RI round up: April 20

RI’s regular round-up of the most important responsible investment news

CalPERS, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, has opposed the re-election of two Citigroup directors, Andrew Liveris and Judith Rodin, in part for their accountability in the financial crisis. The $212bn fund, which owns around 61m Citigroup shares, said it would cast “withhold” votes at the bank’s annual shareowners’ meeting.
Dutch health care pension giant PGGM has backed a new frontiers market fund from the World Bank’s IFC. The IFC African, Latin American and Caribbean Fund also got cash from the Korea Investment Corp. and Azerbaijan’s State Oil Fund with total commitments put at up to $600m. This “will give us greater access to frontier markets where we see a lot of potential for growth over the long term”, said PGGM alternatives chief Fons Lute.
The European Sustainable Investment Forum (Eurosif) is hiring a communications manager. The position is located in Paris. The deadline for applications is April 30.
Link to job ad
BHP Billiton, the Australian mining group, is being investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over possible violations of anti-corruption laws involving interactions with government officials. The company said it was cooperating with the relevant authorities and conducting an internal investigation.RiskMetrics has ranked the top 50 plaintiffs’ US law firms for 2009. The advisory group’s latest Securities Class Action Services annual list ranks firms by the total dollar amount of final securities class action settlements – with Coughlin Stoia Geller Rudman & Robbins coming in top with $1.5bn. “This year marks the return of the mega-settlement,” said Adam Savett, Head of RiskMetrics’ Securities Class Action Services. Link to listing
Asset manager I2BF has launched its second clean tech venture capital fund, aiming to raise $100m. I2BF, which was set up in 2005, last year named Hudson Capital Partners’ David Waserstein as its director of investments. It’s also hired Man Environmental Capital Opportunities’ marketing manager Marwa Gouda as well as two managers from Shell Asset Management Company, the manger of Shell’s pension assets: Irakli Menabde and Nicolas Merzeau.
Italian bank UniCredit has appeased domestic shareholders by naming Gabriele Piccini, head of its domestic retail network, as chairman for Italy. Some of the banking foundations that are UniCredit’s shareholders had been were worried that a reorganisation would cut regional subsidiaries’
influence. Piccini will take up his role on November 1, when the reorganisation takes effect.
The UK’s largest institutional investors are reportedly planning a new body to pressurise corporate boards as well as influence policy. The fund firms are said to be working on the project’s final details, according to a Reuters report. The proposed group would deflect criticism that asset managers do not demand accountability from companies whose stock they own.
Eugene O’Callaghan has been named investment director at Ireland’s National Pensions Reserve Fund. He takes over from John Corrigan, who was appointed chief executive of the National Treasury Management Agency last year. O’Callaghan is currently head of the NPRF’s investment manager programme. Meanwhile, Brendan Murphy becomes finance director at the National Treasury Management Agency.
The US Social Investment Forum is to work with software and services provider Informa Investment Solutions to gather research for its forthcoming SIF Trends report. SIF research director Meg Voorhes sees anecdotal evidence that many more US investors are integrating ESG criteria into their investments. The 2010 trends report is set for release in November.Asset manager F&C has appointed Sandra Carlisle as Director, Governance & Sustainable Investment (GSI) amid increased demand for the GSI range. She’ll report to Karina Litvack, Head of Governance & Sustainable Investments. Carlisle was formerly a managing director in Citi’s Global Equities division and joins F&C from PR firm Brunswick.
Graciela Chichilnisky, Professor of Mathematics and Economics at New York’s Columbia University, is joining the Climate Bonds Initiative’s international Advisory Panel. Chichilnisky wrote the recent book “Saving Kyoto” and advises several UN organisations. The Climate Bonds Initiative was set up by the Network for Sustainable Financial Markets, and operates as an autonomous project of the Carbon Disclosure Project.
The United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) has welcomed its first Turkish member, the Industrial Development Bank of Turkey or TSKB. The UNEP FI’s Head of Unit Clements-Hunt presented the case for sustainable finance to Turkish finance executives in Istanbul at a conference organised the Turkish Banking Association and said “this is only the start”.
The Institute of Directors, a UK business lobby group, has said that institutional investors with more than a 1% stake in listed firms should write to corporate chairs detailing their engagement policy. “We think that there is still not enough emphasis given to getting large investors to engage directly with company boards,” said Miles Templeman, director general of the IoD. Link to IoD statement
WWF International’s Luxembourg-based Living Planet Fund has added a renewable energy theme to its equity offering. It said the new Sarasin-managed vehicle complements its existing range of equity and fixed income products. The fund is aimed at both institutional and retail investors and complies with UCITS III regulations.
France’s responsible investor forum – Forum pour l’Investissement Responsable (FIR) – has launched a new corporate dialogue programme titled CorDial, which this year wil focus on company/investor dialogues on human resources and the role of annual general meetings.
Link to website*Governance advisor The Corporate Library* has warned that signatories to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment should take note of poor labour standards when voting at company meetings. The firm has issued a guide called “Proxy Voting on Labor Standards: A Case-by-Case Guide for PRI Signatories”.
Environmental asset manager Impax is to launch an Irish-listed open-ended version of its Impax Asian Environmental Markets fund. It will target more than 400 Asia-Pacific environmental stocks with an aggregate market cap of $800bn, Impax said. Chief executive Ian Simm cited Asia’s market liberalisation, tightening environmental policy and falling technology costs.
Research firm GBI Research reckons investments in renewable energy in emerging markets could top $650bn by 2015. It added that renewables investments have risen to $337bn in 2009 from $39bn at the start of the decade. Its new study “identifies potential hotspots for renewable energy investments in the world and analyzes the investment trends in emerging markets”.
The UK parliament’s passing of the Bribery Bill has been hailed as being in the interests of shareholders.
Karina Litvack, Head of Governance & Sustainable Investment at F&C, said the passage was means “clear rules and consistent enforcement help companies focus and ensure that those who don’t cheat are not penalised at the expense of those who do”.
Global financial institutions have more than $43bn invested in cluster bomb manufacturers, according to activist group IKV Pax Christi. Asset management firms singled out include State Street, Capital, BlackRock, Temasek Holdings (for its 50% stake in Singapore Technologies) and Vanguard. Among investment banks named and shamed are Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and HSBC. The group has released a report: “Worldwide investments in cluster munitions; A shared responsibility”.
Corporate Register has announced the winners of its CR Reporting Awards 2010 with 128 companies from over 40 sectors, from well-known multinationals to local SMEs, entering across nine categories. Vodafone Group won the best award, while The Walt Disney Company won best first time report. Best integrated financial and CSR report was won by Novo Nordisk.
Link to Corporate Register*Some dates for the diary*: Asia-Pacific corporate governance body ASrIA is hosting the Carbon Disclosure Forum 2010 on April 27 in Hong Kong. And on May 17, ASrIA, Greenpeace China and the WWF are holding a forum on Sustainable Forestry Investment, hosted by Credit Suisse.
The Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) has released a report, titled : ‘Values Added: The Challenge of Integrating Human Rights in the Financial Sector.’ DIHR says it will be engaging with the financial sector in the coming months, seeking to expand its research focus on more specific areas of finance and to operationalise the findings of this first report into partnerships with actors from the sector.
Link to DIHR
Jason Mitchell has rejoined GLG Partners, the London-based hedge fund company, after two years as an adviser on environmental issues to governments. Financial News reports that GLG is seeking to broaden its socially responsible investment fund offering. In his new role at GLG, Mitchell will focus on stock selection in the global environment and social governance area.

GES Investment Services, the Swedish sustainability research house, says G4S, the international security solutions group, has taken an industry lead in improving labour standards in emerging markets, after engagement by investors, including Norwegian life insurer, KLP. In 2008, the company signed an agreement with the labour organisation UNI in 2008. GES said G4S’ new Corporate Responsibility Report revealed that the implementation process had lead to concrete improvements such as constructive negotiations with labour organisations to resolve disputes and work out structures to handle labour rights issues in challenging environments.
LuxFLAG, the Luxembourg-based microfinance register, has published the list of microfinance investment vehicles (MIVs) that have successfully renewed their 2010 application. One new fund, the BlueOrchard Microfinance Fund for US investors, has also been approved. A total of 9 MIVs representing 18 sub‐funds and around USD 2.24 million of assets under management now carry the LuxFLAG Microfinance Label.
Link to Luxflag*The Emerging Markets Disclosure Project* (EMDP) investor statement on corporate environmental, social and governance (ESG) disclosure in emerging markets, has now signed up investors with more than $1 trillion in assets under management. Since the original EMDP investor statement in 2008, the number of fund signatories has grown from 29 to 50, and the total assets under management they represent increased by 10 percent. The EMDP is an international initiative working to improve ESG disclosure in emerging markets. Its steering committee includes Boston Common Asset Management, Calvert Asset Management Company and the Social Investment Forum (SIF) with technical advisory support from the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI).
EMDP has also issued a disclosure scorecard, which evaluates firms on their ESG reporting practices on a 100-point scale.
Link to EMDP