RI ESG Briefing, August 28: European Commission tests market for social investment

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news


Natixis, the finance arm of France’s Groupe BPCE, has helped to finance a 34MW portfolio of four photovoltaic solar projects, known as Northern Solar, in Ontario, Canada. It acted as ‘left side’, or leading, bookrunner, mandated lead arranger, administrative agent and interest rate swap provider to finance the acquisition and construction by a wholly owned subsidiary of FieraAxium Infrastructure. It’s Natixis’ second project this year under an Ontario Feed-in-Tariff program; it opened its Canada office in November 2012.

Norway’s NOK151bn (€18.7bn) Government Pension Fund Norway, which invests domestically, has had its Norwegian equity portfolio analysed for carbon intensity by environmental research house Trucost, which looked at both direct and indirect emissions by investee companies. According to this analysis, the portfolio was responsible for 4.8m tonnes of CO2 per year. Link

Rabobank Nederland is to arrange project financing for an 80MW wind project in Utah being constructed by Greenbriar Capital, the renewables developer headed by former Western Wind CEO Jeffrey Ciachurski. Greenbriar has also engaged Rabo Securities as financial advisor for the Blue Mountain project. Western Wind was taken over by Brookfield Renewable Energy Partners last year following a battle with activist investor Savitr.

An attempt to build a massive 1GW solar park in Serbia has failed following a dispute between investor Securum Equity Partners, and the Serbian government over how much land has been allocated for the project. According to Securum, an agreement was struck with the government in November 2011 for it to provide 3,000 hectares of land for the facility. As the government had only provided 135.5 hectares, Securum said it filed a lawsuit with the International Court of Arbitration in London for breach of contract. The Malta-based firm, which invests in renewables on behalf of private and institutional clients, is seeking €160m in damages. Link. Social

The European Commission is launching a “market testing exercise” to see whether a call for a fund manager for financial instruments to promote social entrepreneurship would meet with interest. It would be established under the newly named Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) and the decision about whether an official call will be launched or not will be taken in the first half of September. The programme will make available hybrid financing for social enterprises which could take the form of a combination of equity, quasi-equity, loan instruments and grants, the Commission said. Link


The Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) has put forward proposed changes to its listing rules that would ask companies to disclose how economic, environmental and social sustainability risks are identified and managed. The exchange’s Corporate Governance Council has published a consultation paper seeking comments on a proposed third edition of its Corporate Governance Principles and Recommendations. The proposals would also amend the diversity recommendations to give firms the option to report their “Gender Equality Indicators” under the Workplace Gender Equality Act. It is likely that the recommendations will come into effect as of July 1 2014.

Sporting goods giant Nike is facing a shareholder proposal on political contributions disclosure filed by the North Carolina Department of State Treasurer, on behalf of the North Carolina Retirement Systems, for its annual meeting next month. “As long-term shareholders, we support transparency and accountability in corporate spending on political activities,” the proposal states. A similar proposal from North Carolina in 2012 was backed by the AFSCME Employees Pension Plan, Christian Brothers Investment Services, the California State Teachers Retirement System and the Florida State Board of Administration. Nike’s AGM takes place at the Tiger Woods Conference Center in Oregon on September 19. Proxy

The Securities and Exchange Commission, the US financial regulator, is set to propose a delayed rule requiring companies to disclose the pay gap between chief executives and rank-and-file employees, according to the Wall Street Journal. It reported that the rule, part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, is expected to be approved by the SEC as early as next month.