RI ESG Briefing, September 16: Thai exchange joins Sustainable Stock Exchanges initiative

The round-up of environmental, social and governance news

Environmental

There’s been a lot of activity in the green bond space recently. French development bank, Agence Française de Développement issued a €1bn, 10-year bond verified by ESG house Vigeo. Bookrunners for the issuance were Bank of America Merrill Lynch, BNP Paribas, Credit Agricole CIB and HSBC. And the World Bank’s IFC has launched a new program that for the first time allows US individual investors to buy triple-A rated IFC bonds that support renewable energy and energy efficiency investments in developing countries – called IFC Impact Notes – Green Bonds.

The European Investment Bank (EIB) ‘tapped’ its 1.25% Climate Awareness Bond (CAB) by €250m. It came as it joined global multilateral development banks: the African Development Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank Group, in agreeing to reinforce climate finance. The six banks have pledged to leverage their resources, develop and apply innovative ideas, mainstream climate through their core operations and promote harmonized, transparent and robust climate finance reporting.

NTR, the Ireland-based renewables developer, says that three of its investors – Woodford Capital, One51 and Pageant Holdings – have proposed that it initiate a process to sell its US wind assets “as soon as possible”. The three collectively own 71.5% of NTR. Announcement

Energy services company Ameresco, industrial group ESCO Technologies and cloud software group OPOWER have all been added to the NASDAQ Clean Edge Green Energy Index. Three firms have been deleted. They are: Hanwha SolarOne, the Chinese solar panel maker; Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies Worldwide, which makes natural gas fuel storage systems; and Real Goods Solar, the residential and commercial solar power integrator. Announcement

Social

More than 800 CEOs from global corporations have made a public commitment to support the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) – Equality Means Business. The WEPs, a joint initiative of the UN Global Compact and UN Women, is a voluntary corporate platform to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment in the workplace and communities. WEPs has also appointed two new co-chairs of the WEPs Leadership Group – Elizabeth Broderick, sex discrimination commissioner of the Australian Human Rights Commission of Australia and Joe Keefe, chief executive of Pax World Funds.

The ¥126.6tn ($1.2tn) Government Pension Investment Fund in Japan has searched for consultants to provide investment advice for market research, ESG investments, risk management, economic and environmental consulting and portfolio diversification. Proposals were due for ESG and risk management by July 29.h6. Governance

The Stock Exchange of Thailand (SET) has become the first ASEAN exchange to join the UN Sustainable Stock Exchanges Initiative. It said: “This underlines SET’s aims to develop sustainability of the exchange and the Thai capital market in a concrete way.” The Thai bourse has created its own sustainability development framework, focusing on five key areas: market value, business operations, employees, society, and environment. SET will establish a working group to plan for these five key areas. Meanwhile, the Mexican Stock Exchange has become a member of the United Nations’ Global Compact. The Global Compact’s 10 principles cover human rights, employment standards, the environment and anti-corruption policies.

Hain Celestial, the Nasdaq-listed organic food group, has committed to disclosing information on its pesticide policies and practices after pressure from shareholders Calvert Investments and Trillium Asset Management. Both organisations had filed a shareholder proposal calling on Hain to disclose pesticide-related risks in its supply chain. They have now withdrawn the proposal after Lake Success, NY-based Hain promised to disclose greater detail in its next corporate social responsibility report. Link

CtW Investment Group, the US union-linked advisor, has called on drug store group Walgreen to provide more details about a change in projected earnings. CtW has also questioned the company’s appointment of activist investor Barry Rosenstein of Jana Partners to its board. The comments come in a letter to Walgreen’s audit committee. Link

Toronto-based law firm Koskie Minsky and others have served an amended statement of claim in a $3bn class action against mining firm Barrick Gold. The claim alleges wrongdoing against Barrick and senior officers, saying they failed to disclose that certain key development activities at the Pascua-Lama mine were not in compliance with certain environmental conditions imposed by the Chilean government on Barrick’s approval to develop the project. Link

A new study by the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford and Arabesque Asset Management has reportedly found that good corporate governance and a focus on environmental and social issues at companies lead to higher share prices. The report also found lower cost of capital for firms which leads in the end to greater cash flow. The study was based on nearly 200 academic researches, industry reports and books. Link

Twenty-seven votes have been selected for the 2014 Canadian Key Proxy Vote Survey by SHARE, the Shareholder Association for Research and Education. They cover corporate governance, executive compensation, environmental and social reporting, and more. The 2014 Key Proxy Vote Survey gives pension trustees, foundations, religious investors and other institutional investors an opportunity to encourage their investment managers and proxy service providers to disclose how they voted on the most important ballot issues in 2014. Link