General ESG News
According to Honeywell’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Evan Van Hook, cooperation and collaboration are key to moving businesses toward a greener way of working. This is especially true when it comes to sharing knowledge about sustainability best practices and capital projects.
As Hook explains, there is no reason why every company should have to figure out every sustainable solution independently; this is inefficient, and the goal is to reduce total overall GHG emissions.
Looking forward, Hook believes there will be a stronger focus on nature-based solutions, especially around biodiversity, as well as a renewed focus on shifting toward a more circular economy.
Al Gore believes that a sustainability revolution has begun and that it isn't just about risks or carbon emissions. Innovation is what will drive climate action.
Some innovative changes and ideas include transitioning to green concrete, 3D printing, a circular economy, and new architectural techniques.
Secondhand commerce has become increasingly popular which has encouraged businesses to consider upcycling and recycling practices.
An example of architectural techniques includes the city of Seville implementing qanats, a traditional Persian technology, to help reduce city temperatures after the recent heatwaves.
The New York Times: Climate Activists Throw Mashed Potatoes on Monet Painting
Across Europe, climate activists have been working to capture headlines by engaging in stunts that deface precious pieces of art. The latest involves German climate activists associated with the advocacy group Last Generation throwing mashed potatoes on Monet’s “Grainstacks” at a museum in Germany.
Many of the stunts center around the question, “What is worth more, art or life?” However, many view the stunts as misguided, because the paintings do not end up permanently damaged, but climate change is continuing to cause real-world consequences. Ultimately, it appears that the goal is more about publicity, spreading the message, and targeting artworks with global recognition.
Phil Glynn, president of Travois, argues that the political beliefs and cultural assumptions of the people signing paychecks have always had a large influence on which sectors and people have been able to build wealth. Additionally, even companies claiming to be apolitical and that do not speak on issues are still engaging in a type of politics.
“Polite political silence always serves the group that holds power,” Glynn notes. Stakeholder capitalism causes a disruption of the ‘norm,’ and while it’s true that executives like Larry Fink of BlackRock are those in the spotlight, it is worth noting that they can use their notoriety to channel energy to the constituencies they represent, such as employees and customers.
Now more than ever, employees and consumers are seeking businesses that can clearly state their values and back them up with action. Ultimately, shareholder value is an outcome, a result of properly serving the priority constituencies.
ESG is a dynamic and rapidly evolving landscape, and it is also rising in corporate agendas. The Director of Responsibility is meant to ensure that sustainability remains an integral part of a company’s business model, “keeping the ship on course.”
This role used to focus on things like compliance and quality standards, but now it involves more nuanced data analysis, subject-matter expertise, and risk management. A few keys to success in this role include:
Ensuring sustainability does not become an isolated silo of work
Understanding and communicating the interconnectivity of ESG components.
Forbes: Tax as a Component of ESG
Tax is becoming an ESG consideration as there is growing social interest in tax, government policy, and companies’ tax payments. Carbon taxes and green tax incentives encourage sustainable business practices.
Tax laws support public trust in companies as responsible corporate actors and taxes require companies to contribute to the communities where they operate. Proper tax governance is the organization’s oversight over tax strategies and decisions to ensure they align with business objectives and tax reporting.
Stakeholders believe sustainable tax practices include a company’s transparency of tax strategies, risks, and contributions. Tax transparency is voluntary in most countries and industries. Although there are no set standards for ESG measurements and reporting, the evolving ESG reporting landscape can impact tax disclosures. Therefore, companies are considering tax risk and governance more closely and embedding ESG principles in their tax strategies.
Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt will host the COP27 U.N. climate conference, yet there is doubt as to whether meaningful results will come to fruition with the many global crises causing geopolitical issues. Beyond such, Egypt faces its own issues as President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi seized power in 2014 and has led human rights assaults in Egypt to which Egyptians refer to their country as a “republic of fear.
Sisi’s government imposed severe restrictions on environmental groups, preventing civil society participation in COP27. There is a climate of fear for civil society organizations to visibly engage at COP27. However, the urgency to address climate change begs for high-level participation at the conference this year.
Sustainability accountability is vastly growing as a 2020 Pew Research Center study found that 73% of Americans think corporations should be taxed based on their carbon emissions. Most consumers believe transparency on climate impact is important for buying decisions.
Five industries that are likely to face sustainable disruption are:
Alternative meats and animal protein, as agricultural land mass is diminishing
Baby diapers, as single-use products generate a great deal of waste
Milk alternatives since almond trees consume lots of water
Packing and shipping.
Egypt is preparing to host COP27, and the war in Ukraine has been dividing countries, particularly with the energy crisis, which will create a focus on determining a global consensus on cutting down on coal. The geopolitical clashing will likely extend timelines to tackle climate change.
Egypt plans this year’s COP meeting to prioritize discussion on how developing nations can receive funding to adapt to rising temperatures and finance transitions to green energy. Another priority is “loss and damage,” which is a term for compensation of nations that do not release much greenhouse gases yet are on the front line of receiving the impacts.
There are various high-profile initiatives around the world involving planting millions of trees to fight climate change. However, monitoring evaluations have found that many of the projects failed. For example, a study found that less than 2% survived out of the millions of mangrove seeds planted in Luzon, Philippines.
Forest scientists warn that failed afforestation projects threaten to undermine credible efforts to address climate change, especially as companies buy carbon credits to offset their emissions. Millions of dollars are spent on reforesting landscapes, yet there are more failure stories than successes.
In late July, the Integrity Council for the Voluntary Carbon Market (IC-VCM) released its Core Carbon Principles and Assessment Framework for public review and comment. The IC-VCM is an independent government body for the voluntary carbon market. The framework is to set higher standards for quality carbon credits.
Many carbon-crediting organizations critiqued the Core Carbon Principles with the following main criticisms:
The IC-VCM is trying to do too much “reinventing the wheel” and slowing down processes with prescriptive requirements.
The IC-VCM is moving too fast by ramping up timelines and grandfathering “good projects” without redoing assessments.
44% of youth (people under 30 years of age) do not want to have children because of climate change. Gen Z challenges companies to address environmental and social issues.
Overall, consumers urge companies to be more responsible with plastic pollution and waste. There is a 331% growth among consumers who support minority-owned brands as well as increased loyalty towards organizations with high animal welfare standards.
Companies are grappling with Scope 3 emissions and digestible transparency for consumers while avoiding greenwashing. They seek to disclose data and tools to help consumers make informed decisions.
Senegalese President Macky Sall convened an “African Climate Adaption Summit in Rotterdam last month with the idea of bringing countries together that need help adapting to a warming planet with industrialized nations whose emissions are to blame. Only the African leaders showed up.” the few people that did attend from rich nations included the French development minister and the European Commission climate chief.
The summit was meant to prepare the groundwork for the latest round of international climate talks known as COP27 taking place in Egypt next month.
The African continent is the world's least developed and produces only 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions but is due to suffer some of the worst consequences of increasingly extreme weather. These nations have few resources to protect against or cope with such catastrophes.
Australia joined the Global Methane Pledge, becoming one of the last major developed economies to sign on to the effort to reduce emissions by 30% from 2020 levels by the end of this decade.
Methane is 24% of Australia’s emissions and they are the world's 11th biggest emitter of methane. The cheapest way for Australia to significantly reduce emissions is to reduce leaks from coal mines, according to a recent analysis from Ember.
Australia also announced $5 million in new research funding to examine how to best reduce emissions from livestock through low-emission feeds.
Sustainable Brands: Are We On The Path To Systemic Change… Or To Something Only Slightly Better?
This week at SB’22 San Diego, over one thousand sustainability practitioners converged to share insights, tools, and opportunities for collaboration with the goal of building a regenerative future for all. Here are a few highlights from the two days of keynotes:
Sally Uren, Chief Executive at Forum for the Future, stressed the importance of focusing on “both environmental and social impacts, examining the big impact areas within a system, the need for brand collaboration and not competition, and the false choice between growth through increased profits versus making investments in sustainability.”
Cindy Drucker and Andrew Bennett from ESG Consulting Solutions at PwC, shared a data-filled presentation on connecting the dots between ESG and brand health.
Jane Ewing, SVP of Sustainability at Walmart, and Tara Hemmer, WM SVP and Chief Sustainability Officer, shared insights from their company's partnership to address material recovery and behavior change at a consumer level.
Due to increased government spending on clean fuels in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, global carbon emissions from energy are expected to peak in 2025, according to the International Energy Agency. The global energy crisis has marked a turning point in the transition away from fossil fuels.
While the invasion of Ukraine has contributed to things like inflation and surging gas prices that affect household finances around the world, ultimately, it has been accelerating the transition toward alternative (and cleaner) fuel sources.
The IEA also points out that current government policy and action will still only limit the global temperature increase to 2.5°C, which would have catastrophic consequences. The energy crisis has not changed this assessment, and the agency argues that for the world to hit net zero emissions by 2050, all new fossil fuel projects would need to stop immediately.
As sustainability is becoming more integrated into all aspects of business, sustainability work is dispersing across departments and becoming embedded in traditional roles.
Those just entering the job market should look for roles within departments that will allow them to focus on the company's sustainability priorities, even if they are not labeled as sustainability positions.
Sustainability is a very interconnected field and transferable skills are the key to success.
Aim for companies that integrate sustainability across the business, and if your first job in the field is not a great fit seek out networking opportunities as well as professional development in areas that interest you.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
While concepts like ESG and DEI have a tone of ‘futurism,’ for those who are not currently on board, they are already being left behind by the modern workplace.
According to new data from WorldatWork, 83% of organizations have already implemented some form of DEI program and 97% of those organizations have developed or are developing a DEI strategy.
Additionally, among S&P 500 companies, 90% publish an annual CSR report and the same amount report on their ESG metrics. Despite these figures, many still frame these concepts as future movements.
According to the article author, a Certified Diversity Executive, the key to excelling at ESG, DEI, and CSR is to weave them together for organization-wide alignment, integrating them into the overall strategy. A few initial steps to take include:
Gathering baseline data
Taking stock of internal resources
Setting S.M.A.R.T. goals
Reporting and sharing progress.
The importance of DEI in the workplace differs immensely both in the office and on the factory floor. A Gallup survey found that 75% of black employees who were discriminated against said it was due to their race, compared with 42% of white employees. 17% of LGBTQ employees strongly agree that their organization cares about their well-being.
Here are some questions you can ask to assess how meaningful your DEI initiatives are.
What DEI issues have we experienced? What did we do to correct them?
What other problems exist? What do we need to do to correct them?
How will we measure the impact of our changes?
Are we willing to make fundamental changes? Do we have a genuine commitment?
According to a study from Korn Ferry, companies that embrace DEI are 70% more likely to capture new markets and 75% are more likely to see ideas become productized. DEI should be seen as a benefit to individuals and the company as a whole.
ESG Disclosures, Standards, Rankings, and Reporting
The International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) has confirmed that the reporting of Scope 3 emissions will be included as part of the required company disclosures currently being developed.
The U.S. SEC is also proposing similar climate-related disclosure rules, and while there has been pushback on its proposed rules for Scope 3 reporting, it was reported that the ISSB voted unanimously to require disclosures for Scope 1, 2, and 3 (with some relief provisions available for Scope 3).
Deliberations for the proposed standards are expected to be completed by the end of this year, with the final standards being released in 2023.
The International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) said its board has voted unanimously to require company disclosures on Scope 1, 2, and 3 greenhouse gas emissions, with relief provisions on Scope 3.
The ISSB Aims to complete deliberations on new proposed standards around the end of this year with the goal of issuing final standards as early as next year.
According to a study done by Boston Consulting Group, only 10% of survey respondents measured Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions.
It was determined that for those who did measure Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions, there were significant reductions in overall reductions compared to survey respondents that only partially measured Scope 1, 2, and 3.
Broadly, companies acknowledge the financial benefits of determining emissions and setting reduction goals, yet there has been slow progress in quantifying Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions, especially in terms of moving beyond Scope 1 and 2 and focusing on Scope 3 as a priority.
Survey respondents highlighted factors that could help improve and accelerate emissions measurements which include support from leadership and tax incentives.
Sustainable Brands: Authentic, Verified Information Will Elevate Your Brand’s Climate Credentials
As Gen X consumers increasingly prefer sustainable brands and products, companies will need to disclose information that is verified and authentic. Furthermore, consumers are more willing to pay more for products that are sustainably made or sourced.
In order to attract and retain consumers, companies will need to have clear messaging and communication about their practices in a way that is compelling and isn't too technical.
Companies should also focus on measuring their carbon emissions and reducing or offsetting those emissions.
Along with clear communication about practices, companies need to have clear messaging and communication about their impact as well. This information shows consumers that they are actively working to reduce their emissions.
German and U.S. officials have been investigating allegations against Deutsche Bank’s asset management unit DWS due to exaggerated reports of sustainability investments sold.
DSW has denied the greenwashing allegations, stating that they have investigated the documents questioned, and they all comply with legal requirements.
After German prosecutors raided DWS offices based on greenwashing allegations, the chief executive of DWS resigned in June.
While the Greenhouse Gas Protocol has been an impetus for the global energy transition, it may no longer accurately reflect the “real-world impact of corporate actions.”
The GHG Protocol framework via the Scope 2 market-based approach has led to the practice of companies purchasing MWhs of renewable energy or associated credits to equal their electricity consumption.
However, not all energy is created equal; emissions intensity in terms of MWhs varies depending on location and time of day; therefore the traditional method is not the most efficient way to account for and reduce emissions.
Impact accounting directly measures and compares the emissions of electricity consumption (induced emissions) and generation (avoided emissions for renewables).
This new framework encourages organizations to make strategic decisions to reduce emissions such as building renewables in areas where fossil fuel generation can be displaced.
Deutsche Bank released several commitments to reduce financed emissions by 2030 in carbon-intensive industries, such as Oil & Gas, Power Generation, Automotive, and Steel. The carbon reduction targets make up most of the bank’s Scope 3 emissions.
The bank plans to advise clients in the carbon-intensive sectors and finance their transition strategies and efforts to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.
Deutsche Bank is a founding member of the Net Zero Banking Alliance and a member of the Partnership for Carbon Accounting Financials. In March 2023, the bank aims to publish updates on financed emissions and continue to expand the target setting to other carbon-intensive sectors throughout the year.
The retail activist shareholder Tulipshare has called on Tesla to link its executive pay to ESG factors, and it plans to file a shareholder resolution expressing such at Tesla’s annual meeting next year.
While Elon Musk has previously dismissed ESG as a ‘scam,’ the company has embraced ESG trends like reporting on its energy consumption and workforce demographics.
BlackRock is launching “Transition Capital,” a new platform operating within BlackRock Alternatives, focusing on investing in opportunities arising from the transition to a low-carbon economy. The new unit will be led by Dickon Pinner. Dickon Pinner most recently served as the global leader for McKinsey's Sustainability Practice.
The launch of Transition Capital follows dialogue with clients, businesses, and government leaders looking to work with BlackRock as they secure sources of capital to transform their portfolios and industries.
Companies and Industries
Rotors and propellers are being seen more and more in new plane and air taxi prototypes, powered by hydrogen and electricity. The goal is ultimately to create a new engine to replace the turbofans on today’s jetliners.
The propeller design, developed by GE and Safran, could burn 20-30% less fuel with similar or less noise than current single-aisle jets. The team is aiming to put the new engine with propellers on workhorse planes by the mid-2030s.
Other aviation companies and engine makers are working on other technologies for environmentally friendly planes, and it is currently unclear which technology will provide the best path forward or when airlines will embrace them. If they make a misstep, the financial toll could be catastrophic and long-lasting. Companies must decide if being an early adopter is worth the risk.
GreenBiz: Should We Give Plastic Credits A Chance
rePurpose Global is on a mission to solve the plastic pollution problem. Founded in 2016 the company has more than 50 employees and is operating projects in five countries. Their projects remove more than 19 million pounds of waste every year that would otherwise be destined for the environment.
Plastic credits can be thought of in similar terms to renewable electricity credits or carbon offsets. When a company purchases a plastic credit, it is paying for someone to capture one kilogram of plastic that would otherwise be destined for the environment in order to offset one kilogram of plastic that it put out into the world.
It is important to consider that diverting plastic waste from the environment through plastic credits does not necessarily lead to circularity.
rePurpose Global separates the plastic waste problem solutions into a three-step process:
Activating organizations on the ground that are already a part of the waste management system.
Providing additional financing to aid growth and increased scale.
Verifying that the project is not only delivering additional plastic diversion but also adhering to global environmental and labor standards.
Insurance companies are most concerned about climate change, followed by geopolitical stability. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine created a focus on war-related risks, but insurers are most worried about global warming and physical climate risks.
Electric vehicles are essential for reducing carbon emissions, but that won't be enough to help curb climate change. City planners, engineers, and policymakers must collaborate to rethink our priorities in terms of the built environment - how space is allocated and who benefits from it.
Climate, equity, health, and safety must be at the forefront of new transportation system designs. advancing these multimodal strategies requires strong public sentiment as well as willingness among political leaders to make hard choices.
C40, a climate-focused network of mayors of nearly 100 large cities, along with Google, announced Friday the launch of a new 24/7 Carbon Free Energy for Cities program. The program aims to enable cities to run entirely on clean energy 24/7.
The program will kick off with initial pilot cities which include London, Copenhagen, and Paris. Each will focus on a different challenge related to decarbonizing urban electricity consumption. Google will offer partner cities expertise based on its own 24/7 CFE efforts and will also provide funding of nearly $1 million for the program.
A recent fire in South Korea impacted major digital services for multiple days. These digital services included ride-sharing apps, snarling banking, and online delivery.
This has sparked safety concerns as South Korea is a major global supplier of lithium-ion cells used for electric vehicles. Fires between 2017 and 2019 at power storage centers have caused the government to intercede.
Kakao Corp, one of South Korea’s largest social media companies, was affected by the fire that developed from their batteries used for backup power. The fire caused the Kakao users to be unable to connect to ridesharing and banking, causing the Kakao co-chief executive to resign.
Safety concerns involving batteries used in vehicles and power storage centers have been voiced. The concerns have also encouraged South Korea to increase efforts to increase the share of clean energy in South Korea’s power grid.
The Inflation Reduction Act is set to extend tax credits for both wind and solar for the next ten years, hopefully kickstarting growth for both energy sources.
A potential investment of $160 billion will increase the installation capacity of onshore wind in the next 10 years.
Experts predict the tax credit could encourage developers to build projects that could regenerate current projects with larger turbines that previously didn’t make financial sense.
Major corporations will drive the demand for wind energy in the next few years as they benefit more from the tax credits than smaller companies.
Although the tax credit will likely increase demand for wind energy, wind farm prices aren't predicted to fall until 2024, mostly due to inflation.
MISO has approved $10 billion in investments already that would potentially support around 53 GW of renewable energy capacity.
The Wall Street Journal: Exxon Bets on Ex-Auto Executive for Climate-friendly Profits
Dan Ammann is now leading Exxon’s low carbon business and is tasked to turn its carbon emissions reduction unit called Low Carbon Solutions into a profit center. This is in response to pressure from investors in the past year.
Low Carbon Solutions will focus on capturing and storing carbon emissions from industrial locations.
Low Carbon Solutions has already partnered with CF Industries and will store captured CO2 at a CF Industries site in Louisiana. Although carbon capture projects have had a poor record in the past, the Inflation Reduction Act’s tax credit for carbon capture should increase efforts from oil companies.
Exxon is working to invest $15 billion in cutting its emissions through 2027.
Blockchain technology goes beyond cryptocurrency and can actually be used in other capacities with a lower energy footprint than traditional technologies.
Blockchain can provide a level of transparency that will help companies produce reports and disclosures that follow regulatory requirements.
Blockchain can help with developing accurate reports, securing data, carbon credit trading, supply chain transparency, and financial transparency in terms of environmental performance.
Blockchain technology is still new, but the technology can improve ESG efforts through transparency.
The Wall Street Journal: Companies Face Pressure to Improve Environmental Sustainability in Supply Chain
According to a study by MIT, pressure on companies to increase their supply chain sustainability continues despite global disruptions such as the COVID-19 epidemic.
Pressure primarily comes from governmental regulators, customers, and investors, with investors having the largest impact.
Among respondents from firms with supply chain sustainability programs 46% used supplier audits, 35% used supplier codes of conduct, and 32% used internal codes of conduct.
This trend does not seem to be slowing down anytime soon; David Cornell, a scientist at MIT, recommends that firms take this opportunity to avert risks and avoid supply chain disruptions as well as to create value via a strengthened supply base.
Under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the U.S Department of Energy (DOE) has announced awards amounting to $2.8 billion for increasing the domestic production of batteries, electric vehicles, and the electrical grid, especially targeting supply chain materials and components that the U.S. currently imports.
The awards were made to 21 projects across 12 states, including projects for increased battery-grade lithium, graphite, and nickel, as well as the development of an electrode binder facility to supply 45% of EV battery binders in 2030, and more.
The new law also has battery supply chain allocations that include investments in the production and recycling of critical minerals without new extraction or mining.
The BlueGreen Alliance predicts investments from the IRA could create nine million jobs by 2032. The increase in jobs is critical if the U.S. is going to transition to a green economy.
According to BlueGreen Alliance, these jobs will primarily be nonmanagement jobs which is crucial as most job openings in the climate tech sector are highly technical and don’t represent current job seekers.
Tax credits will be a key factor in job creation as the credits will encourage companies to develop larger projects that require more employees.
More individuals are looking to work in impactful positions and these new jobs will provide an opportunity for many job seekers to move to a greener career.
A recent report from Cities4Forests demonstrates that climate policymakers have traditionally not acknowledged the importance of forests for the climate, and policies overlook the non-carbon benefits of forests, including:
Evapotranspiration, or the role of trees in releasing moisture into the air, which has a cooling effect
Surface roughness, or the unevenness of a forest canopy affecting turbulence that helps list heat and moisture away from the earth’s surface
Releasing aerosols that change ozone and nitrate concentrations in the atmosphere
Impacting the earth’s albedo and how much of the sun’s energy is reflected versus absorbed.
At the national, regional, and local levels, existing climate policies undervalue the role of forests in cooling the earth in ways other than carbon removal, and many of these policies that rely on carbon, alone, tend to overstate the value of forests in countries at higher latitudes and understate the cooling effects of forests in tropical countries.
There is also a lack of intergovernmental institutions in place that have the power to address the cross-border effects of deforestation.
The Cities4Forests report outlines a number of opportunities for policymakers, including the integration of non-carbon benefits into existing responsible land-use programs.
Norway, which directly owns 70 companies across the country, will require each, when possible, to set science-based emissions reduction targets in accordance with the Paris Agreement.
Nature and ecosystem-related goals will also be required as well as reports on the progress of all targets.
This follows Norway’s pension fund’s recent and urgent call for 2050 net zero targets from its high-emitting portfolio companies with a target-setting deadline of 2040 at the latest.