RI ESG Briefing, June 20: $88bn US asset manager signs up to UN PRI

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news


The £1bn (€1.24bn), 367MW Walney wind farm off the UK coast – backed in part by Dutch pension fund PGGM – is now operational. “All of the wind farm’s 102 turbines are fully operational and all have exported electricity,” said consortium member, energy firm SSE.

A total of 18 investors have invested $252m (€198.5m) in asset management giant BlackRock’s renewable energy venture with Ireland-based NTR. The BlackRock NTR Renewable Power Fund (Feeder B) vehicle has seven investors putting in $166m while the BlackRock NTR Renewable Power Fund (A) has 11 backers at $89m. Investors in the Cayman Islands registered funds were not named in Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

The Asian Development Bank disbursed some $715m in 93 water-related projects, financed under its ordinary capital resources, in 2011. Countries receiving significant funds included the People’s Republic of China, India, and Indonesia. Its 2012 Water Bonds brochure is available here

A syndicate led by J.P. Morgan and including Wells Fargo Wind Holdings and insurer MetLife is to invest $220m into the 235MW Chisholm View wind project in Oklahoma. The project is owned by Italy’s Enel and EFS Chisholm. Announcement


SAM, the Zurich-based sustainable investment boutique with €8.8bn in assets under management and UK social and environmental investor Bridges Ventures were named joint winners in the Sustainable Investor category at the FT/IFC Awards last week. The judges informally split the award into two themes – ‘on the ground’ and ‘moving the market’. Bridges topped the first category, with a commendation for Australian microinsurance outfit LeapFrog Investments. SAM headed the second category, with a commendation for the Environment Agency Pension Fund.

The House of Lords, the UK’s upper house, has launched an inquiry looking at whether it is appropriate for the European Union to force quotas to increase female representation on corporate boards. “Gender balance in the boardroom – Is there a role for the EU?” was launched last week by the House of Lords EU Sub Committee on Internal Market, Infrastructure and Employment.h6. Governance

Conning, the $88bn (€69.2bn) Connecticut-based asset management firm specialising in the insurance industry, has become the latest signatory to the UN-backed Principles for Responsible Investment. “Conning is proud to be part of the UN PRI, as this further solidifies our commitment to principles that we believe in and have practiced for many years,” said President and CEO Woody Bradford. “Given our global presence, we feel it is necessary to more formally support the implementation of responsible investment principles throughout the world.” Link

Corporate reporting on water-related risks, while it has improved, remains “weak and inconsistent” according to a new report put together by investor coalition Ceres. Clearing the Waters: A Review of Corporate Water Risk Disclosure in SEC Filings follows the Securities and Exchange Commission requirement for firms to disclose material risks from climate change to investors. Corporate water use has become a “significant corporate governance factor” said Michael McCauley, Senior Officer, Investment Programs & Governance at the Florida State Board of Administration.

There will be a need to “inject greater diversity into boards” says Central bank of Malaysia Governor Zeti Akhtar Aziz. She was making an address at the official launch of the Financial Institutions’ Directors Education (FIDE) Forum in Kuala Lumpur earlier this month. She said: “With the growing expansion of financial institutions in scale and complexity, there is a need to inject greater diversity into boards to enable the board collectively to deal with the broader range of issues across the institution’s activities.” Link

Investors the Central Laborers Pension fund of Illinois and the Amalgamated Bank have filed an amended complaint in their case against News Corp. They state the media giant’s board turned a blind eye to illegal conduct and sanctioned CEO and founder Rupert Murdoch’s misuse of company resources, according to a Bloomberg report.

Law firm Grant & Eisenhofer has filed a shareholder class action against controversial natural gas company Chesapeake Energy Corp. The complaint alleges that Chesapeake’s CEO Aubrey McClendon obtained over $1bn of company assets in the firm’s so-called Founders Well Participation Program and borrowed over $1.5bn against his well interests – “presenting material risks” that were not disclosed. Link