RI ESG Briefing, August 5: Trucost teams up with US wealth manager for carbon audits

The round-up of the latest ESG news


Trucost, the environmental data firm, has teamed up with Threshold Group, the US family-owned wealth management firm, to advance carbon audits for family foundation investment portfolios. Several of Threshold’s clients, including the Russell Family Foundation (of Russell Investments fame), representing the family that owns Threshold Group, have commissioned carbon audits to understand the environmental impact of their portfolio selections and inform divestment/investment decisions. “Our goal is to construct outcome oriented portfolios, which means also providing clients investment strategies that reduce the carbon risk exposure, and an evolution for getting there,” said Seattle-based Threshold’s Chief Investment Officer Ron Albahary. The pair are also developing a best-practice approach to measuring the greenhouse gas emissions associated with derivatives, saying it is “expected to expand divestment methods for clients and investment advisors alike”.

India’s YES BANK has raised $50m (€45.9m) from the International Finance Corporation for a green bond to finance renewable energy projects such as solar and wind power. It is the first investment by the IFC in an emerging markets green bond. The bond, which will have a tenor of 10 years, will be assured by KPMG, and the proceeds will be used in line with the Green Bond Principles. This is the second green bond issue by YES Bank. In February it issued a $180m (€165m) green bond. Announcement

Impax Asset Management says one of its funds has sold a 13.8MW wind park in France’s Picardie region to BKW, a Swiss power utility. Financial details were not disclosed. An affiliate of the Impax fund will continue to provide services to the park, which Impax acquired three years ago. Impax also said the fund in question owned near 500MW worth of wind and solar projects around Europe that are either planned, under construction or already producing power. Based in London, Impax manages $4.8bn (€4.4bn) in investor assets in renewable and sustainable property funds.


Access, a new UK charitable foundation that aims to “fill gaps in the social investment market” through grant-giving, has opened a consultation on how it should spend a £60m (€86m) 10-year endowment. The consultation phase will run until the end of September, with funded programmes beginning in spring 2016. Link

The World Bank’s proposed new Environmental and Social Safeguards Framework will vastly weaken protections for affected communities and the environment as the bank intends to finance more high-risk projects, a coalition of 19 NGOs have warned. The NGOs, including Oxfam International and Human Rights Watch, say the draft framework treats human rights as “merely aspirational, rather than binding international law”. They also say the new proposal removes protections for forests, biodiversity, and forest dependent people and allows borrowers to opt out of climate safeguards and avoid accounting for carbon pollution.h6. Governance

The US Council of Institutional Investors, which represents investors with more than $3trn in combined assets, has warned that some proxy access bylaws recently introduced by companies are difficult to use and even unworkable. In response, it has published “Proxy Access: Best Practices”, to guide its members in encouraging companies to adopt access mechanisms that are fair, reasonable and usable. Investor action has led to an increase in proxy access proposals receiving majority support in the 2015 US proxy season. Link

Proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) has opened its 2016 proxy voting policy survey. This year’s survey will cover a number of issues, including the use of equity compensation for non-executive directors, proxy access in the US and the role of share buybacks in the effective allocation of capital. The survey will close on Sept. 4 at 5pm ET.

Outgoing SEC Commissioner Daniel Gallagher has welcomed the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s initiative to launch the Corporate Governance Coalition for Investor Value. He said it would help to challenge the “dominant viewpoint” within the SEC’s Division of Corporation Finance which he said “confused protecting investor activism with protecting investors”. In a ‘swan song’ speech at the Chamber, he said the Dodd-Frank Act had “backfired”.

US prosecutors say they will use “the full arsenal” of law enforcement tools to pursue those implicated in a bribery case involving the disclosure of confidential investor voting intentions around key resolutions at company AGMs. It comes as a former employee of a “leading proxy advisory firm” pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Boston last month to conspiring over a six-year period to provide confidential information to a “leading proxy solicitation firm” about how the firm’s clients had voted on numerous shareholder proposals. “The primary purpose and object of the conspiracy was for the proxy solicitation firm to make money and gain an illicit business advantage by corruptly obtaining non-public information about clients of the proxy advisory firm,” the prosecutors claim in court papers seen by RI.

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer and New York City Pension Fund Trustees have announced a $500m expansion of the City Pension Funds’ Private Equity Emerging Manager program, which brings the total amount invested or committed with Emerging Managers to more than $14 billion — including over $11 billion invested or committed to Minority and Women-Owned Businesses Enterprises (M/WBEs).

More females are joining the boards of FTSE 350 companies as new non-executive directors, according to data from consulting firm Korn Ferry reported by the Financial Times. The FT said it suggests the “pipeline” of female executives is improving among firms on the FTSE 350, which lags the blue-chip FTSE 100 on boardroom gender diversity. It said that 39% of first-time FTSE 350 non-executive appointees were women in 2014 – up from 28% in 2013.