RI ESG Briefing, Feb. 12: US SIF launches guide to confronting corporate money in politics

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news

Environmental

The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) has launched a study to review the economics of ecological-agricultural-food systems. In collaboration with UN Environment Programme’s (UNEP) World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC), the TEEB Secretariat held a scoping workshop in January 2014 to develop the structure for the upcoming report, which will assess social, environmental, economic and health related costs and benefits of agricultural production systems.

India: the government is reportedly hoping to secure a $500m loan from the World Bank to begin construction of what would be the largest solar power plant in the world in Rajasthan. It would support the first 750MW of the 4GW Sambhar Ultra Mega Green Solar Power Project, Renew Economy reported.

Australia-based forestry investment firm New Forests says its US carbon offsets supplier Forest Carbon Partners has teamed up with the California-based Yurok Tribe to register the first forest carbon offset project developed under the California Compliance Offset Protocol – U.S. Forest Projects, a standard adopted by the state’s Air Resources Board for use in a cap and trade program.

Social

Triodos Investment Management, the Dutch-based investor, has sold almost half of its 12.25% stake in Cambodia’s Acleda Bank to ORIX Corporation, the Japan-based financial services group which now owns Robeco. Through its funds Triodos Sustainable Finance Foundation (formerly Triodos-Doen), Triodos Fair Share Fund and Triodos Microfinance Fund, Triodos has been a shareholder with an active role at board level since 2000.

Investor services bank BNY Mellon has been named the 2014 Financial Services Diversity Corporation of the Year by the National Business Inclusion Consortium (NBIC), an umbrella body representing a range of groups. The award, accepted by BNY Mellon’s Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion, Jyoti Chopra, was made at a gala ceremony at the New York Stock Exchange.h6. Governance

The US SIF Foundation, which supports the work of the US SIF: the Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment, has released a guide to assist investors concerned about the growing and “largely undisclosed” spending by corporations to influence elections and politics in the US. The body says the problem has grown more acute since the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case in 2010 permitted corporations and other groups to spend unlimited amounts for political advertisements. The 11-page guide, called Confronting Corporate Money in Politics, is the third in a series.

The Pennsylvania Laborers District Council Construction Industry Pension Fund has reportedly filed suit against Harold Hamm, chief executive at Continental Resources, the oil-drilling firm. The fund alleges Continental’s almost $100m investment in a pipeline being built by another firm that Hamm controls will benefit him at their expense, according to a Reuters report. It said the fund, which has filed suit in Oklahoma state court, declined to comment.

The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), the regulator, is set to unveil a new Corporate Governance Code, according to the Economic Times. The paper said the code would require all listed companies to justify executive salaries, set out succession plans, adopt whistle-blower policies and limit the number of directorships that can be held. There would also be measures to safeguard minority shareholders.

A private shareholder called A.J. Copeland has sued IT firm Hewlett-Packard’s Chief Executive Meg Whitman, its board and former CEO Leo Apotheker – alleging that mismanagement and failed acquisitions have destroyed shareholder value. Copeland made the complaint, a derivative suit, in federal court in San Francisco, Bloomberg News reported.

Institutional investors in Sweden are reportedly taking steps against VW amid claims the German carmaker shut out minority shareholders in truck firm Scania. Pensions provider AMF, state buffer fund AP4 and asset managers Skandia and Swedbank Robur have combined to highlight governance concerns, IPE.com reported.