Brazil: Deforestation in the Global Context

On January 1, 2019, Jair Bolsonaro began his tenure as the president of Brazil. On his first day in office, he signed several decrees aimed at increasing power for the Ministry of Agriculture, at the expense of the Ministry of Environment. According to NGOs, this indicates a shift in government priorities away from environmental stewardship and protection of Indigenous rights towards bolstering the agricultural industry’s interests.

Implications of the use of rare-earth elements in the wind energy market

Investors who are bullish on renewable energy are often drawn to the wind energy market. Alongside solar, wind energy has been rapidly adopted worldwide and continues to receive significant investments compared to other renewables.[i]

Mexican companies remain dedicated as government backtracks on climate commitments

Since taking office in December 2018, Mexico’s president Andres Manuel Lopez-Obrador, often referred to as AMLO, has not inspired much hope among investors in the country’s energy sector. The first six months of his presidency has confirmed investor concerns that the privatizing of the energy industry would be rolled back under AMLO, who has made energy sovereignty a cornerstone of his administration’s agenda. The contracts issued under the 2013 energy reforms have been placed under review and the energy auctions for oil, natural gas and renewables projects that were scheduled for 2018 were cancelled. The energy auctions scheme was introduced in 2015 as a key measure to achieve Mexico’s energy reduction commitments of 30 per cent and 35 per cent by 2021 and 2024, respectively.

High and Dry Down Under: Water Risk in Australia

In June, Sydney introduced water restrictions[i] amid an ongoing two-year drought in New South Wales. Authorities stated that the city was experiencing some of the lowest inflows into its catchment dams since the 1940s. At the end of the month, the City of Sydney also officially declared a climate emergency[ii], joining over 600 other local governments around the world.

ESG Ratings: A Rebuttal of Prevailing Criticisms

“No offence, but…”. This has become a common introduction to questions directed at environment, social and governance (ESG) rating providers and reflects a body of criticism centered on the premise that ESG research and ratings are fundamentally flawed.

Earth Day 2019 | The Water Scarcity Challenge

Earth Day 2019 is focused on protecting the species that make up our natural environment. With nearly three-quarters of the Earth’s surface covered in water, it’s a natural resource that we can’t take for granted. Human activity has irrevocably impacted this natural resource, affecting the quality and quantity of water available for consumption and for the natural habitat. In this article, we examine the role companies can play in addressing this water crisis and the potential opportunities for investors to support solutions.

Passive ESG Investing: Q4 2018 Sample Portfolio Analysis

The global equities market experienced substantial growth over the first quarter of 2019 as the FTSE All-World (AW) index returned 12.5%. But this growth spurt comes on the tail of a significant selloff during the preceding quarter; the total return of the FTSE AW over Q4 2018 sunk to -12.6%.[i]

Sustainalytics’ Carbon Risk Rating: Platypus Asset Management Live Test

Climate change is at the centre of public debate: from school strikes around the world to a recent landmark court ruling blocking a new coal mine in Australia on climate grounds. It is also increasingly becoming an investment risk and investors are looking to understand how this risk can affect their portfolios.

How will ESG investing fare in a volatile or bear market?

Much has been written about the rise of responsible investing and environment, social and governance (ESG) integration over the past decade. From 2014 to 2016, assets that systematically considered ESG factors in the investment process grew from USD 7.5 trillion to USD 10.4 trillion, with continued momentum over the past several years[i]. However, recent commitments to ESG integration (vs. values-based strategies) have yet to be tested by a significant market downturn. The spike in market volatility experienced in late 2018 has led some to question whether the consideration of ESG factors by investors will continue to flourish in a market environment characterized by investor fear and valuation corrections.

Self-Driving Technology: Risks and Opportunities through an ESG Lens

As technology and automobile companies race to bring autonomous vehicles (AVs) to the road, we consider the ESG risks and opportunities facing this disruptive technology. Estimates of when AVs will be fully automated vary (Figure 1); however, the consensus is that AVs are inevitable and different stages of automation will be slowly introduced.

Preparing for the Storm: Extreme Weather Events and the Chemicals Industry

In 2017, extreme weather events (i.e., hurricanes and flooding) resulted in USD 344 million in economic losses, globally.[i] Chemical companies are particularly exposed to this risk due to their concentration of assets in regions prone to extreme weather events, such as the Gulf Coast region of the United States. This region is home to several refining and petrochemical plants, and to more than half of the country’s downstream chemical production.[ii] With growing investor concern about the physical impacts of climate change and extreme weather events, we examine chemical companies’ preparedness to face this material issue. We also take a closer look at Arkema as a case study.

The Royal Commission Report: a new path for the Australian finance industry?

On Monday 4 February, the final report from the Royal Commission inquiry into misconduct in the Australian financial sector was published. It contained a scathing review of years of misconduct and of the failures by regulators to appropriately supervise and hold companies accountable. The report also provided 76 recommendations to fix these issues.

Water Risks in Extractive Industries

Water is an important natural input for mining, as extractive operations rely heavily on this natural resource to process the ore. However, the impacts of climate change (higher temperatures and more extreme, less predictable weather conditions) are affecting the availability of water resources globally.

Risk Exposure in a Changing Climate: The Story of PG&E

The destructive California wildfires in November 2018 once again focused investor attention on climate-change related risks. PG&E, the largest utility in the United States, has stated the fires were very likely caused by its equipment. The company has since announced it will file for bankruptcy protection at the end of January in what is being called the highest profile climate-change bankruptcy to date. The company’s expected liabilities from the devastating wildfires in 2017 and 2018 are estimated at over USD 30 billion and the company’s share price has dropped by over 90% since before the 2017 fire. It is currently unclear what would happen in the event of PG&E filing for bankruptcy protection, but state legislators have mentioned the possibility of breaking up the utility, selling off assets, or converting it to a publicly-owned company.

COP24 in Katowice up close

This blog originally appeared on GES International’s website and has been republished following Sustainaltyics’ acquisition of the company on 9 January 2019. See the press release for more information.

Searching for Solutions to Ocean Plastics

Over the past year, the public, regulators and investors have expressed growing concerns about the problem of ocean plastics. While some organizations have pledged to address the issue, our analysis of 4,575 companies in the sectors that generate most of the plastic waste on the planet reveals that less than 1% of these firms mention the phrase “ocean plastic” or “ocean health” in relevant corporate documents. This finding suggests a low level of strategic awareness about ocean plastics among companies exposed to the issue despite clear interest among consumers, law-makers and investors.

Palm Oil and Deforestation: a missed window of opportunity for the RSPO?

In August 2018, 90 institutional investors representing USD 6.7 trillion in assets sent a letter to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) expressing their concern over deforestation and the disconnect between leading corporate policy commitments and the RSPO standards.

Shareconomy – a path to sustainability

This blog originally appeared on GES International’s website and has been republished following Sustainaltyics’ acquisition of the company on 9 January 2019. See the press release for more information.

IPCC Releases Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC

This blog originally appeared on GES International’s website and has been republished following Sustainaltyics’ acquisition of the company on 9 January 2019. See the press release for more information.

Smart Beta ESG - The Next Big Thing in Asset Management?

Smart beta is all the rage these days. According to data from Morningstar, global assets under management in smart beta strategies hit USD 1tn last year, up from USD 136bn in 2007.[i]