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Universities Superannuation Scheme - USS

PRI reporting framework 2018

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Outputs and outcomes

INF 17. ESG issues affected financial/ESG performance

17.1. Indicate whether your organisation measures how your approach to responsible investment in Infrastructure investments has affected financial and/or ESG performance.


INF 18. Examples of ESG issues that affected your infrastructure investments

18.1. Provide examples of ESG issues that affected your infrastructure investments during the reporting year.

ESG issue
          Corporate Social Responsibility targets
        
Types of infrastructure affected
          Transport infrastructure
        
Impact (or potential impact) on investment

Transparency, good performance and progress on corporate social responsibility is a key aspect of the company's license to operate and underpins the company's strategy. 

Activities undertaken to influence the investment and the outcomes

The company has developed a training programme for senior and mid-level managers on CSR issues, including health and safety, diversity and environmental management.

The company has reviewed many of its health and safety procedures e.g. improved accident and near-miss reporting, updated staff training on the use of defibrillators, upgraded fire alarms, reviewed escalator safety and developed behavioural safety courses to embed and roll out best practice amongst staff.

Specific training sessions were also delivered for the Board in 2017, focusing on sustainability.

Additionally, specific ESG targets have been incorporated into management objectives and linked to remuneration outcomes to deliver greater focus and accountability on CSR matters. 

ESG issue
          Public disclosure on ESG matters
        
Types of infrastructure affected
          Transport infrastructure
        
Impact (or potential impact) on investment

The company is a significant employer with an international presence.

Demonstrating commitment to CSR and management of ESG practices at the firm is often reviewed in the process for awarding contracts. Illustrations of good performance could help to enhance the reputation of the firm.

As part of the USS monitoring review process (which was enhanced during the year - see INF01), it was noted that some of the company's ESG management processes and performance were not disclosed publicly.

 

Activities undertaken to influence the investment and the outcomes

USS encouraged management to improve the level of public disclosures, and the company has committed to do so.  

 

ESG issue
          Corporate Governance and risk management
        
Types of infrastructure affected
          Transport infrastructure
        
Impact (or potential impact) on investment

USS used its influence to strengthen the company’s corporate governance, succession planning, risk management, internal control practices and disclosure.

 

Activities undertaken to influence the investment and the outcomes

The scheme monitors risk management practices and internal control frameworks. An in-depth review of the structure and functioning of the board, the control environment and processes, and corporate transparency and disclosure was undertaken during the year.

USS requested more information on risk management and internal audit to be presented at board meetings; and appointed an external representative with risk management experience to strengthen the board expertise. 

Together with the other shareholders, USS also requested a review of succession planning, which was undertaken by an external consultant. A combined Nomination and Remuneration Committee was created at board level.

The terms of reference of these new board committees, and the formalised guidelines for other corporate governance and internal control practices, were collated within a new corporate governance manual for the company during the year.  

ESG issue
          Noise abatement
        
Types of infrastructure affected
          Air traffic control
        
Impact (or potential impact) on investment

Noise management is a key stakeholder concern for those living near flightpaths and attracts significant political attention.

Improved management of aircraft noise underpins the sectors' licence to operate, stakeholder relations and future development strategies for the industry.

Activities undertaken to influence the investment and the outcomes

NATS has been implementing a programme of "Continuous Descent" to enable planes to fly a smooth, continuous descent into an airport, instead of a series of steps. This results in quieter, more fuel-efficient landings. NATS has continued to refine its continuous descent approaches, expanding it to 14 airports across the UK, working with 22 airlines to make this operation more widespread. 

The Continuous Descent Campaign is reducing aircraft noise for many communities around airports — achieving an additional 32,070 quieter arrivals in 2016 over 2015. 

NATS' efforts with the Continuous Descent Approach (CDA) Outreach Programme were recognised, for the third year in a row, via a Responsible Business award from Business in the Community. 

See https://www.nats.aero/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/NATS-Responsible-Business-Report-2016-17.pdf for further details.

ESG issue
          Climate change
        
Types of infrastructure affected
          Holiday resort
        
Impact (or potential impact) on investment

Climate change could affect the natural resources of the resort, increasing operational costs and potentially reducing the attractiveness of the destination.

Activities undertaken to influence the investment and the outcomes

A potential changing climate and the implication this would have for the asset, were a key due diligence factor. The team engaged climate change advisors and sought research on global and local climate and weather impacts to determine whether climate change could affect the dynamics of the resort.  The conclusions influenced USS's long term returns projections and the offer bid.

18.2. Additional information.

An additional INF case study:

During the year one of the scheme's assets experienced a small hydraulic fluid leak into a water course.

Management contacted USS regarding the matter and within days had prepared a memo to outline the incident and the company's immediate response. This included notifying appropriate agencies and actions to contain and mitigate the effects of the spill. 

A root cause investigation was also undertaken.

Management provided additional information on further health and safety reviews, as reassurance for shareholders and to help demonstrate the seriousness with which they were taking the incident.

Further discussion was tabled for the next board meeting.

USS were satisfied that the incident was well managed and communications with stakeholders were appropriately handled.


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