RI ESG Briefing, March 25: Arjuna Capital presents methane proposal at Occidental Petroleum

The round-up of the latest ESG news


US SRI firm Arjuna Capital has notified Occidental Petroleum that it intends to present a proposal on methane emissions and flaring at the company’s annual meeting on May 1 in Houston. Arjuna is requesting a report reviewing the company’s “policies, actions, and plans” to measure, disclose, mitigate, and set quantitative reduction targets for methane emissions and flaring. Occidental is advising shareholders to vote against the measure, saying its existing programs “adequately address the shareholder’s request”. Occidental proxy

The director of the £18bn (€24.4bn) Wellcome Trust, Jeremy Farrar, has rejected The Guardian’s campaign that is trying to get the charitable foundation to exit investments in fossil fuels. Responding to the UK newspaper’s ‘Keep it in the Ground’ campaign, he said that while divestment was a “grand gesture” it was not as effective as engagement with fossil fuel companies themselves. He wrote, in the paper: “By maintaining our positions, we meet boards again and again, supporting their best environmental initiatives and challenging their worst. We would not be able to have the frank discussions we require if we published details, but we are confident that our engagement has impact.”

The students hoping to get the Harvard University endowment to divest its $36.4bn (€33.2bn) endowment from fossil fuels are reportedly planning to appeal a recent court ruling dismissing their case. Inside Climate News quoted Alice Cherry, a law student and a plaintiff in the case as saying that she and the other students plan to appeal against the ruling by a Massachusetts court which rejected their groundbreaking legal move.


The Bangladeshi government has reportedly taken interim control of Grameen Bank, the pioneering microfinance institution set up by Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus. Industry site MicroCapital reported that the $2.2bn Grameen is now being run by government-appointed board members as of February 2015.

A new way of identifying corporate human rights due diligence has been launched by supply chain body Sedex and the Tronie Foundation, a US NGO focused on human trafficking and slavery. The Freedom Seal, launched at the Sedex Global Responsible Sourcing Conference in London, is designed as a visual marker businesses can use to clearly communicate to consumers that they have due diligence mechanisms in place and are actively taking steps to prevent forced labor and human trafficking. Companies earn the seal by applying here.

The UK government says that almost a quarter of all FTSE 100 board positions are being filled by women. It cited the latest annual report from Lord Davies as saying that, four years on from his original report, commissioned by Business Secretary Vince Cable, female representation has almost doubled to 23.5%. The Davies’ report, published each year alongside the Cranfield University School of Management’s Female FTSE Board report, shows British businesses are “making great strides” towards Davies’ target of 25% by 2015, the government said. Governance

The National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF), the UK trade body, is developing a new ‘Stewardship Disclosure Framework’ to encourage asset managers to report on their activities and enable investors to hold them to account. Jo Swinson, a UK minister, announced the initiative to highlight the steps being taken to promote stewardship and engagement by institutional investors. She also mentioned the Stewardship Code and the creation of the Investor Forum.

Decision support firm MSCI has launched a tool to help institutional investors assess accounting risk in over 50 emerging market countries. The MSCI ESG AGR Emerging Markets covers approximately 9,000 companies including those reporting under local Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). It’s aimed at institutional investors, banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions concerned about financial transparency in emerging markets.

The 2015 update to SHARE’s Model Proxy Voting Guidelines has been released by Canada’s Shareholder Association for Research and Education. It reflects the most recent developments in corporate governance, including changes to provincial requirements for diversity on corporate board of directors, new rules on auditors, majority election of directors and advance notice provisions, and consideration of emerging corporate social responsibility issues, SHARE said.

Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management’s (DeAWM) real estate arm has issued a report updating its progress in integrating sustainability. It lists 10 things the unit has achieved, including realising a 31% return on sustainability upgrade projects; growing assets certified as “green” by €1.2bn; and reducing the energy consumption of its investment portfolio by 6.4% between 2009 and 2014. DeAWM’s real estate unit manages €68.3bn in assets.

US-based asset management giant BlackRock has been fined €3.25m by German financial regulator BaFin for incorrectly disclosing shareholdings in 48 companies listed on Germany’s Dax and MDax indices. According to the BaFin, BlackRock violated German securities law by not, in a timely manner, informing it when its shareholdings in the firms exceeded 5%. Press reports said another problem was that BlackRock and its subsidiaries did not provide the right information in the filings. BlackRock itself had approached the BaFin to get its affairs in order and accepts the fine.

US law firm Scott + Scott is reportedly asking Tesco shareholders to join a group to bring a lawsuit to recover “billions of pounds in compensation” for losses linked to the UK retailer’s profit overstatement scandal last year. Reuters reported that Tesco Shareholder Claims Ltd., funded by litigation firm Scott + Scott would seek to bring an action against Tesco on behalf of institutional shareholders. Tesco declined to comment, the report added.