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RI ESG Briefing, Jan. 13: United Methodist Church, SEBI, ISO, Viacom, As You Sow

The round-up of the latest ESG developments

Environmental

The Indian securities regulator, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), has outlined its disclosure requirements for the issuance and listing of Green Bonds, linking them to the country’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) document put forward to the Paris climate change talks. It follows a public consultation last month. “Clearly, green bonds are a priority for India’s government,” said industry advocacy group the Climate Bonds Initiative. The requirements do not include a definition of what is green though SEBI will make evaluations of this on a case-by-case basis. The use of a second party review or third party certification to review the green credentials of the bond is optional, SEBI says.

Separately, the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) has reportedly floated a fresh bond issue to raise Rs 1,716 crore (€240m). While not branded as a green bond, Clean Technica said all proceeds are expected to be used for facilitating renewable energy projects across India.

Allianz Capital Partners (ACP), the infrastructure investment arm of the German insurance giant, has made its first renewable acquisition in Finland, acquiring a 21MW wind park. The seller of the park, called Jouttikallio, is Finnish project developer OX2. OX2 will also operate Jouttikallio following scheduled completion at the end of this year. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Including this recent acquisition, ACP has, on behalf of Allianz, invested more than €2.5bn in wind and solar parks across Europe.

Staying in Finland, KGAL, Germany’s biggest renewable fund provider, has also acquired a wind park there – a 26.4MW installation called Silovuori. Seller of the park is ABO Wind AG, a German project developer which plans to complete the facility at the end of 2016. Financial terms were not disclosed. Including this deal, KGAL owns 615MW worth of wind power capacity. The Munich-based firm also has a total of €22.3bn in assets invested in its renewable, real estate and infrastructure funds.

Social

A new ISO standard on anti-bribery systems is in the works. The International Standards Organisation is developing a standard that has now reached the public enquiry and voting stage (DIS), where ISO members involved in its development vote on the current draft before moving closer to publication. ISO 37001, Anti-bribery management systems, is designed to help organizations fight bribery by establishing a culture of integrity, transparency and compliance. “ISO 37001 will help provide assurance to management, investors, business associates, personnel, and other stakeholders that an organization is taking reasonable steps to prevent bribery,” said Neill Stansbury, Chair of the ISO project committee developing the standard. The new standard is due to be published late in 2016.

French bank Société Générale has teamed up with the World Bank’s IFC arm to provide a second €70m trade facility to Burkina Faso’s largest cotton exporter SOFITEX. It’s hoped it will assist the development of the agricultural sector and contribute to a reduction in rural poverty in the country where cotton is the main cash crop. Link. Governance

The General Board of Pension and Health Benefits for the United Methodist Church has decided to add five Israeli banks to its list of company exclusions for human rights reasons. The banks are Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, First International Bank of Israel, Israel Discount Bank and Bank Mizrahi-Tefahot. All have been said to finance construction of settlements in the disputed West Bank. Israel’s bank association had no comment on the move. The General Board’s updated list of exclusions due to human rights concerns also included Israeli construction firm Shikun & Binui, which is said to be involved in settlement building on the West Bank. Link

Viacom will permit a vote on a proposal from the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) urging the US media giant to dispose of its dual class shares and switch to “one share, one vote.” ICCR Chairman Reverend Seamus Finn told Responsible Investor: “We are filing this resolution for the sake of shareholder democracy. Viacom exercises a very important role and responsibility across the world and can be a force for good.” Yet the proposal from ICCR, which represents $100bn in assets mostly from church investors, is not likely to pass. This is because Sumner Redstone, the 92-year-old Chairman of Viacom, owns 80% of the company’s ‘Class A’ voting shares. Viacom’s annual meeting is to be held on March 16.

An undisclosed European institutional investor has tendered a €100m long-term global equity mandate using the IPE Quest tendering service, according to pensions news site IPE.com. The investor is seeking a fundamental long-term investment style with “deep knowledge of the companies invested in” with “low turnover and active engagement”, IPE said – adding that the deadline for applications is February 5.

Agreement between the European Parliament and the member state-level Council on the revision to the Shareholder Rights Directive is a priority of the incoming Dutch presidency of the council, according to officials. The Netherlands holds the revolving presidency for the first six months of this year and Dutch Minister of Security and Justice Ard van der Steur told the Parliament’s legal affairs committee that it is “determined to reach an agreement between Parliament and Council on the shareholders’ rights directive”. He noted Parliament’s call for a country-by-country tax-reporting requirement, and said he was waiting for an impact assessment, expected from the Commission in the first quarter of 2016, according to a statement from the committee.

Sustainability group As You Sow has welcomed Campbell Soup Co.’s move to label all U.S. products that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Campbell’s has distinguished itself from many of its peers by calling for federal mandatory labeling standards for foods with GMOs, As You Sow said. It added that Campbell’s is withdrawing from all efforts led by groups opposing mandatory GMO labeling legislation, including those led by the Grocery Manufacturers Association.

New York Democrat Carolyn Maloney is reportedly working on legislation to address the lack of women on company boards. Reuters, citing an interview with Maloney, reported she hopes to introduce it in the U.S. Congress next month. She plans to plans to consult with women’s groups, business groups and others and after introduce it in the House of Representatives, it added.