RI ESG Briefing, January 16: Institutional climate change group releases real estate guide

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news


The Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC), the European investor body with more than 80 members representing around €7.5trn in assets, has published a guide for trustees on real estate and climate change. It’s aimed at asset owners and investment managers and covers key questions that investors should ask of themselves, their consultants and their property managers as well as approaches to manage and mitigate the real estate investment risks arising from sustainability and climate change trends.

A motion calling for the Church of England to divest from fossil fuel extraction and supply companies is set to be debated at its General Synod next month. The Southwark Diocese in London is proposing the motion and is calling for the church to set up a Working Group on the Environment. The debate is set for February 12. Link

SolarCity, the Nasdaq-listed solar energy group, plans to launch an Internet-based investment platform through which it intends to allow a broader range of investors to participate directly in solar investments previously only available to large financial institutions. “Previously, only institutional investors could participate in the financing of most solar assets,” it said. “With our investment platform, we’re hoping to allow far more individuals and smaller organizations to participate in the transformation to a cleaner, more distributed infrastructure.”

Investment in renewable energy and energy smart technologies dropped 12% in 2013, after falling 9% in 2012, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF). It said global investment in clean energy was $254bn last year, down from a revised $288.9bn in 2012 and the record $317.9bn of 2011. The fall reflected both the lower cost of solar photovoltaic systems and impaired investor confidence due to policy shifts.


The US Securities and Exchange Commission has rejected an attempt by Franklin Resources, parent company of Franklin Templeton mutual funds, to omit a genocide-free investing shareholder proposal from its 2014 proxy ballot. The proposal has been submitted by Investors Against Genocide, the NGO that campaigns against investment holdings in countries such as Sudan where government-sponsored genocide is estimated to have led to more than 2.5 million deaths. Franklin holds shares in PetroChina, which continues operations with the Sudanese oil industry.

The offices of Dutch pension fund manager PGGM faced a demonstration by around 350 members of the “Christian Foundation for Israel” earlier this week. The foundation wants PGGM to rescind its decision to divest five Israeli banks due to their role in financing settlements on the disputed West Bank. According to Jewish Press.com, the protestors waved banners and distributed flyers to PGGM employees. They were joined by Binyomin Jacobs, the chief rabbi in the Netherlands. Link. Governance

The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) and the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) have announced a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate on corporate disclosure. The latest agreement follows a series of pacts signed last year: SASB and climate data group the CDP; CDP and the Global Reporting Initiative, SASB and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD); and the GRI and the IIRC.

Canada’s Resource Revenue Transparency Working Group, which includes the Mining Association of Canada, the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada, Publish What You Pay Canada and the Revenue Watch Institute, has published a framework for mandatory disclosure rules for extractive companies. These rules would oblige all companies to publish the payments they make to the governments where they operate around the world. The working group will present the framework as policy recommendations to the Canadian government.

Veteran US consumer advocate Ralph Nader has called for greater investor collaboration on corporate governance issues. Speaking to the New York Times, the 79-year-old Nader – a five-time candidate for President of the United States – spoke of the “disorganized nature of shareholders”, saying he wanted to “collect the leading shareholder advocates to try and get them together to get a shareholder action group operating.”

The Council of Institutional Investors, the US investor body representing combined assets of more than $3trn, has petitioned the Securities and Exchange Commission to amend its rules for contested corporate board elections. It wants shareholders to be able to vote for any combination of management and dissident nominees they wish to represent them. “Letting each side in a proxy contest distribute ‘universal’ proxy cards listing all director nominees would ensure a fairer, less confusing and less cumbersome voting process,” said CII Executive Director Ann Yerger.

Helvetia Wealth AG, a Zurich-based asset manager that is the advisor and distributor of the International Forestry Fund (IFF), says it has beaten off an attempt by Swiss authorities to have Helvetia declared bankrupt. Chairman and CEO Kamil Stender told Responsible Investor: “On January 15, the High Court of Zurich ruled in our favour with regard to our appeal against bankruptcy. Helvetia Wealth AG is now free from these proceedings and fully operational.”

Aberdeen Asset Management, the UK- based funds firm was today (January 16) facing resistance to its executive remuneration report and policy. The Florida State Board of Administration was one major investor that voted against them at its annual meeting.