Top Stories

January 31, 2019

Sustainable Investment

Britain proposes tougher stewardship code for asset managers

The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) set out major revisions to toughen up the stewardship code that asset managers, proxy advisers, investment consultants and pension fund trustees follow on a “comply or explain” basis. Asset managers in Britain should spell out in greater detail how they picked sustainable investments that benefit clients, society and the environment, regulators proposed on Wednesday. The revisions introduce substantial changes to encourage asset managers to explicitly take environmental, social and governance factors into account when investing. This could include climate change, and the treatment of customers and suppliers of companies in which they are investing. The revision also proposes that asset managers state their values and culture policies, and report publicly each year on how their activities achieved them. The FRC is also proposing to extend the code beyond investments in listed companies to include other assets like bonds, fixed income, infrastructure and private equity to reflect the changing nature of investments. (Reuters)


Ben & Jerry’s pledges to ban all single-use plastics by 2020

Ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s has pledged to remove all single-use plastic items and packaging from its products and stores by the end of 2020, replacing them with biodegradable or compostable alternatives. The B Corp company, which operates more than 600 ‘scoop shops’ across Europe and the US, will remove all plastic cutlery and straws from its stores by April, swapping them for wooden cutlery and paper straws. Ben & Jerry’s estimates that these moves will prevent the distribution of around 2.5 million plastic straws and 30 million plastic spoons on an annual basis. “In the short term, eliminating plastic straws and spoons is not going to save the world – but it’s a good start towards changing expectations,” Ben & Jerry’s global sustainability manager Jenna Evans said. Once the phase-outs are completed, Ben & Jerry’s will then work to develop more sustainable alternatives to its clear plastic drinks cups, plastic-lined ice cream cups, disposable coffee cups and plastic lids. (Edie)

Sustainable Fashion

Six UK fashion retailers fail to cotton on to sustainability

Major UK fashion retailers are failing to promote environmental sustainability or to protect their workers, a parliamentary committee has said. The six companies, which include Amazon UK, JD Sports, Sports Direct and TK Maxx, have not taken any action to reduce their carbon, water and waste footprint. None of them use organic or sustainable cotton and only two – Sports Direct and Boohoo – use recycled material in their products. The interim report by the environmental audit committee singles out Amazon UK for its notable lack of engagement in sustainability. It said: “Though Amazon and TK Maxx are subsidiaries of international corporations that manage their initiatives, the committee believes this does not absolve them of their responsibilities.” None of the six retailers singled out as the least engaged, have signed up to the Action, Collaboration, Transformation living wage initiative (Act) or to voluntary targets in the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan to reduce the carbon, water and waste footprint of UK firms. (Guardian)


Google Shareholders and Workers call on board to fix ‘diversity crisis’

Google shareholders and employees have written a resolution to Alphabet’s board, calling for reform in areas including racial and gender diversity, and asking the board to consider tying these metrics to executive bonuses. Over the past year, employees at Google have protested over worker rights, a military contract, and the handling of sexual misconduct. This resolution claims Alphabet “has not responded adequately to key demands” made by workers in a massive walkout in November, such as adding a worker representative to its board and ending forced arbitration for its entire workforce, rather than only for direct employees and only for cases of alleged sexual harassment or assault. It also asks the board’s compensation committee to look into including “sustainability metrics”—such as executive diversity— into its bonus system or stock vesting protocols. Similar policies are in place at Microsoft Corp., Intel Corp., International Business Machines Corp. and other companies. (Bloomberg)

Sustainable Agriculture

New agricultural technique to increase crop yield and reduce emissions

A system of rice intensification (SRI) technique developed by Jesuit priest, Henri de Lalanié is producing bumper crops and reducing emissions of a grain responsible for 1.5% of greenhouse gases in Thailand. The technique involves planting far fewer seeds than usual, using organic matter as a fertiliser and keeping the rice plants alternately wet and dry rather than flooded. Giving plants more oxygen, minimising the competition between them and strictly controlling the water they receive is thought to make them stronger and more resilient to flood and drought. The pilot project in Thailand is to see if it’s possible to grow more rice with less water and will subsequently, be able to support the world’s 145 million small rice farmers, and could also greatly reduce global warming emissions from agriculture. The project, backed by the German and Thai governments and by some of the world’s largest rice traders and food companies, has seen 3,000 other farmers in this corner of Thailand’s “rice basket” near the Cambodian border trained to grow sustainable rice. (Guardian)


Image source: Vintage plastic spoons by Jay Kaye on FlickrCC BY-ND 2.0.