RI ESG Briefing, March 26: DiNapoli and Trillium successfully withdraw diversity proposal at eBay

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news


Wells Fargo & Co., the NYSE-listed banking giant, says it has made $37bn in environmental loans and investments since 2012, surpassing the San Francisco-based company’s 2020 goal of $30bn. The figures come in Wells Fargo’s 2014 Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Interim report, which says the company has “met or surpassed” 10 companywide social, economic and environmental goals and that it is ahead of schedule or on track to meet its additional goals by 2020 or earlier.

A ‘kick-start meeting’ on the United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security’s Principles on Responsible Agricultural Investment was held earlier this month. It saw members of the Private Sector Mechanism (PSM) at the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) base in Rome giving their views on how the new principles, endorsed last year, can be used to respond to the need to increase global investment in farm production. The 10 principles are designed to ‘provide a framework to rethink investment in agriculture and food systems’. Link

The UK Green Investment Bank (GIB) has published its ‘Green Investment Handbook’, outlining the practical tools it uses on a daily basis to assess, monitor and report the green impact of its investments. GIB aims to encourage a discussion across the investment community about how investments can be de-risked and further capital can be crowded in to accelerate the transition to a greener economy.


A New York based charity that supports the Jewish community has committed $1m (€908,310) to two Israeli social impact funds supporting businesses that help people at risk, the elderly and the unemployed. The Jerusalem Post reports that the UJA-Federation of New York will contribute $500,000 (€454,172) to the IVN and Dualis social impact funds. The funds have also got NIS 9m (€2m) from the Israeli government, the rest of funds will come from private investors such as the UJA-Federation of New York.

Asset manager TIAACREF has announced a new partnership
with the Community Development Trust to co-invest in affordable housing in the US. The program’s initial investment covers eight first mortgages on Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) properties in California totaling approximately $20m (€18.2m). Rekha Unnithan, director of impact investing at TIAACREF said: “We are proud to bring these properties into our Social Impact Investment portfolio and use our investment capital to make affordable housing available to low-income California families.”h6. Governance

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and Trillium Asset Management have announced that they have withdrawn the shareholder proposal they filed at eBay after the online auction giant agreed to revise its Governance Guidelines to include gender and racial diversity among the qualities its seeks in its board members. When the pair filed their proposal, eBay had just one woman on its board, lagged its peers when it came to board diversity and had no stated policy that it made diversity a priority in constituting its board, they said. Within months of receiving the proposal, eBay increased the number of women on its board and revised its Guidelines, they added.

Massachusetts State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg was today (March 26) reportedly planning to propose a series of “activist” proxy-voting guidelines at a state pension fund committee meeting. The Boston Globe reported that Goldberg, who took office in January and who chairs the $61bn MassPRIM state pension fund, is proposing a series of new measures to help get companies to recruit more diverse boards, adopt stronger environmental policies, and lift human rights standards. “These reforms will help protect the stability and financial success of the companies that we invest in,” Goldberg was quoted as saying in a statement.

German ESG firm Oekom Research has unveiled a study showing that European companies are far better at meeting what Oekom says are its ecological and social responsibilities than their counterparts in the US. The Oekom study gave US firms a score of just 25.2 on a scale of 0-100, with 50 as the average. European companies, by contrast, scored 40.6. “Particularly in industries marked by heavy trade between the EU and the US – for example autos, chemicals and industrial goods – European companies scored higher with respect to their environmental and social responsibilities.” The EU and US are currently negotiating a sweeping free-trade agreement known as TTIP. Link (German)

Zürcher Kantonalbank (ZKB) has completed its previously announced acquisition of Swisscanto, a provider of sustainable investments, paying CHF360m (€343m) for an 82% stake in the asset management firm that was held by 23 other cantonal banks. ZKB itself had owned 18% of Swisscanto before announcing an all-out acquisition of Swisscanto last October. As a result of the takeover, ZKB says it will become Switzerland’s third-largest asset manager with CHF82.1bn in assets.