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RI ESG Briefing, May 28: UNCTAD issues guidance on sustainability reporting

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news

Environmental

Trillium Asset Management has withdrawn a shareholder proposal at Lowe’s after the US retail chain committed to setting quantitative targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions. “We commend Lowe’s for engaging in a productive dialogue and for providing more transparency as they move towards greater energy efficiency,” said Brianna Murphy, vice president at the US sustainability specialist.

A shareholder proposal from advocacy group As You Sow at Mondelez calling for it to phase out unrecyclable packaging received 28.4% support at the snack food giant’s annual meeting. The proposal was the first of its kind to go to a vote, As You Sow, which is campaigning on waste packaging, said. It has filed similar proposals at Kraft Foods, General Mills, and Procter & Gamble, and a separate proposal asking Kroger and Safeway to develop post-consumer packaging recycling policies.

Deutsche Bank has sold its shares in Indonesian palm oil supplier Bumitama, according to Friends of the Earth, following pressure from the campaign group and other stakeholders in Germany. According to FoE, Deutsche announced the move at its annual general meeting (AGM) last week, after a campaign which collected 87,900 signatures relating to Bumitama’s environmental impact. Speaking to RI, a Deutsche spokesman downplayed FoE’s role, saying that one of the bank’s Asian funds had reduced its exposure to Bumitama “to almost zero” prior to the AGM.

Social

Danish pension schemes PensionDanmark, PKA and Sampension have teamed up with a local construction company and a facility manager to invest up to DKK5bn (€660m) in public-private-partnership (PPP) projects for social infrastructure. The first of these projects, a major psychiatric hospital in Jutland, is now being realised, and the consortium’s investment in it totals DKK430m. “The investment (in the hospital) will deliver good and stable returns for our members over a long period while ensuring that patients and employees get a high-quality environment,” said Torben Möger Pedersen, chief executive of PensionDanmark. Announcement (Danish)

Comic Relief, the UK charity, has reportedly committed not to make investments in arms, alcohol and tobacco companies as part of a new investment policy. It had been criticised in a BBC programme in 2013 for investing in such companies. Civil Society reported that Comic Relief has also committed to becoming a signatory to the Principles for Responsible Investment and allot some of its £138m portfolio to social investment.h6. Governance

The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has published guidance for both policymakers and exchanges on sustainability reporting. The 51-page guide was prepared by Anthony Miller, Economic Affairs Officer of its Accounting and Corporate Governance Section with collaboration from Simon MacMahon and Kathryn Morrison of firm Sustainalytics. UNCTAD expressed “special appreciation” for Aviva Investors’ Steve Waygood, Chair of the Consultative Group.

Investors including the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), PGGM and Norges Bank Investment Management were among those behind a record 30% support for As You Sow’s resolution on stranded assets at Anadarko Petroleum earlier this month. PGGM said it backed the motion as it “could provide more information on the company’s policies and strategies for managing climate change’s financial and operational risks to the company”.
Swiss pension fund association ASIP believes its members do not have to vote their shares when these shares are held in an equity fund that other investors are a part of, according to a report in the Swiss daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) citing an internal ASIP memo. The so-called Minder initiative requires pension funds to vote their shares and inform their insured as to how they voted. But regarding shares the schemes hold indirectly – i.e. in funds – the Minder requirement is unclear. The NZZ said that the government is expected to clarify the rule before it goes into force in January 2015. Link (German)

German ESG (environmental, social and governance) research firm Oekom has formed a partnership with Sustainable Investment Partners (SI Partners), the new consulting firm headed up by former MSCI ESG marketing executive Martina Macpherson, to help it expand its business in the UK market. It’s SI Partners’ second partnership this month, following a similar deal with the Center for Social and Sustainable Products, a Liechtenstein-based consultancy.

Ratings agencies Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s have reportedly failed in an attempt to overturn a legal ruling that they must face a lawsuit from CalPERS over investment ratings that led to some $800m in losses. Bloomberg reported that a San Francisco appeals court upheld a 2012 decision that rejected the firms’ bid to dismiss the case.