RI ESG Briefing, October 22: Private equity giant Blackstone in ‘utility scale’ renewables venture

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news


Blackstone, the listed private equity firm with almost $300bn in assets under management, has formed a venture to invest in “utility scale” wind and solar renewable power projects in North America. It has partnered with Matthew Rosenblum of solar funding firm Solops to create Onyx Renewable Partners. Onyx will be an affiliate of Blackstone’s Fisterra Energy and will be owned by funds managed by Blackstone on behalf of its private equity investors.

BNY Mellon, the US asset management and custody giant, says it has been appointed trustee and paying agent for Estover Energy’s £48m (€68m) bond for a new combined heat and power plant in Speyside, Scotland. The bond, which is guaranteed by Infrastructure UK, part of HM Treasury, will fund the new biomass plant near Craigellachie. In addition to the bond, John Laing and the UK Green Investment Bank are to invest £26m in the plant. BNY Mellon said: “With green bond issuance forecast to reach $100bn in 2015, the industry is realising the potential of large, environmentally friendly infrastructure projects to provide attractive returns in the name of sustainability.”

France’s Caisse des Dépôts, the quasi French sovereign wealth fund, has signed up to the “Paris Climate Action” Charter (Paris Action Climat), which aims to reduce the levels of CO2 in Paris by 25% compared to 2004 levels by 2020 and by 75% by 2050. The Caisse is a major investor in France, notably in real estate.


ImpactAssets, an impact investment advisory fund launched by the Calvert Foundation in 2001, has released its ImpactAssets 50 (IA 50) which showcases the top 50 fund managers in the impact investment space. The fund managers, who manage a combined $15.5bn in assets, include Acumen and Triodos Investment Management. The list is chosen by the IA 50 selection committee, which is chaired by Jed Emerson, chief impact strategist of ImpactAssets. Emerson said this year’s diverse range of impact investing fund managers demonstrated that it was “moving into the mainstream”.

The report from the 2014 RobecoSAM Forum in Zurich on October 2-3, titled “Mobilising Capital: Putting Sustainability to Work” can be accessed in the RI Reports channel. The Forum brought together an investor audience representing $8trn in assets under management to hear challenging presentations and debate on the theme of sustainable finance and investment.

AFIC, the French private equity association, has published a report on the ESG activities of 53 of their member companies. AFIC said this first ESG report represented 50% of the assets under management of its members and concerned 1,800 of the 5000 companies owned by its member funds. It said 62% of the private equity funds in the report had a formal ESG strategy and a further 30% were in the process of putting one together. Link to report. Governance

News and data giant Thomson Reuters has released its latest study on gender diversity in the boardroom – finding that, for the first time, more than half of corporate boards reported that 10% or more of their board is female. The report also shows that companies with mixed boards continue to perform marginally better, on average, compared to a benchmark index, such as the MSCI World. The report is called ‘Climb to the Top – Tracking Gender Diversity on Corporate Boards’ and is available here.

The National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF), the UK trade body, is launching a programme of ‘Stewardship Accountability Forums’ to offer funds the opportunity to quiz asset managers on their stewardship activities on behalf of beneficiaries. The first one takes place on November 24 at the association’s central London HQ and will feature senior figures from Aviva Investors, Legal and General Investment Management (LGIM) and UBS Global Asset Management. The events build on the NAPF’s Stewardship Disclosure Framework.

The Thirty Percent Coalition, the $3 trillion institutional investor group that campaigns for gender diverse company boards in the US, has broadened out its campaign for 2014 by writing to the boards of 100 companies in the Russell 1000 index that have no women board directors, in a bid to prompt change.
The campaign is being led by the $186.4 billion California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), and includes other heavyweight asset owners including sister fund CalPERS and the New York City and State pension funds. The Coalition, which is co-chaired by Janice Hester-Amey, Portfolio Manager at CalSTRS, and Timothy Smith, Senior Vice President at Walden Asset Management has set a goal of women holding 30 percent of board seats across public companies by the end of 2015.

The Thai Institute of Directors Association, with support from the Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET), has released corporate governance scores of 550 listed companies in Thailand at an average of 72%, which it said is considered “satisfactory” despite more demanding criteria to meet the ASEAN Corporate Governance Scorecard standard. The findings were released at a seminar in Bangkok today (October 22).

A Texas court is allowing nearly three dozen institutional plaintiffs in the BP litigation, including U.S. public and private pension funds, U.S. limited partnerships and ERISA trusts, and pension funds from Canada, the U.K., France, the Netherlands, and Australia, to have their case heard in the US after BP had argued that the cases should be heard in other national jurisdictions. The investors are being represented by Pomerantz, the class action law firm.

The Singapore Exchange (SGX) is to make it mandatory for all listed companies to publish sustainability reports, SGX chief executive Magnus Bocker told the annual International Singapore Compact CSR Summit on October 17. The exchange is embarking on a one-year study to determine the guidelines for disclosure of a company’s economic, environmental and social impacts that should be included in the reports. Eco-Business reports that Bocker said the 800 listed companies on the SGX should be expected to comply by 2017 or 2018.