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RI ESG Briefing, April 10: Julius Baer shareholders reject pay report at AGM

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news

Environmental

A new website has been set up to track REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) expenditures and forest finance. Forest Trends is working in thirteen countries to track REDD+ finance from donors to in-country recipients to REDD+ projects on the ground. It comes as over $7.3bn has been pledged to support REDD+ readiness in the run up to 2015, with $4.3bn to be spent between 2010 and 2012. Support for the project has come from the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety’s International Climate Initiative, the Skoll Foundation and the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI). Link

The Global Environment Facility’s financial support for forest management programs has reached the half a billion US Dollar mark, according to GEF CEO and Chairperson Naoko Ishii. She said: “The GEF Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) and REDD+ funding program has already achieved considerable success, with US$492m programmed in GEF grants and $3.7bn in co-finance secured for projects covering 55 countries since 2010.” The GEF is the largest public funder of projects to improve the global environment.

Social

European Union authorities are to force large extractives companies to disclose the payments they make to the governments of countries where they operate, on a country-by-country and project-by-project basis. “The agreement on the disclosure requirements for the extractive and forestry industries shows how EU legislation can be a catalyst for change in developing countries,” said EU Internal Markets Commissioner Michel Barnier. And Sharon Bowles, chair of the European Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Committee said multinational extractive companies could no longer “get away with opacity”.

Canada’s Vancity Investment Management, on behalf of the IA Clarington Inhance Monthly Income SRI Fund, has filed a resolution on diversity and the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles with BCE, Canada’s largest telecommunications company. The resolution is going to a vote at the company’s 2013 annual meeting on May 9.h6. Governance

Shareholders in private Swiss bank Julius Baer have voted against its executive pay plan for 2012, the first time investors have rejected a Swiss firm’s compensation proposals. More than 63% of investors voted against the plan in a non-binding vote. “The board of directors will take the appropriate measures to work towards a positive vote at the next annual general meeting,” the firm said.

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has announced that he has reached agreement with five major US companies to disclose political spending made with corporate funds. The companies are: Southwest Airlines, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Plum Creek Timber Company, Harley-Davidson and Noble Energy. “These companies deserve credit for embracing transparency and reducing potential risk to shareholder value by disclosing direct and indirect contributions made with corporate funds,” said DiNapoli, trustee of the New York State Common Retirement Fund. Eighteen companies have now agreed with the fund to disclose their political spending. Announcement

The New York City Pension Funds and City Comptroller John Liu have announced that three major firms – AIG, BNY Mellon and US Bancorp – have agreed to provide “meaningful disclosure” of the composition of their U.S. workforces by race and gender. The companies will provide annual disclosure of their workforce demographics across major job categories, including senior management – following similar agreements with last year with Goldman Sachs and MetLife.

A bid by activist investor Jana Partners to break up Canadian fertilizer group has failed after the company’s slate of 12 directors won shareholder support at its annual meeting in Calgary. It came after a bitter proxy battle which had seen various major institutional investors both support the company and its adversary.

UK Business Secretary Vince Cable has reportedly warned that companies face the “real possibility” of quotas after new data showed that a drive to get more women onto the boards of large listed companies has stalled. It follows the release of the Cranfield School of Management’s annual Female FTSE Board Report, the Financial Times said.