RI ESG Briefing, October 17: Canadian group presses Agrium on Western Sahara

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news


Fund management firm Invesco Perpetual is reportedly supporting a new funding round by US water management company HaloSource. HaloSource said it has raised $25m to advance its development and operational capability, with Invesco Perpetual offering to buy up to $16.1m or around 40% of the total contingent fundraising.

Wells Fargo Bank has signed a $50m, five-year credit agreement with Advanced Energy Systems, the Nasdaq-listed solar technology company. “The credit facility can be used for general working capital, capital expenditures and acquisitions, and may be increased by $25m subject to lender commitments and other conditions,” the Colorado-based firm said.

The UK government has identified “billions of pounds” of low carbon business opportunities in Brazil and South Korea, according to two reports from UK Trade & Investment (UKTI). “The Brazil report, written by the Carbon Trust, has identified around £125bn worth of low carbon opportunities in Brazil, while the South Korea report highlights 30 specific low carbon opportunities,” it says. Link


The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) has been launched to “fill a current void in corporate reporting” by quantifying the value of corporate non-financial information. SASB will develop and publicly distribute comprehensive, industry-specific sustainability accounting standards for the benefit of companies, investors, and the public. “SASB will be the US voice for material non-financial issues and how to recognize and account for them as part of corporate reporting,” said Executive Director Jean Rogers. Its first initiative is a ‘Materiality Map’ that weights the priority of sustainability issues by industry across 10 sectors.h6. Governance

Canada’s Shareholder Association for Research and Education (SHARE) has written to Calgary-based agricultural retailer and fertilizer producer Agrium Inc. “inquiring about the implications of the company’s decision to source phosphate from the Western Sahara”. SHARE is seeking information about whether the company has assessed its obligations and potential liabilities under international law and about its engagement and consultation processes with the local Saharawi people. Agrium is also currently facing pressure from activist hedge fund Jana Partners to spin off its agricultural retail arm. Link to SHARE’s Third-Quarter Engagement Report

News Corp. annual general meeting: the media giant was able to defeat the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum/Christian Brothers Investment Services’ proposal calling for an independent chairman only through the 40% voting stake controlled by Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch, according to media reports. Non-family investors at the meeting in Los Angeles “overwhelmingly backed” the proposal, according to Bloomberg News. Excluding some 276m Murdoch votes, the proposal would have passed by almost two to one, it added.

Proxy advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) has released its draft policies for 2013 for comment. “The ISS Global Policy Board invites all financial market participants to provide feedback on the following proposed updates to ISS’ benchmark proxy voting guidelines.” The deadline for responses is October 31.

A new project to “develop policy recommendations on enforcement” is set to be launched at the 2012 OECD-Asian Roundtable on Corporate Governance in Tokyo on October 24-25. The event is co-hosted by the Financial Services Authority and the Tokyo Stock Exchange in partnership with the Government of Japan.