Ethical funds told to shun Nomura over sex bias

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A leading corporate responsibility firm has blacklisted Nomura, the Japanese banking giant, because of its record on sex equality.

Stockholm-based GES Investment Services, whose clients manage assets worth more than €60bn (£42bn), has drawn up a list of 25 companies that it recommends clients should exclude from their portfolios.

GES said Nomura has been included on the list because of a report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) investigating discrimination against women in terms of employment and career opportunities at Nomura Securities, one of the company's subsidiaries. Last year, Nomura Securities was convicted of discrimination by a Japanese court, which awarded 12 female employees nearly €500,000.

A spokeswoman for Nomura in the UK told The Independent on Sunday she was unable to comment on group matters, although she added that the bank was appealing against the court's decision.

GES tracks around 4,000 of the world's largest companies and provides advice on corporate and social responsibility (CSR) to institutional investors in northern Europe and the UK. One of Europe's top three CSR consultants, it bases its investment decisions on international norms for environmental policies, human rights and business ethics, most of which are laid down by the United Nations and its divisions such as the ILO.

Another company that has been excluded by GES is the German chemicals giant BASF. A subsidiary was found guilty last year by the US Environmental Protection Agency of smuggling and selling large amounts of illegal pesticides, and fined more than $1m (£565,000).

A BASF spokeswoman said: "We're in talks with GES about the case. We have taken the correct action and are hoping to get an independent body to verify that. We hope to be taken off the list soon." In order to be removed from the list, GES insists that companies take "corrective and preventive action" which must then be verified by an independent party.

Investor organisations such as the National Association of Pension Funds and the Association of British Insurers have long campaigned in connection with a range of shareholder and corporate issues, in particular demanding that companies follow guidelines on corporate governance.

However, in recent years, investors have also been seeking out companies with strong records on corporate and social responsibility. Two years ago, the FTSE responded to this trend by launching the FTSE4Good index, which rates companies according to CRS issues.

Nomura is one of the world's biggest banks. In the UK, its principal finance unit - which was run by Guy Hands prior to the launch of his own fund, Terra Firma - has been especially active. One of Mr Hands' last deals for the bank was the £1.9bn acquisition in 2001 of the luxury hotel chain Le Meridien. The chain was later hit by the global downturn, and equity investors such as Nomura have since had to write down their investments.

BASF is the world's largest chemicals maker, with a market value of €24bn (£17bn).

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