RI ESG Briefing, June 3: Oxford academics cite fiduciary duty in fossil divestment campaign

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news


A group of 59 academic staff at Oxford University have written to the University urging it to divest its £3.8bn endowment of investments in fossil fuel companies. It comes amid a university-wide consultation on fossil fuel divestment, which runs until June 23. “Given these growing concerns over long-term environmental sustainability and financial stability, we encourage the university to fulfil its fiduciary duties by divesting its endowment from fossil fuels,” the letter states.

Danish pension administrator PKA has hit back at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) following a charge by the NGO that PKA and other Danish funds are exacerbating climate change by continuing to favour fossil fuel investments over those in renewable energy. Citing PKA’s DKK13bn (€1.7bn) worth of investments in climate-related projects to date, PKA Chief Executive Peter Damgaard Jensen said: “I’m a bit baffled by the WWF’s point of view. The fact is PKA and the pension fund industry in general have increased investments in renewables in recent years, and this trend is expected to continue.” PKA aims to allocate at least DKK20bn to climate-related projects by 2018. Jensen plans to participate in a discussion with the head of WWF’s Danish chapter regarding its renewable investment strategy on June 14. Link (Danish)

The City of Gothenburg in Sweden has issued a second green bond, with a SEK1.8bn ($273m) six-year bond, according to industry advocacy group the Climate Bonds Initiative. It follows a SEK500m issue last year. The initiative said in a blog posting: “The bond was sold mostly to Swedish investors but word is that they attracted a few new international investors too. Underwriter was SEB.”


A way for charities in the UK to issue bonds and list them on the London Stock Exchange has been launched. Charity bond provider Allia said its Retail Charity Bonds initiative has been established in association with Canaccord Genuity, the London and Toronto listed financial services firm. The platform is supported by firms such as Allen & Overy, Bank of New York Mellon, Big Society Capital, Ecclesiastical, Linklaters, London Stock Exchange, Prudential Trustee Services, Rathbones and Threadneedle Investments.

UK sustainable financial advisory groups Gaeia and Barchester Green have reportedly joined forces. Gaeia owner Castlefield Capital said it has agreed to buy Barchester, founded in 1985, according to a report in Blue & Green Tomorrow. Financial terms were not revealed.h6. Governance

A new Integrated Reporting Pension Fund network has been launched with the purpose of supporting its participants in producing integrated reports, according to the International Integrated Reporting Council. The network met in Australia with the following superannuation funds in attendance: AustralianSuper, CareSuper, Construction and Building Unions Super, Retirement Benefits Fund and VicSuper. The participants of this network will discuss practical solutions for pension funds to apply the integrated reporting framework “within the context of current industry related regulation”.

The Principles for Responsible Investment’s (PRI) Sustainable Palm Oil Investor Working Group has renewed calls for improvements in practices and commitments by producers, with the aim of decoupling palm oil production from deforestation. It comes ahead of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) meeting in London on June 4.

A group of 12 leading banks have sought to throw out an investor lawsuit accusing them of colluding to rig foreign exchange prices, according to a Reuters report. The banks, the report said, argued the plaintiff investors – including the city of Philadelphia and pension funds and hedge funds – hadn’t properly alleged a conspiracy. The defendants are Bank of America, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, JPMorgan, Morgan Stanley, RBS and UBS.

Average pay for 15 leading bank chief executives rose 10% last year to $13m, according to data compiled for the Financial Times by pay research group Equilar. The FT said there was a “clear gulf” between the US CEOs and their lower paid European counterparts.

Seventy two percent of the companies in the S&P500 index have published a sustainability or corporate responsibility report, according to research from consulting firm the Governance & Accountability Institute. This compares to just under 20% in 2011 and 53% in 2012. The institute said sustainability reporting “has become the clear norm in the US capital markets”.

Cass Business School in London is planning to launch its new corporate responsibility research hub. ETHOS: The Centre for Responsible Enterprise will be inaugurated on June 5 with an event including speakers Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, the former chair of Royal Dutch Shell and the UN Global Compact, and FT columnist John Gapper.