Behind the ESG headlines - March 4, 2022

By mathew-loup

With war raging in Ukraine, environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues have slipped down the news agenda. Unfortunately for the world, their urgency has not diminished. 

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  • According to a new study by The Fawcett Society, there is still a lot of work to be done improving diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in boardrooms. Only one in seven women (13.7%) have an executive director role, while only six FTSE 100 companies are led by women. None of those come from ethnic minorities. The study looked at 5,166 positions of influence in the UK. Fiona Hathorn, co-founder and chief executive of Women on Boards, had this to say: “My personal view is that little will materially change on diversity in executive leadership until we get board-level leadership and proper investment in inclusive leadership throughout organizations.” 
  • The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sounded many terrifying alarm bells about the effect that climate change is having on our planet and our future. Disease, drought, flooding, shrinking biodiversity, rising sea levels; the klaxons resound loudly.  Within its 3,600 pages of Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, there is also an increased focus on the effects on mental health. Depression, anxiety, sleep problems and trauma are rising as rapidly as the oceans as extreme weather causes people to lose jobs, homes or even cultures. 
  • Climate-related lawsuits have been in the news, including Exxon Mobil, Shell and others. Big oil is one thing, but experts now expect this to spread to other ESG areas such as supply chains and working conditions. Employment lawsuits around racial and sexual discrimination are also on the rise, based on several high-profile cases in the past few years. 
  • Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could have one positive effect: an acceleration towards green energy, especially in Europe. At a global climate meeting this past Monday, Ukraine representative Svitlana Krakovska made this abundantly clear: “Human-induced climate change and the war on Ukraine have the same roots — fossil fuels — and our dependence on them,” she said. Germany has moved its target of 100% renewable energy forward to 2035; Denmark the same for electricity and heat.
  • For all the pros, there’s always some cons. A recent survey by Danske Bank of investor preferences in Denmark found that women are more likely to set aside financial returns for ESG goals. Nearly six in 10 (59%) of men were prepared to put their money into companies that ignored sustainability, while only four in 10 women (41%) felt the same. Nearly a quarter (23%) of the men also believed that ESG had a “decidedly negative effect on returns”. 

Mathew Loup is Competent Boards’ Director, Marketing & Communications. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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