RI Briefing, March 16: Oekom Research’s report on Corporate Responsibility

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

Oekom Research, the sustainable ratings agency, has released its third annual report on Corporate Responsibility. It says only one in six companies achieves oekom “Prime Status”. SAP, Henkel and BMW are the leaders among DAX 30 companies.

Australia’s A$71.8bn (€50.8bn) civil service pension fund the Future Fund had stakes in 14 global tobacco companies worth A$147.7m according to Bloomberg News which obtained the information through an Australian Freedom of Information Act request. It said the tobacco holdings represent 0.5% of its equities holdings and come as the country is making an anti-smoking drive.

MBA students are being challenged to create sustainable investment portfolios in a competition organised by the Kellogg School of Management and Johnson Graduate School of Management. The International Impact Investing Challenge, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, J.P. Morgan, the McCall Foundation, Equilibrium Capital Group, the Calvert Foundation, Impact Assets, and the Milken Institute, will be judged at an event on April 8 at J.P. Morgan in New York. Link

Environmental data firm Trucost has issued a briefing – Supply Chain: Resource Risks – outlining the challenges for companies seeking to understand risk and opportunity from booming energy and commodity prices. Link

Spain has introduced legislation on sustainability reporting. From 2012 state-owned companies will have to produce sustainability reports in accordance with the Sustainable Economy Law that went through the Spanish Parliament on February 15. The new law emphasises gender equality and people with disabilities. Link

The Ethisphere Institute has announced its fifth annual selection of the World’s Most Ethical Companies, highlighting 110 firms that promote ethical business standards. It said the list, if indexed, would have significantly outperformed the S&P 500 – delivering a nearly 27% return since 2007, compared to the S&P’s -8.5%.

The Shareholder Responsibilities Committee of the International Corporate Governance Network (ICGN) has established a working group – the Model Mandate Initiative – to look at best practice in the agreements between asset owners and their fund managers. The aim is to promote more long-term behaviour in the capital markets and a greater focus on key risks. The group recently launched a call for evidence from market participants.The Swiss sustainable market reached a record in 2010, according to the ‘Sustainable Investments in Switzerland’ study published by investment consulting and research company onValues for the Sustainable Investment Forum (FNG). Total investment volume was up 23% at CHF42bn (€32.6bn). Link

Campaign group FairPensions is to launch a major new report on investors’ fiduciary obligation at the end of the month. “Protecting our best interests: rediscovering fiduciary obligation” is set to be unveiled at a high level event on March 30 in London.

The United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment Secretariat has started a consultation process to review and redesign its Reporting and Assessment survey. Signatories will be informed about the open consultation process in the next few months. There’s a consultancy opportunity to coordinate the development and consultation of the reporting framework. Signatories and experts interested in being involved should contact the PRI

Consulting company onValues has published a report focusing on the environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues involved in different types of commodities investments. It shows that the issues at stake and available management options for institutional investors vary greatly between investments in commodity derivatives, in physical commodities, in real productive assets or in the equity of public companies.

Global banking group HSBC has launched Islamic securities services for fund managers called HSBC Amanah Securities Services. It will offer fund accounting and administration, global custody, transfer agency, banking and treasury services in 17 markets and will headed by Germain Birgen. Link

The Bursa Malaysia hosted the third regional Asia Pacific Business and Sustainability Council Meeting earlier this month with Conservation International. The theme was ‘Sustainability and Supply Chains in Asia’ and featured presentations from firms such as McDonald’s and Shell. Link

It’s been reported in the French media that Credit Agricole is considering selling its Cheuvreux and CLSA brokerage arms – both players in the socially responsible investing field – if talks with Chinese group Citic fall through. Reuters said a spokeswoman declined to comment.