RI Briefing, October 5: Finnish asset owner giant ramps up RI stance

RI’s regular round-up of responsible investing news

Finnish pensions insurance giant Varma, Finland’s largest private investor with €33.8bn in investment assets, has become a member of Finland’s Sustainable Investment Forum FINSIF and signed up to the UN Principles for Responsible Investment. Announcement
Petercam, the Belgian fund manager with around €15bn in assets under management, has also signed up to the UN PRI. “SRI is a strategic long-term growth area for Petercam, along with other compelling strategies and institutional client solutions,” said Hugo Lasat, Head of Institutional Asset Management.

A group of ‘impact’ investors are to put $25m into the new African Agricultural Capital Fund, which will be run by Uganda-based Pearl Capital Partners. They include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, J.P. Morgan, the Gatsby Charitable Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the US government’s USAID body; they coordinated via the Global Impact Investing Network’s Investors’ Council.

The US SIF Foundation has released a report commissioned from consulting firm Mercer which found that four out of five plan sponsors expect demand for sustainable and responsible investing (SRI) options to grow or hold firm over the next five years. Indeed, the number of defined contribution (DC) retirement plans “could double”.

Environmental, social, and governance research firm IW Financial has teamed up with the not-for-profit Sustainable Investment Institute (Si2) to offer a range of UN PRI services called PRI Roadmap. They will offer consultation and planning services, ESG research, proxy research and analysis, and tailored engagement services.
Boardroom diversity campaign group 2020 Women on Boards has released the results of its Boards Gender Diversity Index, which looks at female representation on the board of US companies. “The results of our research indicate that the percentage of women on boards for the Fortune 1000 is 14.6%,” says founder Stephanie Sonnabend. “This is the number we will be tracking and measuring our progress against each year.” Announcement*Members of the Faith Group* of the Robin Hood Tax campaign have welcomed the announcement by European Commission president Barroso that the Commission has adopted a proposal to set-up a financial transaction tax. But it was “seriously concerned” about the UK government reluctance to adopt the plans.

French brokerage house CA Cheuvreux has published a new Pocket Guide to summarise the “increasingly high expectations” of investors for transparency from listed companies on ESG issues. It aims to help corporates make their extra-financial disclosure more transparent and pertinent to fulfil the expectations of a new generation of investors.

The CEO Water Mandate Water Action Hub is being developed by a group of organisations including consulting firm Deloitte, the International Business Leaders Forum, the Pacific Institute and the German International Development Agency (GIZ). The hub will be a clearinghouse for emerging corporate water accounting methods, tools and stewardship practices.
Companies in Japan and South Korea have come out with the strongest ratings on ESG issues, according to a survey from research firm EIRIS. But companies based in Hong Kong, China and Singapore have failed to make progress, a report in the Financial Times stated.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is to host a public roundtable on October 18 on conflict minerals. It will provide a forum for stakeholders to exchange views and provide input on issues related to rules the SEC is required to develop under the Dodd-Frank Act. “We are committed to writing an effective rule as soon as possible, and the roundtable will help us do that,” said Meredith Cross, Director of the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance.

Meanwhile, the SEC has said it is in the process of re-establishing an Investor Advisory Committee, as mandated by Dodd-Frank. It would replace and earlier committee that set up in June 2009, although date or deadline was mentioned.