RI ESG Briefing, Feb. 25: ShareAction launches campaign over Shell’s Arctic strategy

The round-up of ESG news

Environmental

UK campaign group ShareAction is coordinating a push under its Green Light initiative to get pension savers to ask their pension funds and Shell’s largest shareholder – Blackrock – urging them to call for a change in Shell’s Arctic strategy. “As the new CEO, Ben Van Beurden, prepares to deliver his vision for the future of Shell on 13th March, shareholders should demand withdrawal from a high risk project that requires a highly capital-intensive investment for uncertain return,” said Louise Rouse, director of engagement at ShareAction.

The $98.1bn Washington State Investment Board has made two agriculture investments, according to a Mandate Wire report. The report cited officials as saying WSIB has approved $50m for Agriculture Capital Management’s Permanent Crops fund, which backs farmland assets in California, Oregon and Washington. And $250m would go to Wood Creek Capital Management’s Steelhead Mission fund.

Japanese banking giant Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, reportedly expects to fund clean energy projects in 2014 to the same degree as 2013 – with solar the main destination for its investment. Bloomberg cited the bank as saying it was lead arranger of 37 deals totaling about $2.5bn last year.

Social

South Africa’s Department of Higher Education and Training has reportedly proposed that the giant Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) could be used as part of a loan system to help students pay for tertiary education. Business Daily quoted Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande as saying the GEPF’s assets could help students who “fall through the cracks” in the system.

Kerogen Capital, a private equity fund manager specialising in the oil and gas sector, has published an Environmental, Social and Governance policy statement. “Kerogen believes that adherence to ESG principles is a central commercial priority in creating sustainable value for its portfolio of companies and its investors,” it said. The firm is a signatory to the Principles for Responsible Investment and a supporter of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. Its ESG Sub-Committee is chaired by Lord Mark Malloch-Brown, the former United Nations Deputy Secretary-General and Administrator of the UN Development Program. Link. Governance

ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants), the global body for professional accountants, says that while companies’ finance chiefs do see the benefits of integrated reporting, they are hesitant about adopting integrated reporting with the majority taking a ‘wait and see’ approach. The findings come in research called Understanding Investors: the Changing Corporate Perspective. ACCA found that chief financial officers and other senior finance professionals said that while they had yet to adopt Integrated Reporting many of them planned to do so in the near future. Just 10% said they had no intention of adopting the reporting model, which includes non-financial information.

The Swedish model of corporate governance could be under threat by new European Union rules that limit directorships, according to a Financial Times report. The country’s parliament is currently enacting an EU measure that restricts members of bank boards to three or four other directorships under the Capital Requirement Directive (CRD IV), the FT added.

Ireland’s National Pensions Reserve Fund (NPRF) has not ruled out legal action against US banking and custody giant State Street, according to a report on IPE.com citing evidence given by NPRF Commission Chairman Paul Carty to a parliamentary committee. It follows an investigation that found State Street’s UK transition management service had “deliberately” overcharged the fund and five others.

Estonia has called for pension funds to be exempt from a planned financial transactions tax in 11 European countries, according to reports. “An important element for us is that pension funds must not be taxed,” Reuters quoted finance minister Jurgen Ligi as saying.

Canadian shareholders are saying “nay” on pay more often, according to analysis from SHARE, the Shareholder Association for Research and Education. In 2010, SHARE recorded less than 30 Canadian companies had adopted say-on-pay. By 2013, 126 companies offered advisory votes on executive pay, with most offering a say-on-pay vote on an annual basis. Companies holding say-on-pay votes increased nearly 50% from 2012 to 2013 alone. There has also been an increasing number of votes against management. SHARE releases its 2013 Annual Proxy Vote Survey next month. Link