The Year in Green

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    As the year draws to a close, we look back at this amazing year we have spent reporting news and events to you. What a journey it has been! At the beginning of the year, NordSIP had the pleasure of welcoming officially two new members to the team, Filipe Albuquerque, who joined us from the Swedish House of Finance and Kim Hansson, who had already started helping NordSIP in 2018. The team quickly came together to report the news and travel the world to find the most insights at some of the most important conferences in sustainability and impact.

    In January, the year started with a wave of new exclusions as nuclear weapons and oil sands, as well as tobacco and thermal coal (for some), became non grata at AP1 and AP4, but also at Brummer, while the AP’s ethical council recommended to ditch marijuana-related products as well. Meanwhile, some papers including the Financial Times, were fooled into believing a fake letter from BlackRock’s Larry Fink. climate activists also wrote an open letter to the CEO but, the real letter fell short. In Stockholm, Nasdaq welcomed its first green bond ETF and the market saw the first Blue Bond, while engagement specialist GES International was acquired by ESG data giant Sustainalytics and Nadine Viel Lamare was appointed Director at the Transition Pathway Initiative. At the end of the month, a tragic ecological accident in Brazil, brought attention to the dangers of trailing dams, which triggered new policies and initiatives throughout 2019.

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    In February, it was the Varma‘s turn to update its blacklist, while NBIM decided to bring all environment-related mandates in-house. NordSIP attended the sustainable finance conference proposed by Aktuell Hållbarhet and listened to Per Bolund, among other inspiring speakers. At the panel proposed by Phenix Capital we found out about the contrasting views of AP3 and the Church of Sweden on impact. Meanwhile, the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) updated its SDG-based framework.

    We celebrated women in March, and asked the question: Why are there so many women in sustainable investments? and obtained answers from many contributors including one brave man. Meanwhile, the mandatory reporting on UK gender pay gap confirmed that the asset management industry has much room for improvement. NordSIP attended the Sustainable Investment Forum Europe in Paris and our special correspondent in Copenhagen reported from an exclusive keynote speech by GMO Capital’s Jeremy Grantham. The CFA Society of Sweden awarded Norrsken Foundation its ESG Award and in Norway, the government recommended its SWF to exclude oil exploration and production companies from its portfolio. Finally!

    At the beginning of April, we attended the Impact Summit Europe arranged by Phenix Capital in The Hague. After discussing the matter throughout the first few months of the year, we took a closer look at the term ADDITIONALITY (yes, it’s a word). Still on the topic of impact, the IFC unveiled the Principles for impact investing, a report by Phenix Capital showed that asset owners embrace impact investing and the GIIN say that asset managers lead the pack.  Meanwhile, three of the Swedish AP Funds announced the formation of a joint long-term investment company Polhem Infra to fund sustainable infrastructure.

    In May, as Länsförsäkringar excluded tobacco and AP1 appointed Magdalena Håkansson as Head of Sustainable Value Creation, we were privileged to be invited at the Stockholm residence of Estrid Brekkan, Ambassador of Iceland and listen to a series of presentations on the progress of green finance in her country, and heard of an innovative solution for carbon capture and storage. Meanwhile, we took a close look at Carbon Credits amidst a strong wave of flight-related climate anxiety. Together with investors, the UNEP FI renewed a guidance to implement the TCFD, stating that climate inaction could cost US$1.2 trillion. NordSIP also attended a conference organised by the Stockholm Sustainable Finance Centre where a clear message of urgency transpired from several interventions. At the end of the month, the UK CFA Society announced a new ESG Certificate.

    It was AP2‘s turn to announce a blacklist update in June, KLP went coal-free and the Norwegian SWF confirmed that it would start divesting from fossil fuels, while Pope Francis declared a state of climate emergency.  The UN PRI threatened to de-list 50 of its lagging signatories. The EU published its long-awaited taxonomy, while we were attending a well-curated Sustainable Finance conference in Copenhagen, supported by AM Watch. We also held a session on investing along the SDGs at the TBLI Conference in Zurich, where we listened to Sony Kapoor on the needs to direct more investments to emerging markets. At an event proposed by Swesif, we listened to the conclusions of a joint study with the Stockholm Sustainable Finance Centre “Long-Term Perspectives in Investment Analysis”.

    After providing a sneak peek of the IRRI Survey 2019, we unveiled the winners of a different category every week: Best Salesperson & Relationship manager, Best Asset Manager (firm), Best individual analyst for sustainable and responsible investment research, Best provider of engagement support, Best index & benchmark provider and Best provider of impact measurement services, Best sell-side research firm, Best asset owner, Quoted company best at managing and communicating the material sustainability corporate governance issues facing their business & Companies investors are most likely to get in touch with next year, Best contribution overall & recap of the winners

    The summer was as hot as ever, and fires devastated huge areas in the Amazon, but also in many other places, but Amazon aid was held up by a presidential feud. The IPCC warned that land degradation threatens food security and AP7 demanded engagement from water-management laggards. A Morningstar report showed that Nordic funds dominated the European sustainable funds space and Polhem Infra appointed a CEO.

    Still in the aftermath of the summer’s fires, institutional investors came together to drive action on deforestation, but the biggest talking point in September was clearly the PRI in Person conference in Paris, where the organisation commended the most responsible asset owners. Meanwhile, more exclusions in the Nordics, with Danish AP pension banning tobacco, and MP Pension divesting from the largest oil companies. As Christine Lagarde replaced Mario Draghi at the helm of the ECB, she vowed to make the central bank greener. NordSIP attended the Nordea Sustainable Finance conference and reported on two inspiring keynote speeches. The Net-Zero Carbon Alliance also saw the light with a large number of investors committing to carbon neutrality by 2050, while Sweden launched a National Advisory Board for impact investing.

    In October, Alecta became the first to receive the new ESG4Real certification, KLP announced the exclusion of oil sands and Nasdaq celebrated the sale of one million ESG future contracts. NordSIP attended an inspiring edition of the Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN) Impact Conference in Amsterdam and, more locally, listened to Flemming Hedén of the Swedish environmental protection agency, talking about the EU taxonomy, at a sustainability-focused event proposed by Schroders. On the same theme, the CDP reviewed the EU Action plan and provided a useful walk-through report. From a US-led study, we also obtained confirmation that Big Oil knew all along but hid the evidence of the damage it was causing, just as Big Tobacco…

    November saw increased pressure on US asset managers to vote on climate-focused resolutions following a report from ShareAction. On the sustainable bond side, the month saw a controversial SDG bond and a successful first transition bond launch. Data and index giant MSCI announced that its ESG ratings would become available for free, Söderberg & Partners published its annual traffic lights on Swedish pensions’ sustainability and the EU announced ambitious green initiatives. NordSIP braved the riots and attended the TBLI Conference in Hong Kong. Coming back, we asked questions about sustainable agriculture and Japanese governance.

    December’s focus point was COP 25 which disappointed many, but gave a backdrop for positive commitments, the least of which wasn’t the EU‘s green deal pledge. Locally, the Swedish Fondbolagensförening adopted recommendations on carbon footprinting. The EU Parliament and EU Commission also finally agreed on the EU taxonomy.

    We look forward to pursuing our coverage in the new decade, and while you rest, you may enjoy our NordSIP Insights, reports in magazine format that each focus on a crucial sustainable investments topic!

    And if you didn’t receive this letter directly into your inbox, you should definitely subscribe to our Week in Green! You won’t regret it (and it’s free).

    Happy reading, and Happy New Year!

    picture © Shutterstock

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