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RI Briefing, March 14: Dutch bank signs up as UN PRI goes past 1,000 signatories

RI’s regular round-up of responsible investing news

A raft of new signatories, including the Netherlands’ ABN Amro Bank NV and the Government Institutions Pension Fund of Namibia, has taken the UN Principles for Responsible Investment over the 1,000 signatory mark for the first time. There are now 1006 signatories to the initiative, including 249 asset owners, 592 investment managers and 165 service firms. Link

Shareholders in Chevron including the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and Zevin Asset Management have written to the company to express disappointment at what they said was a lack of response to requests for information on its Burma operations. The investors are amongst those that have filed a shareholder resolution for vote at Chevron’s annual meeting this May. It asks Chevron to produce a report on its criteria for operations in, and, if necessary, withdrawal from high-risk countries such as Burma. At an investor call on January 25 with Chevron executives, the investors said they were “very disappointed” that executives were unwilling to respond to questions. Chevron did not respond to requests for comment.

Dutch banking giant Rabobank has announced a partnership with the Rainforest Alliance non-governmental organisation on a sustainable finance initiative in Central and Latin America. It aims to enhance the flow of financing for millions of small farmers, enabling them to farm more sustainably, thereby reducing risks in agricultural commodity supply chains, Rabobank said.

Knut Kjaer, the former chief executive of Norges Bank Investment Management and ex-president of RiskMetrics, has teamed up with Andrew Ang of the Columbia Business School on an academic paper called Investing for the Long Run. “Illiquid assets can, but do not necessarily, play a role for long-horizon investors, but investors should demand high premiums to compensate for bearing illiquidity risk and agency issues,” they write.

Consulting firm Towers Watson has formed an employee engagement partnership with think tank Tomorrow’s Company and employment relations specialists the Involvement and Participation Association (IPA). They will work on the ‘Rethinking Voice’ project launched by Prime Minister David Cameron last year.UNICEF, the UN Global Compact and Save the Children this week launched the Children’s Rights and Business Principles, a 10-point call on business to “step up their efforts to respect and support children’s rights in the workplace, marketplace and community”. The initiative covers issues from child labour to marketing and advertising practices to the role of business in aiding children affected by emergencies.

Dutch-based microfinance group Oikocredit has reported an 8% increase in its development finance portfolio, which has reached €520m in 2011, up from €481m in 2010. “Through 896 partners, Oikocredit financing gave over 26m people access to fair finance, economic opportunity and community development,” it says.

The National Association of Pension Funds has responded to reports that the UK government is considering 100-year bonds, saying they would be too long for most pension funds. “Their liabilities are long-term, but not that long-term,” said NAPF Chief Executive Joanne Segars.

Campaign group ICAN has published a 180-page report called Don’t Bank on the Bomb which identifies more than 300 banks, pension funds, insurance companies and asset managers in 30 countries with substantial investments in nuclear arms producers.

Zurich-based sustainability ratings firm Inrate has introduced an enhanced country ratings system, due to the growing number of investors who are considering the sustainability profiles of countries in their bond investment decisions. The methodology reflects the role of states in fostering sustainable development and is takes into account the issue of financial stability, Inrate says.

The three main index providers MSCI, S&P Indices and FTSE have launched the first trade body, the Index Industry Association. Its remit will includes educating investors and “advocating the interests of index users and providers worldwide”. The board of the not-for-profit institution will comprise representatives of the founding companies; a search is currently underway for an Executive Director.