RI ESG Briefing, June 19: China’s SynTao teams up with NGOs on Green Stocks

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news

Environmental

China-based ESG research firm SynTao has teamed up with a group of non-governmental organisations to release a ‘Green Stocks’ report, pointing out that 17 listed cement companies are in “frequent violation” of pollution regulations. And a Green Stocks Database has also been launched, where investors can find the environmental supervision records of more than 850 listed companies. SynTao founder Guo Peiyuan said: “This report is the first of its kind which non-governmental organizations aim to directly engage investors from capital market in environmental initiatives.”

The UK Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee has launched a new inquiry into Green Finance to look at the “main drivers” behind institutional investors portfolio decisions. It will also look at the effectiveness of the financial markets in matching available finance to the required investment in renewable energy and other green projects. “To what extent is a potential “carbon bubble” a real risk?” the committee asks. Another question surrounds the pros and cons of having revenues from a financial transaction tax go towards green investments. Link

Social

Amnesty International and Friends of the Earth International have challenged assertions by Shell that sabotage is responsible for most oil spills in the Niger Delta in Nigeria, claiming that it deflects attention from the company’s own safety record. The NGO’s said the Dutch National Contact Point (NCP) for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises had found that the oil giant’s statements were based on disputed evidence and flawed investigations.

Australia’s Benevolent Society has reportedly launched a A$10m (€7.11m) Social Benefit Bond to fund an intensive family support service with bank partners Westpac and the Commonwealth Bank. It will fund an intensive family support service for up to 400 families over five years, according to a report in Pro Bono Australia.

UK charity Cancer Research has launched a savings bond called the Race for Life Bond, a 22-month issue offering 2.10% annual return fixed until 30 April 2015. It has been developed in partnership with the Coventry Building Society, according to a Civil Society report. Governance

The European Association of Paritarian Institutions (AEIP), the European social protection advocacy group, has called for more study to be carried out on the impact of accounting standards and “market consistent valuation” of assets and liabilities on Long-Term Investments. Brussels-based AEIP was responding to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Draft High-Level Principles of Long-Term Investment Financing by Institutional Investors. It also wants the role of social partners in setting up and running pension schemes to be recognised.

A proposal filed by the $163.7bn California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) at Netflix calling for a majority vote of shareholders to elect directors won 81% support at the media company’s annual meeting. Other governance resolutions from the Florida State Board of Administration and the five New York City pension funds also won strong support, Pensions & Investments reports.

US pension fund, the $337m Brockton (Mass.) Contributory Retirement System has reportedly settled its lawsuit with Google over the Internet giant’s plan for a stock split it was claimed would let founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin to strengthen their control of the firm.

Some 81% of shareholders in advertising group WPP voted for executives’ 2012 executive pay packages at its annual meeting earlier this month, while 19% were against. The £17.6m package for CEO Martin Sorrell had been criticised.

Campaign group Publish What You Pay is urging the Australian federal government to oblige companies in the extractives sectors to adopt standards of mandatory disclosure, according to the Sustainability Report. “Australia is the last major developed country not intending to bring in mandatory disclosure,” PWYP Australia Coordinator Claire Spoors was quoted saying.

Shareholders in US natural gas giant Chesapeake Energy rejected a proposal, supported by the board, to declassify the board – in other words make it easier to replace the board. Only 60% of shares backed the proposal, failing to pass the needed 66.7% threshold.

A new start-up company has launched in the US aiming to act as an information exchange platform for individual and institutional investors, listed companies and other groups. Texas-based Sharegate has been launched by Argus Cunningham, a serving US Navy pilot. He said: “Sharegate is meant to be for investors and companies what LinkedIn is for employees and companies.” It’s claimed 42 different institutions, with over $154bn in capital, have signed on so far.