RI ESG Briefing, Oct. 14: Trillium seeks support for renewable energy proposal at Oracle

The round-up of the latest ESG developments


Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg has called on global leaders to immediately set a carbon price and phase out fossil fuel subsidies, according to reports. She was speaking at a conference in London hosted by the Norwegian British Chamber of Commerce. Solberg said her country’s now 26-year-old carbon tax had been key in helping to drive the development of green technology.

UK infrastructure investment firm John Laing has offered between €45m and €50m for what would be its first German wind park. In a statement, John Laing said the final purchase price for the Klettwitz facility, located in Brandenburg, still had to be negotiated. The seller is Ventotec, a local firm that developed the wind park. Having been repowered, Klettwitz has a capacity of 89MW and will benefit from public subsidies for up to 20 years. “Investing in wind turbine repowering is an area where we believe there are likely to be further opportunities to capitalise on,” said John Laing CEO Olivier Brousse.

More than 40 leading businesses will be the first to see the new draft of the Natural Capital Protocol, being developed by the Natural Capital Coalition. The testing programme will be led by the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), a member of the Coalition. Ten businesses will be testing the Protocol in depth, including The Coca-Cola Company, The Dow Chemical Company (Dow), F. Hoffmann-La Roche, Hugo Boss, Kering, Natura, Nespresso, Nestlé, Olam International and Shell. This first-of-its-kind programme is designed for businesses to live-test, refine and influence the final Protocol to ensure it is robust, practical and relevant to the entire private sector. Link

Canada’s banks are particularly vulnerable to climate-change related risks because their financing activities span all sectors of the economy, according to a new research report prepared by SHARE (the Shareholder Association for Research & Education) called Banking on 2°: The Hidden Risks of Climate Change for Canadian Bank was written by Director of Responsible Investment, Shannon Rohan. The report finds the banks are not “adequately considering the potential impacts of climate change in the way that they do business”.


German development bank giant KfW is providing €1bn in interest-free loans to cities and municipalities to help them finance the construction of new buildings for the refugees that are flowing into the country. KfW is raising the capital for the loans through the conventional bonds it issues instead of dedicating a specific bond for that purpose. In a statement, the KfW said that while it had originally intended on providing just €300m in the loans, that amount was used up within days of being provided. The programme has therefore been increased to €1bn. In exchange for getting the interest-free loans, which have a maturity of between 10 and 30 years, the cities and municipalities must use the money solely for the new building construction. KfW Statement

The Calvert Foundation says response to its Vested.org online social investment platform, launched in 2014, has been strong. “While the $150,000 invested through year-end 2014 on Vested represents only 1% of new investment in the Community Investment Note, 22% of new investors in 2014 came through Vested.org,” it said. “Those investors, totaling 170, invested $500 on average, and had a median age of 45.” The foundation launched its Community Investment Note in 1995, which earns a financial return while economically empowering communities worldwide.h6. Governance

Trillium Asset Management, the US SRI specialist, has written to fellow shareholders in IT giant Oracle seeking support for a shareholder proposal on renewable energy. Trillium and Green Century Equity Fund want Oracle to set quantitative targets by March 2016 to increase renewable energy sourcing and/or production. Oracle is facing a total of six shareholder resolutions, the others concern proxy access, quantifiable performance metrics, governance guidelines, vote tabulation and lobbying.

The Canadian Coalition for Good Governance, the shareholder coalition, has released its Board Gender Diversity Policy. The policy summarizes in one document the views on board gender diversity that CCGG has expressed in various past submissions to regulators and sets out CCGG’s current position on this issue. The coalition is also calling on companies and dissidents to voluntarily adopt the use of universal proxies in contested director elections pending sought-after corporate and securities laws reforms that would mandate their use.

The European Investment Bank (EIB) could demand that Volkswagen (VW) pay back billions of loans if the money was used to build diesel engines implicated in the rigging scandal. Speaking to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, EIB President Werner Hoyer said VW had obtained €4.6bn in low-cost loans for, among other things, the purpose of developing engines with low emissions. But should the EIB discover VW used some of the money to develop diesel engines whose emissions could be rigged, “we will consider demanding the money back.” VW is recalling 11m diesel engines which it suspects are equipped with the software that enabled their emissions to be manipulated.

Jeff Bezos, Founder of Amazon, has plummeted in a ranking of corporate leaders due to his company’s poor performance on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, the Financial Times reports. Citing a ranking by the Harvard Business Review (HBR), the FT said Bezos no longer held the top spot but was in 87th place. In evaluating corporate leaders this year, the HBR did not just take financial performance into account but also ESG scores provided by Sustainalytics. The ESG research firm’s CEO Michael Jantzi was quoted as saying that patent infringement lawsuits, concerns about tax avoidance and worker treatment had played into the decision to mark Amazon down.

Proxy solicitation firm Georgeson has released its 2015 Proxy Season Review, covering public companies in the UK, France, the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland. The report covers quorum levels, rejected and contested resolutions, proxy advisor recommendations and corporate governance developments across the five markets.

Ansell, the Australian manufacturing group, was hit with an unusual level of opposition (over 30%) to its remuneration report and a CEO performance shares award, according to Sustainalytics’ ‘Governance in Brief’ publication. There was an even rarer vote rejecting a CEO option award altogether (nearly 65% votes cast against), it noted – adding that the biggest source of shareholder discontent was a shift in pay opportunity from long- to short-term incentives and a falling share price.

Listed companies in the US are being more transparent about their political expenditure, according to a new report from the Center for Political Accountability group. “There’s been a steady growth of companies recognizing that disclosure and accountability are good practices and are important for risk management,” said the study’s author Bruce Freed, president of the Center for Political Accountability.