Top Stories

May 27, 2022


UK imposes 25% energy windfall tax to help households as bills surge

The UK has announced a 25% windfall tax on oil and gas producers’ profits alongside a £15 billion package of support for households struggling to meet soaring energy bills. The move, which will give each UK household a £400 discount on their energy bill and more for lowest-income households, marks a change of direction for Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government which had previously resisted windfall taxes, calling them a deterrent to investment. It is the second emergency policy intervention to help with rising bills in 2022. Facing intense political pressure to provide more support for billpayers, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said energy firms were making extraordinary profits while Britons struggled. However, Sunak has added a clause to the tax which will provide tax relief to firms that “reinvest their profits”. (Reuters)


Amazon shareholders vote against 15 historic investor-led proposals

Shareholders of e-commerce giant Amazon voted against all 15 investor-led resolutions that challenged the company’s policies, including its use of plastics and certain concealment clauses in contracts. Investors voted for proposals to approve executive compensation, board members and a stock split. The boost in the number of resolutions, which Amazon recommended investors vote against, comes as tech company shareholders push for more transparency on social issues such as pay equity, workplace culture and sustainability practices. The 15 investor-led resolutions represented the most proposals the company has faced since 2010 and the first AGM for chief executive Andy Jassy. Previous unsuccessful but strong shareholder votes at Amazon have moved the company into publishing an environmental impact report, which it did for the first time in 2019. (Reuters; Financial Times*)


SEC targets greenwashing with new ESG Fund disclosure guidelines

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) published proposed disclosure rules for funds and advisers that claim to integrate ESG factors into their investment products and services. The aim is to provide clearer and more consistent information for investors, and to address the risk of greenwashing. The SEC said the proposals are being made following growing investor interest in ESG. Disclosure requirements will depend on how central ESG factors are to the fund in question. For funds that utilise aspects of ESG into investing, a description of how ESG factors are incorporated will need to be disclosed. For funds that use ESG factors as a priority, there would need to be additional detailed disclosure. Impact funds that target sustainability-related outcomes would also have to disclose how objective progress is measured. (ESG Today)


BlackRock opposes McDonalds racial audit while under one itself

Asset manager BlackRock, which agreed to undergo an independent racial-equity audit in 2021, is expected to vote against a shareholder proposal for fast food franchise McDonalds to do a similar assessment of disparities. As McDonald’s second-largest investor, with 6.8% of shares, BlackRock’s opposition to the proposal makes it more difficult to win approval for the non-binding measure. SOC Investment Group called for the McDonald’s audit late last year, saying that its franchised model had created blind spots and possible risks related to the equitable treatment of restaurant workers. McDonald’s board has recommended voting against the proposal at its annual meeting. BlackRock is among a group of companies ranging from Amazon to Tyson Foods that have agreed to conduct racial-equity audits amid mounting pressure from shareholders. (Bloomberg)*


Research finds 6 in 10 women of colour ‘hide identity’ at workplace

New research published by think-tank the Runnymede Trust and the Fawcett Society found that three-quarters of women of colour had experienced some form of racism at work. Its survey of 2,000 women of Black and Asian heritage revealed that just over a quarter faced racial slurs. One of the key findings of the report was that more than 6 in 10 felt they needed to hide their identity at work, doing so by modifying their language, hairstyles, clothes or diet to fit in with colleagues. More than half of Muslim and Black African women said they had to change the clothes they wore at work. A quarter of those with Indian heritage had changed their name. The charities called on the government to back a business-led initiative to tackle ethnicity and gender pay gaps. (Personnel Today)

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