RI ESG Briefing, April 30: NY Common urges enviro expertise at Freeport-McMoRan

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news


The $160.7bn (€116.2bn) New York State Common Retirement Fund is calling for a board director with environmental expertise at mining firm Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, citing the “sharp criticism” over Freeport’s environmental policies and practices, notably riverine tailings at its Grasberg operation in Indonesia. The fund’s shareholder resolution on the issue is due to be voted on at the company’s annual general meeting on June 17. Freeport, excluded by the Swedish state funds AP last year, is resisting the proposal, saying its existing governance framework means “a strong commitment to environmental management”. Freeport proxy

Investment bank JPMorgan Chase has teamed up with conservation body the Nature Conservancy on a natural capital investment initiative. NatureVest, capitalizing on the growing impact investment sector, will convene investors and develop and execute “innovative” financial transactions. JPMorgan is the founding sponsor and has committed multi-year support. The project is being advised by EKO Asset Management Partners, the New York-based investment and advisory firm founded by former Generation Investment Management director Jason Scott and Ecosystem Marketplace MD Ricardo Bayon.

Jun Yang Solar Power Investments, the Hong Kong-based solar power firm, says it has placed a HKD190m (€17.7m) bond with at least six investors. The Climate Bonds Initiative, which promotes green bonds, cited media reports as saying Jun Yang plans to use the proceeds to expand its solar photovoltaic power-generating business and consolidate its tie with Beijing Sanjili Energy.


Social Finance, the not-for-profit social investment body, has welcomed the UK government’s announcement of £30m (€36.5m) of new Social Impact Bonds to help young homeless people into accommodation. Founder and development director Toby Eccles said it was a sign of the government’s commitment to “embed this new way of working” into the UK’s social landscape. It follows news that the government was pursuing an “alternative funding arrangement” for the groundbreaking Peterborough Social Impact Bond. Link

The UN Global Compact has welcomed the US launch of Sir Mark Moody-Stuart’s new book Responsible Leadership: Lessons From the Front Line of Sustainability and Ethics. The book is described as “part memoir, part confessional, part manifesto for responsible leadership”. Moody-Stuart, chairman of Hermes Equity Ownership Services, is a former chair at Anglo American plc and Royal Dutch/Shell.h6. Governance

Baldemar Velasquez, President of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) will urge shareholders at today’s (April 30) annual general meeting (AGM) of British American Tobacco (BAT) in London to end what the trades union says is the abuse of tobacco workers at the firm’s US subsidiary in North Carolina. BAT is a 42% shareholder in Reynolds American Inc. The union leader said he will address the AGM concerning what the union alleges are the poor conditions in which the farm workers live, human trafficking, low pay, nicotine poisoning and exposure to dangerous pesticides. The union is being backed by the Trades Union Congress, the UK union umbrella body.

Just 10% of S&P 500 companies disclose sustainability targets set for their executive compensation plans, according to a report by GMI Ratings, the ESG research and data company. The report found that a slim majority of S&P 500 companies (53.8 percent) cited at least one sustainability factor counted in pay decisions. However, only 16% of companies give specific metrics used to measure sustainability performance for pay. It said that 90% of energy and utility companies use sustainability metrics to determine a portion of pay, compared to less than 40% of telecoms, technology, and cyclical consumer goods and services companies. GMI will host a webinar on the subject on May 6.

There was a 38.54% vote against the remuneration report at pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca at its annual meeting on April 24. Investors including the Florida State Board of Administration, PGGM and Christian Brothers Investment Services (CBIS) voted against the motion, according to voting records. Dutch pension manager PGGM said the company’s disclosure of performance targets “falls short of what is expected for a company of this size”. The vote came took place ahead of the bid for the company from rival Pfizer.

UK regulator the Financial Conduct Authority has fined Invesco Asset Management Ltd. and Invesco Fund Managers Ltd. £18.6m (€22.6m) for “exposing investors to greater levels of risk than they had been led to expect”. The FCA said that between May 2008 and November 2012, Invesco Perpetual did not comply with investment limits which are designed to protect consumers by limiting their exposure to risk. Invesco Perpetual CEO Mark Armour said the firm was “confident” that its systems and controls were now compliant with all applicable regulations.

Insurance broker Jardine Lloyd Thompson has suffered what the Financial Times has called an investor revolt over the appointment of former UK Treasury minister Lord Sassoon to its board. The FT said nearly 50% of independent votes cast in advance of JLT’s AGM were opposed to the appointment of the former UBS Warburg banker, who represents Asian conglomerate and 40% owner Jardine Matheson on its board.