RI ESG Briefing, January 9: Integrated reporting gets ACCA qualification boost

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news

Environmental

NIBC Bank, the Dutch merchant bank, has project financed four solar power stations, with a total installed capacity of 21MW, belonging to Lightsource Renewable Energy, the UK solar photovoltaic operator. NIBC provided the entire £17.4m (€21.1m) term facility, Lightsource said.

Ethical Electric, the US renewable energy provider, has announced $11m in Series A funding from a syndicate of investors led by entrepreneur and impact investor Matthew Palevsky, who joins the company’s board. An earlier investment round was led by Brian Arbogast, a clean tech investor and current director at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The China Development Bank is loaning up to 5.7bn yuan (€694m) to Hong Kong-listed China Windpower. The funds will be invested in more than 800MW of solar projects this year and next. The company says it will “gradually push forward our solar power generation business to become our core business and major profit contributor to the group”.

Social

The Church of England Pensions Board is among a slew of new signatories to the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), according to its website. Other new signatories include Credit Suisse Private Banking & Wealth Management, Babson Capital Management, the US asset manager with more than $188bn under management, and Univest the pension manager of consumer products giant Unilever.

The Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing, Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and INSEAD have announced a call for applicants for the Morgan Stanley Sustainable Investing Challenge. It’s a global competition for students at business schools and other graduate programs to create market-based solutions to economic, social and environmental challenges. The deadline for submission is February 25 and 10 finalists will present their proposals to a panel of judges at Morgan Stanley’s New York City headquarters.

Campaign group ShareAction is starting Responsible Investment for London (RI4L), an initiative to bring together a diverse network of London-based asset owners to engage with investee companies with London operations.h6. Governance

ACCA (the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) has become the first global accountancy body to introduce integrated reporting, which seeks to combine financial and sustainability reporting, into its qualification. Students will be examined on integrated reporting for the first time in the accountancy profession when ACCA introduces it into its qualification from December 2014.

A shareholder proposal filed by union-linked CtW Investment Group at Walgreen received 43% shareholder backing at the US drugstore chain’s annual meeting yesterday (January 8). CtW had proposed that shareholders who have owned a stake of 3% or more for at least three years be allowed to nominate board directors. Link

The Canadian Society of Corporate Secretaries has opened nominations for the second annual Excellence in Governance Awards. Winners will be announced at the society’s annual conference in Banff, Alberta on August 24.

Staying in Canada, the Ontario Securities Commission has announced the agenda and panellists for its roundtable exploring proxy voting infrastructure on January 29. The event will feature the themes that emerged from a recent consultation, including vote reconciliation and end-to-end vote confirmation. Link

The UN Global Compact, the business sustainability framework, expelled 107 companies in the latter half of 2013 for failure to communicate progress for at least two consecutive years. The firms represent 2% of the 4,416 participants due to submit a Communication on Progress (COP) within the last six months of 2013. But the number of companies joining the Global Compact continues to significantly exceed the number of expulsions: 707 joined in the second half of 2013, meaning that participants have signed up at nearly seven times the rate of expulsions.

It’s been reported that two judges in the US have raised concerns about the Securities and Exchange Commission’s new ‘conflict minerals’ rule. Reuters said that at the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, they questioned the rule’s purpose and whether it tramples companies’ free speech.