RI ESG Briefing, May 2: Christian Brothers on Parliament’s Murdoch verdict

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news

Environmental

Masdar, Abu Dhabi’s state-owned renewable energy company, has announced it will set up two renewable energy projects – in Tonga and Afghanistan. A photovoltaic plant on Tonga’s Vava’u island will supply 13% of the island’s energy demand, saving 400 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. And the project in Afghanistan will supply eight isolated villages with 600 individual solar home systems. Masdar also plans to partner with the Development Bank of Japan to invest in global solar and wind power projects, it said.

TEP Solar, the Irish company formed in early 2010 to establish a solar PV platform dedicated to invest in a portfolio of projects in Europe, has entered into an agreement with SOLARINVEST, a privately owned company based in Vienna, Austria to acquire and jointly construct the 8.4MW solar photovoltaic Ragusa 1 project. It will be among the largest solar PV plants in Sicily. The Project is forecast to benefit from the current 2010 feed-in tariff of EUR 0.346 per kilowatt hour. TEP is part of AIM-listed clean energy investment company Trading Emissions.

The European Commission is considering setting up a €200bn fund to promote economic growth, according to Spanish newspaper El Pais. “The plan aims to raise funds valued at €200bn for infrastructure, renewable energy and technology,” El Pais said, citing unnamed European sources.

Social

Australia: corporate environmental, social and governance (ESG) researcher CAER [Corporate Analysis. Enhanced Responsibility] has reportedly teamed up with ASX-listed financial industry technology provider GBST to offer a quantitative tool to allow superannuation funds to apply a responsible investment overlay for Australian equities.

The Land Matrix is a new online public database of large-scale land deals, documenting transactions since 2000. The project, still in beta phase, has been put together by a group of organisations with “an interest in promoting transparency and accountability in decisions over land and investment through open data”. Link

The Omidyar Network, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s philanthropic venture, has announced a £1.3m grant to help develop social impact bonds, according to a report in Civil Society. Omidyar will fund Social Finance in the UK with just over £490,000 over two years, while US sister organisation will get some £800,000.h6. Governance

Christian Brothers Investments Services, the $4bn US faith investor, says the damning verdict on News Corp. delivered by the UK Parliament’s Culture Media and Sport Committee yesterday supports its resolution to appoint an independent chair at the media giant. “We don’t believe it’s too late to turn News Corp. around, but the company needs to act now to make real and substantive changes to start this process,” said Julie Tanner, assistant director of Socially Responsible Investing at CBIS.

Trillium Asset Management, the US sustainable investment fund manager, has written to investors seeking support for its shareholder proposals on corporate political donations at the forthcoming Bank of America (May 9) and 3M (May 8) annual meetings. Trillium’s motion calls on the firms to “adopt a policy prohibiting the use of corporate funds for any political election or campaign”. Link

Natural gas company Chesapeake Energy has announced that it will name an independent chairman, although current Chair and Chief Executive Aubrey McClendon will remain CEO. The move was welcomed by the New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, trustee of the $140bn New York State Common Retirement Fund, according to a Bloomberg report. Separately, Reuters is reporting that McClendon ran a $200m energy trading operation alongside his CEO role.

Swiss banking giant UBS could be facing shareholder revolt over pay and discharging its directors at its annual general meeting tomorrow (May 3). The Financial Times reported that advisors and institutions ISS, Ethos, F&C and Hermes Equity Ownership Services are upset about a lack of disclosure about pay metrics.

The AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, is calling for shareholders of food and beverages firm Dean Foods to vote against ratifying executive compensation at the company’s annual meeting on May 16. Chairman and CEO Greg Engles “is living high on the hog but shareholders have been left with scraps,” said AFSCME President Gerald McEntee. The body’s 1.6m members participate in public pension funds with combined assets worth over $1.7trn.

Institutional Shareholder Services’ parent firm MSCI has been awarded a D grade for executive pay by rival firm Manifest, according to a Reuters report. It follows earlier criticism from a corporate pay specialist, Reuters added. MSCI holds its shareholder meeting today (May 2).