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Proposals to watch this proxy season: climate, race, stakeholder capitalism

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Proposals to watch this proxy season: climate, race, stakeholder capitalism

The ESG Insider newsletter compiles news and insights on environmental, social and governance developments driving change in business and investment decisions. Subscribe to our ESG Insider newsletter and listen to the ESG Insider podcast on SoundCloud, Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

"Having an effective ESG disclosure system would level the playing field for investors and companies alike," Satyam Khanna tells S&P Global Market Intelligence in a new interview. "There's nothing short of a clamoring from investors at this point for climate- and ESG-related information."

Khanna holds the newly created role of senior policy adviser on climate and ESG issues at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This week we bring you a profile of the man helping Wall Street's top regulator tackle climate risk and ESG.

We also look at the rising momentum in Europe's race to achieve net-zero emissions. All but three of Europe's 22 largest power and gas utilities have set net-zero emissions targets, and many have already made significant strides toward achieving them — see our Chart of the Week.

Despite the progress, many of these companies still carry carbon-intensive business profiles. Direct emissions from the five biggest polluters in the sector are larger than those of Italy, the world's eighth-largest economy.

Chart of the Week

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Podcast

Shareholder proposals to watch this proxy season: climate, racial equity, stakeholder capitalism

Shareholders filed hundreds of ESG-related shareholder proposals for the 2021 proxy season. In this episode of the "ESG Insider" podcast, we explore three emerging investor resolutions. One asks companies to give investors a "Say on climate," and to learn more, we talk with Chris Hohn, the British billionaire hedge fund manager and philanthropist behind the proposal. We also hear from Tejal Patel, corporate governance director at CtW Investment Group, which is behind a resolution asking companies to perform racial equity audits. And we look at a proposal that asks companies to become "public benefit corporations" to advance stakeholder capitalism.

—Listen on SoundCloud, Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

Top Stories

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Satyam Khanna, senior policy adviser on Climate and ESG
Source: U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission

Meet the regulator helping shape the next era of US corporate disclosures

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has put ESG and climate front and center since Allison Herren Lee took over as acting chair in January. That is due in part to Satyam Khanna, Lee's new senior policy adviser on climate and ESG. At 35, Khanna is working to demystify financial markets in the context of what many see as their biggest threat: a rapidly changing climate. "For a lot of younger Americans in my generation, 2008 was a defining moment for how we view financial markets and financial regulation," Khanna said in an interview. "This is really no different. Climate change clearly poses risks to investors and financial stability."

As net-zero pressure grows in Europe, some utilities enjoy 'head start'

As awareness of climate risk grows, we're seeing a spate of new net-zero targets in Europe's utility sector. Companies such as Enel SpA and Iberdrola SA have already shut down most of their coal-fired power plants in Europe and elsewhere, giving them a head start relative to many peers. Other power producers have driven down their carbon footprint even more dramatically by simply ditching their emissions-intensive businesses. Ørsted A/S sold its upstream oil and LNG units to refashion itself into the world's largest offshore wind developer and now plans to reduce its direct emissions to net-zero by 2025, ahead of any of its competitors.

Japan insurers under rising pressure to push portfolio companies to go greener

More institutional investors in Japan will likely join Nippon Life Insurance Co. in dialing up the pressure on their portfolio companies to go greener more aggressively, experts say, after the nation's largest life insurer went as far as threatening to off-load investments that are not tackling emissions adequately. Nippon Life is the third-largest Asian institutional investor by assets under management, and it said in February that companies in its ¥10 trillion domestic portfolio must achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 or risk being divested. The insurer also said it would start investing in companies actively tackling emissions from the current fiscal year beginning April 1.

Environmental

Over 300 companies, investors urge Biden to toughen US climate commitments

US electricity 'halfway to zero emissions' as challenges mount – Berkeley Lab

Despite global pressure, India's coal sector sees role for fuel in near term

Social

Investors press companies with Xinjiang ties to clean up supply chains

Insurance industry, regulators at odds over race, equity proposals

EPA environmental justice directive aims for more community engagement

Governance

SEC finds potentially misleading statements, other ESG investing-related issues

In ESG era, new green asset ratio could give Europe's banks an edge over rivals

Goldman urges investors to reject request for report on mandatory arbitration

ESG Indices

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