RI ESG Briefing, March 10: Big funds snub conservative group’s climate proposal at Apple AGM

The latest environmental, social and governance news

Environmental

A shareholder proposal on climate change at Apple filed by a conservative think tank has been voted against by a range of responsible investors, according to advance voting tallies. The National Center for Public Policy Research had called for the iPhone giant, which holds its AGM today, to publish a report disclosing the risks it faces from possible changes in US federal, state or local government policies relating to climate change and/or renewable energy. The resolution was not backed by investors including CalPERS, CalSTRS, the Florida State Board of Administration, Christian Brothers Investment Services and SRI firms Trillium, Calvert and Domini. CalPERS said the proposal was “unnecessary” due to Apple’s existing disclosures on climate change: “Further, we welcome the company’s commitment to 100% renewable energy for its operations as disclosed in Apple’s environmental management report.”

Ed Davey, the UK’s secretary of state for energy and climate change, has said he is “strongly in favour” of greater transparency, greater disclosure and reporting requirements around fossil fuel holdings. Speaking to the Carbon Brief, Davey said people would need to be a little more worried about investing in coal than perhaps they were 10 years ago, citing Carbon Tracker Initiative data on stranded assets. He said: “Well, if they are degrading in their value then it’s important that investors are aware of that. How do I see this working? I don’t see this working overnight, but gradually as people shift their portfolios to manage the risk.”

SolarCity, the Nasdaq-listed clean energy firm, has partnered with investment firm Incapital to expand the availability of its solar bonds for investors across the US. “As a result of this strategic partnership, investors are able to purchase Solar Bonds through their brokerage and IRA accounts at many major financial institutions for the first time,” the California-based firm said. It launched its ‘solar bonds’ in October 2014, financed by the monthly payments the company receives from its more than 190,000 customers. They offer interest rates as high as 5.45%, it added.

Social

Impact investor Bridges Ventures has bought a portfolio of 50 business centres from Regus, a UK-listed serviced office provider, for £84m (€117.8m), while retaining Regus as its long-term operating partner. The Evans Easyspace portfolio is spread across the UK, with a concentration in the Midlands, North and Scotland. Bridges and Regus will also look to improve the properties’ environmental performance, and will explore the possibility of tracking and reducing energy usage.

Republican Congressman Todd Young and Democrat Congressman John Delaney have reintroduced their bipartisan bill on social impact bonds, now called the Social Impact Partnership Act. Republican senator Orrin Hatch and Democratic senator Michael Bennet plan to introduce companion legislation in the Senate. The bill calls for a $300m (€279.5m) federal fund to catalyse social impact bonds.h6. Governance

Prince Charles’ Accounting for Sustainability Project (A4S) Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Leadership Network has published four guides to help the finance and accounting community address the practical issues of integrating sustainability into their business processes and decisions. The four guides are: CAPEX -a practical guide to embedding sustainability into capital investment appraisal; Enhancing investor engagement: a practical guide for investor relations teams; Managing future uncertainty: an introduction to integrating risks resulting from macro sustainability trends; and Natural and social capital accounting: an introduction for finance teams.

The European Parliament has voted to adopt European Long-Term Investment Funds (ELTIFs), a new structure “designed to benefit the real economy and society by channelling non-bank funds into long-term projects to deliver infrastructure, intellectual property or research results”. Amended regulation was approved today (March 10) by 546 votes to 93, with 28 abstentions. “I am very pleased to launch today an efficient new tool that will not only give a major boost to financing long-term investment, as supported by President Juncker’s plan, but will also help build the Capital Markets Union,” said Alain Lamassoure, the ‘rapporteur’. It’s hoped ELTIFs will help pension funds, insurance companies, professional and even retail investors willing to invest at least €10,000 over the long term. Announcement

Today (March 10) sees the launch of ‘Proxy Preview 2015’. It covers the record 433 social and environmental shareholder resolutions filed so far this proxy season in the US, with “political spending and climate change driving the majority of the activity”. The report provides analysis and insight to help investors navigate the issues and vote their shares. It is presented by As You Sow, the Sustainable Investments Institute, and Proxy Impact. Link

The Council of Institutional Investors (CII), the US body which represents pension funds and other investors with more than $3trn in combined assets, has welcomed a legislative proposal by the Corporate Law Council of the Delaware Bar Association to prohibit Delaware corporations from adopting fee-shifting provisions in their governing documents. The council argues that “fee-shifting” corporate bylaws that require shareholders who sue companies to pay legal fees if they lose in court are a “growing threat to board accountability”. They create “prohibitively high hurdles” for shareholders to pursue litigation, the CII adds.

Swiss sustainability fund manager RobecoSAM and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), the corporate sustainability standards body, have launched a new research publication Defining Materiality: What Matters to Reporters and Investors. The research explores materiality from the corporate reporter’s perspective, as expounded in GRI reports, and compares this with the investor perspective of materiality, formulated by RobecoSAM.