RI Global news round-up week end 02/11/07

Summary of the news stories you need to know about.

Venture capitalists in North America and Europe invested a record $1.74bn (€1.2bn) in cleantech investments in the third quarter of 2007, according to statistics from The Cleantech Network, a US membership group that analyses the growth of the asset class.
It said the year-to-date level of investment in cleantech had reached $3.64bn, a 13% increase over the same period in 2006. Solar investment reached $410m in North America, a 16% increase over Q2, and $246m in Europe compared to the $15m invested in the second quarter. Biofuels companies raised $215m in North America and $16m in Europe. Investments in water & waste-water showed promise with an increase of 146% over the second quarter of the year for clean water tech on the two continents.
A group of signatories to the UN Environmental Programme Finance Initiative (UNEPFI), including F&C Asset Management and Insight Investments, is working on research to clarify how human rights issues relate to the activities of finance institutions, including those rights linked to environmental sustainability. The working group aims to produce international guidance for finance, highlighting relevant laws, standards, initiatives and examples of best practice. For further information click here: UNEPFI working group
*CalPERS, the giant $247bn (€181bn) US pension fund*for Californian public employees has won support from over 80% of the shareholders of the Sara Lee, the US food and beverage group, in a non-binding vote to amend the company by laws and improve corporate governance. Sara Lee was one of the few Fortune 500 listed companies not to allow shareholders to amend company by laws. 
CalPERS, which owns 4.2m shares in Sara Lee, placed the company on its list of under performing companies on corporate governance in March this year.
France’s Forum for Responsible Investment has criticised the French government for not giving sufficient attention to socially responsible investment in its recent national forum on environmental issues, the ‘Grenelle de l’environnement’. The Forum said SRI funds had proved themselves a beneficial actor in the area of climate change and called on the government to re-evaluate its position.
SRI fund options for French workers in the country’s ‘epargne salariale’ employee savings schemes are still marginal but growing “gradually”, according to a report by a French cross-union organization. Almost 11 million French workers have the possibility to invest in company administered employee savings schemes.
The funds worth €1.019bn at June 30, 2007, are managed by banks, insurers and mutual companies.

Aberdeen Asset Managers has raised $60m seed capital from investors for the launch of the Aberdeen Global – Responsible World Equity Fund, which it has launched in response to increasing demand for socially responsible investment (SRI). The Fund, managed by Aberdeen’s global equity team, led by Stephen Docherty, will employ an SRI overlay for environmental, social and governance issues. The fund will exclude companies whose turnover exceeds 10% in the production or sale of alcohol, tobacco or gambling; military; and weapons, or 5% of pornographic products.
Germany will use part of the proceeds from selling carbon permits to industry from 2008 to help support the fight against climate change in developing nations, Sigmar Gabriel, German Environment Minister has said. The country will set aside annually about 120 million euros (US$173 million) or more, depending on the price of carbon permits, to help fund efforts in poorer nations to adapt to and prevent global warming.
AP1, the SEK221bn (€24bn), Swedish buffer fund has withdrawn its delegate from the nomination committee at Carnegie, the Swedish bank, in protest against the independence of its proposed new chairman, Anders Fällman, chief executive of Invik, the Swedish private bank, reports ipe.com. Carnegie has been warned by the Swedish supervisor Finansinspektionen (FI) it might lose its license over “serious deficiencies” in the bank’s governance. The FI imposed a SEK50m fine and called on Carnegie to replace its chief executive.
BNY Mellon Asset Management has launched a long-term global equity fund within its pooled fundsrange sold in the UK pensions market. The fund, managed by subsidiary specialist fund manager, Walter Scott & Partners, will take a long-term ‘buy and hold’ approach to stock picking with normal holding periods ranging from five to seven years aimed at the long-term time horizons of defined benefit and defined contribution pension schemes. Stock turnover will be less than 20% per annum.
Pax World Management, the US SRI mutual fund manager, has acquired the assets of FEMMX Financial Company, the investment adviser for the Professionally Managed Portfolios’ Women’s Equity Fund,
which at launch in 1993 was the first mutual fund to focus on evaluating companies according to their policies and practices toward women’s social and economic equality.
A recent report by Catalyst (www.catalystwomen.org), said Fortune 500 companies with the highest representation of women on their boards of directors attained significantly higher financial performance on average than those with the lowest representation.
KLD Research & Analytics, the US SRI investment research company, has launched an Iran Compliance product aimed at institutional investors and money managers that could soon be legally forced to divest from companies with involvement in the country. A number of US states are currently debating laws banning investments in Iran. Californian pension fund giants, Calpers and Calstrs have said they will have to sell combined assets of $3.4bn (€2.4bn) if companies they hold stock in don’t halt their operations in Iran, after the
state approved divestment legislation. States with similar legislation pending include Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
Among the largest companies KLD has identified to be involved in Iran are China Petroleum & Chemical Co, Royal Dutch Shell and Total.
Swiss banks UBS and Credit Suisse have come under fire from NGOs for allegedly holding assets worth $6bn in oil companies in Sudan. The Society for Threatened Peoples, Berne Declaration, Genocide Intervention Network and Bank Track, say the banks should reconsider their investments. They say that 70% of Sudan’s oil income is spent on military purposes and is thus directly or indirectly connected with genocide in Darfur.
David McCourt has joined the UK National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF) as policy adviser – investment and governance.
McCourt has spent nineteen years in the pensions industry including head of pensions at University of Manchester and assistant pensions manager at National Grid, the UK electric provider.
The $34.9bn Harvard University Endowment, $17.2bn Stanford University Endowment and the $10bn Massachusetts Institute of Technology Endowment were among 43 US universities ranked highestoverall for investment priority practices in their endowment funds, according to the new College Sustainability Report Card produced by the Sustainable Endowments Institute. 43 endowments received an “A” grade in the investment priorities category, which focuses on returns and investments in renewable energy and community development loans.
Pension funds in Brazil, including Petros and Funcef could be risking assets as a result of technical, legal, social and environmental uncertainties to investors in the Rio Madeira Dam Complex in the Brazilian Amazon, according to a report published today by Amigos da Terra, a Brazilian NGO.
It said construction risk as well as fees for environmental compensation and the size of the local population to be displaced to build the dam, could jeopardise money used to fund the project.
HSBC is to launch its first climate change fund identifying and investing in companies considered best placed to benefit from “addressing, combating and developing solutions” to global warming.
The fund will invest in about 60 companies it believes promise the best returns.
The company recently launched a climate change Index to benchmark the performance of climate change-related companies.