RI ESG Briefing, April 25: Equinor, Trustees United, ABP, Morgan Stanley, GPIF, AXA IM, Thirty Percent Coalition

The latest ESG developments


Investors have welcomed Equinor’s strengthened commitments on climate change following engagement with investors – led by UBS Asset Management, HSBC Global Asset Management and Storebrand Asset Management – as part of Climate Action 100+. In a joint statement agreed with investors, the Norwegian firm (formerly Statoil) is committed to pursuing a business strategy consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing has announced a thematic focus on the reduction of plastic waste, targeting the removal of at least “50m metric tonnes of plastic entering rivers, oceans, landscapes and landfills” by 2030.

Financial data tycoon Michael Bloomberg has announced a donation of $5.5m to the United Nations Climate Change Secretariat to plug the funding gap left after the US government refused to honour a $15m commitment made by the previous administration. This is the second year Bloomberg has had to step in after making a similar donation of $4.5m last year and he has signalled readiness to do the same in 2020.

The financial performance of sustainable timber investment managers outperforms that of conventional timber, according to a new research from the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) and Cambridge Associates. The research, entitled Scaling Impact Investments in Forestry, analysed 39 forestry-focused vehicles and looked at the landscape of active investors in the market.


AXA Investment Managers has reportedly divested from Israeli defence electronics firm Elbit Systems after a campaign by NGOs SumOfUs and Stop Assistance to Israeli Apartheid. However, AXA, its parent company, has been criticised for investments in Elbit Systems through its subsidiary Alliance Bernstein (AB).

The Bank of England has admitted it is set to miss a 2022 target of 13% Black Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) representation at senior management levels according to meeting minutes. Presently, the BoE has 5% BAME senior representation, less than half of the agreed target. However, it is on track to meet a 20% BAME representation target at levels below senior management.

The Thirty Percent Coalition, a US-based gender equality campaign group, has launched a campaign to address the underrepresentation of women on colour on S&P 1500 boards – which currently stands at 3.5% – in partnership with the Nathan Cummings Foundation. The Coalition has organised a series of events which aim to connect senior executives with qualified board candidates later this autumn, and have sent invitation letters to S&P 1500 companies to participate.h6. Governance

A new initiative called Trustees United has been set up in the US, with the support of the California Public Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) and State Treasurer Fiona Ma, to urge investors to adopt safe workplace principles around sexual harassment in the wake of the #Metoo movement. It is demanding that fiduciaries who invest the public’s money do a better job of monitoring and reducing incidents of sexual harassment, assault, and misconduct.

Dutch civil service pension fund ABP has announced it did not approve the Executive Board and the Supervisory Board of banking group ING for the policy pursued in 2018. At bank’s AGM this week, ABP voted against this ‘discharge’ of the Executive Board. ABP objected to an increase in pay for CEO Ralph Hamers and money laundering polices,

Mercer has been retained by Japan’s Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF), the world’s largest pension fund, to review the remuneration structure of its external managers as part of a comprehensive exercise to improve long-term investment performance. The review will analyse a survey on pay conducted last year among the fund’s external equities and fixed income managers, and a report is expected to be published in the coming months. Previous RI coverage

Corporate Social Responsibility heads of 27 major companies have launched the CSR Board, a senior executive-only network to allow for collaboration and discussion among peers. The purpose of the Board is to support and increase the impact of CSR initiatives, and includes Hertz, Experian, NVIDIA and Cisco.

Environmental campaign group Unfriend Coal is assessing six more insurers on their climate policies in its “annual scorecard” this year, including Chinese and Korean companies for the first time.

Global Witness, an environmental and social justice campaign group, has released a report revealing that the oil and gas industry is planning to spend $4.9trn on exploration and extraction of fossil fuels which would cause global warming to exceed the 1.5°C Paris-agreed limit. According to the report, future investments in fossil fuels would only be Paris-aligned with the use of carbon capture technologies which remain unproven at scale. ExxonMobil is forecasted to spend the most over the next decade, followed by Shell.

Tesla has disclosed that four members of its 11-person board will not stand for re-election upon the lapsing of their terms, according to an SEC filing. This comes after the board of the electric car company, which is headed by CEO Elon Musk, was sued by an Ohio pension fund for standing “idly by while Musk continued to make increasingly unhinged statements on Twitter and other social media” in addition to unspecified monetary damages.