RI ESG Briefing, April 26: UK eyes renewable energy trading

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news


The UK government has launched a ‘call for evidence’ on renewable energy trading to see if there is an opportunity to export surplus energy or import it if needed. The call, which closes on June 11, is part of a raft of announcements in conjunction with the ‘Clean Energy Ministerial’ event in London this week. These included news that Banks Renewables was expected to announce a £21.9m (€26.8m) funding agreement with The Co-operative Bank for the construction of the 20.4MW Penny Hill wind farm in South Yorkshire. Call for evidence

The International Energy Agency has said that while progress is being made on renewable energy, most clean energy technologies are not being deployed quickly enough. The comments come in its annual Tracking Clean Energy Progress report, which highlighted the rapid progress made in some renewable technologies like solar panels and onshore wind. “In fact, onshore wind has seen 27% average annual growth over the past decade, and solar PV has grown at 42%, albeit from a small base.”

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is making its first wind power investment in Ukraine by organising a €13.3m financing package to Eco-Optima. The Ukrainian-Italian joint venture will operate a 12.5MW, five-turbine wind farm in the Staryy Sambir region of western Ukraine. Link


Asset management firms should boost their impact investment offerings, according to UBS Wealth Management CIO Alexander Friedman and former Gates Foundation CEO Patty Stonesifer. “In today’s low-yield investment climate, impact investing is becoming more attractive because it is relatively uncorrelated to the broader market,” they write in the Financial Times – adding fund firms “should show their seriousness” by co-investing alongside clients.

Sustainable raw materials – really impossible? That’s the question posed by Swiss-based sustainability rating agency Inrate in new research from Senior Analyst Judith Reutimann. It features examples of companies that have reacted positively to the challenge and illustrate the potential for improvement with regard to corporate sustainability. Link. Governance

Norges Bank Investment Management’s (NBIM) attempt to get a ‘proxy access’, or director nomination, proposal on the agenda at US retailer Staples’ annual meeting agenda has had a setback. The Securities and Exchange Commission has granted a request by the company to omit the proposal, agreeing it was “vague and indefinite”. Link to SEC

NBIM’s proxy access proposals at large US companies were the subject of a conference call organised by Glass Lewis earlier this month. It said Norges Bank representatives provided their perspective on the shareholder right to nominate directors. Link

Proxy advisory firm Glass Lewis supports the shareholder motion calling for a separate chairman and chief executive at J.P. Morgan, according to a Wall Street Journal report. The resolution has been tabled by the AFSCME Employees Pension Plan for the bank’s annual meeting on May 15. J.P. Morgan proxy

AP7, the Seventh Swedish National Pension Fund, has awarded a three-year proxy voting mandate to ISS Europe SA, according to a contract award notice in the European Union’s Official Journal. The fund had tendered proxy voting in June 2011.

Italy: new rules barring corporate managers from being a director at more than one financial institution in the same sector come into force today, according to the Financial Times. The FT cited analysts saying it could affect up to 1,500 board seats at Italian firms. Link

Ohio-based financial services firm FirstMerit has become the fifth US company to fail to win shareholder approval for its executive pay practices this year, according to ISS, Institutional Shareholder Services. ISS cited a filing saying it received 46.6% support for the say-on-pay advisory vote at its April 18 annual meeting. Link