RI ESG Briefing, Oct. 10: Norges Bank takes 5% of solar tech firm

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news


Norges Bank Investment Management, the manager of the NOK3.75trn (€507bn) Government Pension Fund, has disclosed a holding of 6.2m shares, or 5.23%, in Nasdaq-listed advanced materials group GT Advanced Technologies. New Hampshire-based GT – formerly GT Solar International – provides polysilicon production technology, and sapphire and silicon crystalline growth systems and materials for the solar, LED and other markets. It says its products “support the growth of the solar and LED industries and accelerate the adoption of renewable energy for a more sustainable world”.

Anbaric Transmission, a US firm specialising in energy transmission, wants to invest €3.1bn to help connect German offshore wind parks to the mainland, business magazine WirtschaftsWoche reported, citing sources in the Dutch economics ministry. Dutch grid operator TenneT is currently trying to link the German wind parks – a task that has produced delays and could prompt lawsuits from wind park operators such as energy giant RWE. Anbaric has reportedly formed a subsidiary – German Offshore Transmission Investment Corporation (GOTIC) – to provide financing.


Dutch pension fund provider PGGM says it has developed – and will apply – a responsible investment policy specifically for private equity. “In so doing, PGGM became the first global institutional investor with such a public policy published on its website,” the €125bn fund says. It intends to apply ESG factors (Environment, Social, Governance) to all its investment processes. It said: “Private equity is precisely the sort of investment category which offers investors a pre-eminent opportunity to stimulate sustainability.”

Index group FTSE has released research into supply chain management risks. It looked at data from the 456 companies in the FTSE Developed Index which have been identified as high or medium risk. It found that over a third of companies evaluated show no evidence of any action to minimise the risks inherent in their supply chain labour arrangements. This was “particularly true” of companies domiciled in Asia and those making electrical components and equipment.

EIM, the fund-of-funds group headed by financier and philanthropist Arpad Busson, has become a signatory to the UN-backed Principles for Responsible Investment via its EIM Luxembourg SA arm. EIM was founded in 1991 and provides hedge fund solutions, UCITS, long-only and advisory services.h6. Governance

The Toronto Stock Exchange has issued a sweeping new set of governance requirements for listed companies. Firms will have to elect directors annually and individually, disclose the votes received for each director and whether they have a majority voting policy for uncontested director elections. The amended rules will become effective on December 31. “Toronto Stock Exchange is committed to further enhancing domestic and global confidence in Canada’s capital markets,” said Kevan Cowan, President, TSX Markets. “These changes bring additional transparency to the board selection process and help to strengthen our markets’ reputation while aligning our practices to other major international jurisdictions.” Announcement

Ethos, the advisory firm owned by Swiss pension funds, is to hold two roundtables on the topic of excessive executive remuneration. The first takes place in Zurich (in German) on November 1; the second (in French) will take place in Geneva on December 5. Link

Shareholder advocacy group Deminor has been instrumental in a settlement between Swiss hearing aid maker Sonova and investors. Sonova has reached an out-of-court settlement related to claims stemming from a profit warning the firm issued in March 2011. Sonova will pay investors CHF2.6m (€2.1m) to settle the matter. Link

The Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI) has published its 11th study on Board Composition and Non-Executive Pay in the ASX200 and found that in the past year the number of women serving on Top 100 company boards rose to 15.4% of all board positions. But improved diversity came with a “substantial increase” in the fees paid to chairman and non-executives in Top 100 companies, ACSI said.

US listed confectionery firm Hershey Co. has announced it plans to source 100% certified cocoa for its global chocolate product lines by 2020 and accelerate its programs to help eliminate child labour in the cocoa regions of West Africa. It follows a wider protest movement as well as engagement with the company on child labour since 2009 with members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) and others.
European tax commissioner Algirdas Semeta has said that 11 Eurozone states support launching a financial transactions tax. “Four additional member states intend to join the enhanced cooperation, which means we arrive at 11,” Semeta was quoted saying. Nine countries are required to push forward the initiative.