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Al Gore, Levi’s and PG&E rally around sustainability

By Charlotte Dudley
Environmental Finance
The two largest US pension funds have teamed with leading companies such Levi Strauss and Pacific Gas & Electric, and an Al Gore-founded investment firm, in a commitment to promote environmental sustainability and tackle climate change.
Al Gore, Levi’s and PG&E rally around sustainability

Levi's joins the call for sustainability

The two largest US pension funds have teamed with leading companies such Levi Strauss and Pacific Gas & Electric, and an Al Gore-founded investment firm, in a commitment to promote environmental sustainability and tackle climate change.

The Investor-Business Roundtable for a Sustainable Economy, launched this week at the 2011 conference of Ceres, a coalition of investors, environmental organisations and public interest groups, was signed by a group of nine investors, labour groups and businesses including pension funds CalPERS and CalSTRS, trade union association AFL-CIO and property giant Jones Lang LaSalle.

Other signatories were the Al Gore-backed Generation Investment Management, clothing company Levi Strauss & Co, utility Pacific Gas & Electric, software firm SAP and the Skoll Foundation which supports social entrepreneurs.

The roundtable committed to integrating sustainability “deep” within their governance and management systems and voiced support for policies that reward sustainable business practices and deliver shareholder value.

The long-term viability of business “depends on how quickly we develop and support solutions that use cleaner energy and fewer resources”, the group said, adding that the global finance crisis revealed “deep and systemic failure” of capital market accountability and downplayed “hidden” long-term risks and returns.

“Our carbon-intensive economy is no longer sustainable,” signatories said. “We must act collectively – now – to build a global economy and job opportunities that sustain not only the hopes of the 6.7 billion on the planet today but also the 9 billion projected to be here in 2050.”

Among the individual commitments made by roundtable participants, Levi Strauss & Co vowed to improve factory conditions and “make a material difference” to the communities in its global supply chain, CalPERS committed to integrating environmental, social and governance factors across all its asset classes, and Jones Lang LaSalle said it will boost the energy efficiency of its property portfolio.

Sustainability campaign targets top 1,000 companies

In a separate show of co-ordinated action, a group of 26 investors, including CalPERS and CalSTRS, will write to leaders of corporations in the Russell 1000 index, such as Chevron, Apple and Exxon Mobil, urging them to act on issues of environmental sustainability.

“The letter will request that their management teams and boards address sustainability issues across their organisations – from the boardroom, to their operations, across their supply chains,” said Anne Stausboll, CalPERS chief executive and co-chairwoman of Ceres.

Investors will also encourage the companies to adopt the Ceres 21st Century Roadmap for Sustainability, as a framework for integrating sustainability into their business strategies. The roadmap details 20 key expectations related to governance, stakeholder engagement, disclosure and performance.

The Russell 1000 index tracks the 1,000 largest US securities, representing more than 90% of the US market. Top holdings in the index include Exxon Mobil, Apple, Chevron, General Electric and Microsoft.

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