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Manulife Financial Corp
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Manulife's HNRG completes sustainability examination

2019-12-02 14:58 ET - News Release

Mr. William Peressini reports


Hancock Natural Resource Group (HNRG), a Manulife Investment Management company by Manulife Financial Corp., has completed an initial sustainability examination of select managed agricultural operations in the United States. The examination found the operations fully conform to a new sustainable agricultural standard for farmland management, which is expected to launch more broadly in 2020. The standard was developed by the Sustainable Agriculture Working Group* -- a coalition of two environmental non-profit organizations and eight companies, including HNRG, that professionally own and manage over three million farmland acres globally.

"Until recently, the agriculture sector lacked a standard that could work across different scales, crop types, production systems and geographies. We're optimistic that this new standard will help bring transparency to the market and drive widespread adoption for the industry," said Brian Kernohan, chief sustainability officer, HNRG. "We believe this is an important area of focus, especially for investors that want to align their portfolios with environmental, social and governance goals."

"Sustainability is core to our values as an active investment manager," added William Peressini, president and chief executive officer, HNRG. "Confirming that we meet this new standard was the next logical step in our ongoing commitment to ESG integration for our clients and the communities in which we operate."

* The Sustainable Agriculture Working Group consists of eight professional owner and management entities, representing approximately 1.5 million farmland acres across 22 U.S. states as well as an additional two million acres in seven non-U.S. countries. Two leading environmental non-profits, The Conservation Fund and Manomet, support the Sustainable Agriculture Working Group.

HNRG commissioned KdotCoe Isom, a leading consulting and CPA (certified public accounting) firm in the food and agriculture industry, to perform this first-of-its-kind independent examination of sustainability performance on managed agricultural operations and determine conformance to the principles, objectives, performance measures and indicators contained within the standard. KdotCoe Isom examined properties in California, Washington and Wisconsin primarily producing almond, pistachio, apple and cranberry varieties. KdotCoe Isom's examination found zero non-conformances, three opportunities for improvement and 13 notable practices, and expressed an opinion that HNRG's agricultural operations in the United States fully conform to the standard. Individual company conformance to the standard will be verified through independent third party examinations.

"HNRG has been at the cutting edge of sustainability for more than two decades," said Larry Selzer, CEO of The Conservation Fund. "First they were an early leader in the certification of sustainable forestry and now in the emergence of a sustainability standard for agriculture. Along with the other pioneering members of the Sustainable Agriculture Working Group, they have created something that will fundamentally and profoundly improve the transparency of sustainability for consumers, investors and farmers."

Boyd Corkins, chief operating officer, Hancock Farmland Services, added, "We have always believed that 'good stewardship is good business' and the inaugural examination confirms that, from an operational perspective, we are safeguarding our most valuable assets, our people and the environment."

About Hancock Natural Resource Group

HNRG is part of Manulife Investment Management's comprehensive private markets platform, which includes private equity and credit, infrastructure, real estate, timber, and agriculture. HNRG's timber division manages approximately 5.6 million acres of timberland across the United States, and in Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Chile. HNRG's agricultural investment group oversees approximately 400,000 acres of prime farmland in major agricultural regions of the U.S., and in Canada and Australia.

About Manulife Investment Management

Manulife Investment Management is the global wealth and asset management segment of Manulife Financial. It draws on more than 150 years of financial stewardship to partner with clients across its institutional, retail and retirement businesses globally. Its specialist approach to money management includes the highly differentiated strategies of its fixed-income, specialized equity, multiasset solutions and private markets teams -- along with access to specialized, unaffiliated asset managers from around the world through its multimanager model.

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