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RI ESG Briefing, February 21: Key Proxy Vote Survey from Canada’s SHARE

The round-up of ESG news

Environmental

Renewable energy generation in China soared in 2012, according to a report in China Daily citing the State Electricity Regulatory Commission. The country’s renewable energy power generation last year rose 30.3% over 2011 to 968bn kilowatt-hours. Solar electrical energy generation in 2012 surged 414% to 3.5bn kWhs while hydropower was up 29.3%. Wind increased by 35.5% to 100.4bn kWhs.

UKSIF, the UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association, has joined a group of 35 companies, industry bodies and NGOs in signing a statement, convened by environmental campaign group WWF, calling upon Members of Parliament to support an amendment that would include a decarbonisation target for 2030 in the Energy Bill. An amendment to the Bill has been tabled by former Environment Minister Tim Yeo, who chairs the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee.

Social

The Banking and Finance Oath is a new voluntary set of commitments developed by a group of senior financial industry figures in Australia. The oath reads: “Trust is the foundation of my profession. I will serve all interests in good faith. I will compete with honour. I will pursue my ends with ethical restraint. I will create a sustainable future. I will help create a more just society. I will speak out against wrongdoing and support others who do the same. I will accept responsibility for my actions. My word is my bond.”

Solaron, the India-based emerging markets sustainability research firm, has published a report looking at some of the ESG issues facing the casinos and gaming industry. It looks at some of the largest companies such as MGM and Wynn Resorts and also the rapid growth of the industry in Macau. Home page

UK-based ethical and environmental investment company Gaeia is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Set up by pioneering financial advisor Brigid Benson in February 1993, Gaeia was one of the UK’s first companies to offer ethical and environmentally screened investments to individual investors.h6. Governance

Canada’s SHARE (Shareholder Association for Research and Education) has released its latest annual Key Proxy Vote Survey, and found that most shareholders continue voting with management on key issues including the Northern Gateway Project and SNC-Lavalin CEO’s generous severance package. One highlighted issue in the report is a shareholder proposal at Enbridge Inc. asking the company to report on the risks associated with First Nations’ opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline. Nearly 30% of shareholders voted for the proposal. The survey analyzes the voting records of 32 firms with combined Canadian equity holdings in excess of C$58bn (€43.1bn). Link

A coalition of investors including the AFSCME Employees Pension Plan, the Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds, Hermes Equity Ownership Services and the NYC Pension Funds, has filed a proposal calling on banking giant J.P. Morgan Chase to name an independent board chairman. The bank holds its annual meeting in May.

Expert Corporate Governance Services (ECGS), the joint venture of European proxy advisors, has welcomed this week’s report from the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) on the proxy market. The report called for a code of conduct, which ECGS says should make a clear distinction between providers paid by investors and those paid by issuers (companies). And it said a major issue not considered by ESMA is the “lack of efficiency and traceability of the voting process due to the long intermediary chain”.

A new bill presented to the Illinois General Assembly is calling for the five state-funded pension funds to identify and divest their holdings of all firearms makers. The bill, tabled by Democrat Representative Kathleen Willis, seeks to amend the Illinois Pension Code and requires each of the state funds – or the Illinois State Board of Investment where applicable – to make its “best efforts” to identify all firearm manufacturing companies in which it has direct or indirect holdings.

Securities and Exchange Commission Commissioner Luis Aguilar has urged companies to consider voluntarily giving shareholders more details on executive pay instead of waiting for SEC rules to come into effect. He said shareholders deserve to know how staff’s pay compares to the CEO’s – and how an executive’s pay sits with long-term performance.