RI ESG Briefing, Jan. 28: New CEO named at Dutch pension investment giant APG

The latest ESG news

Environmental

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on
investors to help achieve a doubling in global clean energy investments by 2020. “Sustainable, clean energy is growing, but not nearly fast enough to prevent excessive global warming that would trigger profound economic disruption and human suffering,” he told delegates to the 2016 Investor Summit on Climate Risk in New York. “The investor community is of critical importance if we are to move from aspirations to action.”

Hedge fund Greenlight Capital has won a seat on the board at SunEdison, the New York-listed solar and wind energy firm. Facing pressure from David Einhorn’s Greenlight, SunEdison has named Claire Gogel, a former Greenlight partner, as an independent director and the hedge fund’s representative on the board, effective immediately. She will be a part of the company’s nominating and corporate governance committee as well as its finance and investment committee, SunEdison said.

This week saw the first meeting of the Natural Capital Coalition’s Operations Group, led by coalition member AECOM, the US-listed technical and management support service firm. The new group is designed to share knowledge and promote best practice across the global natural capital community. The group will focus on the practical application of the Natural Capital Protocol, which is due to be published by the Coalition in July of this year. Link

Social

An appeal court ruling in the Netherlands has allowed four Nigerian farmers and Friends of the Earth Netherlands to jointly sue Shell in the Netherlands for damage caused by oil spills in Nigeria, according to the campaign group. The case dates back to 2008, when Friday Alfred Akpan, Eric Dooh, Alali Efanga and Fidelis Oguru with Friends of the Earth Netherlands took Shell to court over oil spills that they said had polluted their fields and fish ponds. The ruling could pave the way for victims of environmental pollution worldwide to turn to the Netherlands for legal redress when a Dutch company is involved, Friends of the Earth said, calling it a “great victory for the farmers”.

More than 300 people filled St Faith’s Chapel in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral in London this week to mark the launch of Eco Church – an award scheme for churches. Organised in partnership between St Paul’s Institute, Christian Aid, Tearfund and A Rocha UK, the crypt was turned green to mark the launch of the new initiative, which aims to equip congregations to “care for creation” by helping integrate environmental care throughout their church life.h6. Governance

Gerard van Olphen, who stepped in to head nationalised bank/insurer SNS Reaal at the behest of the Dutch government in 2013, has been named as the new chief executive of APG, the Dutch pension investor with €400bn under management. He was most recently CEO at VIVAT Insurance. He is a former Chief Finance and Risk Officer at Achmea, becoming Vice-Chairman of the Executive Board in 2008. He succeeds Dick Sluimers at APG – which is one of the world’s foremost responsible investors.

Japan’s asset management companies still have room to become better shareholders on behalf of their asset owner customers, according to the $1.1trn Government Pension Investment Fund cited by Dow Jones Newswires. The fund has issued a report saying some asset mangers haven’t done enough to address conflict of interest issues and engage with companies held passively. In future, according to Dow Jones, the GPIF would give more weight to passive managers who engage with firms. Link

Swiss sustainable bank J. Safra Sarasin may have to pay a Kuwaiti family $70m (€64m) in damages now that a court in Dubai has thrown out the bank’s appeal of a lawsuit from the family. According to finews.ch, the wealthy Khorafi family sued the bank for damages after a $200m investment they made with a Sarasin affiliate in Dubai collapsed during the financial crisis. The family’s lawyers argued that the affiliate misled the Khorafis – a position that the court upheld. The case predates Bank Sarasin’s takeover by the Safra Group in 2013.

Auditors have continued to develop “high quality, accessible” reports in the second year of extended auditor reporting according to a survey by the Financial Reporting Council, the UK watchdog. It added that investors have welcomed extended auditor reporting and the additional information it provides about the companies being audited. “Confidence in UK audits underpins investor confidence in UK capital markets and we are pleased that we have led the way internationally in extended auditor reporting, which is being adopted more widely following changes to international standards on auditing,” said Melanie McLaren, Executive Director of Codes and Standards at the FRC.

Shareholders in Royal Dutch Shell have voted in favor of its merger with gas group BG. Shell announced the poll result from its General Meeting in The Hague yesterday. Some 83.08% of the company’s shareholders backed the transaction while 16.92% voted against. Standard Life Investment had said it wouldn’t back the deal though Norges Bank Investment Management came out in support.