RI ESG Briefing, April 25: Ex-BP CEO Browne calls for extractives transparency

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news


Former BP Chief Executive Lord Browne has weighed into the debate on energy sector transparency. “It is now time for Europe to mandate that energy companies disclose the details of payments they make to foreign governments,” Browne said in an opinion piece in the Financial Times. “Crucially, disclosure will only improve accountability if it is done on a project-by-project basis,” he added.
The South African government has confirmed that financing institution the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) will issue an R5bn (€481m) green bond. It will be taken up by state investor the Public Investment Commission with a 14-year tenure, said Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel in a speech.

The UK government has announced £80m (€97.6m) of green infrastructure investments, in the small-scale waste infrastructure sector, via two fund specialist managers. An initial £50m will be managed by Foresight Group while Greensphere Capital will run £30m. The government will also make a further £100m available for investment in the non-domestic energy efficiency sector. Link

Research firm Maplecroft has named GE, Alcoa, Johnson Controls, Ford and Intel as leaders in clean-tech innovation and climate responsiveness. The Maplecroft Climate Innovation Indexes rate 360 largest US companies. Link

Germany: wind park operator Epuron has bought the 28MW Cottbuser Halde facility in Brandenburg, eastern Germany from Green Wind Renewables A/S, part of Danish wind energy group Green Wind Energy, which is currently in bankruptcy proceedings. The acquisition is being funded by owner Impax New Energy Investors II L.P, which is managed by Impax Asset Management. Link


Sharon Bowles, the chair of the European Parliament’s key Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, has launched a campaign against “tax-dodging” multinational companies in all sectors, tabling amendments to the EU Transparency and Accountancy Directives. She said: “The proposed legislation is a good start, calling for more detailed reporting by industries which extract natural resources, but I believe the proposals should cover all industries.”

The Sukuk, or Islamic bonds, market in the Gulf and elsewhere is expected to exceed $100bn according to a study by Saudi Arabia’s National Commercial Bank reported by Emirates 24/7. Malaysia is expected to remain the world’s dominant Sukuk market this year.

While only a fraction of Germans invest sustainably, their interest in such financial products is on the rise, according to a new study by fund manager Union Investment. It found only 7% of Germans said they had money in a sustainable investment – although 38% said they viewed sustainable investments favourably, up from 31% a year ago.h6. Governance

SHARE, Canada’s Shareholder Association for Research and Education, says it has written to Blackberry maker Research in Motion about the company’s approach to conflict-free mineral sourcing, specifically the Democratic Republic of Congo. “Our letter asked the company for more specific information regarding its mineral sourcing policies and practices in order to better assess the risks associated with the company’s supply chain,” SHARE said in its latest quarterly engagement report. Canadian investors have been engaging with RIM on the issue for several years.
SHARE also announced its participation in the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) collaboration focused on corporate involvement in the phosphate trade in Western Sahara. It said nine companies have been identified by the investor collaboration, including Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan and Agrium Inc.

The Local Authority Pension Fund Forum (LAPFF) is planning to co-file a resolution with the Christian Brothers Investment Services (CBIS) calling for an independent director at media giant News Corp., according to the Daily Telegraph. It comes as tycoon Rupert Murdoch’s appears before the Leveson Inquiry into media standards this week. CBIS announced the plans earlier this month.

Asset management giant BlackRock and the US National Association of Corporate Directors have issued a global call for academic papers on corporate governance practices. Submitted papers will be judged by leading practitioners and academics and, in addition to cash awards, winners will be recognized at NACD’s 2013 Spring Forum. The evaluation committee will be chaired by Myron T. Steele, Chief Justice of the Delaware Supreme Court. Abstracts are due by June 1 to email link. Those selected to submit a full paper will be notified by July 1. Final paper submissions are due by September 30. More info

New York City Comptroller John Liu says he understands the concerns of the protestors at Wells Fargo’s annual meeting this week. “As a long-term shareowner, the New York City Pension Funds have asked in vain for the firm to root out and correct systemic flaws in its mortgage and foreclosure practices.” He added the protests should remind banks of the threat to their reputations and financial performance. Statement