RI ESG Briefing, November 13: South African pension giant buys into green bonds

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news


The Public Investment Corporation, which manages South Africa’s R1trn (€89bn) Government Employees’ Pension Fund, Africa’s largest pension fund, has bought R1bn of green bonds from development institution the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) as part of a ZAR5.2bn issue. The IDC already committed R7.5bn to renewable energy projects, and has earmarked a further R17.5bn over the next five years.

The NOK3.7trn (€504bn) Norwegian Government Pension Fund is asking investee companies to minimise their impact on rainforests, according to reports citing a little noticed change to its guidelines that was made in September. The latest guidance says the fund “expects companies to manage risk associated with the causes and impacts of climate change resulting from greenhouse gas emissions and tropical deforestation.”

The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) for Business Coalition headquarters has been launched in Singapore. The coalition aims to shift corporate behaviour to preserve and enhance the Earth’s natural capital. The founding members of the coalition include: the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW); Prince Charles’ Accounting for Sustainability Project; the International Union for Conservation of Nature; WWF-UK; the Economic Development Board of Singapore; the Global Reporting Initiative and Conservation International. Link


A group of European ESG research firms has improved upon a set of voluntary standards to benchmark how the sustainability of listed companies is assessed. ARISTA builds on the previous VQS that were introduced in 2009. A key improvement is the ability for users to get more detail on how the firms make their assessments, alongside an independent certification component. The firms are represented by the Association for Independent Corporate Sustainability and Responsibility Research (AI CSRR) in Brussels. Current association members are: Ecovalores of Mexico; Greeneye of Israel; KO-CSR of South Korea; Caer of Australia; Ecodes of Spain; EIRIS of the UK; Forum Ethibel and Vigeo of Belgium; EthiFinance of France; Inrate of Switzerland: Sweden’s GES; and Germany’s Imug and Oekom.

AfricaSIF has opened the survey for its first ever Marketplace Trends Report 2012 into investment in Africa. The survey is aimed at all investors with activities in Africa and takes 20 minutes to do. Link to the survey. Governance

The Ira M. Millstein Center for Global Markets and Corporate Ownership has been officially launched at the Columbia Law School. It will look at corporate governance as it affects basic problems facing investors and corporations in today’s “new normal”. It aims to build upon, but not retread, the types of issues involved in its predecessors – The Millstein Center for Corporate Governance and Performance at Yale (2006-2012) and the Institutional Investor Project at Columbia University (1986-1994). Executive Director is Milica Boskovic Brogan, who had the same role at the Millstein Center at Yale. The center is also seeking a new Research Director.

A new report has claimed British companies risk reputational damage amid plans for a massive expansion of Colombia’s mining industry. Catholic aid charity CAFOD partners ABColombia said it “could cost the country dear in terms of human rights violations, environmental damage and lost tax revenues”. The report is called Giving It Away: The Consequences of an Unsustainable Mining Policy in Colombia and says safeguards are urgently needed as the country moves to triple the size of its mining industry in the next decade.

The United Nations Global Compact, the 7,000-signatory body, has teamed up with analysis firm Oxford Analytica. The latter will act as a key information supplier for the UN Global Compact, providing analysis and thought leadership on the linkages between global economic, social and political trends and their impact on business.

NEI Investments, the Canadian mutual fund firm, has published its Corporate Engagement Focus List for 2013. It details NEI’s plans for “intensive dialogue” with around 50 companies to improve sustainability practices and address environmental, social and corporate governance risks.

Responsible investment and sustainability of the financial system are set to be important themes at this year’s IPE annual Awards in Copenhagen on November 29. It will feature Ruud Lubbers, the longest serving Dutch prime minister and a former UN High Commissioner of Refugees. Lubbers is an expert in the field – a former Harvard professor, he is considered a globalisation expert. The importance of sustainability and the role pension funds can play in promoting it is further demonstrated by a keynote speech by EU commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard.