RI ESG Briefing, June 4: Local authorities back €850m clean energy fund

The round-up of the latest ESG developments


UK local authority pension funds for Surrey, Southwark and East Riding, and the European Investment Bank (EIB), are among the investors in a European clean energy-only fund which has raised €850m in its final close, the most raised by a fund of its kind. The Clean Energy Fund III, run by green investor Glennmont Partners, will invest in offshore wind for the first time and 70% of its capital will be allocated within the Eurozone.

The ninth circuit of the US Court of Appeal was set today to decide whether a suit against the US government over climate change will go to trial. The plaintiffs in the case of Juliana v the US – comprising of 21 teenagers and children – argue that government inaction over climate change violates their constitutional rights, according to the complaint which was first filed in 2015. A trial previously scheduled for October 2018 was halted after the government petitioned the Supreme Court for a stay.

The University of Oxford’s Wadham College has committed to fully divesting its £107m endowment from coal, tar sands, tobacco and “controversial” arms companies, after the college’s governing body bowed to years of pressure from student campaigners. Wadham has not committed to divesting from other forms of fossil fuel, such as oil and natural gas. Campaigners hope that Oxford University Endowment Management (OUem), which manages £3bn on behalf of the university, will soon follow suit.

NN Group, the Dutch parent company of asset manager NN Investment Partners (NNIP) and insurer Nationale-Nederlanden, will phase out investments in coal within 10 years, according to a new policy. The policy excludes companies mining thermal coal – the most polluting form of the fuel – and lays out an engagement strategy aimed at reducing electricity companies’ dependence on coal. NN Group said the activities of its insurance underwriting business would mirror the commitment.


Saudi Arabia’s central bank has reportedly fined 16 lenders for imposing debt burdens on individuals disproportionate to their monthly income in violation of “principles of responsible finance”. The financial institutions included Al Rajhi Bank, National Commercial Bank, Riyad Bank, Banque Saudi Fransi and Dubai-based Emirates NBD.

The European Central Bank (ECB) has launched a scholarship programme to support women from lower income backgrounds pursuing a master’s degree in economics in Europe. The ECB aims to increase the share of women in management and senior management positions to 35% and 28% respectively by the end of 2019. The deadline for applications is 19 June 2019.h6. Governance

AP2, one of Sweden’s five buffer funds, has divested “60 tobacco companies and companies involved in the maintenance and modernisation of nuclear weapons systems”. The decision was attributed to new investment rules introduced earlier this year requiring the AP funds to integrate “responsible investments and responsible ownership”. AP2 follows the lead of AP4 which divested tobacco and companies associated with nuclear weaponry in 2016.

Connecticut Retirement Security Program, the new voluntary State-backed defined contribution retirement scheme, has issued a request for proposals (RfP) for a consultant to help “identify firms with the necessary expertise to provide plan administration and management services”. RI was told by the US-based plan’s CEO, Mary Fay that ESG could “potentially” be part of the search criteria. The closing date for applications is June 12.

Independent investors in Facebook voted overwhelmingly in support of proposals to remove founder Mark Zuckerberg as chairman and revamp scrap social network’s share structure. According to the vote tally of last week’s AGM, 68% of outside investors want the company to hire an independent chairman – up from 51% last year. Jonas Kron, Director of Shareholder Advocacy at Trillium, spoke on behalf of the SRI firm and the Park Foundation in support of Item Number 6, a proposal for an independent Facebook board chair.

An analysis of corporate disclosures by CDP, the environmental data body, has revealed that nearly half of 6,707 companies identified climate related risks and opportunities in a sign that companies are increasingly bracing for the impacts of climate change. Estimates by 215 of the world’s 500 largest companies put the cost of climate change at roughly $1trn and is expected to materialise within the next five years.

Separately, CDP has found that, between 2013 and 2017, at least $2.1bn of loans made by Chinese lenders to companies in the soy supply chain are exposed to deforestation risk, along with $7.1bn of bond and share issues and $1.6bn of shares. These risks have significantly heightened due to the ongoing US-China trade war which has boosted Latin American exports of the commodity to China

Ben Yeoh, the sustainable finance expert and playwright, is putting on a “performance-talk” about sustainability challenges and solutions in finance alongside theatre maker David Finnigan in London later this month. The event, which Yeoh has branded “a form of anti-TED talk”, allows the audience to learn about climate challenges through interactive games. Monday June 17, 6:30-8pm, Weston Theatre, Museum of London. Email to RSVP.