Blog: Pensions vs climate change

When an event like World Environment Day rolls around, it can be a good opportunity to take a step back and consider what we do for our planet, and how much more can be done.

Carbon neutrality, or the act of removing as much carbon dioxide from the earth’s atmosphere as you contribute to it, is one of those terms that is thrown around, but what can businesses do to achieve it?

Small steps, such as turning off office lights and computers overnight, are probably the easiest place to enjoy some amateur conservationist action. Businesses can also consider whether long distance trips actually need to be taken, or whether a video call would suffice.

Many of these considerations have the happy side-effect of saving companies money too, through lower electricity bills, travel costs and more.

Once the smaller steps have been achieved, it’s probably time for institutional investors start thinking about the environment, social and governance (ESG) factors behind where they are putting their money.

In March, the 2020 Financial Adviser Survey found that the amount of client money invested in ESG funds had increased over the past year, despite the majority (62 per cent) of advisers believing that clients don’t actually understand what ESG investing involves.

Even more of the advisers (82 per cent) thought that the number of ESG propositions was likely to increase further over the next year, with many already taking steps to meet growing client demand.

This growing popularity demonstrates that, while paying increased attention to environmental matters can obviously make a great deal of difference to our planet, it can also prove to be an astute move for any business.

Resonance Asset Management CEO, Nick Wood, commented: “The shift towards a circular economy is creating a large and growing pool of investment opportunities for fund-based investments. We have identified compelling investment opportunities in wind and water that not only deliver healthy returns but also leave the environment in better shape than before the investment.

“This arises from reduced greenhouse gas emissions from generating renewable energy from wind farms and bioenergy plants; cleaner water and local environment from wastewater treatment; supplying clean water for industry, agriculture and drinking, reducing harmful emissions from industrial processes.”

Further steps can also be taken, with some businesses contributing to environmental programmes in order to offset the emissions they are responsible for.

These carbon credit-esque systems can work by allowing businesses to emit certain amounts of carbon dioxide based upon the conservation work they might be contributing to on the other side of the planet.

Standard Life Aberdeen head of sustainability, Sandy MacDonald, said: “As you would expect our first step is to reduce our emissions as much as we can – and we have long-term targets in place to do this – and then we offset what remains. In partnership with ClimateCare, we are supporting an amazing accredited offsetting project based in the Gola rainforest of Sierra Leone over the next three years.”

She adds that, through this project, the business is aiding in the protection of “around 2,000 hectares of rainforest each year, which is home to over 330 species of bird, the very rare pygmy hippo and chimpanzees”, with further support offered for “training for local farmers in sustainable cocoa farming, and investment for schools, hospitals and education”.

“So far we have contributed to 10,000 tonnes (CO2) of avoided carbon emissions offset through the project, leading to 2,108 hectares of rainforest protected,” concluded MacDonald.

While we’re all trapped in our own houses, probably missing friends and family members who we haven’t been able to see for months, it’s easy to forget that there’s a whole world out there.

The coronavirus crisis might have pushed the issue of climate change into the dark recesses of many people’s minds, but on World Environment Day it's important consider what we can do to aid lasting change.

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