RI ESG Briefing, Jan. 29: US investors table political contributions proposals

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news


A new report from advisory and investment management firm Aperio Group has shown that divesting carbon does not increase portfolio risk. Its ‘Do The Investment Math: Building a Carbon Free Portfolio’ report follows the 350.org campaign. Aperio, the not-for-profit As You Sow group and the Responsible Endowments Coalition will host a webinar on the report today. Aperio

The fourth annual Forest Footprint Disclosure (FFD) Report, released today, says that 100 companies have voluntarily disclosed their forest footprint – up almost 15% on last year. Investment support has grown, being backed by more than 180 endorsing investors managing in excess of $12.8trn. There were first reports from blue chips such as Colgate-Palmolive, Groupe Danone, Gucci and HJ Heinz. “We are calling on companies to make a step change in their behaviour to ensure that responsible policies are integrated throughout their supply chains,” said FFD Director James Hulse. Link

Canadian ratings agency DBRS has rated as BBB a bond to be released by Canadian renewables firm Brookfield Renewable Energy, according to industry group the Climate Bonds Initiative. The 17-year, C$454m, wind bond will allow Brookfield to re-finance its 165.6MW Comber wind project that was completed in 2011.


The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), the largest US pension fund, has launched the Sustainable Investment Research Initiative (SIRI), first reported by Responsible Investor last November. The fund has launched a Call for Working Papers from scholars and investment practitioners globally to “contribute to a rigorous debate and discussion on the impact of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues on long-term value creation and capital market stability”. CalPERS will partner with the UC Davis Graduate School of Management to seek, collect and review the papers ahead of a symposium to be hosted by UC Davis on June 7. Columbia Law School’s Millstein Center for Global Markets and Corporate Ownership also will assist with the call for papers. Announcement

Bridges Ventures, the London-based specialist fund manager has launched a report examining the last decade of investing for impact and sustainable growth. The report is called ‘Bridges Ventures Ten Year Report: a decade of investing for impact and sustainable growth’ and is available here. Governance

Boston Common Asset Management and the Unitarian Universalist Association are leading a shareholder proposal at Visa calling for enhanced disclosure related to political contributions focused on trade associations and other organizations. It’s believed to be the first political contributions motion to go to the vote in the 2013 proxy season. The financial services company holds its annual general meeting in Foster City, California, tomorrow (January 30). The company is advising shareholders to vote against the proposal, saying that from this year its management will prepare an annual report to its own Nominating and Corporate Governance Committee on its lobbying expenditures and activities.

A group of US responsible investors have filed resolutions calling for an end to political contributions at Chevron, Bank of America, 3M, Target, Starbucks, ExxonMobil and EQT. “The value of corporate political spending to shareholders is highly questionable, even as the risk it poses to our democracy is self-evident. It’s time for companies to reverse course and simply exit this activity,” said Shelley Alpern, Director of Social Research and Advocacy at Clean Yield Asset Management, one of the firms behind the proposals. Clean Yield filed proposals at EQT and 3M. The proposal at Chevron was filed by Green Century Capital Management. Zevin Asset Management filed at ExxonMobil. Harrington Investments sponsored the proposal at Starbucks. The proposals at Target Corporation and Bank of America were filed by individual shareholders affiliated with Responsible Wealth.

Institutional Shareholder Services’ new QuickScore, which replaces its former GRId offering, could help users with “compliance with the UK Stewardship Code and UN PRI mandates” according to new product details. It says: “ISS Governance QuickScore helps institutional investors identify and monitor potential governance risk in their portfolios and helps companies identify possible investor concerns based on signals of governance risk.”

US-based governance research outfit GMI Ratings has launched an enhancement to its flagship GMI Analyst product. New features include new ESG sector ratings, new ESG peer groups, historical ratings and an improved interface. Link