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RI ESG Briefing, April 11: Standard Life blasts BP over pay

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news

Environmental

The London Array, at 630MW the world’s largest offshore wind farm, is now fully operational following the commissioning of the 175th and final turbine on April 6. The project, off the cost of eastern England, is expected to produce enough power for almost half a million homes a year. The project has been built by a consortium of DONG Energy (50%), E.ON (30%) and Abu Dhabi’s Masdar (20%). Announcement

The World Bank Group committed a total of $3.6bn in financing for renewable energy projects in fiscal year 2012, a record 44% of its annual energy lending of $8.2bn. It added: “Looking only at power generation projects approved in 2012, renewables accounted for an even larger share.” Since 2007, the bank has invested about $12.5bn in renewable energy and $8.7bn in energy efficiency (total: $21.2bn). Link

The European Investment Bank has stated its interest in providing a senior debt facility to the UK’s Green Deal Finance Company which aids household energy-efficiency initiatives. The EIB financing would go alongside a £125m (€146.75m) facility from the Green Investment Bank as part of a wider £244m financing package. Negotiations with the EIB are expected to conclude in the coming months.

Social

The 30% Club, the group advocating women on UK boards that was founded by Newton Investment Management CEO Helena Morrissey, has responded to concerns that progress has stalled. It argues that new figures are a “wake-up call” to companies who feel that they have done enough to make their boardrooms more representative. Morrissey said: “While it’s disappointing that momentum has slowed on better gender balanced boardrooms, I’m not surprised. I still think 25-30% women on boards is within reach for end 2015.”

Sixty-five percent of respondents to a survey conducted by asset manager First State Investments said that stronger mandates and a greater emphasis from asset owners in relation to ESG would accelerate its integration by asset managers. The poll took place at an event to mark the launch of the firm’s new RI report recently.

US education sector investment giant TIAACREF is reportedly asking the SEC to let it take no action on a shareholder proposal by activist group Jewish Voice for Peace. The motion would require it to consider divesting from firms that contribute to human rights violations, including companies whose business supports Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, Pensions & Investments reported.h6. Governance

UK fund manager Standard Life Investments, which holds 1.33% of BP’s shares, made a strong statement at the company’s annual general meeting today. “We want to see the Remuneration Committee raise its game and make significant improvements to address our concerns,” said Guy Jubb, the firm’s Global Head of Governance & Stewardship. He added: “Mr Chairman, can you assure us that a review of remuneration policies will be a Board priority over the coming year?” Jubb also said shareholders would hold the company to account over its commitment to diversity.

Australian sustainable funds firm Australian Ethical Investment Ltd. has tabled a resolution at Norwegian ‘reverse vending’ group Tomra’s annual general meeting on April 22 calling for it to exit the tobacco sorting sector. Australian Ethical says it approached other investor signatories to the PRI Initiative to engage with the company collectively. But it said: “The responses to this request were mixed. Many of the large investors were completely unaware of the issue having not looked that deeply into Tomra’s business structure.” Others were broadly supportive but wanted to do further research. The Sydney-based firm concluded: “If the vote is not in our favour, our next and final step will be to divest from Tomra.”

A group of UK-based investors – Hermes Equity Ownership Services, Aberdeen Asset Management and F&C – have hailed energy group Petrobras forbecoming the first Brazilian company to publicly disclose the names of minority shareholder nominees for election to its board. The move, which sets a precedent in Brazil, follows dialogue with the investors, who said: “We would encourage all minority shareholders to exercise their voting rights at the upcoming AGM on April 29 and support the election of the independent candidates which will be representing their interests on the board.”

Fast food giant McDonald’s has failed it its attempt to omit a shareholder resolution on the links between childhood obesity and fast food. The motion, tabled by activists John Harrington and Sanford Lewis, calls for a report from directors “assessing the company’s policy responses to growing evidence of linkages between fast food and childhood obesity, diet-related diseases and other impacts on children’s health”. The Securities and Exchange Commission rejected the company’s request to omit the motion from its AGM materials, saying “it does not appear that McDonald’s public disclosures compare favorably with the guidelines of the proposal”.