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ESG roundup: AP7 blacklists coal and phosphate companies

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Sweden’s AP7 has added two new companies to its investment blacklist and removed six more after the end of its standard five-year exclusion period.

Bharat Heavy Electricals and NTPC were excluded from the SEK430bn (€41.6bn) pension fund’s investment universe for violating environmental standards through the construction of a coal-fired power plant near a world heritage classified national park.

Bharat Heavy Electricals has been criticised for its plans to build the plant near the Sundarban mangrove forest – which straddles the India-Bangladesh border – for a joint venture between NTPC and Bangladesh Power Development Board.

In addition, two companies already on AP7’s exclusion list – Agrium and Potash – have merged into a new company, Nutrien, which has subsequently been added to the blacklist.

Nutrien, like its predecessors, has been excluded for human rights violations, as it has been accused of importing phosphate from the disputed territory of Western Sahara. 

According to campaign group Western Sahara Resource Watch, Nutrien has been automatically blacklisted by Sweden’s other AP funds as well as Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global and municipal pensions provider KLP.

AP7’s list of excluded firms now numbers 65 companies, down from 70 firms in December.

Six companies have been accepted back into the investment universe, having been blacklisted for five years, including BP and Transocean, which were barred in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. 

“Our policy is that we blacklist companies for five years if we have verified information that they are involved in norms-breaches,” a spokeswoman for AP7 said. “The companies will be re-included in our investment universe after five years unless the norms breaches continue,” she said.

Hermes launches carbon risk assessment tool

Hermes Investment Management has launched a carbon tool to help its fund managers make enhanced investment decisions and to better inform engagement activities with companies in relation to climate change.

The tool allows fund managers to asset their fund’s carbon performance and carbon risk. The carbon risk of a fund is measured relative to its benchmark and of listed companies relative to their peers, based on emissions in the Scope 1, 2 and 3 categories.

It has a forward-looking element, in that a fund’s ‘profit at risk’ is calculated for different future carbon pricing and policy scenarios.

The tool also identifies companies with which carbon-focused engagement should be initiated or intensified, and gauges the degree of progress achieved on any engagement already underway.

According to the manager, the tool will also help enhance client reporting to demonstrate how environmental considerations and engagement are being “credibly integrated into the firm’s fund and stewardship offerings” – a key element of proposed sustainable finance rules from the EU.

Eoin Murray, head of investment at Hermes Investment Management, said the tool helped its fund managers to more effectively take into account information about specific carbon risk and thereby enhance their investment decisions.

“Assessing carbon risk helps identify investment opportunities and threats to value, and begin or intensify engagements that can reduce the risk of holding exposed companies,” he said.

The manager intends to launch further tools over the next 12 to 18 months to help assess water risk and company board composition. 

Majority of investors integrating ESG, backing SDGs

More than four in five asset owners (84%) are pursuing or actively considering ESG integration, according to a survey by Morgan Stanley.

The investment bank polled 118 asset owners from around the world – including pension funds, endowments, sovereign wealth funds and insurers – and found that more than two thirds (70%) had allocated to some form of ESG strategy within their investment portfolio.

Morgan Stanley also reported that 78% of asset owners sought to align their investments with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, or at least considering doing so.

Despite the affirmative signs from the survey, respondents also indicated that proof of financial performance of ESG strategies was the “top challenge” for investors.

In addition, fewer than half felt they had adequate tools and resources to assess the effectiveness of their ESG allocations.

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