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RI Briefing, May 4: Vontobel and Hermes cooperate on voting and engagement

RI’s regular Wednesday round-up of responsible investing news

Vontobel Group, the Swiss private bank whose asset management arm has CHF78.6bn (€61.3bn) under management, is to cooperate on proxy voting and engagement with Hermes Equity Ownership Services. “As a signatory of the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment we have committed ourselves to being a responsible investor,” said Sabine Döbeli, Head of Sustainability Management. “The cooperation with the leading provider in this field helps us to get to a next level in an important aspect of our sustainability strategy.”

The Local Authority Pension Fund Forum, which promotes the interests of UK local authority pension funds with combined assets of more than £95bn (€105bn), has backed a report on audit and accounting policy that it says could herald “a major new element of its work plan”. The paper argues that the existing IFRS accounting standards regime does not meet the needs of shareholders. Link

The Global Reporting Initiative, which develops sustainability reporting guidelines, is seeking input on its next “G4” generation of guidelines. The new standards “should address requirements for sustainability data, and enable reporters to provide relevant information to various stakeholder groups, including shareholders, investors and consumers” the GRI said. The call for input opens on May 16. The G4 Public Comment Period will run for 90 days from August, with the new guidelines set for 2013.

Apax Partners, the $40bn global private equity firm, has signed up to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment. Other new signatories include Canadian PE firm Birch Hill Equity Partners, the Environmental Investment Partnership and Benelux impact investor group PYMWYMIC (Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is Company).

Aperio Group, the California-based enhanced indexing firm with $2.1bn under management, has launched a humane animal treatment portfolio. The Humane Equity Index Portfolio seeks to match the performance of the broad equity market while excluding companies exhibiting inhumane treatment of animals such as factory farms, animal testing and fur trapping.Denmark’s Pensionskassernes Administration (PKA) plans to invest $370m in farmland globally, according to a Bloomberg News report. “We plan to make the commitment by April 2012,” the news agency quoted portfolio manager Jens Henrik Staugaard Johansen as saying. PKA has DKK122bn (€16.4bn) in assets.
Meanwhile, four of the eight pension funds managed by PKA have merged into a single fund. The new institution, the Pension Fund for Health Professionals (Pensionskassen for Sundhedsfaglige), will have nearly 48,000 members and total assets of DKK33bn (€4.4bn).

A group of Swiss institutions have launched the Swiss Capacity‐Building Facility (SBCF) in Microfinance and Microinsurance, with goal of linking social investors with financial intermediaries in developing countries. The founding partners include the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Credit Suisse, FIDES|Financial Systems Development Services AG , Swisscontact, swiss microfinance holding and Zurich Financial Services Group – with other institutions “strongly encouraged to join”.

Campaign group FairPensions is co-ordinating an investor coalition calling on major UK companies to adopt Living Wage standards. The group, which includes religious groups and philanthropists with combined assets of more than £13bn, has written to the CEOs of each FTSE 100 company.

AXA Real Estate Investment Managers, the €39.9bn property manager, has published its 2010-2011 Sustainable Development Report. The 24-page document highlights the firm’s three “key drivers” – Engage, Measure and Explore.

Glencore International, the commodity giant which is planning an initial public offering in London and Hong Kong, is the subject of a spotlight report by RepRisk, the Swiss-based provider of environmental, social and governance risk data. RepRisk say that information on individual companies like Glencore will be available for purchase from its web shop from mid-May. Link