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RI ESG Briefing, June 6: UK Prime Minister launches Social Stock Exchange

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news

Environmental

Massachusetts has sold $100m (€76m) of its first-ever Green Bonds, which will be used to finance clean water, open space, energy conservation and other environmental infrastructure projects. The 20-year maturity issue drew $130m of orders and generated more than 150 orders from different individual investors, including nine new institutional investors, according to a Reuters report citing the state’s assistant treasurer for debt management Colin MacNaught.

The Natural Capital Declaration, the global initiative that commits banks, investors and insurers to integrating natural capital considerations into financial products, has entered what it terms its “implementation phase”. It will see financial institutions – 41 have endorsed it so far – set about implementing the commitments laid out in the NCD.

In the first quarter of 2013, cleantech funding hit its lowest point in four years, declining 61% over the 2012 period, according to the latest PwC Cleantech MoneyTree Report. Deal volume declined 25% while average deal size ($6m) was down 48%.

A private equity fund managed by investment bank Goldman Sachs has reportedly invested $135m in unlisted Indian wind energy firm ReNew Power. ReNew currently has 200MW of installed capacity and aims for 1,000 MW by 2015.

Social

UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced the launch of the new Social Stock Exchange at the Social Impact Investment Conference in London today. He said it would “become the first information platform on the planet to showcase publicly listed social impact businesses”. He added that the market capitalisation of the first 12 businesses listed is already £500m, with the 13 set to join in October adding another £700m. “For years the London Stock Exchange has made London the home for private finance, today London can cement its place as the home for social finance too.” The government will also consult on Social Investment Tax Relief; it’s estimated it could generate an extra £500m in social investments in the next five years.

Separately, a group of more than 90 institutional signatories applauded Cameron and officials from G8 countries for their “proactive step to embrace the promise of impact investing”. The letter was organized in partnership by Omidyar Network, Big Society Capital Board Chairman Sir Ronald Cohen, and the Global Impact Investing Network. The signatories include banks, private foundations, development finance institutions, fund managers and service providers.h6. Governance

New York City Comptroller John Liu says the New York City Pension Funds he oversees will vote against nine of Wal-Mart’s 14 director nominees at the retailer’s annual meeting on June 7. “Wal-Mart has continually rejected stronger, more independent oversight — from its board room all the way down to its supply chain — to the detriment of shareowners,” Liu said.

Daniel Gallagher, Commissioner at the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), has become the latest figure to enter the debate about the role of proxy advisory firms in corporate governance. “Utimately, I think policy makers, regulators, fiduciaries, and market participants need to ask tough questions about the current proxy advisory regime,” he said in a speech at the 12th European Corporate Governance & Company Law Conference in Dublin.

Law firm Linklaters has released its mid-season review of the UK annual general meeting season, saying: “While there are more to come, it’s clear that this year has been less controversial and high profile than last year.”

Corporate sustainability advisor AccountAbility has released the findings of research conducted in partnership with the UN Global Compact. The report provides an actionable framework – called the Sustainability Commitment Growth Curve (SCGC) – to help companies get the most out of their voluntary commitments to sustainability.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) in partnership with the ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] Capital Markets Forum have developed an ASEAN methodology of corporate governance assessment using a scorecard system that is based on international best practices. They have released an inaugural report, compiling corporate governance assessments of publicly listed companies in six ASEAN countries—Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is to address the issue of the social purpose of banking at an event in London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral on June 12. Other speakers at the event, presented by fund manager CCLA and the St. Paul’s Institute, include Antony Jenkins, Group Chief Executive at Barclays.