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RI ESG Briefing: As You Sow report on ESG at solar photovoltaic companies

The daily round-up of ESG news

Environmental

As You Sow, the not-for-profit organisation, has released a new report – Clean & Green: Best Practices in Photovoltaics – looking at how solar photovoltaic manufacturers protect workers and the environment. It also considers investor considerations about environmental, social, and governance practices for responsible management of PV companies.

Italian bank UniCredit is part of a group that has completed a €155m project financing arrangement for a 60MW solar plant in Bulgaria. Solar provider SunEdison said it has inked the deal with the World Bank’s IFC, the US development institution the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and UniCredit Group.
A group of German banks led by Deutsche Bank have said they provided €118m in loans for 48 MW photovoltaic project in Italy. The Serenissima project, developed by S.A.G. Solarstrom AG, was bought by a vehicle controlled by the BNP Paribas Clean Energy Fund in December 2011.

A new solar technology firm, Enphase Energy, has listed on Nasdaq. Enphase’s technology allows individual solar panels to operate and be monitored independently, increasing efficiency. Link

Social

Female chief financial officers (CFOs) at US publicly listed companies are underpaid by 16% on average – even after accounting for variables including market capitalization – according to a new study by GMI Ratings, the corporate governance and ESG ratings firm. The six-page report is called “Female Chief Financial Officers and the Glass Ceiling” and is available here

Total global Islamic financial assets have reached $1.3trn – up 150% in five years, according to a report from the UK Islamic Finance Secretariat (UKIFS). It said: “Considerable potential exists for expansion of the industry worldwide, although appropriate legal and regulatory structures are crucial for its development in individual countries.”

Campaign group Investors Against Genocide is reaching out to institutional investors in J.P. Morgan Chase ahead of the bank’s annual meeting later this year. The group’s “genocide-free investing” proposal will be on the ballot at the event for the second year. Last year, investors such as the AFSCME Employees Pension Plan, Calvert Investments, Christian Brothers Investment Services, Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds, Domini Social Investment Trust, the New York City Pension Funds, Trillium Asset Management and T. Rowe Price supported the motion, IAG said. Link. Governance

Christian Brothers Investment Services, the $4bn US faith investor, has filed a resolution calling for an independent chairman at News Corp. It follows a floor resolution tabled by CBIS at the media giant’s 2011 annual meeting in the wake of the phone hacking scandal. The company is “stepping into the scandal with a flawed corporate governance structure,” CBIS’s Julie Tanner told Reuters.

BSkyB Chairman James Murdoch is to step down, according to Sky News. The channel, part of News Corp, cited unnamed sources saying Murdoch was due to attend a board meeting today (April 3) at which he is expected to stand down from his position as chairman with immediate effect.

The US union-affiliated CtW [Change to Win] Investment Group has written to fellow shareholders in custodian Bank of New York Mellon calling for them to support an independent board chairman at the company. It follows a series of lawsuits alleging fraud in the bank’s foreign exchange business. The company holds its AGM on April 10; Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) is also backing calls for an independent chairman. Link

The West Midlands Pension Fund has re-appointed PIRC as its proxy-voting manager. The role had been put out to tender in November last year. “The Fund intends to vote all of its direct equity holdings worldwide through this contract,” it said.

New York City Comptroller John Liu and the five New York City Pension Funds have called on Abbott Laboratories to “stop insulating executive bonuses” against the penalties the pharmaceutical company pays as a result of improper business practices. The funds’ resolution on the issue will be voted on at Abbot’s annual meeting on April 27.

Proxy firm Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) has established a new ‘Feedback Review Board’, a conduit for investors, issuers and “various market constituents” to communicate with ISS. It is intended as a complement to, not a replacement for, the established channels for engagement with ISS.

Australia: the number of companies seeking to engage with shareholders has almost tripled following the introduction of the new “two strike” rule, according to AMP Capital’s latest Corporate Governance Report. The rule lets shareholders vote on removing directors if 25% of investors successively vote against the remuneration report. “It is not surprising companies are now listening to shareholder concerns and we welcome companies who seek to understand what shareholders expect from them in terms of good governance,” said AMP Capital’s Corporate Governance Manager Karin Halliday.