Top Stories

March 18, 2021


BlackRock increases focus on 'natural capital' ahead of AGM season

The world’s largest asset manager BlackRock has warned companies with a material dependence or impact on natural habitats to publish a “no deforestation” policy and their strategy on biodiversity or face pushback at their annual meetings. Blackrock will request businesses to show how they manage ‘natural capital’, such as water, forests and land, air,  and minerals, how they preserve biodiversity, and how they use energy responsibly. The asset manager will also ask investee companies to disclose how they identify and prevent human rights abuses. Companies failing to comply risk a shareholder vote against the re-election of responsible board directors. BlackRock highlights that failure to manage environmental and social impacts may translate into regulatory, reputational or operational risks as the world seeks to transition to a  low-carbon economy. (Reuters; Bloomberg*)


Government proposes plan to make UK fashion firms pay more towards textile recycling

Clothing and textiles manufacturers could be forced to pay more towards the costs of recycling their products at the end of their lifespan, as part of new ‘Waste Prevention Programme’ for England to combat waste and support the circular economy, to be unveiled by the UK government today. To placate soaring levels of waste from 'fast fashion', the government will launch a consultation over plans for an ‘Extended Producer Responsibility’ (EPR) scheme for textiles by the end of 2022. The plan would include measures to encourage better design of fashion items that makes them more durable, reusable, and recyclable, and less environmentally harmful. The plans are expected to boost reuse, ensure better collections and recycling, drive the use of sustainable fibres, and support more sustainable business models. (Business Green)


Funding boom for faux meat and dairy start-ups

Faux meat and dairy start-ups pulled a record amount of funding last year, according to US research group Good Food Institute. Venture capitalists, angel investors and big food companies funded 170 alternative protein start-ups in 2020, with funding totalling $3.1 billion, up from $1billion the previous year, outperforming the rise in investment in the broader agriculture and food tech space. In Europe, the sector more than quadrupled its 2019 tally. Plant-based meat, egg and dairy companies attracted the bulk of the capital, with investment also going to cultivated meat and fermentation companies. Alternative proteins start-ups aim to offer food produced in clean, antibiotic-free ways, using far less land and water than livestock, resonating with rising concerns about climate change, biodiversity and the food supply chain. (Financial Times*)


Almost half of UK businesses linking executive pay to ESG targets

Almost half of FTSE100 firms (45%) are linking executive pay packages to at least one of their Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) targets, new analysis from PwC has found. This approach has become increasingly common in recent months, with only 6% of UK firms with such policies in 2019. According to the new report, the average executive will see their bonus reduced by 15% if ESG KPIs are not met, whereas, alternatively, around one-fifth of firms is embedding ESG in long-term incentive plan rates. However, only 55% of the measures adopted are in keeping with the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) ‘Materiality Map’, a tool designed to identify the most material ESG issues for each sector, which might indicate a degree of ESG-washing. (Edie)


UN reaches target as Sudan becomes fiftieth country to sign treaty against forced labour

The world has reached a "major milestone" in the drive to combat modern slavery after Sudan became the fiftieth country to back a United Nations treaty against forced labour, the UN International Labour Organization (ILO) said. The legally binding 2014 pact – a protocol to the 1930 ILO Forced Labour Convention – compels nations to enact measures to prevent forced labour, protect victims and provide compensation. Sudan’s adherence to the treaty meets the UN’s "50 for Freedom" goal, encouraging governments to ratify the protocol and raise awareness about modern slavery. With less than 10 years remaining to achieve a target of ending modern slavery, one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the ILO is encouraging countries to boost efforts to implement the treaty at a national level. (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

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2021 Actions for Business