Airlines Post-COVID-19: The Challenges to a Climate-Friendly Recovery
Planes grounded, borders closed and passengers staying at home: the past months haven’t been easy for the airline industry. COVID-19 has led to the deepest crisis ever in the history of the sector.[i] Airlines are in dire need of cash to recover, while at the same time the industry is also expected to adapt and prepare itself for the more critical crisis ahead that is climate change. Despite the slowdown of air travel, long term prospects of mitigating carbon footprint of the industry are not clear. Carbon commitments supported by comprehensive programs are in place, nonetheless, our research suggests that existing measures may not be sufficient to curve down emissions and mitigate climate change.
Responsible Cleantech: The Processes Behind the Products
The growth of the cleantech industry seems resilient from an economic perspective. For it to maintain its social license-to-operate, however, it will also need to formulate answers to the environmental and social challenges throughout its value chains.
Sustainable Fund Labels: Diverse Definitions of Sustainability
Sustainable financial products are marked with an increasingly large list of tags, from green, sustainable, socially responsible to thematic ESG, water, carbon or impact funds, and not every investor might know how to make sense of these terms. Sustainable fund labels can be one way to signal to the market that the fund has a dedicated responsible investment strategy.
ESGarp Scores: In Search of Reasonably Priced, Low ESG Risk Stocks
The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to further amp up the market’s interest in ESG investment research. It’s not just that ESG funds and indices have generally outperformed their non-ESG counterparts since the COVID-19 sell-off began in mid-February.[i] It’s also that the pandemic itself has drawn attention to ESG issues ranging from biodiversity and habitat loss to employee relations and supply chain management.
2020: The Year of the Flexitarian
The Economist named 2019 the year of the vegan; however, veganism is one part of a much greater trend away from animal proteins. While vegetarianism also continues at a steady growth rate, it is the flexitarian – i.e. traditional meat eater who makes a conscious effort to reduce their meat intake – that is having a notable impact on the market. This has been further accelerated by COVID-19 and the disruption to the fresh meat industry.
Future of Cement: Low-Carbon Technologies and Sustainable Alternatives
At a time when climate change has caught global attention and efforts are being made to meet the UN sustainable development goals, however concrete – the most widely used man-made material on earth – is a significant source of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and often overlooked. Cement, a key ingredient in concrete, accounts for about 7% of global CO2 emissions and is the second-largest industrial emitter of CO2 after the iron and steel industry [i]. The cement production process is responsible for 95% of concrete’s carbon footprint. Under the International Energy Agency’s sustainable development scenario, cement producers will need to reduce their carbon intensity at an annual rate of 0.3% per tonne of cement produced up to 2030 [ii]. With carbon emission regulations tightening globally to meet the 2-degree scenario (2DS) targets, cement companies that fail to adopt low-carbon processes and improved energy efficiency could face risks in the form of potential fines from non-compliance and lost opportunity costs by failing to innovate processes.
Tackling the Climate Crisis: Mobilizing the Transition
As we mark the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, we highlight the need for a collective effort in order to combat the impacts of climate change. In this blog, we explore the important role that investors play in mobilizing the transition to reduce emissions and how sustainable solutions can support this.
Climate Action, Human Health and Responsible Investing
This year, we mark Earth Day under a pandemic. To date, casualties of the novel coronavirus include more than 170,000 deaths, ongoing disruptions to healthcare systems and a deep economic downturn. As we face the first global recession in a decade, Earth Day – the theme of which this year is climate action – serves as a reminder for investors to reflect on how their investment activities relate to social and environmental health concerns.
Coronavirus and the Localization of Supply Chains
One of the lasting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic will surely be a transformed understanding of supply chains. As we touched on in earlier posts[i] in our coronavirus blog mini-series, we expect the pandemic to catalyze a range of efforts by management teams to better understand the vulnerabilities of their supply chain. While executive teams closely track their tier 1 suppliers, many are unaware of the full scope of their global supply chain. Bain & Co recently estimated that up to 60% of executives have no knowledge of the items in their supply chain beyond the tier 1 level.[ii]
EU Sustainable Finance Action Plan: Final Taxonomy Report Published and Other Developments
The highly anticipated final report by the TEG (Technical Expert Group) on the EU Taxonomy was published in early March, followed by a stakeholder information session. You can read our blog post on last fall’s developments here.
Coal Investments: Up in Smoke?
Growing public concern over climate change is pushing investors to increasingly assess how their portfolios are pivoting to a low carbon economy. Because of its large carbon footprint, the coal industry is a prime target of environmental activism and divestment campaigns, and it is becoming the investable hot potato few want to hold.
Shipbreaking: Clean Shipping in Deep Water
Cleaner shipping has been a trending topic particularly since the International Maritime Organization (IMO) declared that 2020 will mark the “beginning of a decade of action and delivery” for the shipping industry.[i] A key approach to cleaner shipping is for companies to renew their fleet with more environmental-friendly vessels. However, this approach triggers an obsolescence of older vessels and increases shipbreaking activity. In Sustainalytics’ 10 for 2020 report, we mention the issue of shipping practices with large environmental impacts including shipbreaking practices which we will explore more in depth in this article.
Chilean Aquaculture: Expansion into Troubled Waters?
In November 2019, as part of the Sustainable Seafood Engagement, Sustainalytics visited Chile to learn more about the country’s rapidly growing aquaculture industry. Commercial salmon farming has developed quickly in Chile over the past two decades, and today the country is the second largest producer of seafood in the world. Although salmon is not a native species to Chile, the climate in the southern part of the country (zones 10 and 11) offers excellent conditions for farming activities. Farmed salmon now represents the country’s second largest export and the industry provides thousands of jobs for people living in some of Chile’s most remote communities.[i] Despite this economic success story, the industry also faces environmental and social challenges which may cause investor risk. These risks may become more pronounced in the future, as the sector now looks to expand deeper into biodiversity hotspots.
Infographic - Creating Impact Through Thematic Investing
In this year’s edition of our 10 for series, we put an environmental, social and governance (ESG) lens on 10 investment themes that may offer investors an opportunity to create a positive social and environmental impact through the equity market. The trends we identify are driven by corporate initiatives to scale new technologies, improve social conditions, conserve ecosystems and mitigate climate change.
Plastics - A Material Issue for Investors
The plastic waste issue is currently one of the fastest growing environmental topics on the political and business agenda. Plastic is a vital product to the global economy; however, the way it is being produced and managed is unsustainable, especially at the use and after‐use phases. The carbon footprint and emissions associated with plastic production along with the issue of the environmental and potential health impacts of plastic waste are a matter of growing concern for investors. In light of the environmental, social and financial challenges, the linear “take, make and dispose” approach cannot continue. The alternative is a circular economy approach, which focuses on maximizing resource value, making resource use more efficient and extending product value during use.
South Africa and ESG Risk
A Case Study On November 1, 2019 Moody’s cut its rating outlook for South Africa from “Baa3 stable” to “Baa3 negative,” putting the country’s bonds on the cusp of junk status after several harbingers of a potential downgrade.[i] Earlier this year, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund cut their 2019 growth forecasts for South Africa to around 0.8%, while the Institute of International Finance warned that the country’s public debt could grow to 95% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2024.[ii] The other two big credit rating agencies (CRAs) – Fitch and S&P – downgraded South Africa’s credit rating to sub-investment grade back in 2017, citing a deterioration in the country’s public finances.[iii]
A Case for Impact Investing in Public Equities
As awareness around environmental and social issues has grown, so has the number of investors who deliberately seek to allocate capital to create positive social and environmental impact. Impact investing is as old as the sustainable investment industry, with the bulk of strategies to date having been executed through private equity and debt vehicles. However, as a more diversified pool of investors look to adopt impact investing strategies, fueled by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Climate Agreement, a broader set of asset classes are being considered – here enters public equities.