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RI ESG Briefing, Oct. 23: IFC in Bangladesh garment industry safety initiative

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news

Environmental

The European Investment Bank is currently appraising a €250m investment in a 200MW concentrated solar power (CSP) plant that’s the next phase of the giant Ouarzazate solar power complex in Morocco. The project’s main objective is to help develop a globally-available, non-carbon power generation technology that ultimately may not require fossil fuel back-up capacity and reduce the costs of CSP for world benefit. The EIB says that by “creating a new green industry and increasing the penetration of renewable energy in the country’s energy mix” the facility will contribute a more secure energy supply, energy diversification, CO2 emission reductions, increased employment and protection of the local environment.

Terra Firma, the private equity group headed by Guy Hands, has launched a £1bn initial public offering of UK renewables firm Infinis, according to the Financial Times. Infinis owns 147 power plants across the UK, including gas generators, an onshore wind business and a hydro operation. It comes as Hands is planning a €3bn green energy infrastructure fund, the FT added.

Climate KIC Switzerland and South Pole Climate Neutral Investments have launched an SME voucher for five small asset owners with up to €1bn total assets to receive a free analysis of the climate impact of their investments. The deadline for applications is October 30, 2013. Link

Social

The World Bank’s IFC and the International Labour Organization (ILO) have teamed up with the Bangladesh government to help working conditions for garment industry workers in the country. Better Work Bangladesh will provide factory-level services, including assessments of compliance with national labor laws and international standards, and advisory and training services. The initiative follows the Rana Plaza building collapse in April and other disasters in the industry.

The former chief executive of the UK’s mutually owned Co-operative Group has questioned whether its troubled banking arm can be run on an ethical basis by the hedge funds who are set to take control, according to reports. Peter Marks told a Parliamentary committee that hedge funds exist solely to maximise profit. “I think to be truly ethical, you can’t do that,” he was quoted saying by Reuters.h6. Governance

US governance research firm GMI Ratings has released its 2013 CEO Pay Survey. It’s based on an analysis of 2,259 North American listed firms and includes over 2,250 CEOs whose tenure spanned the past two consecutive years. For the first time, two CEOs earned more than $1bn: Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Kinder Morgan’s Richard Kinder. Also for the first time, all ten CEOs in the top 10 earned at least $100m.

Two out of three minority shareholders backed a resolution seeking an independent chair at media group 21st Century Fox’s annual meeting last week. The resolution was co-filed by Christian Brothers Investment Services and British Columbia Investment Management Corporation, and supported by the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum. Julie Tanner, Assistant Director of Socially Responsible Investing at CBIS, said: “The level of family control – Mr. Murdoch owns 40% of voting shares – and the dual class share structure was engineered to keep power in the hands of Mr. Murdoch.” Lachlan Murdoch also received a vote against his re-election from the majority of non-Murdoch shareholders.

Improved corporate governance standards will be a factor in the Nigerian Stock Exchange’s efforts to encourage companies to list, according to a Bloomberg report citing Arunma Oteh, director-general of Nigeria’s Securities and Exchange Commission. The exchange is targeting 500 companies for initial public offerings over the next five years, the report said, adding the exchange wants to reach a $1trn market capitalization by 2016.

SHARE, Canada’s Shareholder Association for Research and Education, is engaging with companies in the telecommunications, electronics, auto parts and aerospace industries ahead of the introduction of a Canadian “conflict minerals” bill akin to similar rules from the US Securities and Exchange Commission. “Telecommunications and electronics companies, for example, are facing tough questions about the ethical implications of the products they offer,” said Kevin Thomas, SHARE’s Senior Analyst on social issues.

Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) is inviting feedback from “all financial market participants” on a series of proposed updates to its benchmark proxy voting guidelines. Comment is being sought on board, compensation and equity-based capital across various jurisdictions. The comment period will close on November 4. Link