RI ESG Briefing, Feb. 28: Thirty Percent Coalition outlines 2013 proxy plan

The round-up of the latest environmental, social and governance news

Environmental

The $3.7bn Vermont Pension Investment Committee (VPIC) has opposed a call for it to divest from fossil fuel investments, according to Pensions & Investments. P&I cited VPIC Chair Stephen Rauh as saying the Committee debated the House Bill 271, sponsored by 25 state representatives.

The South African government has delayed introducing a carbon tax until 2015 after receiving objections from companies including ArcelorMittal and Gold Fields Ltd., according to a Bloomberg News report. The planned tax of 120 rand ($14) a metric ton of carbon on 40% of a corporation’s emissions will go up by 10% a year until 2020, the report added.

The $150bn New York Common Retirement Fund, As You Sow and Calvert Investments have filed shareholder resolutions with five US-based electric power utility companies- Ameren, Cleco, DTE Energy, FirstEnergy and SCANA – urging them to deploy renewable energy and energy efficiency. “Shifting more resources to clean energy and efficiency will help reduce risk to utility customers and shareholders alike,” said Mindy Lubber, director of the $11trn Investor Network on Climate Risk and president of Ceres, which helped to coordinate the filings. “As long term shareholders, we are invested in the sustainability of our portfolio companies,” said New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. Link

Social

US chocolate maker Hershey has joined the consumer product sustainability body the Sustainability Consortium as a “large contributor” to the Food, Beverage, and Agriculture Working Group. Hershey has faced pressure over its supply chain from investors including the $1.4bn (€1.08bn) Louisiana Municipal Police Employees’ Retirement System and members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR).

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) researcher EIRIS has released research into how global companies are responding to obesity risks. ‘Fat profits? How are global companies responding to obesity risks?’ outlines the most salient risks surrounding the growing global obesity epidemic. To buy the report, email clients@eiris.org.h6. Governance

The Thirty Percent Coalition, an institutional investor group which campaigns for gender diverse company boards in the US, has filed shareholder resolutions at 20 companies across all sectors with no female directors (although nine have been withdrawn). The group is co-chaired by Janice Hester-Amey, Portfolio Manager of the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS), and Timothy Smith, Senior Vice President at Walden Asset Management. The resolutions are a follow-up to letters sent to 168 companies. Filers include CalSTRS, New York State Common Retirement Fund, Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds, Mercy Investment Services, Calvert Investments, Trillium Asset Management, Pax World, UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust, United Methodist Foundation and the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Link

CalPERS, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, says its message to Apple is to “Keep Calm And Carry On” after shareholders supported good governance practices at the computer maker’s AGM yesterday. “The fact that Proposal No. 2 [changing Apple’s Articles of Association] received 98% approval from more than 55% of shareholders is a ringing endorsement of Apple’s plans,” said Anne Simpson, CalPERS director of global governance. “A message was sent and it’s one of emphatic support for shareholder rights.”

Shareholders have failed to ratify executive pay, in non-binding votes, at two further companies in the US: Digital Generation and Nuance Communication, according to the Corporate Counsel blog. At the former it was 6.26m for and 9.6m against; at Nuance it was 95.9m in favour and 135.8m against.

FairPensions, the UK institutional investment campaign group, has welcomed Royal Dutch Shell’s decision to abandon its plans to drill off the coast of Alaska this year, saying it is an acknowledgment of the obvious. “Investors in Shell must ensure that the company addresses the multiple deficiencies in equipment testing, risk analysis and spill response plans before considering recommencing its Alaskan Arctic programme,” the group added.