RI ESG Briefing, Sept. 17: CalSTRS lawsuit over Massey mine disaster dismissed

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news


Germany-based wind farm project developer PNE WIND says it has successfully issued a second tranche of its 8.0% corporate bond issue. Bonds with a total nominal value amounting to around €33.7m were subscribed by institutional investors, it said – adding that the maximum possible bond volume of €100m has now been reached. Proceeds will go towards expanding its activities in offshore wind farm projects and to strengthen its portfolio of national and international onshore projects.

Swedish energy giant Vattenfall says its 122MW Zuidlob onshore wind park in the Netherlands has come on stream, enabling it to provide 88,000 households with renewable energy. Construction of the park, whose cost Vattenfall put at SEK1.4bn (€16m), began at the end of 2011. Including Zuidlob, which has been renamed “Princess Alexia Wind Farm,” Vattenfall said it supplied 15% of all wind power generated in the Netherlands. The 800MW of power – enough to supply 200,000 households – comes from 24 onshore wind parks that have 234 turbines between them. Since 2007, Vattenfall has invested a total of SEK40bn in wind power.

The state of New York is moving closer to launching a $1bn “Green Bank” by asking its utility regulators to release $165.6m, reports Reuters. It is hoped that the bank will attract private lenders for clean energy projects. The initial funding comes from unallocated funds from surcharges in utility bills collected for energy-efficiency programs. *


A new study by Paris-based OFI Asset Management and the Magazine des Affaires says that small and medium sized European portfolio companies are increasingly incorporating ESG principles into their businesses, notably on environmental and social criteria. The report says human capital issues are seen as very important as are green credentials such as carbon reporting, despite a lack of relevant regulation. Link

The UK government has released a National Action Plan to help implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in British companies, reports the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre. The government said it wanted to “send a clear message” of its expectations about business behaviour, both in the UK and overseas.h6. Governance

The West Virginia Supreme Court has upheld the dismissal of a case brought by institutional investors against the former Massey Energy Co. relating to the Upper Big Branch mine disaster, according to an Associated Press report. The case had been brought by the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), Amalgamated Bank and Manville Trust in the wake of the 2010 disaster which killed 29 miners, AP said. Massey was acquired for $7.1bn by Alpha Natural Resources in 2011.

PhiTrust, the French activist corporate governance manager, says it lodged three identical resolutions this year prior to the AGMs of Renault, Société Générale and Carrefour on the subject of a chairman/CEO split, but that none of the resolutions made it on to the company ballots. The firm said that under French law investors can only seek to change the statute of the supervisory board to encourage them to influence the main board to split the Chair/CEO position. However, it said that international investors were uncomfortable with this dual board structure and didn’t support such resolutions, despite PhiTrust saying it is the only way to lodge such a request.

The Norwegian Government says it is reviewing its decision to re-instate Africa Israel into the investment portfolio of the Government Pension Fund Global after NGOs questioned whether the company had withdrawn from work in the Occupied Territories. Link. The Ministry of Finance revoked the 2010 exclusions of Africa Israel Investments (AFI) and its Danya Cebus subsidiary in August, based on advice from the Council on Ethics.

The California State Assembly has passed Resolution SCR 62 urging all publicly held corporations over the next three years to add women to their boards of directors. The California Senate had previously approved the resolution (which is not a law) on August 26. California is believed to be the first state in the US to take a stand on gender diversity in the boardroom and the first state to define boardroom diversity as three women directors with a timeline of three years.

Vanguard, the giant US index fund manager, reportedly took a more ‘activist’ stance in its voting during the annual meeting season this year, according to an analysis by Reuters. It said Vanguard funds opposed five of seven directors that had been a focus for the AFLCIO labour federation. And it reported the firm also switched sides at several other contested AGMs that were highlighted by proxy firm Institutional Shareholder Services. Reuters said Glenn Booraem, Vanguard’s head of proxy voting, declined to discuss votes at individual companies.