RI ESG Briefing, May 16: Mutual funds falling short on climate change voting – Ceres

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news


Some of the largest US mutual fund companies are “falling short” in voting for shareholder resolutions on climate change at US company meetings, says Ceres. The investor and public interest coalition singled out fund giants American Funds, Fidelity and Vanguard in a new analysis of proxy votes conducted by Jackie Cook of Fund Votes. It also found that some voting is “misaligned” with some fund firms’ public positions on climate change: pointing to UN Principles for Responsible Investment signatories such as BlackRock and AllianceBernstein, which supported less than 5% of climate-related resolutions in 2011. Link

CalPERS, the $234.3bn (€183.9bn) California Public Employees Retirement System, is being advised by investment consultant Wilshire to broaden its timberland investment programme beyond the southern US, according to a report in Pensions & Investments. It cited Wilshire saying a lack of exposure to the Northeast and the Pacific Northwest is a factor in the fund’s $2.1bn timber portfolio underperforming its benchmark.

Impax Asset Management, the AIM-listed environmental fund manager, has said its assets under management increased 7% to just over £2bn (€2.5bn) as at the end of March. Revenue in the first half of 2012 was £9.2m against £9.9m a year before. There was an unaudited pre-tax loss of £2.7m, against a £2.1m profit in the prior year.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) made clean energy investments of $2.1bn during 2011, beating its investment target of $2bn annually by 2013, according to its latest annual report.


The filing for BlackRock’s proposed new human rights exchange traded fund (ETF), the iShares Human Rights Index Fund, is available here. The ETF will be run by portfolio managers Rene Casis, Diane Hsiung and Greg Savage and be benchmarked against the Human Rights Custom Index on the MSCI All Country World Index.

The UK’s Charity Bank, the regulated bank that is also a charity, says it plans to grow its balance sheet to £250m in the next five years, with the possible goal of £500m in 10 years. And it announced the funding of a new flagship venture, the Social Justice and Human Rights Centre – a London-based hub for a number of human rights organisations. Link. Governance

Deutsche Bank and Maastricht University School of Business and Economics in the Netherlands have entered a long-term research collaboration on environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) issues. It builds on an existing four-year relationship between the school and Deutsche’s institutional asset management arm DB Advisors and takes the cooperation “to the next level” the pair said. The cooperation will be headed by Professor Rob Bauer, who heads the European Center for Corporate Engagement Institute and has been a member of DB Advisors’ ESG Advisory Board since 2009. “Having Deutsche Bank as a sponsor will make a significant impact in propelling ESG investments into the mainstream,” said Bauer. Link
The European Commission is planning to give shareholders in listed European companies a binding vote on pay, according to an interview in the Financial Times with Internal Markets Commissioner Michel Barnier. And investors in banks would be able to set a cap on bonuses, the report added.

Meanwhile, the European Parliament has voted through the Capital Requirements Directive – and is taking a “firm line” on bankers’ variable remuneration.
The remuneration report at media company UBM was voted down by almost 48% of shareholder votes at its annual meeting this week, according to reports. Shareholder advisory groups Institutional Shareholder Services and the Association of British Insurers’ Ivis had advised voting against the report, the Independent said.

Burma will remain a volatile area for business investment if the US broadly relaxes sanctions, according to investors in the Conflict Risk Network. Kathy Mulvey, Director of the Conflict Risk Network, said: “Despite pressure from some elements of the business community, now is not the right time for a rush into Burma. Conflict continues to rage in Burma’s resource-rich ethnic national states. Investment is likely to exacerbate human rights abuses and undermine any progress that has been made toward democracy.” Link

Measures taken by stock exchanges, governments and other regulators are having a positive effect on sustainability reporting worldwide, according to new statistics from the Global Reporting Initiative, which develops sustainability reporting guidelines. The figures come from the GRI’s Sustainability Disclosure Database. Link