#ESG – NJ Utility PSEG announces two new environmental commitments and issues 2021 Sustainability Report

Local utility Public Service Enterprise Group (“PSEG”) announced earlier today, October 15, 2021, that it has joined The Race to Zero and Business Ambition for 1.5°C, two campaigns that use science-based targets to aid the fight against climate change.

The Race to Zero and Business Ambition for 1.5°C campaigns are designed to help mobilize support from businesses, cities, regions and investors for a healthy and resilient zero-carbon economy, in line with global efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C.

PSEG’s also issued its 2021 Sustainability and Climate Report, which updates the company’s achievements and goals for a wide range of topics, including air emissions, energy efficiency, transportation and waste minimization.

PSEG Chairman and CEO Ralph Izzo said “Climate change is one of the preeminent challenges of our time, and PSEG has an obligation to help address climate change and its effect on our environment, our customers and communities around the world.”

Their Report showed PSEG’s generation portfolio emission rates for NOx and SO2 were down year-over-year by 58% and 77%, respectively, reflecting emission rates that are significantly below industry averages.

The Report also provides updates on PSEG’s progress across a range of sustainability categories, including:

  • Energy efficiency: PSEG’s energy efficiency targets have been updated and remain on track. New Jersey regulators approved $1 billion of energy efficiency spend for the three-year programs, designed to help the state achieve its updated framework for energy efficiency and peak demand reduction programs, setting five-year savings targets of 2% for electric distribution and 0.75% for gas distribution companies. PSEG’s targets are aligned with New Jersey’s Clean Energy Act (2018), which calls for these savings to be achieved by 2023.
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  • Transportation: PSEG aims to reduce fossil fuel use in its own transportation fleet through vehicle electrification, rightsizing the fleet and utilizing renewable fuels. By 2030, PSEG aims to convert its passenger vehicles, such as sedans and SUVs, 60% of medium-duty vehicles and 90% of heavy-duty vehicles to battery electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids or anti-idle jobsite work systems.
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  • Waste minimization: Companywide, waste and recycling programs successfully diverted 95.5% of material from landfills in 2020. The ongoing goal for its utility, PSEG to focus on new waste streams for recycling, which will continue to decrease landfill tonnage. The waste minimization goal for PSEG is to divert in excess of 95% of material from landfills.
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  • Air emissions: PSEG is reducing air and other emissions by updating its operations and transitioning to cleaner sources of energy, and, per their Report, already has one of the lowest emissions rates among investor-owned power producers, according to MJ Bradley’s Benchmarking Air Emissions report, July 2021. As of 2020, PSEG has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by more than 54% since 2005 through switching to lower-carbon fuels, improving energy efficiency and modernizing its electricity and natural gas networks, among other strategies.
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  • Biodiversity: PSEG is committed to promoting and enhancing biodiversity through natural resource conservation while continuing to operate in a safe and reliable manner. PSEG established the Estuary Enhancement Program in 1994. Protection of natural resources and biodiversity informs their environmental philosophy and the planning process considers the potential impacts on regional biodiversity.
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  • Diversity, equity and inclusion: PSEG has a target of 30% of total applicable spending allocated to diverse suppliers, including minority-, women-, veteran- and LGBTQ+-owned suppliers. During 2020, PSEG had a sixth consecutive record-setting year by buying more than $644 million worth of goods and services from diverse suppliers, a 15% increase over 2019. More than 28% of the company’s purchases were with diverse vendors. And PSEG is helping develop New Jersey’s clean energy workforce through innovative training and development programs, emphasizing low- to moderate-income and underrepresented communities.
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  • Environmental justice: According to the Report, PSEG is developing an environmental justice commitment in support of the many diverse communities it serves across the region and believes such a commitment should convey the importance of centering environmental justice considerations across the organization so that customers — especially those in underrepresented communities — can benefit from the coming changes of a decarbonized future.

Triple Bottom Line – PSEG is one of a growing number of public utilities that have pivoted and started to embrace climate goals and climate change as being critical to their future success.  While not all utilities are aligned this way, many are beginning to take real steps to make change in this regard.  Much still to do for sure but good, solid, accountable and reportable steps in the sustainability and ESG arenas.  Kudos for the effort and the transparency. 

Duane Morris has an active ESG and Sustainability Team to help organizations and individuals plan, respond to, and execute on Sustainability and ESG planning and initiatives within their own space. We would be happy to discussion your proposed project with you. For more information, or if you have any questions about this post, please contact Brad A. Molotsky, Nanette Heide, Darrick Mix, Jolie-Anne S. Ansley, David Amerikaner, Christiane Campbell, Sheila Slocum-Hollis, Vijay Bange, Stephen Nichol, or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.

ESG: Will Creating C-Suite Pay Linkages with Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Goal Achievement drive behavior change?

Earlier this year we saw some large market movers tie certain of their credit facility metrics to achieving various ESG goals regarding gender and diversity goals. This appears to be gaining some traction as more companies who’s facilities are renewing are seeing some pressure on this front (i.e., cheaper credit/borrowing rates for achievement of ESG goals).

In addition to borrowing rates now starting to bear some correlation to ESG goal achievement, some companies are now tying executive compensation to specific ESG goal achievement as well.

As recently reported by Emily Glazer and Theo Francis in the Wall Street Journal, Starbucks (increase in managerial diversity), McDonald’s (increase in minority and racial minority leadership roles), Nike (increase in racial and gender diversity) have announced actual compensation based targets that will affect CEO and sr. officer pay depending upon specific ESG DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) goal achievement. While some would argue this is in relation to increased Board, shareholder and stakeholder engagement and pressure on these companies, others would respond that the companies were already moving in the direction of more causal linkage of ESG goals and compensation.  

Nike – setting a goal of 45% of global leadership positions to be held by women, up from 40% in 2025; and 30% of US directors to be members of a racial and ethnic minority, up from 27%

McDonald’s – setting a target of 15% of top executive bonuses being tied to human capital measures including improving the number of women and minorities in the company i.e., 45% of international senior directors and higher managers should be women and 35% in the US are to be held by racial and ethnic minorities, up from 37% and 29% according to the reporters.

Looking back at corporate disclosures from 2020, it was reported that 165 companies or 33% of the S&P 500 companies had disclosed using some level of diversity metric in their compensation structure.  This 33% is up from 2020 where Glass Lewis reported that 20 companies had specific DEI metrics tied to compensation and up from 2018 where only 10 had any such metrics. 

As these metrics continue to evolve, my sense is better and more transparent measurements will emerge and begin to be assured by external audit type companies to confirm and verify goal achievement.  How one retains a worker, recruits a worker and how diverse their supply chain is subject to interpretation, and, as such, clarifying what is being measured and by whom will take some work but our sense is this will be clarified in the next 1-3 years.

“There is a growing body of evidence that shows that companies that have diverse teams outperform companies that are not diverse, whether they’re looking at operating performance or financial performance or innovation“, according to Simiso Nzima, head of corporate governance for California Public Employees’ Retirement Systems as identified in the WSJ article.

Triple Bottom Line – Will putting their proverbial money with their disclosure mouths have been drive additional change? I tend to believe that directly incenting behavior with targeted bonus compensation will, and does, drive specific behavioral outcomes. In this case linking specific bonus targets to ESG DEI outcome achievement will create additional focus and precision in the company’s adhering to and achieving these DEI goals. As such, my sense is that as more and more companies adopt these practices, ISS and Glass Lewis will consider if these metrics should be “matter of course” and as such if a company does NOT have it as a compensation metric it will run the risk of being singled out as poor performer.

Thus, one’s ESG diversity and inclusion goals will actually begin to have a direct fiscal impact on a company’s compensation to its senior officers which is highly likely to get additional or continued focus by these senior officers to insure achievement of these goals.  As other S&P 500 corporations begin to include DEI metrics as being tied to compensation, this will also put additional pressure on other public and non public companies to begin measuring and then reporting on DEI type outcomes.

Duane Morris has an active ESG and Sustainability Team to help organizations and individuals plan, respond to, and execute on Sustainability and ESG planning and initiatives within their own space. We would be happy to discussion your proposed project with you. For more information, or if you have any questions about this post, please contact Brad A. Molotsky, Nanette Heide, Darrick Mix, David Amerikaner, Vijay Bange, Stephen Nichol, or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.

ESG – Lending Costs Tied to Internal Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Goals – a Coming Trend?

Mid week last week, Dawn Lim reported in the Wall Street Journal that BlackRock Inc. had cut a 5 year, $4.4 Billion dollar deal with its lending consortium that ties its lending costs on its credit facility to BlackRock’s ability to meet certain diversity, equity and inclusion goals (“DEI”).

The deal, as reported, ties its borrowing costs to meeting targets for women in senior leadership and to meeting numeric goals regarding Black and Latino employees within its work force. The stated goals for Black and Latino individuals as a percentage of its workforce are 30% of its workforce by 2024.  Their goal on women in senior management is to increase numerics by 3% each year through 2024.  

BlackRock also is focused on growing its environmental, social and governance assets under management from $200 Billion currently, to over $1 Trillion (with a “T”) by 2030.  The goals noted are focusing on aligning its own practices with that of the companies BlackRock invests in as CEO Larry Fink continues to push the envelope on ESG investing and increasing workforce DEI.  

The result of the credit facility loan covenants will seek to more closely align the company’s ESG investing goals with its internal corporate goals and impose costs on its asset managers via higher costs in its revolver by not achieving their stated goals.  

The Triple Bottom Line: A bit too early to call this evolution of tying lending costs to internal ESG goals as a trend (vs. a reaction to public scrutiny elsewhere), but in my view, it is a big step and a signals to the broader market that such self imposed costs can be achieved and that BlackRock is willing to take this type of risk, that align its investment decisions with its internal policies.  Big and bold steps indeed. 

Duane Morris has an active ESG and Sustainability Team to help organizations and individuals plan, respond to, and execute on Sustainability and ESG planning and initiatives within their own space.  We would be happy to discussion your proposed project with you.  Contact your Duane Morris attorney for more information.

If you have any questions about this post, please contact Brad A. Molotsky  (bamolotsky@duanemorris.com), Nanette Heide, Darrick Mix, Michael Schwamm, David Amerikaner or the attorney in the firm with whom you are regularly in contact.