RI ESG Briefing, May 1: St. Andrews University signs up to Principles for Responsible Investment

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news

Environmental

A proposal filed by Trillium Asset Management, the US fund manager, asking New York-listed Spectra Energy Corp. to issue a report about how it is managing methane emissions received 35.3% of the votes cast by shareholders at the company’s annual meeting this week – far surpassing the 3% threshold required for inclusion in next year’s vote. Advisory firm ISS had issued a “FOR” recommendation to its clients, stating: “A vote FOR this proposal is warranted, as shareholders would benefit from additional information on how the company is managing its methane emissions. Such information, including quantitative emissions goals, would allow shareholders to assess relevant company performance.”

Low Carbon Accelerator (LCA), the London-listed clean investment vehicle which counts pension funds among its investors, has announced another pay delay by its buyer, US-based Sterling Planet Holdings. Sterling’s second payment tranche of $1m was due on April 16. LCA is currently in discussions with the renewable energy solutions provider to determine a revised payment schedule, according to a statement. Sterling Planet’s first payment of $1m was also delayed. The £3.2bn Derbyshire County Council Pension Fund, which has almost £2.5m invested in LCA, told Responsible Investor that Sterling’s delayed payment has no material impact on the fund and that it does not know why payment has been delayed. “We are in the same position as the rest of the market, i.e. we will receive information from the company at the same time as other investors,” said a spokesperson.

DEG, the investment arm of German development bank KfW, has provided SoWiTec, a German project developer, with a €6.6m loan for the construction of four wind parks in northern Mexico. The parks have a power capacity of 740MW and, according to DEG, will reduce Mexico’s carbon dioxide emissions by 1.6m tonnes. The loan is DEG’s second to SoWiTec for a renewable energy project in Latin America. In 2012, DEG provided €384m in financing for renewable energy projects around the globe – almost double the €193m in 2011. Link

Social

The ‘rate-the-raters’ Global Initiative for Sustainability Ratings (GISR) project has announced the Beta Version of a set of core principles to help “drive excellence in corporate sustainability ratings, rankings and indices”. Launched by Ceres and the Tellus Institute, GISR is a global non-profit initiative aimed at improving the “signal to noise ratio” in sustainability ratings. The 12 principles include: transparency, impartiality, continuous improvement, inclusiveness, assurability, materiality, comprehensiveness, sustainability context, long-term horizon, value chain, balance and comparability. A public comment period will run from June 1 – July 31. Link. Governance

(Corrects to say St. Andrews follows Edinburgh) The University of St. Andrews in Scotland has become the second university in Europe (after its Scottish neighbour Edinburgh), and the third in the world, to sign up to the Principles of Responsible Investment, according to university newspaper the Saint. It said the Students’ Association have been encouraging the University to invest its endowment responsibly for over a decade and added that PRI Executive Director James Gifford will visit St. Andrews on May 3 to witness the signing with the Principal of the University, Professor Louise Richardson. Gifford said: “It is great to see that the students of St. Andrews are so engaged in ensuring their endowment becomes one of the world’s leading responsible investors.”

The Securities and Exchange Commission has been “flooded” with calls to require listed companies to disclose to shareholders all of their political donations, according to a New York Times report. The paper said SEC officials have indicated that they could propose new disclosure rules that would set up a major battle with business groups.

Some of the largest institutional investors in Europe have come out against a planned financial transactions tax, according to a report in the Financial Times. The FT said investment chiefs from the likes of Allianz Global Investors, Fidelity and APG Asset Management have warned EU officials of its potential impact on investments.

US SRI house Calvert Investment Management has issued a shareholder rebuttal to hospital operator Health Management Associates. At issue is the company’s opposition to Calvert’s shareholder proposal calling for sustainability reporting from the Florida-based company. “We believe the company should join the growing number of corporate reporters that demonstrate and report on the management of environmental, social and governance issues to their investors,” the $12bn fund manager says, countering a series of arguments from Health Management. The company holds its AGM on May 21.

La Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, which manages C$176.2bn (€132.2bn) of public pension plans, says that in 2012 it carried out a study of best practices for integrating ESG criteria into the management of corporate fixed income. La Caisse, in its 2012 Responsible Investment report, says it developed two tools that help managers integrate each of these criteria. The first positions the companies in the portfolio according to sector indicators in the industries in which they operate. The second develops a profile of each company and determines its potential risks.