RI Briefing, November 9: GRI launches sustainability disclosure database

RI’s regular round-up of responsible investing news

The Global Reporting Initiative has launched a new Sustainability Disclosure Database, covering data on the environmental, social and governance (ESG) transparency of more than 3,000 companies worldwide. The free service includes references to sustainability guidance from different organizations, including the Carbon Disclosure Project, the International Standards Organisation, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the UN Global Compact. The GRI said it plans to expand the data and functionality over time.

Colombia’s first sustainability investment event takes place next week, sponsored by the Colombian Stock Exchange. It takes place at the Hotel Metropolitan, Bogotá, on November 15. It will feature a range of speakers including: Rodrigo Amandi, ex-Managing Director, SAM Indexes; Marcela Zonis, Brazil Network Manager, UN Principles for Responsible Investment; Blanca Vega, Responsible Investment Advisor, Sustainalytics; and Luisa Montes, Director at Ecobanca Mexico.

‘High sustainability’ firms significantly outperform their low sustainability peers in terms of stock market returns, according to a Harvard Business School working paper. “The Impact of a Corporate Culture of Sustainability on Corporate Behavior and Performance”, by Robert G. Eccles, Ioannis Ioannou and George Serafeim, used a sample of 180 companies. The research finds that ‘high sustainability’ firms will have procedures for stakeholder engagement and exhibit better measurement and disclosure of nonfinancial information. Link

The Native Benefits Plan, the C$363m (€260.5m) pension fund for Canadian First Nations peoples and the largest Aboriginal defined benefits plan in the country, has signed up to the UN Principles for Responsible Investment. The 4,298-member fund was established in 1979 by the Atikamekw-Montagnais council.

A spokesman for the Church of England’s Ethical Investment Advisory Group has branded as misleading reports that it was threatening to withdraw investments from internet service-providers, according to the Church Times . The Daily Mail had reported the Church would withdraw its cash following revelations convicted murderer Vincent Tabaco had used violent pornography.Russell Investments, the global fund firm with around $137bn (€99.9bn) in assets under management, has tapped research firm Sustainalytics to provide stock-level environmental, social and governance (ESG) information for its funds and client portfolios. “The appointment of Sustainalytics will give our clients the ability to develop their own approach and help them grapple with the long term issues around ESG issues,” said Mike Clark, chair of the Russell Sustainability Council.

Swedish state fund Sjunde AP-fonden (AP7) has published a review of academic studies of sustainable investment. “The Performance of Socially Responsible Investment: A review of scholarly studies published 2008‐2010” was written by Dr. Emma Sjöström of the Stockholm School of Economics and is available here.

The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) has signed an agreement with MSCI ESG Research under which the latter will provide research and analysis for the Access to Nutrition Index project. The index – a collaboration between GAIN, the Wellcome Trust and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – is designed to encourage major food and beverage companies to support good nutrition practices worldwide.

The European Commission has launched a voluntary Code of Good Conduct for micro-credit. “Such a code should not only provide SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises] with safer access to the micro-funding they need, but should also support the micro-funding sector itself in raising service quality and moving towards sustainability,” the Commission says.

There’s been a call for corporate partners of next year’s Olympic Games in London to raise their sustainability credentials. “We would like to see more London 2012 corporate partners take that extra step for sustainability,” said Shaun McCarthy, Chair of the Commission for a Sustainable London 2012, in the annual UKSIF Lecture last week.

Sporting apparel giant Nike’s Materials Sustainability Index (MSI) is currently in testing on the software start-up site Earthster. A full version will be launched next month and Nike will release the MSI publicly in 2012. Earthster site