wants companies to be more transparent on environmental, social and governance issues. “Greater transparency can help to reinforce trust in enterprises on the part of citizens, and can contribute to a more accurate valuation of enterprises on the part of investors and analysts,” said Commission Vice President Antonio Tajani in a speech at the United Nations Global Compact summit in New York last month.

Some 86% of chief executives want investors to more accurately value sustainability, according to a survey by consulting firm Accenture and the UN Global Compact. They contacted 766 CEOs and top executives – including face-to-face interviews with over 50 executives.

The $13.3bn Illinois State Universities Retirement System is looking for a proxy voting advisor. The deadline for proposals is July 22 with the contract set to be awarded on September 30. Link

The Austrian Association for Financial Analysis and Asset Management (ÖVFA) has come up with a blueprint for the aftermath of the global financial crisis. The wide-ranging “Corporate Responsibility 2.0” seeks to provide “new solutions” for future challenges. Link

Danish pension funds have opposed Spain’s plans to cut subsidies for solar power plants. AP Pension, PensionDanmark and PBU wrote to the government warning of a “complete and prolonged” freeze in renewable energy investment. Link*The World Bank’s IFC* division launched the Good Practice Handbook on Strategic Community Investment at its Corporate Responsibility Forum last month. The IFC and the Global Reporting Initiative also unveiled a good practice note: Getting More Value out of Sustainability Reporting.

French consulting firm Vigeo is to rate companies on their lobbying activities. From this month it will include the “transparency and integrity of influence strategies and practices” as part of its ratings of companies’ social responsibility. The move comes as part of an agreement with Transparency International singed last year. Announcement

There’s €1.2trn of unmanaged climate change risks amongst Europe’s top companies, according to a report from researchers EIRIS. Its new European Climate Change Tracker report focuses on 300 companies on the FTSE Eurofirst Index. Release

$426bn US pension giant TIAACREF is aiming to double its $2bn farmland portfolio. ““If we found the right opportunities we’d be willing to double our existing exposure over the new few years,” Jose Minaya, managing director of global private markets, told Reuters. It quoted Jos Lemmens, senior portfolio manager at APG as saying it plans to raise its farmland portfolio to some €1bn.

Meanwhile, California’s $7.8bn Orange County Employees Retirement System has added a 1.5% allocation each to farmland and energy-related investments, according to Pensions & Investments.

The Nordic Investment Bank has had its capital raised by €2bn to €6.1bn by its member countries. The NIB seeks to promote sustainable growth and enhance the environment. Link

Polish companies are among the leaders in environmental, social and governance issues in ‘New Europe’ – aided by the Warsaw Stock Exchange’s new RESPECT Index, says research firm GES Investment Services. The WSE recently hosted Poland’s first international responsible investing conference. Link

Global cleantech venture investment hit a new record of $4.04bn in the first half of 2010 – just ahead of the previous high of $4.02bn posted in the first six months of 2008, according to new research from the Cleantech Group and Deloitte.

New members to the Long Term Investors Club will have to comply with rules including social and environmental responsibility, following the group’s second conference in Rome. The club currently comprises Italy’s Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, the European Investment Bank, Germany’s Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW) and France’s Caisse des Dépôts. Link*The UN Environment Programme* has launched a new manual – Bringing Forest Carbon Projects to the Market – to instruct financiers and project developers on how to develop and bring to market profitable forest carbon projects. It’s published in English, Spanish, and French – and is supported by UNEP, ONFi, the BioCarbon Fund and Agence Française de Développement.

Oekom Research says the oil and gas industry is taking more risks. The rating agency has evaluated how the 27 largest listed energy companies are facing up to their social and environmental responsibilities. “All the companies we analysed are being much too hesitant on sustainability issues,” said Kristina Rüter, Research Director.

Allianz has acknowledged the “considerable” challenges the insurer faces in the microinsurance market. These are to do with the lack of sufficient data, product adaptation, organisational efficiency and market conditions. “We hope to help as many people as possible attain prosperity and to serve them as customers over the long term,” management board chairman Michael Diekmann says in Allianz’s 2010 Microfinance Report.