Environmental, Social and Governance
Land Management and Environmental Enhancements
The 475MW operational UK portfolio produced 426GWh of clean energy during 2017. This is the equivalent of:
FSFL believes Environmental, Social and Governance (‘ESG”) considerations play an important part in delivering responsible and sustainable growth for the long term. These factors have been integrated into all stages of the investment process, and are actively supported by all involved, regardless of seniority. With that in mind, the Company has adopted a Responsible Investment Framework to provide a suitable operational framework in matters related to the investment process, such that ESG has become part of the normal day-to-day operation.
Further to the environmental advantages of large scale renewable energy, each investment is closely scrutinised for localised environmental impact. Where improvements can be made, FSFL will work with residents, landowners and local authorities to minimise visual and auditory impact of sites.
The Asset Manager is a working partner of the Solar Trade Association’s Large Scale Asset Management Working Group and a signatory to the Solar Farm Land Management Charter. It ensures that solar farms are managed in a manner that maximizes the agricultural, landscaping, biodiversity and wildlife potential, which can also contribute to lowering maintenance costs and enhancing security. As such, the Investment Manager has worked with Kent Wildlife Trust to identify site specific biodiversity enhancements for a number of sites to secure long-term gains for wildlife and ensure that the land and environment are maintained to a high standard. Biodiversity and wildlife enhancements undertaken by the Company include:
- Management of grassland areas within the security fencing to promote wildflower meadows and sustainable sheep grazing;
- Planting and management of hedgerows and associated hedge banks;
- Management of field boundaries between security fencing and hedgerows;
- Sustainable land drainage and pond restoration;
- Installation of insect hotels and reptile hibernacula;
- Installation of boxes for bats, owls and kestrels; and
- Installation of beehives by local beekeepers.
Some solar plants are designed to enable sheep grazing through the installation of protection barriers around electrical equipment, and other plants are investigated for upgrading to ensure that the farmland the solar assets are located on can remain in agricultural production, which is a frequent desire of local communities. Currently our Copley, High Penn, Pitworthy, Bournemouth and Wymeswold solar assets have active sheep grazing by the landowner’s livestock, in an effective working partnership with the Company.
Social and Community Engagement
The Asset Manager has actively sought to engage with the local communities around the Company’s solar assets and regularly attends parish meetings to encourage community engagement and promote the benefits of the solar assets.
Educational visits have also taken place across the portfolio, including hosting local members of the Institute of Engineering and Technology and students Loughborough University at the Wymeswold solar plant and hosting students of Warwickshire College at the Southam solar plant.
FSFL supports community benefit schemes that assist parish councils in developing and maintaining community assets. In 2017, £99k worth of grants were provided to local communities. Projects funded include upgrading recreational facilities and playgrounds and the provision of bus shelters in these rural communities.
The Asset Manager actively reviews the consents of all solar assets to ensure that all solar plants are compliant with the consents and the conditions attached to them and actively engages with local government organisations to ensure ongoing compliance. In addition to ensuring the company is protected from prosecution this also promotes trust with local communities.
Health and Safety
There were no reportable health and safety incidents reported during the year.
Safety, Health, Environmental and Quality (‘SHEQ”) performance and proportionate risk management are a top priority at all levels for Foresight Group. To further improve the management of SHEQ risks, reinforce best practice and ensure non-compliance with regulations is avoided, the Asset Manager has appointed an independent professionally accredited health and safety consultant who regularly visits the portfolio assets to ensure they not only meet, but exceed, industry and legal standards. The consultant has confirmed that all sites are in compliance with all applicable regulations. Recommendations that have been implemented to help raise standards further including improvements to wiring and safety signage/labelling.
When Foresight representatives visit the sites, they ensure that induction procedures are properly undertaken, appropriate clothing is worn and that the site office is properly equipped. They will also provide feedback on site conditions to ensure that assets remain safe and secured. A similar regime is employed for the assets under construction in Australia, where compliance with health and safety standards and regulations are a contractual obligation of those constructing the facilities. Additionally, professionally accredited independent health and safety consultants are employed to review on site construction activity to ensure that staff understand and are complying with health and safety requirements, that staff remain alert to risks and do not sustain accidents or injuries and that non-compliance with regulations is avoided.
ESG Impact in Australia
Our selected development and construction partners have been active in including local communities in the progress of the development of the Australian projects and ensuring that the projects are not disruptive to residents or the environment during construction and operation.
The Oakey developments will also be beneficial to local communities in Queensland. The projects will provide local landowners with the opportunity to improve the resilience of their farming operations due to the fact long-term land leasing to solar energy generators supplements their income. In addition, the farm will create 120 construction jobs.
Power the Melbourne Tram Network
FSFL’s first Australian solar project, Bannerton, has won a tender from the Victorian Government to supply clean power to the Melbourne tram network. Not only is this good from a clean energy perspective as it lowers carbon emissions, it will also be beneficial from a social perspective as it provides low cost travel and will help reduce the number of petrol powered cars on the road.
Signatory of UNPRI
Foresight Group is a signatory to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (“UNPRI”).
The UNPRI, established in 2006, is a global collaborative network of investors working together to put the six Principles for Responsible Investment into practice. As institutional investors, we have a duty to act in the best long-term interests of our beneficiaries. In this fiduciary role, we believe that ESG issues can affect the performance of investment portfolios (to varying degrees across companies, sectors, regions, asset classes and through time). We also recognise that applying these Principles may better align investors with broader objectives of society. Therefore, where consistent with our fiduciary responsibilities, we commit to the following:
- We will incorporate ESG issues into investment analysis and decision-making processes.
- We will be active owners and incorporate ESG issues into our ownership policies and practices.
- We will seek appropriate disclosure on ESG issues by the entities in which we invest.
- We will promote acceptance and implementation of the Principles within the investment industry.
- We will work together to enhance our effectiveness in implementing the Principles.
- We will each report on our activities and progress towards implementing the Principles.
As a signatory for this voluntary framework, Foresight submits an annual report to the UNPRI on its responsible investment activities, which is approved by senior management. This allows Foresight to demonstrate to stakeholders and the public how we incorporate ESG issues, understand where we sit in relation to local and global peers and to learn and develop our practices year-on-year.
Foresight Group actively collaborates with the investment industry and relevant governmental bodies and regulators through direct conversations and contributing to collective consultation papers on matters affecting the investment process, including ESG.
FSFL has been awarded a five star rating by 3D Investing.
Five star funds are the real pioneers in the industry. They are required to demonstrate at least a fair financial performance, excellent transparency, a high social impact and a lack of exposure to ethically controversial companies.
3D Investing provides research and communication services to help investment managers and advisers to deliver a high quality and distinctive service for the socially motivated investor.
For further details please refer to the website www.3dinvesting.com