Royal institutions are to divest from fossil fuels as the trend for selling out of ‘dirty’ shares gathers pace. Meanwhile, Aviva launches an ethical and ESG default workplace pension strategy, and UK Plc gets a boost from HSBC, which will lend to small and medium businesses to make green improvements, and Jaguar Land Rover, which is to invest heavily in building electric vehicles at its UK plant, securing 2,700 jobs. Finally, a new bill could see a ‘sin tax’ on plastic cutlery to help clean up Britain’s beaches. Lori Campbell rounds up the top sustainable stories of the week.
Royal institutions divest from fossil fuels
The Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) and the Royal Society of Arts have sold all remaining shares in fossil fuel companies.
The divestment move has seen RCEM offload all fossil fuel investments from its £1.3 million portfolio and the Royal Society of Arts remove all oil and gas related shares from its £17 million fund.
The organisations are now urging more local authorities, universities, religious and cultural institutions to follow suit.
Southwark Council, the United Reform Church and The Church of England have already made significant divestment moves, amid rising public concerns about climate change and air pollution. The trend is gathering pace, with healthcare organisations having globally divested £247 million from fossil fuel assets to date.
This week also saw the National Trust commit to divesting entirely from fossil fuel companies within the next three years. It currently holds £40 million in this space, representing 4 per cent of its total £1 billion-plus portfolio of stock market investments.
Aviva launches ethical and ESG default workplace pension
Aviva has launched an ethical and sustainable workplace pension default investment strategy, helping millions of pension savers to finally align their pension with their principles. The firm says that the strategy is “socially, ethically and environmentally sound”.
The lifestyle strategy is based on ‘Stewardship’ funds that Aviva launched in 1984, which were the UK’s first range of ethical funds. Aviva says this is the first time a workplace pension strategy has been based solely on these funds.
The stewardship funds exclude companies that do not meet certain ethical standards or that harm society or the environment, such as companies with “a significant involvement” in tobacco, pornography or coal mining.
The Aviva Investors team behind the funds also engage with companies “to improve how they conduct their business”.
HSBC to support UK businesses with green finance offerings
HSBC has launched a new range of green finance services aimed at helping businesses of all sizes strengthen sustainability initiatives.
The banking giant is offering a range of new loans and a Green Revolving Credit Facility (RCF) that are available for small to medium enterprises (SMEs) through to large corporates.
The Green Loans services had a successful trial last year and have been extended to SMEs wanting to secure loans for sustainability initiatives. The minimum green loan starts at £300,000 and HSBC UK has already provided green loans totaling £600 million as part of the pilot.
The Green RCF enables companies to access funds when required, for a minimum value of £1 million, depending on cash flow needs for sustainability projects. A dedicated HSBC Green Framework can be used to manage cash flow needs.
Jaguar Land Rover to invest heavily in building electric vehicles in UK
Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is investing hundreds of millions of pounds to build a range of electric vehicles at its Castle Bromwich plant in Birmingham.
Initially, the plant will produce an electric version of the Jaguar XJ. JLR says the move will help secure the jobs of 2,700 workers at the plant.
The news follows January’s announcement that the firm would cut 4,500 jobs, with the majority coming from the UK. That followed 1,500 jobs lost in 2018.
JLR has not announced when it will launch the battery version of the XJ, but it will replace the petrol and diesel versions which have been made since 1968.
‘Sin tax’ on plastic cutlery to help clean up Britain’s beaches
A ‘sin tax’ on plastic cutlery could be introduced to prevent the single-use waste washing up on Britain’s beaches.
A new bill being brought before Parliament sets out a tax for single-use cutlery in catering to achieve a 60 per cent reduction in plastic cutlery found on beaches by 2023.
Alistair Carmichael, MP for Orkney and Shetland, said some of Britain most remote areas are now littered with plastic waste, and called on the government to set strict targets to prevent rubbish entering the environment.
The bill has cross-party support from MPs including Zac Goldsmith, Tim Farron, and Mary Creagh, and is backed by Friends of The Earth and the Women’s Institute.