Robeco will be piloting the use of satellite imagery data to check if palm oil producers are sticking to their commitments regarding deforestation.

The asset manager has signed a letter of intent to collaborate Satelligence, a Dutch company that accesses data from imagery taken by satellites orbiting 700km above south-east Asia, west Africa, and central and south America.

It will be the first time Robeco uses satellite imagery for any purpose, a spokeswoman told IPE.

The data Satelligence accesses comes from satellites operated by the European Space Agency (ESA), the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency and NASA.

“The ESA’s Sentinel-1 satellite, launched in 2014 as part of the Copernicus scientific programme, is so powerful it can pinpoint and precisely ‘photograph’ pieces of land five meters in diameter through the clouds,” said Robeco in a statement.

The asset manager said the data can be used to engage with plantation owners, traders, intermediaries and other actors in the supply chain, as well as to alert authorities of any criminal activity.

Peter van der Werf, engagement specialist at Robeco, said: “Building on the annual benchmark of palm oil companies as published by the Zoological Society of London’s Sustainability Policy Transparency Toolkit, which we use in our engagement programme, this project now gives us the ability to develop real time monitoring of the palm oil companies’ commitments to no deforestation.”

Addressing sustainability issues in the palm oil industry is a major engagement theme for Robeco this year.

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Carola van Lamoen, head of active ownership at Robeco, talks to IPE’s Liam Kennedy

PRI launches tool to query academic ESG research

The Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) has launched a tool allowing users to identify and access academic papers on different topics related to the broad topic of ESG.

The Academic ESG Review tool allows users to query a database of more than 900 papers on responsible investment themes, grouped into categories such as asset pricing, climate regulation, “return on ESG”, and tax regulation.

The PRI emphasised that the tool is continuously evolving, and encouraged feedback on any papers listed or suggestions for additions, as well as feedback about how people were using the tool.

Information about the tool can be found here.

Charity fund manager forges modern slavery alliance

Charity fund manager CCLA has launched an initiative aiming to build a coalition of investors keen to contribute to the eradication of modern day slavery.

According to the CCLA, the initiative – Find It, Fix It, Prevent It – will feature representation from the Investment Association, the PRI, the Business and Human Rights Centre, the University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab, and Rathbone Investment Management.

Investors joining the coalition commit to, over the three years, engage with companies in their portfolios “to develop better policies, processes and procedures for identifying then addressing modern slavery in their supply chains”.

They would also promote public policy that incentivises companies to report on the effectiveness of their actions to identify and then eradicate modern slavery, and contribute to the development of knowledge about how companies can combat the problem.

James Corah, head of ethical and responsible investment at CCLA, said: “We believe that slavery exists somewhere in the supply chain of nearly every company.

“Good companies are those that find, and then support, victims of slavery. Sadly, there are not yet enough of them and we, as an industry, have to do everything we can to encourage better action.”

Modern slavery refers to forced or compulsory labour, people living in servitude, and human trafficking.