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RI Briefing, March 30: New York City pension funds in transparency drive

RI’s regular round-up of responsible investing news

The five New York City Pension Funds, with a combined value of $113bn, are to publish online all shareholder resolutions submitted on their behalf as part of a transparency initiative by New York City Comptroller John Liu. They will also publish Pension Board minutes and agendas as well as fund managers’ portfolio holdings with performance indicators. “Greater transparency ultimately will lead to stronger performance,” Liu said. Link

A new sustainable investing boutique fund manager has been formed with the acquisition by Finland’s Northern Star of a majority stake in Estonian fund management firm Limestone Investment Management. Tomi Långström takes on the role of CEO of the merged group with Petri Kuusisto becoming group CIO.

The Global Reporting Initiative has launched its G3.1 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines, marking the completion of its current generation of Sustainability Reporting Guidelines. “The G3.1 Guidelines feature up to date guidance on issues that are critical in today’s society – human rights, gender and community,” the GRI states.

A group of influential institutional investors with £463bn of assets under management and the International Corporate Governance Network have written to the Financial Times expressing their concern that forthcoming guidance on UK Bribery Act will exempt some London-listed foreign companies. The investors include F&C Investments, Aviva Investors, Newton Investment Management, Railpen Investments and the Universities Superannuation Scheme.

Canada’s Shareholder Association for Research & Education (SHARE) is launching a two-year project to develop tools to help investors ensure their holdings meet the highest standards of human and labour rights. The Investing in Decent Work project will look at the challenges in identifying and addressing forced labour, precarious employment and occupational health and safety. Link

The £1.6bn (€1.8bn) Environment Agency Pension Fund says it has reduced the environmental footprint of its actively-managed equity holdings by 30% between 2006 and 2010 – while outperforming the MSCI World Developed Countries Index benchmark by +2.5%. Citing data from researcher Trucost, the EAPF said it has reduced its exposure to financial risk from environmental impacts, mainly due to fund managers’ positive selection of stocks that are more environmentally efficient than the average for Index sector peers.A Scandinavian pension fund has tendered a $400m global emerging markets mandate with a strong SRI component on the IPE-Quest manager search facility. The chosen manager must adhere to a blacklist of companies deemed to violate the fund’s ethical investment policy. Currently the blacklist consists of 70 names of which approximately 15-20 are located in EM countries. The search is QN1172 and closes on April 28. Link

Turkey: The first draft of the Istanbul Stock Exchange Sustainable Index (ISESI) project has been discussed at a recent workshop. Among the speakers was Edoardo Gai, Sustainability Services Director at SAM Group. The ISESI project began in August 2010.

The $10.2bn (€7.2bn) Ford Foundation has joined the Global Impact Investing Network’s (GIIN) Investors’ Council. Other new members include the US Government’s development finance institution OPIC and a non-profit financial services organization RSF Social Finance. Link

A group of real estate companies have launched a not-for-profit association called the Green Rating Alliance to assess and improve the environmental performance of existing buildings. Firms involved include AEW Europe, Allianz Real Estate, AXA Real Estate, GE Capital Real Estate Europe, ING Real Estate Investment Management and LaSalle Investment Management. The group, which represents around €200bn of European real estate assets, will be chaired by Pierre Vaquier, CEO of AXA Real Estate.

The Carbon Trust, the UK low carbon non-profit company, has awarded what is claimed to be the world’s first global climate change certification to GlaxoSmithKline, for measuring, managing and reducing its global carbon footprint. The pharmaceuticals giant has cut its carbon footprint by 4%, achieving the Carbon Trust Standard across 65 countries.

The Sustainable Packaging Coalition has released a report on biodegradation in landfills and the resulting greenhouse gas impacts. Assessing the Greenhouse Gas Impacts of Biodegradation in Landfills finds a “false sense of optimism” about the use of landfill methane as an energy source. Link