RI ESG Briefing, April 24: 32% vote for independent chair at Coca-Cola

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news


La Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, the Montreal-based manager of C$200.1bn (€131.3bn) for mostly public and private pension and insurance plans, has invested C$42m in a 135.7MW wind farm in its home province. The Parc des Moulins project is operated by developer Invenergy Wind, which will continue to be the majority controlling shareholder. In early 2013, La Caisse bought a stake in the Invenergy wind farm portfolio, comprising 11 wind projects in the US and two in Canada.

Germany’s development bank KfW says that in 2013, it provided €6.7bn in finance specifically for economic development in Africa, Asia, Latin America and southeast Europe, with around half going to climate and environmental protection projects. “Many emerging countries face big social and environmental challenges such as the establishment of a sustainable power supply,” KfW Board Executive Norbert Kloppenburg told a news conference.

US bank Citi says it has surpassed its 10-year, $50bn climate initiative target three years early. The aim was to direct the cash towards activities that mitigate climate change, including financing for renewable energy and energy efficiency and investments in the greening of Citi’s operations, it said in its new Global Citizenship Report.


The $160.7bn New York State Common Retirement Fund is putting $200m into affordable housing projects, according to reports. The Albany Business Review said that Community Preservation Corp., a not-for-profit lender, would receive the cash to invest in projects across the state. It added the commitment from state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli was expected to finance about 3,500 units over a three-year period.

A study released by Swedish engagement firm GES finds that only a small number of the asset owners that have signed the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) have a policy regarding children’s rights – that is their right to associate with parents, to nourishment, to schooling/health care. The study, conducted with the NGO Global Child Forum, found that of the 195 asset owners surveyed, only 16% took children’s rights into account when investing. Child labour was much more of a concern among the asset owners, the study said. The 16-page Investor Perspectives on Children’s Rights is available here.

Canada’s Shareholder Association for Research and Education (SHARE), Great-West Life and the Mental Health Commission of Canada are hosting a free webinar on May 5 about Canada’s National Standard on mental health in the workplace, how companies can adopt the standard, and why institutional investors are paying attention. The standard, the first of its kind in the world, was developed with labour, business, government, and health specialists; it provides a framework for guarding the psychological health, safety and wellbeing of employees.h6. Governance

A shareholder proposal calling for an independent board chair at Coca-Cola won 32.13% of votes cast at the drinks giant’s annual meeting in Atlanta yesterday (April 23), according to figures published by the company. Investors backing the proposal included CalPERS, the largest US pension, fund and SRI houses Trillium Asset Management, Calvert and Domini. The motion had been filed by shareholder activist John Chevedden, on behalf of James McRitchie and Myra Young. The company had resisted the resolution saying the leadership of both the board and the company by Muhtar Kent was the “optimal structure”. Fund firm Wintergreen Advisors had campaigned about the level of pay at the company but in the event, Coke’s ‘say-on-pay’ vote had 90.87% support and its 2014 executive equity plan had 83.16% backing.

As You Sow, the US sustainability advocacy group, has written to fellow shareholders in Anadarko Petroleum. It is calling for support for its resolution on Carbon Asset Risk at the company, saying it is “fundamental” to enabling investors to understand how the oil and gas explorer is positioned to withstand a market scenario where its ability to sell its reserves is dramatically reduced. As You Sow is requesting the company, which holds its AGM on May 13, to prepare a report on the issue by September 2014. Anadarko is also facing a resolution filed by the New York State Common Retirement Fund on political contributions at the event.

The Florida State Board of Administration and Standard Life Investments are two investors who have voted against the remuneration report at Barclays at the UK banking group’s annual meeting today (April 24). Standard Life Governance & Stewardship Director Alison Kennedy spoke at the AGM saying “we are unconvinced that the amount of the 2013 bonus pool was in the best interests of shareholders”. Local Authority Pension Fund Forum Chairman Kieran Quinn, told the meeting, to applause: “Change at Barclays requires shareholder pressure.” LAPFF is questioning the suitability of Sir John Sunderland to head the search for a new chairman.

Meanwhile, CalPERS voted against a proposal on ‘proxy access’ (allowing shareholders to nominate director candidates) submitted by activists James McRitchie and Myra Young at the Citigroup AGM on April 22. The giant fund said that while it is a firm supporter of allowing shareowners access to the proxy, it believes that the implementation of the proposal as worded may not be in the best interest of shareowners due to “problematic holding periods and ownership thresholds”.

The Financial Reporting Council, the UK watchdog, has launched a consultation on its two-yearly review of changes to the Corporate Governance Code. One of the proposed changes is for companies to explain, when publishing AGM results, how they intend to engage with shareholders when a significant percentage have voted against any resolution. And “greater emphasis” is placed on ensuring that remuneration policies are designed with the long-term success of the company in mind. The consultation closes on June 27 and any changes will apply from October 1.