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RI ESG Briefing, October 1: PFZW/PGGM hail execution drugs decision by pharma firm Mylan

The round-up of the latest ESG news

Environmental

Institutional investors, fund managers and other finance experts have welcomed Bank of England Governor Mark Carney’s speech this week stressing the risk to global stability posed by climate change. James Bevan, Chief Investment Officer at CCLA said the statement that climate risk is a material financial risk “speaks to the challenge of so-called stranded assets, and makes planning for declining carbon intensity an absolutely mainstream investment requirement”. Stephanie Pfeifer, CEO of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC) said:
“Mark Carney spoke under the Lutine Bell, the way Lloyds has signalled great events that will affect the market. He chose his setting perfectly.”

Fifteen insurance firms under the industry’s ‘ClimateWise’ initiative have called for more action in building resilience to climate change. While welcoming the UK’s Prudential Regulation Authority’s assessment of the impact of climate change on the sector, they warn more needs to be done to improve resilience. ClimateWise is the insurance industry leadership group on climate change risk, with the secretariat provided by the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership; it has written an open letter to the Bank of England’s Mark Carney.

Energy giant Chevron has amended its bylaws to implement proxy access, permitting up to 20 shareholders owning 3% or more of its shares continuously for at least three years to nominate up to two individuals or 20% of the board. Chevron is the latest company to allow proxy access, which gives shareholders greater say on influencing strategy.

Social

Asset management giant BlackRock has hosted fund managers at its New York base for an event about the financial impacts of social issues on restaurants, retailers and other consumer-focused companies. The ‘Humane Economy’ meeting, Reuters said, was sponsored by BlackRock, Fidelity Investments, MFS Investment Management, Coller Capital and the Humane Society of the United States.

The B Corp movement has officially launched in the UK. The movement began in the US, with over 1,000 businesses now in the B Corp community – built on the idea that government and non-profit organisations cannot tackle the world’s challenges on their own; that there is a better way to do business, where value is created for societies rather than only for shareholders. The certification enshrines a commitment to positive social and environmental impact.

Extel WeConvene and www.sri-connect.com have announced that the IRRI 2015 Survey is now open for voting and that this year’s search for the “best SRI & Corporate Governance analysts in the world” is now underway. The IRRI 2015 survey (Independent Research in Responsible Investment) identifies and rewards the SRI and Corporate Governance research firms and the individual analysts that are most highly-regarded by their investing clients and by companies. The survey runs from Thursday 1 October to Saturday 31 October and is open to all asset managers, asset owners, research providers, ‘sell-side’ brokers and quoted companies.h6. Governance

US pharmaceutical company Mylan has announced that it will take measures to prevent its products being misused for execution purposes – following urgent requests from the Netherlands’ Pensioenfonds Zorg en Welzijn (PFZW) and fund manager PGGM. In a statement, Mylan said it has also demanded the return of its products to ensure their appropriate use. Over the past year PGGM, on behalf of PFZW, has engaged with Mylan on the matter. PFZW Director Peter Borgdorff said the fund “applauds the company”. He added: “We are convinced that this step will have a positive contribution to the reputation of a company that has an important contribution to medical care in the Netherlands and the rest of the world.”

Don Blankenship, who was chief executive of Massey Energy at the time of the deadly Upper Big Branch mine disaster in 2010, was today (October 1) set to go on trial in what NBC News called the biggest corporate accountability case in years. He could face 31 years in prison if convicted by the US District Court in Charleston, NBC said. He’s accused of conspiracy to violate safety laws, defrauding the federal government, securities fraud and making false statements to the SEC. The explosion caused the deaths of 29 miners and the company was later absorbed by rival Alpha Natural Resources. Blankenship is being defended by William Taylor III, the lawyer who managed to get sexual assault charges dropped against ex-IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Dutch civil service pension giant Stichting Pensioenfonds ABP reportedly plans to revamp its €356bn investment portfolio in order to better reflect socially responsible investment (SRI) principles. IPE quoted chair Corien Wortmann-Kool as saying at an event in the Netherlands that it would be an element of a “fundamental modernisation”. The report added that Wortmann-Kool, the former politician who became chair of ABP at the start of this year, did not provide any further detail on the fund’s plans.

Broadridge Financial Solutions has launched a newly upgraded ProxyVote.com site which it says improves the shareholder communication and proxy voting experience for millions of individual shareholders. It said that in the past year alone, more than two-thirds of all proxy votes by individual shareholders were cast on ProxyVote.com. It said the upgraded platform reflects extensive input from individual investors, companies, broker-dealers, corporate governance experts, and regulators.

Professor Kunio Ito, the author an influential governance review in Japan, has warmly welcomed the Government Pension Investment Fund’s decision to sign up to the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI). He told RI: “I am sure that GPIF’s signing up to the UN-backed Principle of Responsible Investment is really the epoch-making phenomenon.” He said it looked forward to seeing the reaction of other funds in Japan in the near future.

Swiss proxy firm Ethos has published its review of the 2015 voting season and found a “mixed picture” in the implementation of Minder Initiative allowing a shareholder vote on pay. “Ethos has found that the spirit of the Minder Initiative is often circumvented regarding the vote on the remuneration of the board and executive management,” it said. “In addition, several principles of good governance are often not respected such as the independence of the board or the equal treatment of shareholders.” It found that only 28% of the companies have decided to request a retrospective vote (at the end of the financial year) on the variable remuneration.