RI ESG Briefing, April 19: New Canadian board diversity database launched

The round-up of ESG news


Munich Re says it is for the first time insuring performance guarantees for concentrated solar power plants, which differs from photovoltaic systems in that the sun’s energy can be stored. It is providing the cover for CSP manufacturer SkyFuel. Announcement

The US wind industry installed 6,816MW of capacity in 2011, 31% higher than 2010 – taking it to a total of 46,916 MW installed to date, according to a report from the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). “And there are more than 8,300MW under construction, setting the stage for a strong 2012,” it says.

Environmental NGO Greenpeace has launched a petition campaign calling on providers of investment funds, such as Aviva Investors, Standard Life, Scottish Widows, Legal & General, Prudential and Zurich, to cut their investments in companies which drill for oil in the Arctic. At last count it had more than 20,000 signatures.

Citigroup, the US bank in the news over its failed pay vote this week, says it directed $6.4bn towards its $50bn climate initiative in 2011, according to its new Citizenship report. It brings the total to $36.35bn, halfway into the 10-year initiative. Financing included the 550MW Desert Sunlight solar farm in California, which will be one of the largest photovoltaic facilities in the world.


The new US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau plans to crack down on discriminatory lending. CFPB Director Richard Cordray said: “We cannot afford to tolerate practices that either price out or cut off segments of the population – such as women, the elderly, or communities of color – from the credit markets.” Link

Just 29% of firms linked to Formula One responded to the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre about human rights concerns related to the upcoming Bahrain Grand Prix, the Centre said. It comes as members of the Force India team fled petrol bombs on their way back from the track, according to reports.

The Times newspaper has published a “Top 50 Employers for Women” list of UK organisations that lead gender equality in the workplace. The list is produced with Opportunity Now, the gender campaign of Business in the Community. Link

The Swiss market for sustainable funds had a volume of CHF42.3 billion (€35.2 billion) at the end of 2011, an increase of just 1% over 2010, Swiss ESG consultant OnValues has reported. Retail funds account for 53% of the total volume, followed by institutional mandates (44%) and structured products (3%). Link to report. Governance

The Canadian Board Diversity Council advocacy group says it is launching the country’s first-ever database of diverse candidates for board director positions. The project is called Diversity 50 and potential candidates are invited to self‐nominate online. The Council has collaborated with governance firm GMI and candidates will also be included in the new GMI Diverse Director DataSource (“3D”), commissioned by US pension giants CalPERS and CalSTRS. Link

A group of charity investors in the UK are urging investors to “take close interest” in how their fund managers deal with the executive pay issue. “The problem of excessive executive pay has become so serious that we have resolved to work with our investment managers to ensure that the remuneration policies of the companies we invest in are aligned with our interests, transparent, linked to performance, and appropriate in the context of each company,” they said in a letter to the Daily Telegraph.

The US Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) has published a report outlining policy options for Congress to review whether overseas institutional investors might be able to participate again in class action lawsuits for securities bought outside the US. The US Supreme Court limited foreign investor access to US courts with the 2010 ‘Morrison’ decision. The SEC’s 106-page study, which includes responses from a range of pension funds outside the US, includes a number of recommendations that could re-open the door for foreign investors to US courts.

Eurosif has launched its media sector report for 2012, based on research by Ethix SRI Advisors. It describes the key environmental, social and governance issues facing the sector and their importance in investment decisions. These include trust and freedom of expression issues as well as privacy and intellectual property, environmental and content diversity issues. Link

Improvements in corporate governance at major financial services firms are crucial for financial stability, according to the high-level Group of Thirty (G30) forum. It has released a report – Toward Effective Governance of Financial Institutions – which asserts that “no one should presume that governance in leading financial institutions has been fully addressed”.

The UK’s opposition Labour Party has reportedly put forward a series of amendments to the Financial Services Bill, which it says would improve investor stewardship. The proposed amendments would oblige institutional investors to vote their holdings in publicly listed companies and would reinforce the principle of fiduciary duty. Professional Pensions said the amendments have been put forward by shadow Treasury financial secretary Chris Leslie and shadow Treasury economic secretary Cathy Jamieson.