It’s clear that the climate and going green remains a key consideration this year, with green infrastructure projects at the heart of many governments’ post-pandemic recovery plans. In the US, President Joe Biden has re-joined the Paris climate agreement and aims to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Meanwhile, China’s government announced last year it is committing to achieve carbon neutrality before 2060 – a significant step for a country that produces 26% of the world’s CO2 emissions. Towards the end of the year, focus will be on the UK as it hosts the COP26 climate summit. Against this backdrop, businesses and other organisations can expect to come under increasing pressure to act on climate change and make sustainability a priority.
Research suggests that a large majority of younger employees want to work for companies with a strong commitment to sustainability. Suppliers are focusing on their broader environmental footprints as they strive to meet targets of their own. Customers are seeking out responsible companies and shunning those they deem irresponsible. Governments and regulators will seek to use the policy levers at their disposal and investors will demand action too.
To further elaborate, a research report from E.ON revealed that consumers are actively seeking out more sustainable products and services and rewarding environmentally-friendly businesses in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The research confirmed that Covid-19 has radically changed consumer purchasing habits and that concerns about the environment are becoming more important in persuading people what to buy – and who to buy it from.
Of the consumers surveyed, 72% said they pay attention to whether a business acts in a climate-friendly way, and 65% feel it’s important the products or services they buy do not harm the environment. Furthermore, consumers are willing to pay a premium. The research showed more than a third (34%) of people have already knowingly paid more for ‘green’ products since the pandemic struck and more than half (51%) think the environmental credentials of a product or service are now just as important as the price they pay for it.
So how do we assess whether these criteria are met? The measure is based on ESG.
ESG stands for Environmental, Social and Governance. This is also called sustainability in many cases. Environmental criteria examine how a business contributes to and performs on environmental challenges (e.g. waste, pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and climate change). Social criteria look at how the company treats people (e.g. human capital management, diversity and equal opportunities, work conditions, health & safety, and product mis-selling), while Governance criteria examine how a company is governed (e.g. executive remuneration, tax practices and strategy, corruption and bribery, and board diversity and structure).
Thinking and acting on ESG in a proactive way has lately become even more pressing for companies as getting environmental, social, and governance propositions right links to higher value creation.
The London Stock Exchange (LSE) has taken a lead in defining companies that are ESG positive by issuing them with the Green Economy Mark.
The LSE introduced the Green Economy Mark in 2019, which recognises listed companies and funds which derive 50% or more of their revenues from environmental solutions. With a growing proportion of asset owners and managers seeking to deploy capital into sustainable investments, the Mark presents an investible universe of ‘green economy’ equities, enabling a broad exposure, rather than a focus on one area.