RI ESG Briefing, February 20: Walmart dodges lobbying proposal from conservative group

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news


The European Investment Bank has confirmed it has priced the fourth and largest ‘tap’ of the Euro-denominated Climate Awareness Bond due November 2019, the most sizeable Green Bond outstanding in any currency. The increase carries a coupon of 1.375%. It said the transaction was driven by “investors genuinely interested in its socially responsible features”, most of whom were placing orders for the first time. “The issue attracted interest from climate attentive investors such as [Swedish furniture firm] IKEA and [Swedish state fund] AP4-fonden as well as from dedicated SR funds recently established in the bank treasury space.” Link

Plans for Danish pension funds ATP and PFA Pension to take stakes in DONG Energy have been approved at an extraordinary general meeting of the company today (February 20). The EGM also approved the controversial acquisition of a stake by funds managed by Goldman Sachs through New Energy Investment s.à r.l. As a result, Martin Hintze, Managing Director of Goldman Sachs Capital Partners, was elected to DONG’s board.

“Unlike a classic bubble that bursts catastrophically, climate change is a more complex issue that will impact portfolios through both incremental and quantum change,” say Joe Keefe and Ian Simm in an opinion article. “In our view, investors who recognize this and act accordingly will have a better chance to outperform in the period ahead,” they add. Keefe is President and CEO of Pax World Management while Simm is Chief Executive of Impax Asset Management.


Listed sustainable fund firm Australian Ethical has become certified as a B Corporation, where companies use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. There are more than 900 certified B Corporations internationally. It said: “The B Corp movement represents all that Australian Ethical values.” It added that B Corp Australia would launch later in 2014.

The Fair Tax Mark has been launched as what’s believed to be the first accreditation scheme for responsible corporate taxpayers. It will assess the quality of companies’ publicly available information on key tax and transparency issues. It aims to protect the company from both reputational and financial risk, while “projecting an image of openness, honesty and trustworthiness to consumers and investors”. Home page. Governance

The National Center for Public Policy Research, a right-wing US interest group, has withdrawn a shareholder proposal for Walmart’s upcoming annual general meeting (AGM) that would have had the US retailer disclose its lobbying activities on an annual basis. The National Center withdrew the proposal after the retailer asked the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for permission to exclude it at its AGM on June 6. Walmart argued that the proposal was essentially a duplication of a resolution that had already been submitted by Zevin Asset Management, the Boston-based socially responsible investments firm. In its proposal, the National Center said it wanted full transparency about Walmart’s lobbying following the retailer’s decision to pull out of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), another right-wing pressure group, while joining the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA).

Norges Bank, the manager of the NOK5.1trn (euro) Government Pension Fund, has disclosed a 7.12% stake in BlackRock, the US asset manager with $4.1trn under management.

Canadian mutual fund group NEI Ethical Funds has described how its engagement with RBC has led the bank to announce that it would start using vertical pay ratios alongside horizontal benchmarking in setting CEO compensation. NEI said: “We have been engaging Canadian and U.S. companies on equitable compensation since 2012, as well as integrating this concept into our own proxy voting.”

A suit brought by the New Jersey Carpenters Vacation Fund against Royal bank of Scotland has reportedly resulted in a £275m payout by the bank. The Financial Times said RBS had agreed the sum to settle the lawsuit relating to accusations that it misled investors about mortgage-backed securities.

An analysis from recruitment firm Green Park into the 100 top individuals at each of the 100 largest UK companies has revealed that only three of the chairs – there is just a single female chair on the benchmark FTSE100 – were not white. And all but five chief CEOs were white and all but two of the finance directors were white. “The top leadership of the FTSE 100 remains almost exclusively male and white,” said Trevor Phillips, the ex-chair of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission who is an advisor to the firm.