The truth behind plastic pact and ESG mis-selling fears: The Good With Money weekly news brief

Written by Lori Campbell on 21st Jan 2019

Fossil fuel firms including Exxon Mobil and Shell are found to be investing heavily in plastic production despite pledging to fight plastic pollution, fears are raised over the mis-selling of ESG-badged products, and major utilities unite to launch European sustainable finance hub. Meanwhile, consumers rush to switch energy supplier before the government price cap and London creates the world’s biggest network of air quality monitors. Lori Campbell rounds up the top sustainable stories of the week. 

Businesses behind plastic waste alliance are ‘investing billions in new plastic plants’

The founding companies behind a self-styled alliance to end plastic waste are among the world’s biggest investors in new plastic productions plants, according to a European NGO.

Most of the firms which announced this week they were collaborating to help tackle plastic pollution in fact have tens of billions of dollars riding on the need for global plastic production to continue growing.

The companies have committed $1 billion (£778 million) over the next five years to reduce plastic production and improve recycling.

However, environmental NGO Recycling Netwerk discovered that many of the signatories have invested heavily to grow plastic production over the next decade. Shell is building a multi-billion-dollar plant in Pennsylvania, using shale gas as its fuel to produce 1.6m tonnes of polyethylene – the world’s most common plastic – each year.

ExxonMobil is building a new polyethylene production line at its plant in Texas, to increase plastic production to more than 2.5m tonnes a year. It will be one of the largest plastic production units in the world.

And Saudi Arabia’s state oil company Saudi Aramco and the country’s chemical giant SABIC are building one of the world’s largest oil-to-petrochemicals factories.

Fears over mis-selling of ESG-labelled products

Financial advisers are concerned that products said to have strong environmental, social and governance credentials are being mis-sold, according to a new survey.

Almost all financial advisers (97 of 100) polled were “very” or “fairly” concerned “about the potential for allegations of mis-selling” of ESG-badged investments, said market researcher Cicero. The study revealed a rise in concern following the recent surge in interest in the responsible investment sector.

Neville White, head of research into sustainable and responsible investment at asset manager EdenTree, which sponsored the research, said: “The language in this part of the market has become dense and confusing. There is little regulation over what you label a product.”

Major utilities unite to launch European sustainable finance hub

Utility giants EDF, SSE and Ørsted are among 16 companies to co-found a new forum for European businesses to champion sustainable finance and impact investing.

The Corporate Forum on Sustainable Finance aims to encourage businesses and policymakers to view sustainable finance as a “critical” tool in the drive to limit global warming.

The forum’s founding firms, which come from the utilities, transport, built environment and finance sectors, have together issued two-thirds of Europe’s green bonds by volume. The forum will act as a permanent network in which businesses can share best practice advice and collaborate to drive greater investment in green infrastructure projects.

Consumers rush to switch energy supplier

A record 5.8 million households changed energy supplier last year ahead of a new government price cap on bills that is set to deter switching.

Around one in five households switched electricity provider in 2018, according to figures compiled by industry body Energy UK, with the Big Six suppliers losing a total of 1.7 million customers to smaller rivals.

Although the number of switches has risen for four years, around 11 million households remain on default “standard variable” tariffs with the Big Six suppliers, which typically have been among the poorest value in the market.

Last year the government forced Ofgem to cap these tariffs after the competition watchdog said consumers were paying too much. The cap came into effect on January 1, forcing suppliers to cut their standard tariffs by an average of £76 a year.

London to create world’s biggest network of air quality monitors

London is set to double its air quality monitors, creating the biggest network of monitors in the world, as it fights to deal with an “air pollution emergency.”

London mayor Sadiq Khan said “inaction is not an option” as he pledged to take more “bold, radical steps” to reduce air pollution in the capital city.

He said: “The air in London is a public health emergency.. there are thousands of premature deaths in London caused by the bad air quality. We now know there are adults with a range of illnesses from asthma to dementia to heart disease caused by the bad quality air.. there are children with under-developed lungs, stunted lungs forever, because of the bad quality air.”

The city has launched a new network of 100 monitoring stations and two Google mapping cars that will measure air pollution as they drive around.

The data will be publicly available online and will monitor a range of pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide, fine particulate matter and ozone in some places.

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