Can divestment drive green energy shift?
Divestment may not be helping green the energy industry, according to a team of Oxford academics. The team examined what happens when investors sell off shares in energy companies and whether it helps clean them up and drive a move to renewables. Apparently not.
“Unfortunately, one company’s step away from high-emitting activity can be another’s opportunity to double down,” the team write. “Immediately after its sale to a private-equity backed firm, Trans-Niger Oil & Gas, levels of flaring (the high-emission burning of excess gas released when pumping up oil) at the Umuechem oil field quadrupled and the acquirer announced its intention to rapidly triple oil production.” That’s going well then.
Size matters for board evolution
A close look at the S&P reveals there are more women on boards—and boards are growing in size.
Analysis by Merel Spierings of the Conference Board reveals the number of female directors on boards continues to increase—around 30% of board directors in the S&P 500 are women—while the number of all-male boards is close to zero. Size matters: the highest proportion of female directors are concentrated on the boards of the largest companies.
Disclosure of race and ethnicity in boardrooms is now at more than 70% (compared with under 60% last year) and once again, larger companies tend to have the more racially diverse boards. The average size of boards also appears to be increasing, up from an average of 10.8 directors to 11.2. You’ve guessed it: larger companies tend to have larger boards.
Spierings writes: “Companies need boards with directors who have a diversity of backgrounds, as well as the skills and experience to oversee the expanding list of priorities. They also need boards of sufficient size to accommodate these individuals, as well as to populate the (new) board committees that address ESG topics.
“And they need to have more robust onboarding programs for these new directors, as well as ongoing board education programs to ensure the entire board is not relying on the expertise of a few directors but is fluent in the growing list of issues that boards are expected to oversee.” And the list is very long.
Lax lobbying laws
New rules should be imposed on listed companies to be more transparent about their lobbying activities, according to a statement from the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB) in response to a United Nations review.
“States should require greater transparency from companies about their lobbying activities,” IHRB says. “There should be clear information about the amount of money being contributed as political contributions, the causes that companies support, and lobbying positions the companies advocate.
“Rather than relying on companies to be transparent through moral suasion, stock market authorities can require companies to be more transparent, provided the companies are publicly listed.” Seems reasonable.
European directors are unlikely to encounter famine in their lifetimes, but it is a very real fact of life in some places on the planet and may, according to a new study, shed some light on board behaviour.
A team of researchers at Dongbei University in China finds that board chairs with experience of famine tend to “hoard cash” when they detect a short-term threat, and cut R&D spending when they see a longer-term crisis looming. The academics made their findings after applying “imprinting theory”—the idea that the past affects the present in significant ways—to the study of board behaviour.