RI Briefing, November 8: FRR, Northwest & Ethical, LD Pension, Oikocredit

RI’s regular round-up of responsible investing news

The €35.7bn French pensions reserve fund (FRR) has signed up to the CDP Water Disclosure Project – building on its four-year support of the Carbon Disclosure Project. “A long-term investor such as the FRR cannot afford to overlook water-related issues,” it says. It’s also backing the Emerging Markets Disclosure Project. Link

French state investor Caisse des Dépôts has set up a fund management subsidiary specialising in carbon assets. CDC Climat Asset Management will be headed by Chief Executive Guido Schmidt-Traub and Deputy CEO Marianne Paris. Web site
Canada’s Northwest & Ethical Investments says it plans to engage with Blackberry maker Research in Motion on human rights issues in 2011. RIM is among the more than 50 global firms on its focus list for next year. Link

BNP Paribas and Impax Asset Management have been awarded joint responsibility for a DKK600m (€80.5m) fund investing in a portfolio of equities on environment and climate change by Denmark’s LD pension. The mandate was part of an estimated DKK42.5bn (€5.7bn) outsourcing of assets.
Latest figures from the UK Investment Management Association show net retail sales of ethical funds totalling £98m in the second quarter of 2010 – the highest figure since the final quarter of 2007. The IMA said total assets under management in ethical funds reached £5.6bn, up 22% on last year.

Oikocredit, the Ecumenical Development Cooperative Society, which provides loans, guarantees and investment capital to microfinance institutions, cooperatives, fair trade and other businesses, has launched in the UK and Ireland.The UNEP FI has published a CEO Briefing Demystifying Materiality: hardwiring biodiversity and ecosystem services into finance looking at companies and sectors vulnerable to biodiversity and ecosystem decline.

Women are still significantly underrepresented on corporate boards and in C-level executive positions, according to a Calvert Investments report. Examining the Cracks in the Ceiling: A Survey of Corporate Diversity Practices of the S&P 100 says women make up approximately 18% of director positions within the S&P 100, and only 8.4% of the highest paid executive positions.

The performance of sustainable Korean companies is significantly above the market in the year-to-date, up 7%, and 70% over the last five years, according to SolAbility, the research company. It looked at a universe of 350 stocks (KOSPI & KOSDAQ), based on a mix of positive and negative screening factors. Site

Newsweek has issued its 2010 Green Rankings of the largest US and global companies using data from MSCI, Trucost and Corporate Register.
Poland’s first equity fund based on environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria has been launched by local fund firm TFI SKOK and Credit Suisse Asset Management. GES Investment Services will provide analysis.

Switzerland’s Ethos Foundation has grown to 101 members, mainly Swiss pension funds, managing over SFr120bn. Ethos said its growth in the last two years reflected the increasing interest of institutional investors for socially responsible asset management and active exercise of shareholder rights.

S&P Indices is to shortly launch a new ESG index focused on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), to sit alongside its India and Egypt ESG country benchmarks.
The Canadian Securities Administrators has published guidance for issuers about meeting existing environmental disclosure requirements. Staff Notice 51-333 “should assist issuers in assessing which information must be disclosed on material environmental matters, such as risks related to weather patterns or environmental legislation”.

The Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants had released a report finding mainstream institutional investors are beginning to incorporate environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into their decision-making process.

US banking and asset management firm State Street has estimated that the global ESG market is worth $10.9trn. It’s new Vision Focus report Sustainable Investing: Positioning for Long-Term Success says the ESG field is entering its third “alpha generating” phase.

Bolsa Mexicana de Valores, the Mexican exchange, has hired consulting firm EIRIS to develop a new Sustainability Index – which will be launched at the UN Climate Change Conference in Cancún this month.EIRIS has also signed up a new research partner in Mexico, Ecobanca. Link
Research firm Sustainalytics has launched two new compliance services, for Sudan and Iran. They will help institutional investors ensure compliance with applicable legislation.

The new 662-member list for the Calvert Social Index has been announced. It will have an average weighted market capitalization of around $66.4bn. The new list of holdings is available on Calvert’s web site.

The UN Global Compact has delisted two companies – Spain’s Banesto and Mexico’s Grupo Via Delphi – from the CEO Water Mandate for failing to report on their implementation in time. Link

Asset manager F&C opposed the re-election of Rod Eddington, chairman of News Corp.’s Audit Committee, at the media giant’s annual meeting in October. The move followed reports News Corp. had made $2m in political contributions.

US pension giant TIAACREF has acquired a controlling interest in Illinois-based agricultural asset manager Westchester Group for an undisclosed sum. Westchester – which runs around $1bn in assets – will be a standalone company within TIAACREF. Release