RI round up June 27

RI’s bite-sized round-up of the week’s responsible investment news

The UNPRI, Global Compact and UNEPFI have jointly issued the “Seoul Declaration”, following their tri-partite conference in the South Korean capital last week. The declaration urges members of the three initiatives to join forces around efforts to address the carbon challenge, promote the application of labour and human rights values, increase the transparency of business transactions and prevent corruption, push for a sustainable economy and promote ways in which investors, financiers and business leaders can engage constructively with policy makers on these issues.
Nestlé, the Swiss multinational, has been accused of hiring a private security firm to spy on members of Attac, an anti globalisation group, to find out about a critical dossier on water privatization and trades unions that the NGO was preparing on the company. The allegations were made in a Swiss television documentary, titled: “Temps present”, which claimed the infliltration of Attac had taken place during 2003/2004.
The International Corporate Governance Network (ICGN) and Hermes Fund Managers have awarded the first annual scholarship funded by the Alistair Ross Goobey Memorial Fund to Rashedur Rahman of the Bangladesh Enterprise Institute. The annual scholarship, which aims to support potential leaders in the field of corporate governance, was established in memory of Alastair Ross Goobey, the former chief executive of Hermes Pension Management and chairman of theInternational Corporate Governance Network, who died in February this year.
Responses to proposals by the UK government to create a new advisory group to update the 2001 Myners principles on improved governance and transparency for pension funds have begun to be issued. One of the main proposals is the introduction of a joint government-industry Investment Governance Group (IGG). The Trades Union Congress has warned that the government risks creating an ‘industry talking shop’ unless it includes all stakeholders in the proposed group. Hewitt, the investment consultant, welcomed the proposals, but suggested that the Guidance Note for Long-Term Investing produced by the Marathon Club, a lobby group for long-term investing, had already set out a framework for consistent and cost-effective decision making. FairPensions, the UK lobby group said the proposals were “regressive” and that they could reduce levels of transparency and governance.
The Australian government has said it will support proposals to prevent the involvement or complicity of Australian companies in human rights abuses. The bill before Parliament also supports the development of international standards and mechanisms to ensuring that transnational corporations and other businesses respect human rights.
The Aspen Institute has published its Guide to Socially Responsible MBA Programs 2008-2009. Click for link

The UK Trades Union Congress (TUC) has renewed calls on the government to make it compulsory for UK fund managers to disclose how they cast votes in company meetings. The TUC said more than half of 47 managers surveyed failed to respond its annual manager voting survey. However, the UK Investment Management Association (IMA) hit out at the TUC claiming it was fueling “myths” about manager voting. Richard Saunders, Chief Executive of the Investment Management Association, said: “The TUC survey finds that three quarters of fund managers responding to it make voting data available publicly. This picture bears out the conclusion of the IMA’s own surveys which show a steady increase in the publication of voting records over the last five years.”
James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies and one of the world’s leading climate change scientists has warned that irreversible climate change “tipping points” could be reached within two years and called for a major overhaul of US climate change policy.Hansen said a carbon tax would be the most efficient means of cutting carbon emissions. He also said that chief executives of energy firms that have expressed doubt over climate change science should face criminal charges if they don’t act against global warming.
The Chartered Financial Analyst Institute Centre for Financial Market Integrity has launched a voluntary code of ethics and governance conduct for pension schemes. The code lays out 10 ethical responsibilities for board members and trustees that can be applied globally.
Oxfam has issued a new briefing paper, titled: “Another Inconvenient Truth: How biofuel policies are deepening poverty and accelerating climate change” with particular advice for investors. Amongst other conclusions, the paper argues that because biofuel demand in the EU and US is politically created and highly controversial, biofuels investments in Europe and the US face significant regulatory and political risks.
Centre Info, the Swiss sustainable research group has collaborated with Utopies, the sustainable development group and Caisse d’Epargne, the French banking group to label the CO2 levels of its banking products in France.