RI Global news round-up 10/12/07

RI’s bite-sized summary of this week’s responsible investment news.

Mercer, the investment consultant is to boost its specialist global responsible investment team from 11 to 14 people with new hires to be announced soon.
Mercer launched the specialist Responsible Investment (RI) business unit in 2004 and staff are spread between New York, Toronto, London, Tokyo and Melbourne. Investment consultants have been boosting the number of specialist RI staff in recent months to meet growing demand from institutional investors.
The €9.3bn ($13.1bn) AP7 Swedish pensions buffer fund is reportedly planning to invest SEK3bn (€319.2m) in environmental technology in the next three years via two private equity fund of funds mandates.
 Richard Gröttheim, AP7’s executive vice-president, told ipe.com that the fund will go public with the tenders at the beginning 2008. He said half of the total investment will be made in Sweden and the Nordic markets while the remaining assets will be invested in the US, Europe and Asia.
In October, Responsible Investor revealed that AP7 was planning investment in clean technology funds. It joins a growing number of pension funds making commitments to renewable energy.
The fund told Responsible Investor it was also examining potential investment in index related products.
Research by EIRIS ahead of International Human Rights Day on December 10 has found that 54 of the FTSE100 companies have operations in countries identified as being at high risk for human rights violation.Of the FTSE 100 companies, 61% have made an explicit commitment to the UN Declaration on Human Rights.
EIRIS has launched new human rights research criteria to assess the performance of large corporations around the world.
F&C Investments has recruited George Dallas as director, corporate governance. Dallas joins F&C from Standard & Poor’s (S&P) in London where he was a managing director with responsibilities in the areas of analytical policy and research. At F&C he will report to Karina Litvack, head of governance and sustainable investment.
Dallas has written extensively on corporate governance and international finance and edited the book Governance and Risk (McGraw Hill, 2004).
Systematic Absolute Return, the Zurich based asset manager, will launch a global hedge fund-of-funds covering the clean energy sector in January. Hedge funds are increasingly moving into the clean tech space with regular new product launches. Arne Schmidt, managing partner at SAR, said: “We will be investing in long-short equity funds specialising in renewable energy, cleantech, water and carbon emissions. We believe that there are about 70 hedge funds of that type to choose from. We will also invest in asset-based investing funds, for example, in the carbon emissions space.”
Sindicatum Carbon Capital (SCC), the UK-based carbon trading company in which Citigroup and AIG

both have stakes, has launched a $600m carbon fund with Dubai-based investment company Istithmar World Ventures to finance Asian emissions reduction projects.
Istithmar has pledged $150m to the fund and SCC is seeking further investors for a first close in the first quarter of 2008.
SCC invests in long-term emissions reductions programmes, generating credits which are sold in the market.
Sustainability policies in large cap companies differ widely across and within business sectors and across countries, according to an in-depth study conducted by Washington DC-based financial research group RiskMetrics. The year-long study examined more than 200 policy and performance indicators regarding issues such as climate change, ethics, human rights, labour and the environment for over 1,700 leading global firms. The results indicated that companies in Europe, Australasia and the Far East (EAFE) performed better than US-based S&P firms on climate change and environment, whilst US companies scored higher on ethical governance standards. Toronto Stock Exchange companies were leaders on labour and human rights issues.
77% of Swiss companies consider that climate change involves business risk for them, according to the first report of the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) on the country. Under the patronage of Ethos and Pictet Asset Management, the group of Swiss companies reportingto the CDP was expanded for the first time to the 50 largest Swiss listed companies. 69% of Swiss companies said they had put in place a climate change strategy as a result, while 46% have set greenhouse gas reduction targets. The survey was carried out by Centre Info, the Swiss SRI research house.
The UK National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF) has said it could lead its members in a court case to abolish value-added tax (VAT) paid for asset management services and recoup hundreds of millions of pounds. The NAPF said a European Court of Justice judgement on the JPMorgan Claverhouse case in June 2007 meant that VAT exemption should extend to services provided by investment managers to occupational pension schemes. It is recommending that pension funds jointly finance a legal challenge to the UK revenue and customs department. NAPF Chief Executive, Joanne Segars, said: “Litigation is never without risk and it would be expensive for any one pension fund to finance a legal challenge on its own. But if a number of funds agree to share the costs, they could get their money back several times over. If we get enough interest from our members, we will co-ordinate a case.”
Following legal advice, the NAPF said it believed that occupational pension funds qualified for treatment as Special Investment Funds and that current UK VAT law violates the principle of fiscal neutrality which underpins the EU VAT Directive.