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RI ESG Briefing, Oct. 18: Responsible investing European corporate bond fund launched

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news

Environmental

UK-based fund manager Standard Life Investments has launched a new European Corporate Bond Sustainable and Responsible Investing Fund (SICAV) in Europe. The new fund incorporates SLI’s “expertise in integrating environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors” into investments. Companies that fail to comply with the UN Global Compact are excluded from the fund, along with firms involved in cluster bombs and nuclear weapons. Companies with poor performance and disclosure on sustainability will also be avoided. It will be run by Samantha Lamb and Craig MacDonald.

Climate and development firm ClimateCare has teamed up with conservation charity the Woodland Trust. Under the partnership, businesses will be able to offset their carbon emissions by purchasing a new offset product which combines offsetting through internationally certified Verified Emissions Reductions (VERs) with a contribution to the Woodland Trust, which will be used to fund UK woodland creation. Link

Consulting firm KPMG says the majority of the world’s largest companies lack a long-term water strategy. Its new Sustainable Insight – Business Responses to Water Scarcity says that while most companies are at least discussing the issue in their reports, far fewer are presenting a “robust response”. KPMG looks at ways to help executives develop and communicate strategic responses to the global water scarcity challenge.

Social

New York university the New School’s Advisory Committee on Investor Responsibility has written to the Securities and Exchange Commission calling for disclosure of political spending by public corporations. The letter is believed to be the first from a university body in support of Petition 4-637, which urges the SEC to use its rule-making authority to mandate disclosure of corporate campaign financing. Link to letter. Governance

The International Integrated Reporting Council, which promotes holistic corporate reporting of sustainability, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) “to promote cooperation, coordination, and alignment”. They said: “Through this MoU, IFAC and the IIRC recognize the opportunities that exist to work more closely together to promote, support, and contribute to the realization of mutual interests.”

Fund managers AEGON Asset Management has selected MSCI ESG Research to provide environmental, social, and governance (ESG) research, ratings, and screening tools. “ESG integration is an important component of our broader approach to responsible investment, helping us to meet our commitment to our clients and other stakeholders to be a responsible asset management company,” said Sarah Russell, CEO of AEGON AM. The AEGON group as a whole has a total of $549.8bn under management.

The chairmen of FTSE 350 companies in the UK are failing to take responsibility for corporate governance in their annual reports according to research from advisory firm Grant Thornton. It found that a quarter of the largest firms’ annual reports do not contain a chairman’s comment on governance, according to the Financial Times.

Women now hold 15.6% of the boardroom seats of America’s largest public companies, a one percentage point gain over last year, according to the latest 2020 Women on Boards Gender Diversity Index of Fortune 1000 Companies. Smaller companies showed the largest gain this year, 13.6% in 2012 compared with 12.4% in 2011 when the 2020 Index was introduced. Link

UK bank Lloyds Banking Group has avoided a putative investor class action from a private investor relating to its ill-fated 2008 purchase of Halifax Bank. New York federal judge Kevin Castel has ruled the plaintiffs had not proved any fraud by the bank, according to Law360.