RI ESG Briefing, August 7: Aviva Investors makes innovative solar PV acquisition

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news


Aviva Investors, the fund manager with £263bn (€331.7bn) in assets under management, has bought a 23MW portfolio of residential photovoltaic (PV) systems built on 7,000 UK domestic houses from HomeSun Holdings Ltd, which it called the largest residential scale renewable transaction completed in the UK. It’s believed to be the first time that a major financial institution has procured UK residential PV assets on this scale. “This strategic investment in UK renewables is one of many we have planned and is part of our strategy of investing in high quality renewable energy infrastructure assets,” said Ian Berry, Fund Manager – Infrastructure & Renewable Energy at Aviva Investors.

TIAACREF, the $481bn (€387bn) US retirement services provider, has bought a majority stake in US timberland asset managers GreenWood Resources for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition takes the US retirement services provider’s timber investments to around $1.8bn – with investments covering 840,000 acres around the world. GreenWood will join TIAACREF as a subsidiary and its existing management team will remain; Clark Binkley will join GreenWood as managing director and chief investment officer.

The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) has extended its partnership with California-based environmental consulting firm FirstCarbon Solutions. FirstCarbon will now deliver information to CDP signatory investors on corporate performance in emissions management in the Nordic region and in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Scores will be shared through Bloomberg, Google Finance, and in country-specific, publicly accessible reporting sites. The CDP gathers data on behalf of 655 institutional investors, holding $78trn in assets.


Investment bank Goldman Sachs plans to invest $9.6m in a New York City prison programme backed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Goldman will create one of the US’s first social bonds to help cut the recidivism rate among young offenders at the notorious Rikers Island jail. It’s modelled on a similar bond tied to Peterborough Prison in the UK. Link

The UN-backed Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), the European Federation of Financial Analysts Societies (EFFAS) and the International Corporate Governance Network (ICGN) are looking at the alignment between business models and investment strategies, with the goal of creating a sustainable financial system. UN Global Compact signatories are invited to provide input to the report by sharing their experiences implementing sustainability and corporate responsibility programmes. Contact Danielle Chesebrough at the PRI email. Governance

The Public Investment Corp (PIC), which manages South Africa’s R700bn (€69.2bn) Government Employees’ Pension Fund, voted against some key proposals at banking and asset management firm Investec’s annual meeting in protest over its acquisition strategy and executive pay, according to reports. “GEPF’s ESG policy at work! Active ownership important to us!” tweeted John Oliphant, the GEPF’s Head of Actuarial & Investments.

CalSTRS, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, has reported “overwhelming success” in terms of adopting a majority voting standard in director elections with the 95 companies it engaged during the 2012 proxy season. Eighty-two of those companies adopted a majority voting standard, where sitting board members receive a majority of the shareholder votes cast in order to continue to serve as the shareholders’ representative.

Florida’s $128.5bn State Board of Administration said it “continued its shareowner stewardship activities” and cast its proxy votes to protect its investments. Its focus is to strengthen shareowner rights and promote leading corporate governance practices – in the US and internationally. Its votes for environmental and social issues were 22.6% in the year ended June 2012, against 47.8% the year before. The SBA supported 75 percent of shareowner resolutions asking companies to publish sustainability reports and 28.6 percent of shareowner resolutions asking companies to produce reports assessing the impact on local communities. Link

CalPERS, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, says it supports a report issued by the Generic Pharmaceutical Association (GPhA) that found the use of generic drugs has saved the US health care system $1.07trn over the last decade. The report called for increased congressional support for the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) office tasked with approving new generic drugs.

The Arkansas Teacher Retirement System is reportedly in advanced talks with custodian State Street over settling their dispute over foreign currency trades. Reuters cited court documents stating the two had agreed to meet with a mediator. State Street has been accused by various US pension funds of overcharging on forex trades.

The UN Global Compact expelled 109 companies in July for failing to communicate on progress. One hundred and eleven companies and 51 non-business stakeholders joined. Major corporates signing up to the initiative included Hilton Worldwide, Emirates Telecommunications Corporation and South Africa’s Transnet SOC. There are now 6,983 business participants. Just over 3,700 companies have been delisted. Link