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RI ESG Briefing, Feb 27: Morgan Stanley joins Ceres company network

The round-up of ESG news

Environmental

Deutsche Bank has completed a deal to finance the construction of a 56MW portfolio of four utility-scale photovoltaic solar projects in the UK with New York-listed solar firm SunEdison. Terms weren’t disclosed though the portfolio is expected to be fully operational by the end of March 2014 and marks SunEdison’s entry into the UK market. It was also announced that Foresight Solar Fund Ltd. would acquire the entire portfolio once they’re interconnected.

Danish state-owned export credit agency EKF is to loan $600m to Cape Wind to help it finance its proposed massive $2.5bn, 468MW wind farm project off the Massachusetts coast, Reuters reported citing Cape Wind President Jim Gordon. The financing follows conditional commitments of $200m from PensionDanmark and $100m from Germany’s Siemens.

The South African government has further delayed the implementation of a planned carbon tax to 2016. The Treasury department originally said in 2012 that it would charge ZAR120 ($11) on every metric ton of carbon emitted above a 60% threshold from 2014. It was then delayed to 2015 and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said in his budget speech on February 26: “To allow for further consultation, the implementation of the carbon tax is postponed by a year to 2016.”

Social

Paris-Oise Logistics Park, owned by Rockspring Property Investment Managers, has become the first French logistics park to receive a HQE – Exploitation sustainability certificate, the French equivalent to the ‘BREEAM In-Use’ standard. Rockspring said the upgrade involved improving energy efficiency through automated maintenance systems and waste management monitoring, a re-roofing of all the warehouses, and a strict monitoring policy in partnership with all tenants and suppliers to promote a ‘green’ business environment. Rockspring said the initiative was part of a policy to improve the ESG credentials of its property portfolio.h6. Governance

US sustainability advocacy group Ceres has said that its board of directors has approved Morgan Stanley as the newest member of the Ceres company network. In joining the network, the investment bank has committed to improve its sustainability performance and disclosure by engaging with investors, environmental and civil society groups. It follows the formation last year of the Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing, where Ceres’ President Mindy Lubber sits on the Advisory Board. The bank has a five-year goal of $10bn in client assets in investments that seek to deliver market-rate returns and positive environmental and social impact.

A new academic new study of the UK’s highest paid company directors reveals that shareholders are “overwhelmingly inclined” to approve the pay packets of top directors, just as they were before the financial crisis. According to Sheffield University’s Dr Ian Gregory-Smith and colleagues, in a study published in the Royal Economics Society’s Economic Journal, shareholders have objected to just 14 pay proposals since the crisis – that’s less than 1% of all pay proposals. Gregory-Smith said: “Regulators hoping for a resurgence of shareholder engagement will be disappointed.” Link

Unnamed shareholders in German insurer Allianz are reportedly calling on it to take action at PIMCO after management changes at the US fund management arm. The Financial Times, citing unnamed sources, says it comes after the unexpected exit of CEO Mohamed El-Erian last month amid reports of friction with investment chief Bill Gross.

Elliott Management, the US activist hedge fund, has bought derivatives equating to nearly 11% of F&C Asset Management, the listed fund management group. It follows a deal announced in January under which Canada’s Bank of Montreal would acquire F&C for £708m.

The Ira M. Millstein Center for Global Markets and Corporate Ownership at Columbia Law School is now accepting nominations for its annual Rising Star of Corporate Governance Awards. It recognizes people who, while young and possibly new to the field of corporate governance, are making their marks as outstanding analysts, experts, activists, or managers. The nomination deadline is March 31. Link