A British start-up is awarded £1 million to fund vertical, rootless farms, the world’s biggest asset manager BlackRock is accused of failing on climate change, Ethex and ART launch £500,000 community share offer and the Government’s Clean Air Strategy tackles woodburners and open fires. Meanwhile Lush opens its first plastic-free UK store. Lori Campbell rounds up the top sustainable stories of the week.
UK start-up secures £1 million to build space-age farms
A British agri-tech business has been awarded £1 million to fund ‘vertical’ farms of the future in a bid to help feed the world’s growing population.
LettUs Grow has secured a grant of £399,650 from Innovate UK, a £90,000 grant from Postcode Lotteries’ Green Challenge, and other smaller research grants, to roll out the £700,000 project.
The Bristol-based start-up also raised £460,000 from ClearlySo, Bethnal Green Ventures, and the University of Bristol Enterprise Fund II.
LettUs Grow designs sustainable food production for ‘vertical’ farms, which produce food indoors in layers. It aims to roll out its patent-pending ‘aeroponic’ technology – which brings consistently high yields for vertical and glasshouse farms – to farms around the world.
Aeroponics is a way of growing plants without soil, where the roots are watered using a fine mist. This allows greater oxygenation of the roots, (for better flavour and faster growth), and uses up to 95 per cent less water than traditional agriculture.
By 2050, global food production must be increased by 70 per cent to feed over 9 billion people.
BlackRock accused of failing on climate change
Finance giant BlackRock has been urged by responsible investment campaigners to take a tougher line on climate change.
A coalition of 12 campaign groups have accused the $6.4 trillion (£4.98 trillion) fund company of failing to do enough to support climate-related shareholder resolutions.
The US-based firm has increasingly marketed itself as a sustainable finance leader, launching a spurt of ‘sustainable’ funds. Through six new passively managed ETFs – the ‘iShares Sustainable Core Suite’– it claims to be taking environmental investment into the ‘mainstream.’
But in an open letter to BlackRock’s chief executive Larry Fink, the campaign group demands that the world’s biggest investment manager does more to ensure its investments go into businesses that tackle climate change.
It comes after a report in December revealed BlackRock owns more fossil fuel assets than any other investor.
£500,000 community share offer for socially impactful businesses
Ethical investment platform Ethex and ART business loans have launched a community share offer to raise £500,000 for socially impactful businesses.
ART, a community development finance institution, supports businesses in the West Midlands. It has lent more than £25 million to local businesses since it was founded in 1997 by Sir Adrian Cadbury.
Since the Regional Growth Fund closed in 2015, it has been constrained by a lack of funds. In the last two years it has lent around £2.5 million a year, when it believes it has the infrastructure and demand to lend £4 million.
The share offer, which is open for 11 weeks, seeks to attract high net worth individuals and corporate investors. Shares in ART Business Loans, which are available via Ethex, are eligible for relief at five per cent per year over five years.
Wood burners and open fires targeted in Government’s Clean Air Strategy
Highly polluting log burners will be banned within three years while coal could be outlawed under clean air plans outlined by the Government.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove announced a crackdown on household emissions as part of a wider push to reduce harmful pollution.
The proposals, set out in the Government’s Clean Air Strategy 2019, include plans to outlaw the sale of the most polluting fuels and to ensure only the cleanest stoves are sold by 2022.
A recent surge in popularity means domestic burning on stoves and open fires is now the single biggest source of particulate matter emissions.
The Government is planning to restrict the sale of wet wood for domestic burning and apply sulphur and smoke emission limits to all solid fuels to improve air quality. The sale of bituminous or traditional house coal may also be phased out.
Lush to open first plastic-free store in UK
Beauty brand Lush is to open its first ‘Naked’ store in the UK – with zero plastic packaging.
Lush first opened ‘Naked’ stores in Milan and Berlin in 2018, inspired by mounting public concern over plastic pollution.
It will now bring the concept to the UK in a bid to show customers how making small changes can have a positive impact on the environment. The new store, opening on January 18 in Manchester, will use only sustainable packaging.
In the last 18 months, more than 60 plastic-free shops have opened in the UK and plastic-free aisles are becoming commonplace in supermarkets across Europe.