RI ESG Briefing, January 7: SRI firm files “moral and legal” proposal at US banks

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news


An MP in Switzerland’s upper house has filed a motion that would seek to encourage more investment in new technologies like renewable energy, IT or nanotechnology on behalf of the country’s pension funds. Konrad Graber wants Swiss schemes to create a “Swiss Future Fund“ to make the investments. Swiss pension funds have CHF550bn (€446bn) in assets under management. Link (German)

The mainstreaming of the carbon bubble and stranded assets idea promulgated by the Carbon Tracker Initiative was “transformative” in 2013, reckons CDP Chief Executive Paul Simpson. He called it the “most exciting climate change development of the last year” in an op-ed article in the Guardian, noting that investors are paying attention with Norway’s Storebrand divesting from 13 coal and six oil sands companies.

The Climate Bonds Standard has established a Low-Carbon Transport Working Group to develop eligibility criteria for the certification of low-carbon transport related bonds. It’s hoped it will enhance investors’ confidence in financing the low-carbon economy, the Carbon Bonds Initiative said. The new body held its first teleconference meeting just before Christmas to begin work on developing eligibility criteria for key investments areas in low carbon transport.


Hannoversche Alterskasse (HAK), the buffer fund for Hannoversche Pensionskasse (HPK), a pension scheme for German teachers and employees in social trades, has become a signatory to the UN-backed Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI). At the end of 2012, HAK and HPK had €257m in assets, 88% of which was invested in fixed income.

Swiss microfinance specialist ResponsAbility Investments has loaned $20m to Peru’s Financiera Confianza, according to a report on industry site Microcapital citing ResponsAbility. It added that Financiera Confianza is one of eight microfinance institutions that are linked to the Fundacion BBVA Microfinanzas, the NGO founded by BBVA, the Spanish bank.h6. Governance

California-based SRI investor Harrington Investments is filing shareholder resolutions at major US finance groups demanding they clarify and enhance directors’ and executives’ “fiduciary, moral and legal obligations to shareholders and other stakeholders” in the wake of a range of issues at the targeted banks. Similarly worded motions have been filed at Goldman Sachs and AIG, while a resolution is pending at JP Morgan Chase.

PGGM, the Dutch pension fund management giant, and Rabobank, the Dutch banking group have both joined Circle Economy, a Dutch collaboration for corporate and financial sustainability initiated by Robert-Jan van Ogtrop, former CEO at Bols Royal Distilleries and Remy Cointreau. In a 2014 statement, Else Bos, CEO at PGGM, said: “For me it is increasingly important that the financial sector plays its part in the sustainable society.” Link

Managed health care company Aetna is facing a lawsuit from a pressure group for allegedly sending out “false and misleading” proxy statements to shareholders in 2012 and 2013. The suit has been filed by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a non-profit watchdog, on behalf of Aetna shareholder Stephen Silberstein. CREW says Aetna’s proxies omitted material information about its political activities to persuade shareholders to oppose proposals filed by the Service Employees International Union Master Trust (SEIU) in 2012 and the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations in 2013.

ShareAction, the UK campaign group, has released its formal response to the Law Commission’s review of fiduciary duty, saying it presents a “critical opportunity” to set the record straight that trustees have wide discretion in acting in the best interests of their beneficiaries. CEO Catherine Howarth said large pension schemes are being advised that that they are legally barred from taking account of non-financial issues. “Without a formal clarification of what fiduciary duty involves we will continue to see significant confusion over the factors which fiduciary investors may take into account,” she said.