Nestlé is to give shareholders a vote on its climate strategy at its upcoming annual general meeting (AGM), prompting Ethos Foundation, a Swiss pension fund-backed organisation, to withdraw a shareholder resolution requesting such a move.

The shareholder resolution had been jointly submitted by seven Swiss pension funds. In December, Ethos had written to the board of directors to encourage the company to offer an advisory vote on their climate change-related plans.

In a statement, Ethos said it welcomed Nestlé’s decision, “which is based on numerous discussions between the company’s board of directors and Ethos”. However, it expected the “say on climate” practice to be permanent, and for Nestlé to submit to the AGM each year a specific report outlining the progress it had made towards achieving climate neutrality.

Nestlé has committed to achieving zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, setting out milestones towards that in a report in December.

Ethos is also trying to get cement manufacturer LafargeHolcim, the other Swiss company targeted by the Climate Action 100+ initiative, to offer an advisory vote on its climate change plans. It said the company “seems open to the idea and will announce its decision soon”.

Vincent Kaufmann, director of the Ethos Foundation, said announcements such as Nestlé’s were to be welcomed, “but it is important that they are actually followed up by concrete and effective measures”.

“The aim of ‘Say on Climate’ is precisely to enable shareholders to assess the effectiveness of climate strategies, but also, if necessary, to increase pressure on the board of directors if the measures taken are not considered sufficiently ambitious,” he added.

Last week a coalition of investors announced they would withdraw a shareholder proposal at HSBC after the bank tabled a resolution committing it to phasing out financing of coal-fired power and thermal coal mining, by 2030 in the EU and OECD countries and by 2040 elsewhere. 

Linedata partners with Arabesque S-Ray for ESG data solution

Technology vendor Linedata has integrated environmental, social and governance data from provider Arabesque S-Ray into its portfolio and other management solutions for asset managers.

It said the instant access to such data would help managers meet growing demands for greater transparency of ESG funds, such as from the EU’s sustainable finance disclosures regulation (SFDR), and “provide a competitive edge through sustainable positioning and differentiated product offerings”.

Georg Kell, founding executive director of the UN Global Compact and chair of the Arabesque Group, said: “Our agreement with Linedata empowers more asset managers to make better decisions for a sustainable future.”

“More and more asset managers will make strategic partnerships that can place valuable ESG intelligence at their fingertips”

Paul Elfain, head of asset management, Europe at Linedata

Speaking about compliance with the SFDR, in particular additonal reporting requirements coming into effect in January 2022, Paul Elfain, head of asset management, Europe at Linedata, said: “Absolutely critical to this is not only ensuring that asset managers have access to ESG data and scoring, but that it is fully integrated into their portfolio management and back-end processes.

“Asset managers need to make real-time decisions to further their investment strategies and create differentiated ESG products for investors, and also to ensure they can fully comply with new disclosure requirements. Over the coming months, you will see more and more asset managers make strategic partnerships with providers that can place valuable ESG intelligence at their fingertips.”

Arabesque S-Ray leverages artificial intelligence to analyse the sustainability performance of around 8,000 of the world’s largest listed corporations using self-learning quantitative models and data scores.

Church investors seek ‘Living Hours’ commitments

The Church Investors Group, a £21bn (€24bn)-strong group including Church of England Pensions Board, is contacting investee companies in the finance and insurance sectors to encourage them to provide guaranteed minimum working hours each week for their employees.

The group plans to extend its engagement later this year to include the construction and utilities sectors.

The Church Investors Group’s advocacy for the Living Hours initiative follows on from its commitment to its precursor, the Living Wage initiative, which started in 2012.

The Living Hours standard calls on employers to provide the right to:

  • At least 4 weeks’ notice for shifts, with guaranteed payment if shifts are cancelled within this notice period;
  • The right to a contract that reflects actual hours worked; and
  • Guaranteed minimum hours of 16 hours of work a week (unless the worker requests otherwise).

“Insecure hours affect too many low-paid workers and without the security minimum hours bring, workers and their families are denied the basic preconditions needed for them to flourish,” said Revd Canon Edward Carter, chair of the Church Investors Group.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has made this issue even more pressing as a lack of sufficient working hours is causing ‘in work’ poverty while the insecurity of working hours has a real effect on families’ wellbeing, causing significant stress and leading to mental health issues.”

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