RI Briefing, June 22: CalPERS committee to hold ESG workshop

RI’s regular Wednesday round-up of responsible investing news

CalPERS’ board investment committee is to hold an environmental, social and governance (ESG) workshop on August 15. The session will be opened by Chief Investment Officer Joe Dear and features a talk on ‘Developing a Total Fund Process for Integrating Environmental, Social, and Governance Issues’ from Jane Ambachtsheer, Mercer’s global responsible investment business head.

APG, MN Services and the Ethical Council of the Swedish AP funds have written an article in the Financial Times about the importance of good labour relations at retailers. “Retail companies – and their investors – benefit from good relations between management and one of its key stakeholders: employees and their representatives,” say APG’s Anna Pot, the Ethical Council’s John Howchin and MN Services’ Kris Douma. “Therefore, we as investors and the pension funds on whose behalf we invest believe it is essential for investee companies to uphold the right for workers to organise freely.”

Bayerische Versorgungskammer, Germany’s biggest public pension fund, has appointed F&C to provide shareholder engagement services across its investment portfolio, including equities and corporate bonds via F&C’s Responsible Engagement Overlay (REO) programme. The move is part of a plan to set up a sustainability strategy at the fund, which recently became the first German pension fund to sign up to the UN Principles of Responsible Investment.

Companies’ investment in sustainability assurance is increasing, according to analysis firm Verdantix. It has published a new study showing that chief financial officers are getting more involved in the selection of assurance providers. And it found that Bureau Veritas, Deloitte, DNV, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PwC lead the market. Some buyers voiced concern about the value of assurance “due to the lack of interest from external stakeholders”.

The Federation of European Accountants has issued a paper – Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) indicators in annual reports: An introduction to current frameworks. The study aims to provide information on documents prepared by various bodies and most commonly referred to when considering the identification and use of ESG indicators (also Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and reporting principles).The Securities and Exchange Commission plans to issue a proposal in the autumn on the role of proxy advisory firms, according to a report on CFO.com. It cited SEC chairman Mary Schapiro’s remarks at a conference organised by the Wall Street Journal.

Poland yesterday opposed moves to increase the European Union’s greenhouse gas emissions targets. EU Environment Commissioner Connie Hedegaard said it was “disappointing” while UK Climate Secretary Chris Huhne said it was a “dark day for Europe’s leading role in tackling climate change”.

The United Nations Human Rights Council has endorsed Professor John Ruggie’s new set of Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights. They are designed to provide – for the first time – a global standard for preventing and addressing the risk of adverse impacts on human rights linked to business activity. “The Council’s endorsement establishes the Guiding Principles as the authoritative global reference point for business and human rights,” said Ruggie, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Business and Human Rights. Link

The Austrian Association for Financial Analysis and Asset Management (ÖVFA) has released a thought-provoking new study on the future of environmental, social and governance (ESG) matters: Economic Responsibility 3.0 – An Update on General ESG Responsibility. “We need to demand comprehensive global ESG responsibility,” says author Fritz Mostböck.

Funds firm Calvert has named August 26 as the day investors will vote on the proposed merger of its Calvert Large Cap Growth Fund into the Calvert Equity Portfolio fund. Both funds apply identical Sustainable and Socially responsible investment criteria and Calvert says the plan “offers you the opportunity to pursue your goals in a larger fund with a stronger performance history”.

News and data firm Bloomberg is to install a 1.8MW solar power system at its Skillman office building in New Jersey. The eight-acre, ground-mounted solar tracking system will be completed by the end of the year and is expected to generate the equivalent amount of power to meet 58% of the facility’s electricity demand. Announcement