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RI ESG Briefing, Oct. 17: UK’s Prince Charles in sustainability plea to pension funds

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news

Environmental

The Church Investors Group (CIG), which oversees £12bn (€14.1bn) in the UK, says it is “pleased to report positive progress” on its ‘Aiming for A’ initiative to get companies to disclose and manage their carbon emissions. The Carbon Disclosure Project’s FTSE350 Climate Change Report revealed that 72% of the 53 companies contacted by the CIG because they were considered to be laggards, have improved their CDP score.

Cleantech Group, the market intelligence provider, has released the fifth annual Global Cleantech 100 list and report. It recognizes the most promising and innovative companies most likely to make a “significant market impact” over the next five to 10 years across 15 industry categories. The group said, “cleantech is no longer for a select group of early adopters—it is quickly becoming part of the mainstream energy provision”.

Social

The Thun Group of Banks, an informal group of bank representatives that have been discussing the Guiding Principles for the implementation of the United Nations ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ Framework has contributed to a discussion paper on human rights as they apply to banks, assisted by University of Zurich Competence Centre for Human Rights. The paper offers “pragmatic suggestions” on how to address human rights issues in banks’ core business activities – both with a view to mitigate negative risks and impacts, and to promote good practices. The group said: “We hope to generate constructive dialogue among banks and other stakeholders interested in taking the issues forward.”

South Africa: the Government Employee’s Pension Fund’s Principal Executive Officer John Oliphant has been named as the ‘Up and Coming Future Leader of the Year’ at the Africa investor (Ai) Investment and Business Leader Awards 2013 earlier this month. In addition, the fund was awarded Institutional Investor of the Year. Oliphant said: “As Africa’s largest pension fund, GEPF has a responsibility to ensure its investments serve the long-term interests of all our stakeholders and make significant and sustainable contributions to the infrastructure and development of Africa.”h6. Governance

Institutional investors have a need, and arguably a duty, to ensure emerging environmental, social and economic risks are identified and managed, according to a speech from the UK’s Prince Charles to the National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF). “With an ageing population, and pension fund liabilities that are therefore stretching out for many decades, surely the current focus on ‘quarterly capitalism’ is becoming increasingly unfit for purpose?” he told delegates. He cited “mounting evidence”, from the likes of Harvard and London Business Schools, that companies that are strong on ESG issues deliver long-term returns. He asked: “Is there not a case for ensuring your portfolios are resilient in the long-term? Could you do so by incorporating sustainability into your mainstream strategy, rather than having it sit in a subordinate silo?”

Separately, Prince Charles’ Prince of Wales’s Accounting for Sustainability Project (A4S) has teamed up with the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership (CPSL) and in association with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) to put together a seminar to prepare global Chief Financial Officers for sustainability challenges and opportunities. The inaugural seminar will be held from December 11-12 in London, UK.

Governance research firm Institutional Shareholder Services has been commissioned by the IRRC [Investor Responsibility Research Center] Institute to conduct a follow-up study to its 2011 research on engagement between investors and public corporations in the US. An important component of the study is an online survey, which is open to asset managers, asset owners and corporate issuers, to examine how the volume and the success of engagements have changed over recent years and how they are likely to change in the future. In addition to the online survey, ISS will conduct in-depth follow up interviews with a representative sample of respondents to gather more detailed and qualitative insights. The results of the study will be published in early 2014 – ahead of the annual meeting season.

It’s been reported that witnesses have said US lawyer Steven Donziger used fraud to help plaintiffs win an $18bn Ecuador pollution victory against oil giant Chevron. Reuters, reporting from the high-profile trial in New York, said the witnesses were testifying in federal court on behalf of the company, which is seeking to prevent him from profiting from the 2011 judgment.