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RI ESG Briefing, Nov. 19: Banks’ ‘Paris Pledge’, Towers Watson, Global Canopy Programme, Triodos

The round-up of the latest ESG news

Environmental

The UK’s Co-operative Bank and Netherlands-based Triodos Bank have become the latest banks to confirm they will continue to steer clear of providing finance for coal mining and coal power, by signing BankTrack’s Paris Pledge. First signed by six banks in early September, the new commitment brings the total number of Paris Pledge signatories to 18, from ten countries around the world. The 18 signatories to date collectively have over €85bn in assets under management.

Trina Solar, the Chinese photovoltaic modules, solutions and services company has signed a US$90m credit facility for its overseas subsidiaries in the US and Singapore with Wells Fargo and Barclays. The US$30m credit with Barclays will fund growth in the Asia Pacific Region. Trina Solar’s CIO, Ms. Teresa Tan, said the credit reflected bank confidence in the company, founded in 1997.

The Global Canopy Programme’s ‘Forest 500’, the world’s first rainforest ratings agency has launched its 2015 results – revealing that approximately $135 billion of export trade in forest risk / soft commodities (palm oil, soya, beef, leather, paper, and timber) continues to destroy forests. The results also show that the majority of companies and investors are yet to recognise their role in the deforestation economy with only 8% of all the 250 powerbroker companies assessed have zero or zero net commitments in place that apply across forest risk commodities.

Social

RepRisk, the Zurich-based ESG business intelligence firm, has announced that its ESG Risk Platform now covers over 60,000 public and private companies across every sector and country in the world. The platform, launched in 2006, now includes risk profiles for over 60,000 public and private companies along with over 15,000 projects. It also provides sector risk profiles, country risk profiles, as well as data on NGOs, governmental bodies, and ESG issues and topics.

Triodos’ Thera Trust charity bond closes on November 27; it has already raised over £1.35m of the £2m target. Thera is a UK charity which provides support 1,800 people with a learning disability across England and Scotland. This includes supported living at home, working with people to help them be part of the local community and finding homes to suit an individual’s specific needs.h6. Governance

Consulting firm Towers Watson has postponed a shareholder meeting on its proposed $8.7bn merger with insurance broker Willis Group Holdings amid opposition to the plan. The meeting will now take place on Friday November 20 in Miami Beach, the firm said in a statement. Proxy firms Institutional Shareholder Services and Glass Lewis had advised shareholders to vote against the transaction. “Proxies previously submitted will be voted at the reconvened meeting unless properly revoked,” Towers Watson said. Link

Exxon is a “perfect case” for examining how building sustainability into board governance can help prevent and manage risk, according to Mindy Lubber, president of US nonprofit sustainability organization Ceres. Writing in the Huffington Post, she said the oil giant, faced with reports it misled the public about climate change research, said the company “is facing a moment of truth with potentially huge financial ripples”.

UK campaign group ShareAction has welcomed the Financial Conduct Authority’s plans to study the asset management sector to see if it brings ‘value for money’. “For too long the incentives within the asset management sector have rewarded short-termism, at the expense of meeting savers’ needs for long-term returns,” said ShareAction CEO Catherine Howarth. “We urge the FCA to identify and tackle the reasons for this.”

AccountAbility, the research, consulting and standards organisation, has released the final version of the AA1000 Stakeholder Engagement Standard (AA1000SES) 2015. Part of the AA1000 Series of Standards, it provides practical guidance on how to assess, design, implement and communicate effective stakeholder engagement. The measure is appropriate for both internal and external engagement, for public, private and civil society organisations of all sizes. It can be used for project-based activities as well as for ongoing long-term engagement purposes.

Baillie Gifford is engaging with Spanish clothing giant Inditex, in a move following the Bangladesh garment factory collapse. “As part of a much broader sector review, our Corporate Governance team has been engaging with Inditex management on the company’s supply chain policies,” the UK-based asset manager says in a report to clients. The firm has visited Bangladesh and Burma to “see first hand the inner workings” of garment factories and the challenges that exist for the clothing brands. “Our initial broad discussions with Inditex management indicated that their disclosures with regards to their supply chain policies and management could be more specific and detailed,” it said, adding that the company provides a lot of information and that the difficulty was reconciling the detail and extracting a clear picture.