Top Stories

January 28, 2019

Social Investment

Microsoft pledges $500 Million for affordable housing in Seattle area

Microsoft, claiming that the industry has an interest and responsibility to help people left behind in communities transformed by the boom, is putting up $500 million to help address the housing crisis in the Seattle area. Microsoft’s money represents the most ambitious effort by a tech company to directly address the inequality that has spread in areas where the industry is concentrated, particularly on the West Coast. It will fund construction for homes affordable not only to the company’s own non-tech workers, but also for teachers, firefighters and other middle and low-income residents. Microsoft’s move comes less than a year after Amazon successfully pushed to block a new tax in Seattle that would have made large businesses pay a per-employee tax to fund homeless services and the construction of affordable housing. The company said the tax created a disincentive to create jobs. (New York Times)

Corporate Governance/ Accountability

New dam disaster puts Vale CEO, deals and dividends under scrutiny

Vale SA, the world’s largest iron ore miner, suspended its planned shareholder dividends, share buybacks and executive bonuses in light of a deadly tailings dam disaster in Brazil, according to a securities filing late on Sunday. CEO of Vale, Fabio Schvartsman, who said recently he would stay on through 2020 after his current term expires in May, designed Vale’s strategy around spending more than $10 billion in annual free cash flow as China continues to purchase its high-grade iron ore. Offering generous dividends, reinvesting in money-losing divisions and searching for mid-sized acquisitions – many of those plans may have to be abandoned as Vale braces for lawsuits that could grow into the tens of billions of dollars after the dam disaster. One executive at a pension fund that holds Vale shares, who asked for anonymity, said it would be hard to justify big shareholder payouts in coming quarters, adding that a full review of Vale’s governance was needed. (Reuters)


Survey: Two-thirds of UK businesses will include climate risks in this year’s financial reports

Two-thirds of the UK’s largest 100 companies are planning to incorporate climate risks in their annual financial or combined report this year as client, investor and customer demand for transparency on sustainability issues grow, as revealed through a survey by environmental consultancy Carbon Trust. The survey quizzed board members to garner their company’s approaches to sustainability reporting frameworks, climate change mitigation and natural capital accounting. Of the respondents, 67 percent said their firm’s annual report for 2019 would link climate challenges to financial and material risks. However, less than a quarter said they would follow the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures’ (TCFD) recommendations for this disclosure in full. Despite a low uptake of the TCFD framework, seven in ten respondents said that the model of reporting would be likely to increase their brand’s value in a reputational or financial capacity. Respondents also cited improved access to capital and higher credit ratings as potential perceived benefits of TCFD alignment, with the majority (72 percent) expressing a desire to adopt the recommendations within the next three years. (Edie)


Hershey unveils plan to set approved science-based target by 2021

US-based confectionary giant Hershey has committed to set an approved science-based emissions reduction target by 2021, as part of a sweeping new range of sustainability measures. At a summit in Ghana on Thursday, the company revealed that it has partnered with the Science Based Targets Initiative to develop carbon reduction aims in line with a 2°C trajectory over the next two years. The firm, which produces products such as Kisses, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Almond Joy, said the target will cover Hershey’s “total environmental footprint”, including its Scope 1 & 2 (direct) and Scope 3 (indirect) emissions. Such an aim will build on the company’s existing 2025 target of cutting its direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2025, against a 2010 baseline. The commitment to set a science-based target forms part of a wider string of sustainability announcements made by Hershey this week under its newly-published environmental policy. (Edie)


Obesity, bad nutrition, climate change pose triple danger, commission says

Obesity, undernutrition and climate change are the biggest threats to the world population, linked by profit motives and policy inertia, a top commission said on Sunday, calling for a binding plan and trillions of dollars to thwart the dangers. A $1 billion fund and action strategies targeting food policy and production are needed urgently to support health, the environment and economic well-being, said the report by the Lancet Commission on Obesity, a panel of experts in agriculture, economics, human rights and other fields. The three problems of obesity, undernutrition and climate change are intertwined by methods of agricultural production, transport, urban design and land use that will take an enormous toll on the population and planet, the commission said. The three global dangers are linked in such ways as mass production of processed, nutrient-poor food that causes not only obesity and poor nutrition but major greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. (Reuters)


Image source: Downtown Seattle by Tiffany Von Arnim on FlickrCC BY 2.0