RI ESG Briefing, March 2: Canada’s PSP, Sports Direct, SUSI Partners, Apple, Pensions Management Institute

The round-up of the latest ESG developments


Canada’s Public Sector Pension Investment Board (PSP Investments) has acquired a portfolio of hydroelectric assets in New England for $1.2bn (€1.1bn). Seller of the assets, which have a combined capacity of 1.4GW, is French energy giant ENGIE (formerly GDF Suez). The deal is subject to regulatory approval. Once complete, PSP Investment affiliate H2O Power will operate the assets in the portfolio. Excluding them, H2O Power already operates ten hydroelectric stations in Canada and the US, representing 170MW of power generation capacity.

Separately ENGIE and SUSI Partners, the Zurich-based sustainable energy firm, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to promote grid-scale power storage projects. As an initial stage, SUSI will contribute €50million in equity for projects that ENGIE intends to develop in this important form of activity within the energy sector.

Germany’s HSH Nordbank has provided a €30.2m loan for the sake of 26.4MW wind park in Finland that is to be completed in November of this year. In a statement, HSH Nordbank said the debtor was ABO Wind AG, which was constructing the ‘Silovuori’ wind park in the middle of Finland. ABO no longer owns the park but has sold it to KGAL, Germany’s leading provider of renewable funds. Silovuori is the sixth Finnish wind park that HSH Nordbank has financed since the start of 2015.


The Pensions Management Institute (PMI), the UK professional association, has partnered with BNP Paribas Investment Partners, which will provide expert commentary to help PMI members apply Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) criteria in all investment decisions, as part of an integral approach to responsible investment. Kevin LeGrand, PMI President said: “We welcome BNP Paribas Investment Partners to our growing list of 15 carefully selected Expert Partners, and look forward to helping to redefine and transform the way in which investors apply ESG criteria to all investment decisions, which will continue to be a major factor in maintaining and ensuring responsible investment.”

Ethiquette, an independent web platform in Canada, is organizing a campaign entitled “the True Face of Responsible Investment”. It seeks to collect as many testimonials of people behind responsible investment products and services in order to inspire individual investors while nurturing greater trust and openness in the products or services. The campaign will run during April and Ethiquette will need to collect all testimonials by March 17. Link. Governance

The Guardian reports that controversial retailer Sports Direct has been relegated from the FTSE 100 index following a “torrid” three months for the firm during which its market capitalization fell some 40% – which the paper says follows its investigation into working conditions and a trading slump. Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress umbrella union body was quoted as saying: “This should be cautionary tale for companies who treat their workers badly. The reputational and financial damage Sports Direct has suffered is of its own making.” Link

Dutch pension investment giants PGGM and APG both supported the shareholder resolution on climate change at Apple’s AGM that was proposed by Jantz Management. It had wanted the iPhone giant to create a feasibility plan for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. PGGM backed the resolution saying it “could help preserve and create long-term shareholder value”. Apple advised investors against the motion and it received 201.2m votes in support – but 2.6bn shares voted against it and the motion didn’t carry.

Standard Life Investments, the UK-based investment manager, has issued its Governance & Stewardship Annual Review for 2015. In Europe it increased its direct engagement with company boards. In Italy, Standard Life Investments took part for the first time in the ‘vota da lista’ process by which board directors and statutory auditors are nominated to the AGM by minority shareholders. In the US the firm has expanded the scope of its engagement activities with US companies and has generally favoured proposals for proxy access that emanate from the companies themselves.

US defence and aerospace titan Boeing must include in its proxy materials a shareholder proposal that would have its board report on Boeing’s sales of weapons to Israel. The proposal comes from the Anti-War Committee, an NGO from Boeing’s home base of Chicago. The NGO said more transparency on the issue was necessary following a claim by Amnesty International that Boeing was supplying components for ‘smart bombs’ being deployed in the Gaza strip. While Boeing sought to have the proposal excluded on the grounds that it interfered with its ordinary operations, the Securities and Exchange Committee (SEC) ruled in favour of the Anti-War Committee.

Law firm Robbins Geller says it has obtained class certification in a securities fraud class action against Urban Outfitters, the Nasdaq-listed clothing firm. The case alleges that during the class period (March 12, 2013-September 9, 2013), defendants engaged in a fraudulent scheme to artificially inflate the stock price by misrepresenting and concealing information related to failed product assortments and the resulting deceleration in sales growth. Link