RI ESG Briefing, Aug. 18: PKA, Partners Group, Vattenfall, ISO, Trade Union Share Owners

The round-up of the latest environmental, social and governance developments


Danish pension fund PKA has taken a 50% stake in the 299MW Teesside Renewable Energy Plant – which claims to be the biggest new-build biomass site in the world – for 1.3bn kroner (€175m), as the project reaches financial close at £900m (€1bn). Macquarie will own the remaining equity in the combined heat and power project, located in the UK, which also has a £650m debt component. The total construction costs are estimated also to be £650m, with the site slated to be operational by 2020. It has support under the UK Government’s Contracts for Difference programme. The site is being developed by MGT Teesside.

Switzerland-based Partners Group has led an investor consortium including GE to take a €250m stake in an offshore wind farm off the coast of Germany. Partners is the largest investor out of the group, which includes DEME Concessions Wind, GE Energy Financial Services, InfraRed Capital Partners and L’Agence de l’environnement et de la maitrise de l’energie (acting on behalf of the French state). Merkur Offshore is expected to begin construction imminently, ready for commissioning in 2019. It will have a capacity of 400MW and be supported by a German feed-in-tariff.

Sweden’s Vattenfall has acquired a wind development project consisting of up to 79 turbines in the German North Sea. It said the move is in line with its growth strategy to extensively expand its renewable energy production in the coming years. The Global Tech II wind project is located in the German North Sea some 85km north of the island of Borkum.


The first international standard for sustainable procurement is in development by the ISO, the standards setting body. It said ISO 20400 (Sustainable procurement – Guidance), will provide guidelines for organizations wanting to integrate sustainability into their procurement processes. It has just reached a second Draft International Standard (DIS) stage, meaning interested parties can once more submit feedback on the draft before final publication in 2017. Announcement

More than two thirds (68%) of female staff in the asset management industry report that they have regularly experienced sexist behaviour at work, according to the latest Women in Asset Management survey for the Financial Times, up from 65% in 2014. A full quarter of the survey’s 460 respondents say they have been subject to sexual harassment in the workplace, an increase of 5% in two years, while nearly two-thirds of women also believe that they are paid less than men in similar roles.h6. Governance

The Trade Union Share Owners group (TUSO), the UK body, has asked fellow shareholders to vote for a resolution to be tabled at the Sports Direct AGM, calling for the board to commission an independent review of the embattled retailer’s employment practices and report to shareholders within six months. Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress umbrella body, said: “Sports Direct has shown a consistent disregard for the wellbeing of its staff.” The resolution has been filed by investors including the TUC and UNISON staff pension funds, both members of TUSO, and the Borough of Islington Staff Pension Fund and Prospect general fund.

Proxy advisory and corporate governance firm ISS has asked investors, companies and directors to comment on its benchmark policies for the 2017 proxy season. ISS has asked for specific feedback on a few issues, including how to define “overboarding” for executive board chairs, the preferred frequency for say-on-pay votes in the US, the use of time-based vesting for share options in the UK and how sign-on awards are given to Canadian directors. Once responses have been assessed, ISS will open up its policies for general comment, said Georgina Marshall, Global Head of Research.

UK companies in the FTSE 100 paid their shareholders five times more in dividends that they contributed towards tackling their pension deficits in the last 12 months, according to analysis carried out by actuarial consultants Lane Clark & Peacock (LCP). The firm’s research found that FTSE 100 companies with defined benefit pension schemes paid their investors £71bn, compared to the £13.3bn that made its way into pension pots.

South Africa’s Public Investment Corporation (PIC), which manages the country’s state pension funds of more than $130bn, has reportedly attempted to encourage the board of mining company Anglo American to spin off its platinum business into a separate company, selling off its nickel, coal and iron ore assets in the process.

A Stanford University study of how individual investors sponsor shareholder resolutions – entitled ‘Gadflies at the Gate’ – has found that they almost exclusively act alone when trying to enact change at investee companies, despite their efforts to gain the support of large institutions like BlackRock or Vanguard. The research was based on responses from interviews with nine individual activist investors, including James McRitchie, Andy Behar and Eve Sprunt.