RI ESG Briefing, November 3: New York Common, NZ exchange, Greenpeace, Schroders, Proxy Insight

The latest ESG developments


Environmental campaign group Greenpeace has reportedly been barred from a bid for Swedish energy firm Vattenfall’s German coal operations. “Greenpeace has been excluded from bidding process for Vattenfall’s eastern German lignite (brown coal) division,” the group said in a statement. Citigroup, which had been in charge of the sale, had informed Greenpeace of its decision on Friday. The NGO had hoped to transfer the operations into a charitable foundation to phase them out by 2030.
Danish energy giant DONG says it’s going ahead with construction of the Walney offshore wind farm in the UK, which, with a capacity of 660MW, will be the largest facility of its kind. In a statement, DONG said that once completed in 2018, Walney would generate enough power to supply 460,000 households in the UK with renewable power. The wind park is located 19 km off the west coast of Britain in the Irish Sea and will benefit from public subsidies for its first 15 years of existence. One of its key investors is PGGM, the €186.6bn Dutch pension investor.

Clean energy ‘yieldco’ TerraForm Global and sponsor firm SunEdison are reportedly facing shareholder suits claiming they misled investors over a $675m initial public offering. Law360 reported that a private investor called Juan M. Rodriguez Beltran has filed a case in California federal court on Thursday, just after a similar case was lodged in state court by investor Simon Fraser. The report added that representatives of TerraForm, SunEdison and underwriters Deutsche Bank Securities, Citigroup Global Markets and JP Morgan Securities declined to comment.


The Norwegian government has reportedly
said it will need to dip into the giant Government Pension Fund to help it pay for the rising costs linked to the record influx of asylum seekers. The right-of-centre government including the anti-immigration Progress Party has proposed withdrawing NOK1.2bn from the fund.

A group of investors has released a new white paper, called Investing for Positive Impact on Women: Integrating Gender into Total Portfolio Activation. The paper was prepared by Croatan Institute with the guidance and close collaboration of Global Fund for Women, Root Capital, Thirty Percent Coalition, and Trillium Asset Management. Using the ‘Total Portfolio Activation’ framework, the new paper provides a guide for mission-driven investors as they consider how to put their investments to work in support of their own long-term goals to benefit women and girls.

Faith investors with shares in tobacco companies Altria and Reynolds American have reportedly called on them to test their products – including electronic cigarettes – for toxic chemicals and take other measures to protect consumer safety. “They don’t want the public to know about the chemicals and pharmacological consequences of using (e-cigarettes),” Michael Crosby, spokesman for one of the members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) was quoted as saying by the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. It added Reynolds American declined to comment and that Altria had received a shareholder resolution from the ICCR and that it was currently reviewing it.h6. Governance

The $184.5bn (€168bn) New York State Common Retirement Fund has sued IT giant Oracle Corp to force it to disclose how it spends its political donations, according to a Reuters report citing a court filing. The fund successfully brought a similar suit three years ago against wireless chip company Qualcomm, the report added. Reuters said New York Common, which has $380m of Oracle shares, filed the lawsuit in the Court of Chancery in Delaware, where Oracle is incorporated.

The New Zealand Stock Exchange (NZX) has announced a review of its reporting requirements for listed companies. In a statement, NZX said the review was necessary as they were last updated in 2003. Companies on the NZX are required to report on their implementation of a best practice code. The exchange is allowing three months for industry comments on its review. Last July, the NZ$29.6bn (€18.1bn) New Zealand Superannuation Fund and 15 institutional investors formed a new “Corporate Governance Forum” to promote the theme among listed companies in the local market.

Is sugar turning Big Food into the next Big Tobacco? That’s a question being posed by Schroders, the UK fund management firm. It has assessed the emerging trends that may create headwinds for the food and beverage sector. “We believe that sugar consumption and its contribution to a wide range of health problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity (which collectively are known as metabolic syndrome), are central to this risk,” says ESG analyst Elly Irving. Schroders’ research has found a number of similarities between major food and beverage companies (“Big Food”) and major tobacco companies (“Big Tobacco”), and says: “We believe there are three catalysts that could result in Big Food becoming the next Big Tobacco.”

Large asset management firms nearly almost always vote with investee companies’ management at annual general meetings, according to research from shareholder voting information firm Proxy Insight quoted by the Financial Times. The FT said “just a handful” of the 40 institutional investors examined voted for management proposals less than 80% of the time, including Aviva Investors, PGGM Investments and BMO Global Asset Management. CalSTRS was “the most contrarian” backing management resolutions just 57% of the time.

A newly updated guide on indigenous peoples and mining has been published by extractives industry group the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM). The Indigenous Peoples and mining good practice guide outlines the principles for good engagement in order to foster respect for the rights, interests, aspirations, cultures and livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples. It’s intended to provide companies with “practical tools” to support positive and lasting relationships with indigenous communities, the ICMM says.

Australian construction and maintenance firm Transfield is to start trading under a new name (Broadspectrum). Shareholders approved the change at its AGM on October 28 and the move came after the company’s founding family withdrew its rights to use the former name earlier in 2015, over concerns about Transfield’s role in migrant detention centres.