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ESG roundup: France's Ircantec launches energy poverty initiative

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French €9.8bn public pension scheme Ircantec is offering its pensioner members financial support to carry out energy efficiency work on their homes.

It is offering to contribute €1,500 towards improvement costs, on top of support available from Anah, the national housing agency, and local authorities engaged in home improvement programmes.

Ircantec is also offering a “social loan” of €500-€10,000 at a rate of 0% and repayable over a period of between one and five years.

The experimental offer is due to be offered over a period of one year from 1 January to 200 households in Brittany, Pays de Loire, Hauts de France, Grand Est and New Aquitaine. It will primarily target households in areas covered by public housing support programmes.

At the end of the year Anah will report on the effectiveness and relevance of the offer. If the results are positive it will be extended to the entire country.

The initiative forms part of Ircantec’s work to alleviate energy poverty and the pension scheme’s wider social action policy. It aims to prevent its most vulnerable retirees from losing their independence and encourage them to look after their homes.

The initiative was motivated by the results of a survey Ircantec carried out last year, which showed that the vast majority (85%) of respondents did not undertake renovation work in their homes due to a lack of support and resources.

The respondents tended to be women living on their own, on average 70 years old, on low incomes of €10,000-€12,000 a year, and owners of houses that are more than 30 years old – and hence most of the time poorly insulated.

Fellow French public sector pension scheme ERAFP has also engaged in a housing initiative for the benefit of its members. 

Large UK pension investor joins IIGCC

Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol

Brunel Pension Partnership (BPP), the £28bn (€31.8bn) asset pool for 10 UK local government pension schemes, has become a member of the International Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC).

It is the first of eight such pools to join the group. 

Dawn Turner, CEO of BPP, said: “Improving our knowledge-base on climate change will benefit our clients as we strive to help them to achieve their investment objectives. IIGCC provides a platform for conversation, information-sharing and collective influence.”

Bristol-based BPP is in the process of establishing a network that will assist in delivering on the commitments implied in Brunel’s investment principles and values and considers IIGCC a key organisation in this area, according to a statement.

Several of BPP’s senior staff transferred from the Environment Agency Pension Fund, which is also a signatory to the IIGCC.   

ICGN sticks to its guns on differential ownership rights

The International Corporate Governance Network (ICGN) has reiterated its opposition to differential company ownership rights, calling for benchmark stock indices to disallow shares with differential ownership rights and setting out recommendations for action from investors.

In a nuanced briefing note, it acknowledged that not all institutional investors – including some ICGN members – were in favour of exclusion and that global index providers had responded well to concerns relating to dual class shares in their indices.

But not enough had been done to protect investors from differential ownership in benchmark indices, according to ICGN.

Investors could therefore take steps, such as encouraging companies with existing dual class structures to introduce sunset provisions that would result in the elimination of such structures over time as the company evolved.

Investors could also encourage index providers to stop adding new dual class shares into benchmark indices.

ICGN’s opinion can be found here.

Earlier this year Swedish state pension fund AP7 settled a lawsuit with Facebook, which had proposed an overhaul of voting rights for different classes of shares. CEO Richard Gröttheim said the victory had saved investors as much as $10bn.

Wanted: Pension scheme views on responsible investing

Investment consultancy Aon is seeking the views of pension schemes around the world on environmental, social and governance matters and responsible investment.

It has put together a short survey of mostly multiple choice questions that can be completed here:

http://survey.constantcontact.com/survey/a07eetsqrcoj9xe3105/start

Ethos tweaks proxy voting guidelines

Ethos Foundation, the Swiss pension-fund-backed proxy voting agency, has adjusted its voting guidelines and corporate governance principles for 2018.

Next year’s edition specifies Ethos’ criteria for approving a company’s remuneration report. Ethos will pay particular attention to the vesting of deferred variable pay in the form of shares and the information the company provides about this. It expects companies to be more transparent about this aspect of pay.

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