Top Stories

December 13, 2016

Responsible Investment

Allianz chief hits out at investment industry’s short-termism

Oliver Bäte, the chief executive of Allianz, has denounced the investment industry for being too short-termist and called for rewards to be given to investors who stick around. “The long-term shareholder notion is maybe an oxymoron today,” he said. “People are more and more focused on the short term and I think as a policymaker I would go and say ‘enough’.” Mr Bäte was particularly critical of recent regulatory changes such as the EU’s Solvency II capital rules and international accounting standards, which he said make insurers’ balance sheets more volatile. “I would reinforce active ownership on behalf of shareholders, but you need to reward that.” He suggested there could be restrictions on voting rights for shares that have been held for a short period of time, or that dividends could be limited to long-term shareholders.  (Financial Times*)


General Mills and Department of Agriculture aim to stop the death spiral of honeybees

General Mills is contributing $2 million to an ongoing project by Xerces Society, a nonprofit that specializes in wildlife preservation, to restore 100,000 acres of farmland in North America over the next five years. The project, which will receive an additional $2 million from the US Department of Agriculture, will bring General Mills’ investment in pollinator habitat restoration to $6 million since 2011. “Most of our products contain honey, fruits, vegetables and other ingredients that require pollination,” said Jerry Lynch, chief sustainability officer at General Mills. Studies show that habitat restoration is an effective way to increase bee and other pollinator populations. Xerces’s specialists will visit each participating farm to help draw up a plan on what and where to plant and how to minimise the use of pesticides. (Guardian)

Human Rights

HSBC’s Hong Kong rainbow lions spark LGBT rights debate

One of Hong Kong’s icons – a pair of lions guarding the HSBC building – has been given a rainbow-coloured makeover, as part of the bank’s “Celebrate Pride, Celebrate Unity” campaign for LGBT rights. The campaign has reignited debate in Hong Kong about gay rights and whether corporations should get involved. Many people have expressed support on social media, but a number of groups have started a petition against the lions. They argue that HSBC’s pro-LGBT policies are “not fair to the shareholders because it essentially forces every shareholder to endorse the homosexual lifestyle”. Recent surveys show growing support for anti-discrimination laws for LGBT people in Hong Kong. But while the government has published anti-discrimination adverts, it has so far stopped short of implementing legislation. (BBC)

Corporate Reputation

Uber employees secretly tracked politicians and celebrities, lawsuit claims

Uber employees used the company’s lax tracking system to monitor the whereabouts of “high profile politicians, celebrities, and even personal acquaintances,” according to a declaration in a lawsuit filed against Uber by its former forensic investigator. The declaration was revealed by a Center for Investigative Reporting article detailing security standards at the company. The article also cites former employees who say “thousands” of employees had access to Uber’s tracking data, as well as personal information on other employees and drivers, with few protections in place to prevent improper access and misuse. The company says approval “by managers and the legal team” is required for employees to access data. That access is compartmentalised to what employees need for their jobs.  (The Verge)


Leaked BP report reveals risk of lethal accidents

Oil company BP has come close to at least two potentially lethal accidents as a result of a shortcoming in the way it monitors the safety of its refineries and petrochemicals plants, according to an internal report. BP introduced stringent new safety procedures in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster but its internal report, obtained by Greenpeace, recorded several “near misses” at refineries and chemical plants. BP’s internal review concluded that “a standard and global approach to managing engineering information and data throughout the life of an asset does not exist” at the company.  At some sites, the lack of clear systems for storing plans and other engineering data meant staff had to contact colleagues who had left the company to retrieve information. (Financial Times*)

Image source: Kuwait burn oilfield by Jonas Jordan United States Corps of Engineers. Public domain.