Behind the ESG headlines - September 2, 2022

By mathew-loup

“Let’s stop sleepwalking toward the destruction of our planet by climate change. Today, it’s Pakistan. Tomorrow, it could be your country.”

This was the stark truth UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres shared with the world this week in the face of the death and destruction caused across Pakistan by the recent climate-crisis induced flooding that has ravaged the country.

More than 1,150 dead; more than one million homes damaged or destroyed; millions of refugees. The flooding has affected 33 million people, or one in seven Pakistanis. Those facts should cause pause for thought, wherever you live.

It’s never been more urgent for companies and their senior leaders to stay on top of climate and other environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues. Our education programs meet that very demand. Either our flagship Designation and Certificate programs, or our new condensed ESG Lite program, will help you and your company make the business decisions the world needs now.

  1. Consumer choices. A new eco-labelling system will help consumers in Europe understand how their grocery shopping impacts the environment. Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, Co-Op and Eroski are some of the big names that are behind this new project from Foundation Earth. Shoppers will get to understand the effect of their choices on biodiversity, water usage or carbon emissions. Earlier studies of food products by the University of Oxford revealed that fruits, vegetables, cereals and grains have a low environmental impact, whereas fish, cheese and meat score quite highly.

  2. New Meta data. A new survey by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and Meta has taken the temperature of global public views on the climate crisis. The data clearly shows how widespread the fear of our climate’s future has become. Respondents in Mexico (95%), Portugal, and Chile (both 93%) are the most likely to say they are either “very worried” or “somewhat worried” about climate change. People are aware of the latest developments: respondents in Sweden and Germany (both 66%) said that they heard about climate change in their daily life at least once a week. However, there are still grey areas as to why climate change is occurring. Respondents in Spain (65%), Sweden (61%), and Taiwan (60%) thought that climate change is mostly caused by human activities, but in Yemen (21%) and Indonesia (18%) the perception was very different. International Public Opinion on Climate Change 2022 surveyed more than 108,000 Facebook users in 192 countries. 

  3. Clear(er) blue water. The rising tide of plastic waste is a worldwide problem. Last week, 20 countries signed a new global treaty aimed at getting rid of plastic waste by 2040. The High Ambition Coalition to End Plastic Pollution will develop a binding international treaty under the auspices of the UN by 2024. According to a study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the volume of plastics in rivers and lakes worldwide will increase from 109 million tonnes in 2019 to 348 million tonnes in 2060 unless urgent action is taken. On top of that, plastics leaking into the ocean will rise from 30 million tonnes in 2019 to 145 million tonnes in 2060.

    Overall plastic use is projected to spike in the next 30 years, going from 460 million tonnes in 2019 to 1,231 million tonnes in 2060. The packaging, vehicles and construction industries comprise two-thirds of global use. “Plastic pollution constitutes a planetary crisis with impacts on human health, biodiversity and the climate system,” said Jeanne d’Arc Mujawamariya, coalition co-chair, in a news release. 

  4. Boards need ESG education. A new study by Boston Consulting Group has looked at why boards cannot deliver on ESG agendas. Lack of knowledge, data or capabilities (44%) was the primary reason, closely followed by complexity and ambiguity management. A lack of board commitment and failure to prioritize ESG were also important factors. In terms of threats to an organization being able to achieve ESG goals, 43% of directors cited the ability of the organization to execute. Organizational culture and rising costs rounded out the top three. 

  5. Anti-ESG agenda. The political backlash against ESG escalated last week with Texas blacklisting 10 companies that “boycott energy companies”. Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar listed BlackRock, NP Paribas, Credit Suisse Group, Danske Bank, Jupiter Fund Management, Nordea Bank, Schroders, Svenska Handelsbanken, Swedbank and UBS Group as those that divest from fossil fuels. A new state law, that started September 1, 2021, means that state entities such as multi-billion-dollar pension funds Texas Teacher Retirement System, Texas County & District Retirement System and Texas Employees Retirement System have 60 days to divest themselves of their investments in these companies. Texas accounts for more than 40% of America’s crude oil reserves and production.

Mathew Loup is Competent Boards’ Director, Marketing & Communications. Follow Competent Boards on LinkedIn.

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