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Sustainable Switch:‘Stop the greenwashing, take it off the table’

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·6-min read
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Sharon Kimathi Energy and ESG Editor, Reuters Digital sharon.kimathi@thomsonreuters.com

Hello! If Tuesday’s newsletter was all about the ‘S’ in environment, social and corporate governance (ESG), then today’s is all about the ‘G’, as some financial services investors shook up shareholder meetings at Barclays, Standard Chartered and HSBC this week. Climate activists and other disgruntled investors https://www.reuters.com/business/climate-activists-take-aim-barclays-stanchart-shareholder-meetings-2022-05-04 glued themselves to chairs, set off alarms and chanted slogans at the three banks’ meetings on Wednesday. Amid anger over lenders' financial support for Big Coal, protesters also repeatedly interrupted Barclays chairman Nigel Higgins as he tried to get the meeting there underway. "Stop the greenwashing, take it off the table," a man who did not give his name said, before being escorted out of the meeting, which was held in the northern English city of Manchester to reflect Barclays' increased focus on regional lending.

Meanwhile, HSBC and Ping An executives https://www.reuters.com/business/exclusive-hsbc-ping-an-execs-plan-meeting-discuss-breakup-proposal-source-2022-05-04 are planning to meet in mid-May to discuss the Chinese insurer's proposal that the bank should explore strategic options such as spinning off its Asian business, a source familiar with the matter said on Wednesday. Ping An, the biggest shareholder in HSBC, called last week on the London-headquartered bank to look at ways to boost returns in a move viewed by some analysts as potentially being driven more by politics than finances.

* Talking Points

* Breakingviews: The government is so scared of the cost-of-living crisis https://www.reuters.com/breakingviews/how-uk-can-cut-power-bills-go-green-2022-05-03 that it doesn’t want consumers to pay for low-carbon wins like heat pumps, even though this cuts energy bills in the long run. Instead utilities could do the job and spread the cost over 20 years, argues Hugo Dixon.

* In Conversation Hortense Bioy, global director of sustainable research at Morningstar, an American financial services firm Q: Why did the flows into sustainable funds drop in comparison to the non-sustainable funds in the first quarter? “Investors in sustainable strategies tend to be focused more on long-term returns and are less inclined to move money around in jittery markets than the average investor. “As demonstrated in the past as well as in 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and once again in the first quarter of 2022, sustainable fund flows tend to be more resilient in times of market volatility than their traditional peers.” Q: What is your outlook on the flows into sustainable funds for the rest of the year? “It’s always hard to predict flow activity, especially in an uncertain macro environment like the current one. But if market conditions deteriorate, we can expect flows into sustainable funds to continue to be more resilient than conventional funds.”

* ESG Lens

The number of companies appointing chief sustainability officers https://www.reuters.com/business/sustainable-business/number-company-sustainability-officers-triples-2021-study-2022-05-04 (CSO) jumped three-fold in 2021 year-on-year, a study by consultants PwC showed on Wednesday, although less than a third of all CSOs hold an executive position.

* ESG Movers and Shakers Luiz Amaral, the newly appointed CEO of high-profile climate organization, the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), said it plans to hire a director to handle complaints and concerns including about standards used to judge corporate environmental targets. Spanish headquartered onshore wind company, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, has hired Tim Dawidowsky as its chief operating officer. Dawidowsky, who has been a member of the board of directors of Siemens Gamesa since 2020, joins the company on May 5 from Siemens Energy where he was serving as senior vice president, project excellence. Built by Nature, a network and grant-making fund dedicated to accelerating the timber building transformation in Europe, has appointed Amanda Sturgeon as its first CEO. Sturgeon joins from UK-based consultancy firm, Mott MacDonald, where she was the regenerative design and climate change practice lead for the Asia Pacific region. Aduro Clean Technologies, a Canadian developer of water-based tech to chemically recycle plastics, has appointed Mena Beshay as its chief financial officer (CFO). Beshay has over 20 years of experience in senior financial leadership positions. Previously, Beshay served as CFO and global head of corporate development at CloudMD, a company developing a connected healthcare ecosystem. * Quote of the Day “Our estimation is that the fossil fuel industry has a net negative impact on humanity. After you factor in profits, value for customers, employees and other positive impacts the fossil fuel industry has, you need to add up all damage done – someone’s house getting flooded when living near the coast and their flood insurance goes up or a hurricane destroyed your house, or your home is destroyed by a fire on the West Coast – since these are economic impacts on people that shouldn’t be ignored. What you’ll get is a net negative dollar value for humanity and I believe that companies that are on the whole destroying value for people shouldn’t ultimately exist.” James Katz, CEO & founder of Humankind Investments, a U.S.-based socially responsible investment firm

* Looking Ahead

* Angolan Central Bank Governor José de Lima Massano sits down to speak with Reuters at a Newsmaker event later today. Angola, one of Africa's biggest oil and gas producers, is in the midst of a push to modernize its economy with a privatization plan.

* Find out how remote work is affecting companies' climate goals in a Reuters report coming out later today.

* The Investing in African Mining Indaba conference kicks off on May 9 in Cape Town. The event is expected to take place in person in 2022 for the first time since 2020, which will bring together mining company executives, investors, and mines ministers from across Africa and beyond to discuss industry issues.

* The Biden administration will defend its pause of oil and gas leasing before a U.S. appeals court on May 10. * Franchise Charged https://www.reuters.com/business/charged Canada is talking to a number of companies https://www.reuters.com/business/autos-transportation/canada-active-discussions-with-ev-supply-chain-companies-minister-2022-05-04 interested in setting up production in the electric vehicle (EV) supply chain, the industry minister said, as the government seeks to cut carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 and play a role in the shift toward greener cars. There are "very active discussions with a number of players" to develop an EV supply chain, Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said in an interview last week.

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