ESG roundup: IIGCC, UN Climate Conference, UK Social Bond Fund, CDP forest report
Investors worth €7.5trn have responded to the conclusion of the UN climate change talks in Warsaw by urging the EU to lead by example ahead of a global deal in 2015 and implement strong climate policies that drive low-carbon investment.
Stephanie Pfeifer, chief executive of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC), which represents more than 85 of Europe’s largest investors, said: “The agreement on a timetable leading to Paris in 2015 is an important step, but the actions needed to back this up must start now.
“Mobilising climate finance will be central to a global deal in two years’ time, and the only way this can be achieved is if public bodies and private investors work together.
“This means putting policy frameworks in place, which are truly long term, enshrined in legislation and provide meaningful support for investors who want to back low-carbon energy. Lord Stern said this week that, wherever you look, government-induced policy risk is the biggest deterrent to low-carbon investment.
”The EU can change this by agreeing a strong 2030 climate framework, which restores investor confidence and kick-starts investment.”
She added: “In September, world leaders are due to attend a climate summit convened by UN general secretary Ban Ki-moon. By then, it will be clear which countries are forging an ambitious climate agenda and which countries are holding back progress.
“European leaders have an opportunity to attend the summit from a position of real leadership by putting decisive policy in place that sets the benchmark for international action.”
In related news, Sean Kidney, chief executive and co-founder of the Climate Bonds Initiative, who attended the UN Climate Conference, called it a damp squib.
Kidney said the Australian and Canadian government representatives were trying to torpedo things left, right and centre, while Japan bowed its head and said ’without nuclear’. However, as its renewables are not scaling up as quickly as the country hoped, it has to rely on gas – meaning its emissions targets are “wrecked”, he said.
He agreed with US economist Jeffrey Sachs, who said 20 years had been wasted on on negotiations, and that emissions are rising faster than ever.
He said a global carbon scheme remained a ”great theory in search of practical application – it may still be the long game, but it is not the short game we now need”.
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Elsewhere, UK asset manager Threadneedle has launched its UK Social Bond Fund in partnership with Big Issue Invest, the social investment arm of The Big Issue.
The fund aims to achieve both an investment return and a positive social outcome by investing in fixed income securities of organisations that support socially beneficial activities and economic development.
It will invest in companies, associations, charities and trusts in ’social intensity’ areas, including affordable housing and property, community services, employment and training, financial inclusion, health and social care, transport and communications and utilities and the environment.
Targeting an annual gross return in line with that of a UK corporate bond index, it will launch with £10m (€12m) of seed investment from Big Society Capital and £5m from Threadneedle.
It will be available to institutional and retail investors from January 2014.
In other news, the latest CDP forest annual report revealed that the business community remains largely unaware of the deforestation risks in its own supply chains, threatening shareholder value.
Companies told CDP’s forest programme that they faced three key challenges, namely a lack of traceability in global commodity supply chains, challenges with certification and regulatory uncertainty.
While businesses such as Marks and Spencer, Unilever, Nestlé and British Airways that have engaged with the programme for five years continue to improve their scores, few companies recognise supply and price volatility as a risk, customers assert no risk to their business from climate change, and only one company recognises fraud as a problem.
However, across all companies, there is an average improvement of 27% this year, suggesting progress in managing deforestation risks.
‘The commodity crunch: value at risk from deforestation’ report asked companies to disclose their exposure to deforestation risks through their use of five agricultural commodities responsible for most deforestation – palm oil, soy, biofuels, timber and cattle products.
According to the CDP, deforestation accounts for approximately 15% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, the equivalent of the entire transport sector.
And lastly, the Turkish Stock Exchange, the Borsa Istanbul, has chosen global responsible investment research provider EIRIS as its partner to develop the BIST Sustainability Index, which will be launched in early 2014.
Borsa Istanbul-listed companies will be assessed against a set of environmental, social and governance indicators, and those companies that perform better than the required criteria will be included in the new index.