RI ESG Briefing, February 26: Novartis shareholders back remuneration proposals

The round-up of the latest ESG news


SPP, the wholly-owned Swedish life and asset management arm of Norway’s Storebrand, has bought a five-year AAA-rated SEK1bn (€112m) sustainable bond from the African Development Bank (AfDB). The proceeds go to eligible projects under to AfDB’s Green Bond framework: renewable energy power, biosphere conservation, water, solid waste management and energy efficiency. The lead manager was Nordea Markets. “This is a fantastic opportunity for us to invest in order to both generate returns for our customers and at the same time contribute to sustainable growth in Africa,” said Staffan Hansen, CEO, Storebrand Asset Management. Meanwhile, Norwegian insurer Gjensidige has sold its 20.1% stake in Storebrand for $539m to focus on its own activities. Gjensidige was Storebrand’s largest shareholder.

Computer giant Apple is among 140 leading firms that have signed the Climate Declaration, which was launched last year by Ceres, the sustainability advocacy body and its business network, Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy (BICEP). It comes as California battles the worst drought in centuries.

A European Union “backloading” plan to support carbon prices has passed into law, according to a Reuters report citing the EU Official Journal. The plan centres on reducing the supply of permits available under Europe’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).


The National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF), the UK industry body, has announced details of the Pensions Infrastructure Platform’s (PIP) first fund. The PPP Equity PIP Limited Partnership has been set up by Dalmore Capital who will manage the fund. It has a hard cap of £500m (€608.5m), of which £260m has been committed, with founding investors including British Airways Pensions, Pension Protection Fund, Railways Pension Scheme, Strathclyde Pension Fund and West Midlands Pension Fund.h6. Governance

Novartis shareholders have overwhelmingly approved the board’s remuneration proposals, according to reports. The Swiss drugs firm this month proposed salary cuts of more than 20% for its board of directors so that each member of the board – except the president – would receive an average of CHF406,000 (€333,036). It follows a row over the pay of former CEO Daniel Vasella – and the vote on the so-called Minder initiative.

The United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) says it has seen strong signatory growth within the US, Europe and the Asia Pacific region over recent months. The first two months of 2014 saw the PRI add 30 new signatories to the growing list of more than 1,200 that have signed on.

ECGS, the Expert Corporate Governance Service partnership, has launched an online shop where more than 450 reports on European companies’ general meetings are now accessible for individual order through a secured payment system. Payment can be made by credit card or by direct debit using PayPal.

The CEO of South Africa’s Telkom, Sipho Maseko, has been ordered to attend a corporate governance course, according to Bloomberg citing regulators. The Companies and Intellectual Property Commission made the order after an interest-free loan to the company’s chief financial officer Jacques Schindehutte was deemed to have broken corporate rules, it added. Maseko would have to “attend a corporate governance and a director duties course within 90 business days”.

The Irish Central Bank is making the corporate governance of investment funds and fund managers one of its priority areas for 2014, according to a statement by the bank. Reuters reported it would put the spotlight on “the world’s biggest centre for hedge fund administration” where around €2.5trn of assets are administered.