RI ESG Briefing, October 30: New Zealand exchange to require diversity reporting

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news


US fund manager Walden Asset Management has withdrawn a shareholder proposal on water exposure risk at organic food group United Natural Foods following a “mutually beneficial dialogue”. Walden first engaged on the subject with the company in 2011; its resolution was withdrawn with the company’s commitment to pilot an assessment of water risk within its Albert’s Organics division. As a first step, United Natural Foods expects to be able to identify any exposure to water-stressed regions. Link

The Trades Union Congress, the UK’s labour union umbrella body, says the country will lose out on jobs and billions in investment unless it speeds up its transition to a low-carbon economy. It has published a study – “Building our low carbon industries” – which calls on the government to urgently invest in new green technology in order to make existing industries, such as coal and steel, more energy efficient and competitive. “Unless we increase funding for low-carbon technologies now we will not be able to compete in the future,” the TUC said.

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) has been selected as an observer to the UN Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD) Program Policy Board. Recognising there’s a “lot of confusion” around the REDD initiative, the US group has prepared a brief explanatory document which is available here


Changes to exchange listing rules in New Zealand will require companies to include diversity reporting in their annual reports as of December 1. Companies will have to provide a breakdown of the gender composition of their boards and officers and, if they have a formal diversity policy, an evaluation of their performance with respect to it. “Whilst reporting on diversity in the listed equities sector will not in itself address the relative paucity of women in senior corporate and governance roles across the New Zealand corporate sector, we believe it will encourage our companies to consider diversity as one of a number of tools to deliver quality decision making,” said NZX Chairman Andrew Harmos. Announcement

Index and ESG provider MSCI says that financial data and software firm FactSet Research Systems has integrated MSCI ESG Research data and ratings on the FactSet platform. For the first time, FactSet clients can now use MSCI ESG Research data in their analysis through FactSet Portfolio Analysis, Universal Screening, Data Downloading, and MS Office integration.h6. Governance

The Global Reporting Initiative has started a public global research on Material sustainability topics by business/industry activity groups. The body is aiming to publish lists of internationally recognized material topics by business/industry activity group in May 2013 – to be used as a reference in the sustainability reporting field. It is inviting organizations to identify the most relevant sustainability topics. Business associations, academic institutions, labor organizations, civil society, auditing and investor firms, and other organizations are invited to participate by identifying and providing relevant documentation to support the topics’ importance and international recognition. To collect this information, GRI is providing an interactive PDF research form. To find out more go here. Two one-hour explanatory webinars have been scheduled for November 7.

South Africa’s Public Investment Corporation (PIC) and the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) have issued a joint statement on the resignation of Anglo American group chief executive Cynthia Carroll. “While depressed commodity prices are partly to blame for the group’s disappointing performance, we believe that capital allocation, poor project management and poor operational performance have contributed to the bulk of the observed underperformance of Anglo, relative to its peers,” they said. The PIC is the largest South African shareholder in Anglo American with a holding of 7% on behalf of the GEPF. Link

The role of stock exchanges in setting corporate governance standards was a topic for discussion at the Russian Corporate Governance Roundtable in Moscow last week, organised by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and merged exchange groups MICEX and RTS. The merger means “an opportunity has been created to revise the role of the exchange in setting corporate governance standards” the event agenda stated. Link

There’s been a development in a financial crisis-related class action case against Goldman Sachs brought by the NECAIBEW Health & Welfare Fund. The investment bank is seeking to narrow the mortgage-backed securities case, filing a petition asking the US Supreme Court to reconsider a decision made last month to reviving the suit, according to Law360.