RI Briefing, March 7: Global CEOs commit to Women’s Empowerment Principles

RI’s regular round-up of responsible investing news

Four hundred company chief executives worldwide have declared their commitment to implementing the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) over the last two years. The declaration came at the fourth Annual Equality Means Business Event in New York organised by United Nations Women and the UN Global Compact – titled “Gender Equality for Sustainable Business”.

The creation of a Sustainable Development Index is one of 56 recommendations from the United Nations’ High-level Panel on Global Sustainability, which reported recently. The 22-member group, co-chaired by Finnish President Tarja Halonen and South African President Jacob Zuma, produced a report called “Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing”, which is available here.

The Global Reporting Initiative has released its Sustainability Report 2010/11 – following a “robust stakeholder engagement” after feedback on its previous report. The GRI says sustainability reporting is becoming more standard practice, with 95% of the world’s 250 biggest companies reporting on their sustainability performance.

US chief executives say a lack of interest from investors is hampering their efforts to do social good and have suggested that the creation of a social responsibility index of companies would help educate shareholders on the value of philanthropy, reports Corporate Social Responsibility.

The Academy of Business in Society (EABIS) has issued a call for papers for the Business and Professional Ethics Journal for a special issue, titled: Systemic change towards sustainable business.

Campaign group Transparency International has issued a report that highlights low anticorruption engagement and integrity standards within the civil society and business sector in Poland. Link

Female executives’ pay lags that of their male counterparts across Europe, with the largest pay disparity in Germany, says consulting firm Mercer. Mercer analysed the pay of 264,000 senior management and executives in 5,321 companies, across 41 European countries. It found that women comprise less than one third of the executive workforce. Link*The New York City Pension Funds* have withdrawn shareholder proposals on sexual orientation and gender identity at two New York listed companies – Dick’s Sporting Goods and drinks firm Constellation Brands – after they agreed to protect their workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The funds’ proposal will probably still be on the agenda at the annual meetings of TECO Energy, Crosstex Energy, Anadarko Petroleum and Leggett & Platt. Link

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development has launched the OECD Gender Data Browser, showing 16 key indicators on gender equality in education, employment and entrepreneurship focusing on gender gaps in OECD countries and emerging economies. The browser shows changes in gender equality over time and enables countries to be compared.

Social investment amendments to the UK Financial Services Bill tabled by Shadow Financial Secretary to the Treasury Chris Leslie and backed by 20 social finance chiefs, have been narrowly defeated in the Financial Services Bill Committee. Link

Denmark’s DKK160bn (€21.5bn) PKA pension administration company has defended its investments in African farmland, following criticism in the Danish press. PKA said it “strongly disassociates itself” from accusations of ‘land grabbing’. Link (Danish)

Although investors and companies increasingly agree on key corporate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues, there is little agreement on how to measure the issues. That’s a finding of a study – “Finding Common Ground on the Metrics that Matter” – from the Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute. IRRC says investors find it difficult to gather and analyze corporate ESG data, even while companies are ‘survey fatigued’. Link

Social infrastructure in the UK is still too small to be considered an asset class and suffers from high political risk, according to a report by the EDHEC-Risk Institute. EDHEC said the current size of the social infrastructure asset pool (USD100bn invested globally between 1995 and 2010) is such that modest allocations by major pension funds would lead to a rapid rarefaction of these assets.