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RI Briefing, September 21: Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility celebrates 40 years

RI’s regular round-up of responsible investment news

The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, the US faith-based shareholder coalition, is to celebrate its 40th anniversary at an event in New York this week. “Taking Stock: Shaping a New Age in Corporate Responsibility” takes place at Bridgewaters at the South Street Seaport. The ICCR, formed in 1971 to oppose apartheid in South Africa, now comprises nearly 300 organizations with combined assets of more than $100bn.

US President Barack Obama has committed the US to signing up to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), the mining industry initiative that is supported by more than 80 global investment institutions with more than $16trn in funds under management. The decision is part of Obama’s wider Open Government Partnership plan.

Hong Kong: Hang Seng Indexes’ two new sustainability indices went live this month. The Corporate Sustainability and China A Corporate Sustainability benchmarks include the top ESG (environmental, social and governance)-rated companies selected from constituent stocks of the Hang Seng Composite Index and the top 300 A-share companies in terms of market capitalisation respectively. Link
The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) has won backing from proxy advisory firms ISS and Glass Lewis for its proposal calling for annual director elections at US food group Smithfield Foods Inc. Smithfield holds its annual shareholder meeting today (September 21).

Microfinance rating agencies MicroRate, Planet Rating and MicroFinanza Rating have signed up to a new six-page Code of Conduct, according to a report on the Microfinance Gateway website of the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP). The move follows a period of negative publicity for the industry.

The annual review of the S&P/Egyptian Exchange’s ESG Index has taken place with the cooperation between the exchange, Standard & Poor’s and the Egyptian Institute of Directors (EIoD). “A comprehensive review was applied on the EGS index, measuring the companies’ performance in environment, social responsibility and governance issues, as per S&P methodology,” they said.Style Research, the investment research and portfolio analysis firm, has inked a deal with US ESG and corporate governance research firm GMI Ratings (the former GovernanceMetrics International). The partnership means Style Research clients will have access to GMI’s ratings.

The first impact investing ratings and analytics platform – the Global Impact Investing Rating System (GIIRS) – has been launched. Fifteen impact investors with some $1.5bn in assets have declared their support for the system; among them are the Calvert Foundation, the Inter-American Development Bank, J.P. Morgan, Prudential Financial, Inc. and the Rockefeller Foundation.
Calvert Investment Management has completed the previously announced merger of its Large Cap Growth and Equity Portfolio funds as of the close of business on September 16. “We continually evaluate our product line-up to ensure we are meeting evolving client and market demand, generating economies of scale that lead to reasonable expenses, and setting the stage for the best possible performance outcomes,” said Calvert Vice President Alison Smith.

The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA), the European regulator, has issued the first drafts of binding standards for credit rating agencies. The draft rules detail the information that ratings agencies would have to disclose and the rules they would have to comply with. The consultation period runs until October 21, with a final report expected by the end of 2011.

Italian banking group UniCredit has joined CSR Europe, the European business network for corporate social responsibility. It joins around 70 multinational corporations and 31 national partner organisations as members. Link

The whole issue of the profitability or otherwise of ethical investment has had an airing in the Norwegian press recently. Jeanette Bergan, head of Responsible Investment at KLP, countered in the newspaper Finansvisen that the idea that sinful investments are profitable does not hold water. Link to blog (Norwegian)