RI ESG Briefing, April 27: Strathclyde fund hires GES for “two-way” engagement

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news


The $63.5bn (€50.1bn) Queensland Investment Corporation, Australia’s third-largest institutional investor, has announced a new timberland investment. Its Alternative Beta Fund has put an unspecified sum into a co-mingled fund of US-based timberland specialist Molpus Woodlands Group. The announcement follows Molpus’ recent purchase of approximately 42,000 acres of timberland on behalf of the fund. Link

The United Nations Environment Programme, the Global Environment Facility and Det Norske Veritas AS have been shortlisted to host the new Climate Technology Centre of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The new institution is designed to stimulate technology cooperation and transfer in support of developing country action to curb greenhouse gases. Link to UNFCCC

The Chinese government’s investment in its water resources will reach CNY4trn ($634.8m, €479.7m) by 2020, according to a report from state news agency Xinhua citing Minister of Water Resources Chen Lei. The report quoted him saying the investment would be enhanced by establishing a growth mechanism with diversified funding mainly backed by public funds.


Morgan Stanley Smith Barney has launched a new investment platform to help wealth management clients integrate social and environmental factors into their investment decisions. The ‘Investing with Impact Platform’ will offer clients “access to many opportunities spanning public and private market products through their Financial Advisors”. Announcement

A new survey of 600 US companies by investor coalition Ceres and environmental, social and governance (ESG) research firm Sustainalytics shows “individual examples of leadership” but a significant need for overall improvement on corporate sustainability. The new Road to 2020: Corporate Progress on the Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability follows the Ceres Roadmap two years ago.
The European Parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee has adopted a resolution calling for the proposed European financial transaction tax to be designed to “capture more traders and to make evading it unprofitable”. It also says the tax should go ahead even if only some Member States opt for it.h6. Governance

The £10bn (€12.3bn) Strathclyde Pension Fund has hired environmental, social and governance firm GES to engage with both its investee companies – and its investment managers. The move “promises a long-term commitment to engagement and to secure sustainable value through addressing areas such as the environment, climate change, labour standards and human rights,” said Richard Keery, Investment Manager at the fund. It would enhance their impact as shareholders, added GES Engagement Coordinator Fredric Nyström.

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, the trustee of the $140bn (€105.8bn) New York State Common Retirement Fund, has reacted to natural gas firm Chesapeake Energy’s decision to end its “Founder Well” programme that lets top executives have stakes in its wells. “Simply letting the Founder Well Participation Program expire is too little, too late,” he was quoted saying by Bloomberg. “Much more needs to be done to restore investor confidence.”

The AFSCME Employees Pension Plan’s proposal for an independent chairman at Janus Capital Management gained 43% support at the fund management giant’s annual meeting in Denver yesterday. And almost 40% of shareholder votes went against the Janus executive pay plan; the company lost a similar investor say-on-pay vote last year. Vote results filing

The Council of Institutional Investors, the US fund industry body, says it will host a conference call on May 2 about by its members’ efforts to remove directors at three companies: Hospitality Properties Trust, Sotheby’s and WellPoint. The call will include Aeisha Mastagni (California State Teachers’ Retirement System), Michael McCauley (Florida State Board of Administration), Patricia Estevez and Michael Pryce-Jones (CtW Investment Group). Link

A governance proposal by shareholder activist Kenneth Steiner at US industrial giant GE’s annual meeting was narrowly defeated this week, according to the Financial Times. Steiner’s call to allow shareholders to make decisions about the company “by written consent” gained 47.5% backing. The motion had been backed by proxy advisory firms Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) and Glass Lewis, the FT added.

CCLA, the UK fund firm that manages cash for charities and faith groups, says there are problems with the Barclays remuneration report. Chief Investment Officer James Bevan told the BBC: “Disclosure of executive pay has been relatively nebulous and the remuneration structure is complex, which upsets shareholders.” The results of the AGM are due later today (April 27). Barclays’ AGM statement