RI round-up Jan 8

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

Hermes, the UK fund manager, has reportedly postponed plans to create a series of boutique partnerships with managerial equity stakes, following poor performance of its biggest activist fund, according to the Financial Times. The paper said the assets of the European focus fund were down by 58%in 2008 to reach €773m ($1bn), with performance down 27% against its benchmark. Hermes has hired John Havranek, a former activist manager at Henderson, to review the fund’s performance. It said Havranek would shortly take over the European focus fund while Stephan Howaldt and Wouter Rosingh, who manage the fund and were to have become managing partners in the new partnership, will leave Hermes by March. The paper said Hermes had written to clients saying it was still committed to its strategy of creating several investment boutiques over the next two or three years.
Over 80 civil society organizations including human rights, corporate accountability, and religious groups from 25 countries, have submitted a protest letter to the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) over the continued inclusion of PetroChina as a Global Compact participant. The NGOs say PetroChina, the publicly traded arm of China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), is Sudan’s largest oil industry partner and has financial links to the regime perpetuating the six-year humanitarian crisis in Darfur which many consider to be genocide. PetroChina has already been blacklisted by pension funds including PFZW (formerly PGGM) in the Netherlands because of its links to the Sudanese government. Link to letter*Starbucks, the US coffee retailer*, is under fire from a ruling by the US National Labor Relations Board that illegally fired three New York City baristas for union organising activities, reports Business Week. The magazine reported that the 88-page ruling said the company broke the law by giving negative job evaluations to other union supporters and prohibiting employees from discussing union issues at work. The judge ordered that the three baristas be reinstated and receive back wages. The judge also called on Starbucks to end discriminatory treatment of other pro-union workers at four Manhattan locations.
The UK Financial Services Authority will reinstate the right for traders to take short positions in financial services companies from January 16. Traders will, however, have to disclose net short positions that exceed 0.1% of their capital. The ban, mirrored in many other countries, had been introduced in order to stabilise markets as a result of the credit crisis.
The UK Association of British Insurers (ABI) has issued a rare ‘red top’ alert on the UK’s fourth-largest housebuilder Bellway ahead of its annual meeting on 16 January. It came after Bellway said it would pay management bonuses for 2008 despite a slump in profits £234m to £35m.
Peter Montagnon, head of investent affairs at the ABI told the Guardian newspaper: “Executive remuneration has become a very hot issue with the public. The reaction will be vicious if there are abuses in the current recession. That will lead to pressure for direct regulation.

Jupiter Asset Management has won a mandate from the Northern Ireland Local Government Officers’ Superannuation Committee (NILGOSC) to manage a high alpha, unconstrained UK equities portfolio with a corporate engagement strategy designed to meet NILGOSC’s commitment to the UN Principles for Responsible Investment. The mandate will hold a basket of stocks that comprise the ‘best ideas’ of Jupiter’s UK equity team and will target a return of 2% to 4% above the FTSE All-Share Index over rolling 3-year periods unconstrained by benchmark weightings.
Jack Ehnes, chief executive officer of the $130bn California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) has joined the board of directors of Ceres, the investor environmental coalition. CalSTRS has already allocated more than $1.2bn in its sustainable investments programme spread across global equities, private equity and real estate asset classes.
BM, Tesco and Dell have received the top scores in a report ranking consumer & tech companies on climate change issued by Ceres and authored by RiskMetrics Group. The report analyses climate change governance practices at 63 of the world’s largest retail, pharmaceutical, technology, apparel and other consumer-facing companies.Overall, the report says consumer and technology companies have more to do in confronting the business challenges posed by climate change. Link to site for report
The Dow Jones Sustainability World Index has been licensed to The Dreyfus Corporation to serve as the stock selection pool for the firm’s first-ever global sustainability-themed mutual fund. It is the first time the index will serve as the selection basis for a mutual fund available in the US.
An on-line portal has been launched as a guide for companies to drive environmental and social improvements in their supply chains. The Portal for Responsible Supply Chain Management consolidates examples of thousands of supplier audits and training sessions undertaken by large international companies from various industries including HP, L’Oréal, Titan, Volkswagen, GDF Suez and Epson.Link to portal
Eidsvoll kommune near Oslo has awarded a NOK110m (€12m) mandate for its occupational scheme to Kommunal Landspensjonkasse (KLP), one of Norway’s largest life insurance funds and a noted responsible investment proponent, reports ipe.com.