RI ESG Briefing, April 1: Green Investment Bank, Guardian Media Group, US pension funds

The round-up of the latest ESG news


UK pension funds and a “major sovereign wealth fund” are among the initial investors in a new offshore wind investment vehicle put together by the Green Investment Bank. GIB said its UK Green Investment Bank Financial Services Ltd. (GIBFS) had reached first close on commitments of £463m (€637m) for the planned £1bn fund. The GIB itself is also investing £200m in the 25-year fund, which it describes as the world’s first fund dedicated to investments in offshore wind power generation. Once fully subscribed, it “will be the largest renewables fund in the UK”. Announcement

The Guardian Media Group has today (April 1) said it plans to divest its c.£800m fund from fossil fuels, in a move chair Neil Berkett called a “hard-nosed business decision” justified on ethical and financial grounds. The publisher of the Guardian – whose ‘Keep it in the Ground’ campaign has targeted the Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust – said it believed it was the largest investor yet known to pull out of coal, oil and gas companies. Berkett said GMG could now “adopt socially responsible investment criteria without putting at risk the core purpose of GMG’s investment funds” that guarantee editorial independence. He led a two-month review with consultants Cambridge Associates, adding that “just a few dozen” of the 17,400 institutional, high-quality managers were currently fossil free in their asset allocation. RI reported yesterday (March 31) that GMG had signed up to the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI).

Bluefield Solar Income Fund (BSIF), the Guernsey-registered investment company, has entered into a £59.1m deal with Trina Solar for the New York Stock Exchange-listed photovoltaic firm’s 49.99MW facility in Norfolk, eastern England. BSIF raised £130m in July 2013 through an initial public offering on the London Stock Exchange. It’s the third utility-scale solar power plant Trina has constructed and sold in the UK for a cumulative capacity of 73.76 MW, it said.


Australia’s Ethinvest has set up a new philanthropic vehicle called The Community Impact Foundation. Every donor has their own ’sub-fund’, which the Sydney-based firm says is akin to having your own charitable foundation “without all of the administrative hassle”. The minimum initial investment for a sub-fund is A$50,000 (€35,391) and administration, investment management and governance activities are all taken care of. “All money is invested fossil fuel free, with no armaments, old growth logging, nuclear, child labour or animal testing,” it adds. The portfolio includes investments in positive activities such as renewable energy, healthcare, recycling, social infrastructure and social benefit bonds. Ethinvest is chaired by Ross Knowles, founding co-president of the Responsible Investment Association of Australasia (RIAA). Download. Governance

Nine major US pension funds have written to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) calling on it to strengthen the disclosure of corporate board diversity. In a joint letter, the funds urged the SEC to adopt a rule requiring corporate disclosure of board nominees’ gender, racial, and ethnic diversity, as well as their mix of skills, experiences, and attributes. The nine funds collectively have $1.1trn in assets. “As large institutional investors, we have a real interest in electing a slate of board nominees who are well-positioned to help carry out a company’s business strategy and meet our long-term investment needs,” the funds wrote. Signatories include public funds in Illinois, Ohio, North Carolina, New York, Connecticut, California and Washington State. Link

US socially responsible funds firm Calvert has released an update to its report on diversity in the S&P 100 (“Examining the Cracks in the Ceiling: A Survey of Corporate Diversity Practices of the S&P 100”). The latest findings show overall improvement of women and minority representation in the leadership ranks of the Standard and Poor’s (S&P) 100 companies. It said: “Our analyses highlight a 17% increase in the number of corporate boards with three or more women and/or minorities on their board of directors. In 2014, for the first time in the report’s six-year history, every company in the S&P 100 has at least one woman on its board of directors. But at the same time, the study uncovered another shortfall in the lack of women and minorities in board leadership positions.”

Lead plaintiffs the West Virginia Investment Management Board, PACE Industry Union-Management Pension Fund and Skandia Life Insurance Co. have agreed to a $131m settlement of a class-action lawsuit with wireless firm Sprint, according
to law firm Robins Geller. The case, which dates back to 2009, accused Sprint of defrauding investors about problems with its 2005 merger with Nextel Communications.

Following an “extensive engagement”, SRI firms Trillium Asset Management and First Affirmative Financial Network (FAFN) have hailed food group Yum! Brands’ commitment to sourcing 100% of its palm oil from responsible and sustainable sources by 2017. “The company’s recent commitment, one of the strongest in the industry, followed a palm oil focused shareholder proposal filed by Trillium and FAFN in the fall of 2014,” the said. The company’s brands include KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.