RI Briefing, March 23: Global sustainable finance organisations hold strategic meeting

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

Seven global sustainable investment organisations held their first ever strategic meeting in New York earlier this month. They included the Social Investment Organization (Canada), Social Investment Forum (USA), UKSIF (UK), ASrIA (Asia), RIAA (Australia and NZ), Eurosif (Europe) and AfricaSIF. Talks focused on potential research collaboration, policy initiatives, professional education and the sharing of best practice.

Brazil’s Itaú Unibanco has won an exclusive one-year licence to use the BM&FBOVESPA’s Corporate Sustainability Index (ISE) and the Corporate Governance Trade Index (IGCT) as the basis for exchange traded funds. Itaú Unibanco, the largest private bank in Latin America, won a Financial Times’ Sustainable Banking award in 2010. Link

BM&FBOVESPA held a Corporate Sustainability Index workshop earlier this month. The event marks the beginning of a calendar of related activities for the year, it said. “Companies were presented with the changes that have been approved by the ISE board, valid for the selection process for the next portfolio,” it added.

BNP Paribas Wealth Management has teamed up with Women Equity for Growth, the French non-profit organisation that supports small and medium-sized enterprises led by women, to launch the Women Equity Growth Index to track the companies. “It is expected that this innovative initiative will become a point of reference as well as a powerful promotional tool for the companies involved,” they said.

Calvert Investments and the Calvert Foundation won a joint award for their role in helping South Africa’s poor communities at Shared Interest’s 17th Anniversary Awards Dinner in New York earlier this month. Prudential Financial received the Corporate Award for being an example of corporate citizenship and social responsibility. Shared Interest is a non-profit social investment fund focused on South Africa. Link

Corporate governance and ESG researcher GovernanceMetrics International has released a review of recent academic research on the subject of responsible investment and financial performance. “Asset owners and asset managers engaged in responsible investment (RI) will be interested to see scholarly validation for their work,” it says.

Japan disaster: The United Nations Global Compact has issued an appeal for participants wishing to support relief and humanitarian efforts in Japan following the earthquake and tsunami to make a financial contribution to the Japan Platform, an established emergency humanitarian aid organization comprised of Japanese NGOs, businesses and Government entities.The annual ESG Research Australia awards have been announced. The award for Best Piece of ESG Research by an Individual Analyst or Team went to Hamish Tadgell and Jien Goh of Goldman Sachs. The Best ESG Broking Firm as voted by Investment Managers went, for the second year in a row, to Citigroup. Link

Jones Lang LaSalle, the New York Stock Exchange-listed real estate firm, says it has introduced a “global knowledge base” of energy, climate and reporting legislation affecting commercial and corporate owned buildings. The information comes in the latest edition of its online Global Sustainability Perspective.

Lord Freud, UK Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Work and Pensions, is to push the government to improve transparency of pension funds’ Statements of Investment Principles in which they outline their policy on ESG issues. He said in a Lords debate: “There has been a consensus in many previous debates on social and environmental issues that companies perform better when their activities are monitored by shareholders. Therefore, it is important for pension funds and their investment managers to be transparent in publishing their approaches to such issues in their statements of investment principles.
UKSIF, the sustainable investment and finance association, welcomed the statement, and said it would send out its survey of UK corporate pension funds later this month. Freud was responding to an amendment about ESG disclosure by occupational pension funds proposed by Lord German. Link.

Europe is set to impose mandatory transparency measures for mining and forestry companies, requiring them to detail their financial relationships with foreign governments, reports the Financial Times citing Michel Barnier, the EU internal market commissioner. Barnier said Brussels would revise existing rules on transparency this autumn to cover money flows, such as tax payments and royalties to foreign governments and extend them beyond extractive industries such as mining and energy to include other “primary materials” businesses, such as forestry. He said Brussels was inclined to favour a “country-by-country” approach to disclosures.

Transparency in the mining and metals sector is improving, according to new figures released by the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) and Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). Some 17 out of 18 ICMM member companies reported in line with GRI standards last year, according to the ICMM’s 2010 Annual Review – Making progress through dialogue.