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RI ESG Briefing, April 3: Massive South African renewables financing deal signed

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news

Environmental

South Africa: Standard Bank Group has signed a R20bn (€1.7bn) funding deal for renewable energy projects with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, its largest shareholder. “This is an extremely significant transaction. It highlights Standard Bank’s commitment to the renewable energy sector,” said Standard CEO Ben Kruger. Under the deal the pair will jointly provide debt financing on a project finance basis to companies that are awarded Preferred Bidder status under the country’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer (IPP) Procurement Programme.

Ceres, the US sustainability advocacy group, has released a disclosure framework for water and sewer utilities. It’s the result of consultation with both water providers and the investors who purchase their bonds, and is designed to be used by water utilities preparing financial disclosure documents, and by investors and credit rating agencies assessing their financial health. Ceres said it was put together with more than a dozen institutional investors with $40bn in assets under management.

Oil major BP has put its US wind farm operation up for sale, with some reports valuing it could raise up to $1.5bn. The company said it expected “attractive offers” for the assets, which include interests in 16 operating wind farms in nine states with a combined generating capacity of around 2,600MW.

Social

Osmosis Investment Management, the UK-based sustainable fund management boutique, has been nominated as a finalist in this year’s Finance for the Future Awards. The awards, founded by NatWest, the Institute of Accounants for England and Wales (ICAEW) and HRH The Prince of Wales’s Accounting for Sustainability Project (A4S), the awards aim to highlight the importance of the role that finance teams play in helping businesses achieve positive long-term financial, environmental, social and economic impacts.

Root Capital, the US-based nonprofit agricultural lender, says it has hit the milestone of $500m in cumulative lending to more than 425 small and growing businesses providing some 750,000 small-scale farm families – or 3m individuals. Root was founded in 1999 and reckons it is on track to lend another $1bn over the next five years.h6. Governance

Trillium Asset Management, the US sustainable asset management house, says it has withdrawn four shareholder proposals on board diversity. The motions had been filed in the autumn of 2012 at Superior Energy, Hartford Financial, Zimmer Holdings and Lowe’s Companies. “Following Trillium’s successful engagement this spring, all four companies agreed to amend their governance documents to include a clear definition of diversity, inclusive of gender and race, and make diversity an intentional part of board nominee search criteria,” the firm said.

The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBoS) Shareholder Action Group has today (April 3) issued proceedings against the Royal Bank of Scotland and former RBS directors Fred Goodwin, Tom McKillop, Johnny Cameron and Guy Whittaker. The group, which represents over 100 institutional shareholders and more than 12,000 private investors, say the final claim against the bailed-out bank could reach £4bn (€4.7bn).

US retail giant Wal-Mart won’t have to face a shareholder resolution on human rights risks in its supply chain that was tabled by a group of its own employees. The Securities and Exchange says the company can exclude the proposal from its forthcoming annual meeting agenda as a similar proposal in 2011 received less than 3% shareholder support.

The AFSCME Employees Pension Plan is calling for a human rights risk assessment at US-based oilfield services firm Halliburton. The measure appears in the proxy materials for the company’s forthcoming annual meeting on May 15. “There is increasing recognition that company risks related to human rights violations, such as litigation, reputational damage, and project delays and disruptions, can adversely affect shareholder value,” the AFSCME says. The company says it has adopted a policy statement on human rights and is advising shareholders to vote against the motion.

UK pension funds the Staffordshire Pension Fund and the Royal Borough of Greenwich Pension Fund have joined the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum (LAPFF), the voluntary association of 57 public sector funds with combined assets of more than £115bn.