RI round-up April 4

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

A guide to the implementation of the UN Principles for Responsible Investment into real estate allocations will be unveiled at the UNPRI’s annual conference in Seoul in June. The guide is a joint project between the UN PRI and UNEPFI real estate programme. UNEP’s Sustainable Buildings and Construction Initiative (SBCI), will also release a global guide on sustainable buildings by the year end. Separately, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) said it was working to integrate real estate into its corporate sustainability reporting framework within the next two years.
Shareholders at Morgan Stanley should oppose the election of several directors and support proposals for an annual vote on executive pay at its April 8th AGM, according to US corporate governance agencies Glass Lewis and Egan-Jones. Glass Lewis has recommended a vote against members of the bank’s audit committee including Howard Davies, former chairman of the UK Financial Services Authority, claiming they had failed to adequately supervise the company’s risk controls.
FTSE Group in the US launched its terror-free index series on 31 March in alliance with Conflict Securities Advisory Group, a US NGO. The indices exclude companies with non-humanitarian business ties in countries including Iran, Sudan, Syria and North Korea. Nineteen US states, including New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, California, Texas, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Missouri and Louisiana are believed to have proposed or enacted legislation requiring state plan sponsors to divest from international companies with active business ties to terror-sponsoring countries.
The European Parliament’s pension fund has sold shares in PetroChina/CNPC after campaigners and MEPs demanded the fund sever its links because ofPetroChina’s relations with the Sudanese government. Glenys Kinnock, MEP who launched the campaign together with the Aegis Trust said: “‘The sale of the stockholdings in PetroChina sends a very clear signal that the European Parliament abhors that company’s links with a regime which does little to end the violent conflict in Darfur.”
The UN Global Compact and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights have released the second edition in the Embedding Human Rights in Business Practice series.
The publication has been produced in the context of the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and features 20 case studies from Global Compact signatories including ABB, Nike, Novartis, Royal Dutch Shell, Starbucks, and Volkswagen. Download the document
Franklin Resources, parent group of Franklin Templeton Investments, has been downgraded by Innovest Strategic Value Advisors in its Intangible Value Assessment of based on the company’s relative performance of social, environmental, and strategic governance (ESG) issues relative to sector peers.
The €250bn Norwegian Government Pension Fund – Global is expected to reach $600bn by the start of 2012 and is considering an expansion of the benchmark portfolio for equities to include an additional 14 non-OECD countries. A decision will be taken in June.
Tore Eriksen, secretary-general of the Norwegian Ministry of Finance, told an EU meeting on sovereign wealth funds that the fund already $15bn invested in non-OECD countries and had a positive influence on international financial markets because of its long investment horizon, zero leverage and transparency.

Hermes Focus Asset Management is reportedly attempting to replace the executive board of ASM International, the Dutch technology chip manufacturer, for failing to achieve promised profitability. The proposal has been submitted to the company ahead of its annual general meeting on May 21, reports ipe.com.
The US Council of Institutional Investors, an association of more than 130 public, corporate, and union pension funds with combined assets of over $3 trillion, has asked the SEC to place investor interests at the heart of proposals to clarify corporate financial accounting and reporting.
The UK government has called on submissions from investors for an update of the Myners principles, a 2001 review by Paul Myners, former chairman of Gartmore, the UK fund manager, which aimed to improve investment decision-making and governance by pension fund trustees. Myners recommended that trustees set out clear investment objectives in a Statement of Investment Principles (SIP), which he suggested should be sent to members every year. The UK Treasury invites comments on the consultation by 23 June 2008 to: Myners Consultation
Pax World Management, investment adviser to Pax World Funds, has launched three new mutual funds: Pax World Global Green Fund, sub advised by Impax Asset Management in London, Pax World Small Cap Fund, and Pax World International Fund.
The UK Social Investment Forum has joined with the Renewable Energy Association to create a forum for investors to meet with experts from the sustainable energy sector. The two recently held the first Finance Network for Sustainable Energy (FiNeSse) and aim to host three or four such events during the year.
Sustainable assets at Fortis, the Belgo-Dutch financial services group, reached €2.9bn by the end of 2007, up from €1.48bn at the end of 2006. Fortis said that €2.18bn was run via Fortis Investments’ specialist SRI centre in Frankfurt, while €720m was held by its private banking business.Cowen Asset Management has joined the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC), the European collaboration between pension funds and other institutional investors to address the investment risks and opportunities associated with climate change.
JP Morgan, the US investment bank, has bought Climate Care, the UK voluntary carbon offset provider, for an undisclosed sum.
Merrill Lynch has launched a carbon dioxide emissions index for both European allowances and UN-issued carbon credits.
Blockbuster, the US video group, has agreed to amend its corporate governance guidelines to accept a proposal from the New York City Employees’ Retirement System (NYCERS) that shareholders be allowed to cast an annual advisory vote on the pay of its executives.
Deutsche Asset Management plans to launch the world’s first specialist private equity fund in climate change investments, reports the Financial Times. Kevin Parker, the firm’s chief executive, said it would invest in green technology, agriculture and infrastructure related to alternative energy.
Environmental and demographic changes could significantly change the way insurance companies provide products and services in the years and decades ahead, according to a study commissioned by The Co-operators, the Canadian co-operative insurance company. The report, titled: The Future of Sustainable Insurance: A Thought Leaders Study, says climate change, social change, and economic shifts. are creating challenges related to increasing claims over extreme weather events and energy security and threats from terrorism and pandemics, amongst other things. 
To download a copy of the report, visit www.cooperators.ca
SRI Funds Advice, a web-based financial performance and sustainability comparison of SRI funds has been launched by Care Group, the Swiss research and asset management firm and GOE, the Swiss sustainability ratings and consultancy firm.