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RI ESG Briefing, May 22: Al Gore slams Shell’s “contemptuous” letter on stranded assets

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news

Environmental

Al Gore, the former US Vice President and co-founder of sustainable investment firm Generation Investment Management, has branded Royal Dutch Shell’s letter to shareholders, in which it rejected investors’ concerns about ‘stranded assets’, as “contemptuous of reality”. In a tweet, Gore also said Shell made “ludicrous claims” about carbon capture and storage (CCS).

A church in Brighton in southern England has become what’s believed to be the first UK church to divest from fossil fuels. Trustees at the Brighthelm Church and Community Centre, a United Reformed Church in the town, have reportedly decided to sell their investments in companies whose core business is fossil fuel.

TIAACREF, the $570bn US investment giant, has agreed to buy a 50% stake in EDF Renewable Energy’s 143MW Catalina solar project in the Mojave Desert in California for an undisclosed sum. “These investments are a good fit for our long-term investment approach and meet a growing need for environmentally friendly energy sources,” said TIAACREF’s director of energy and infrastructure investments Mario Maselli.

Social

ChemSec, the non-profit environmental organisation focused on the chemicals industry, has updated its SIN Producers List for Investors – which includes companies that produce or import ‘SIN List’ chemicals in the EU market. Besides environmental and health impacts, the production of hazardous chemicals also entails financial risks, ChemSec says. It found that BASF still produces most SIN List substances in Europe, followed by Lanxess, Umicore and Evonik.

Faith investors, reckoned to be the third largest group to invest on the world’s stock markets, can combine financial returns with religion. That’s according to a new report called ‘From Stewardship to Power: Religious Organisations and their Investment Potentials’. It has been put together by the International Interfaith Investment Group 3iG, the ESADE Institute for Social Innovation and Audencia Nantes School of Management. Link. Governance

Lloyds Banking Group is reportedly joining a class-action lawsuit against Royal Bank of Scotland, seeking £420m (€519m) over the state-backed bank’s historic £12bn share sale at the height of the financial crisis. The Herald Scotland reported Lloyds is suing RBS through nine of its pensions and investment management subsidiaries. Link

FAIR Canada, the Foundation for the Advancement of Investor Rights, has called for: mandatory voting by ballot and disclosure of results by public companies; individual election of directors; annual elections for directors; and director election by majority vote. “In our view, such changes would improve Canada’s corporate governance framework,” the group said in comments supporting amendments to the Canada Business Corporations Act.

The California State Teachers’ Retirement System has made a $200m seed investment in activist firm Legion Partners, according to a Bloomberg report citing CalSTRS’ investment officer Philip Larrieu. The fund has around $4.6bn with activist managers such as Trian Fund Management and Relational Investors, the report added.

Banking group Standard Chartered is reportedly under pressure following an investor revolt over pay. The Guardian reported that a “botched communication” with shareholders over a new bonus for CEO Peter Sands resulted in a 41% vote against pay policy at its annual general meeting.

CtW Investment Group, the US union-linked investment advisor, has written to fellow shareholders in Wal-Mart asking them to vote against pay at the retail giant’s annual meeting on June 6. CtW says that contrary to the company’s assertions, “executives continue to receive outsized compensation while performance declines”. CtW is also calling for opposition to director Linda Wolf.

Separately, it’s been reported that the City of Portland, Oregon, is divesting from Wal-Mart. According to a statement, the last of the City’s Wal-Mart bonds will mature in April 2016, at which point the City will have eliminated a total of $36m invested in the company as of October 2013.