Millions of people took to the streets across the globe on Friday in the biggest climate strike in history, and 87 major firms commit to setting science-based targets in line with the Paris Agreement. Meanwhile, investment giant Fidelity funds open up five new funds to ethical savers, Burger King and McDonalds cut plastic toys after campaign by two sisters, and Thrive Renewables hits a major clean energy milestone as it celebrates its 25th anniversary. Finally, media company Tortoise has created a ‘Responsibility Index’ revealing the ethical practices of the FTSE 100. Lori Campbell rounds up the top sustainable stories of the week.
Millions take to streets in world’s biggest ever climate strike
Millions of people took to the streets across the globe on Friday to call for urgent action from governments and institutions on climate change.
The protests, inspired by Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg, started in the Pacific islands and continued across Australia, Japan and South East Asia before moving on to Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas – 139 nations in all.
Young people stayed off school or college while employees did not go into work during the day of mass protests.
An estimated 250,000 people gathered in New York to hear Greta, 16, tell them their efforts have put world leaders under fresh scrutiny.
She said: “The eyes of the world will be on them. They have a chance to prove that they too are united behind the science. They have a chance to take leadership to prove they actually hear us.”
87 major firms to set 1.5C science-based targets
A coalition of 87 corporates, including L’Oreal, Inter Ikea Group and Nestle, have committed to setting science-based emissions reductions targets in line with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5C trajectory.
According to UN Global Compact, the group has a combined global market worth of more than $2.3 trillion (£1.85 trillion). The businesses collectively have more than 4.2 million employees.
In 2018, the 87 firms collectively generated the same amount of Scope 1 (direct) and Scope 2 (power-related) greenhouse gas emissions as 73 coal-fired power plants.
By making the commitment, each of the firms will work to have their emissions reductions targets verified by the Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) within the next 24 months.
Fidelity funds open up to ethical savers
Investment giant Fidelity has unveiled five new ethical funds that will allow investors to see a full list of their holdings on request.
Each fund aims to invest in companies that are committed to preserving the environment, cutting carbon emissions or reducing waste.
The Fidelity Sustainable Water & Waste fund is already on sale. From October 30, it will be joined by three more funds – Sustainable Global Equity, Sustainable Eurozone Equity and Sustainable Strategic Bond.
The final one, the Sustainable Reduced Carbon Bond fund, will be available from January 20. The funds’ ongoing charges vary between 0.7 per cent and 1.1 per cent.
Fidelity’s announcement comes after criticism of fund managers for refusing to disclose everything in their portfolios.
Fast food giants cut plastic toys after campaign by two sisters
Burger King and McDonald’s are to remove plastic toys from their children’s meals following a campaign by two sisters, which attracted more than 500,000 signatures.
Burger King admitted it was “spurred on” by Southampton sisters Ella and Caitlin McEwan’s petition against the use of plastic toys in children’s meals.
The fast food chain will now remove plastic toys from its children’s meals entirely, while McDonalds will allow customers to swap the toys out, in an effort to reduce waste.
The Change.org petition, called on Burger King and McDonald’s to “think of the environment and stop giving plastic toys with their kids’ meals”.
Thrive to hit major renewables milestone
Thrive Renewables will hit the major milestone of 1600 gigawatt-hours of electricity generated, as it marks its 25thanniversary.
A new report released to celebrate the anniversary highlights the role that impact investment and community energy projects can play in meeting the UK’s 2050 net zero carbon target.
Thrive has built or funded 22 renewable energy projects over the last quarter of a century, the majority of which it owns and operates. These have collectively reduced UK CO2 emissions by over 660,000 tonnes and met the equivalent annual energy demand of one million UK residents
The company has raised £35 million in equity and £13 million in bonds with over 6100 investors. It has a pipeline of new investment opportunities that it will announce in the coming months.
Responsibility Index to reveal ethical practices of FTSE 100
A new Responsibility 100 Index will provide the first ever ranking of FTSE 100 companies measured by their commitment to key social, environmental and ethical objectives such as carbon reduction, gender equality and good business practices.
Using over 5,000 data points from more than 200 publicly available sources, the Index – created by media company Tortoise – ranks FTSE members against the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals. These were were introduced in 2015 with 169 targets “to achieve a better future for all” by 2030.
The FTSE 100 includes the largest companies incorporated in the United Kingdom. Together they employ four million people across a network of 20,000 subsidiaries which span every sector and operate in more than 100 countries. Last year their total revenue was more than £1.7 trillion.
Initial findings of the Index show that 61 of the FTSE 100 reported lower emissions last year than the year before, while 39 recorded increases. Only about one in 10 big multinationals undertook to buy all their power from renewable sources, and one in 10 of the FTSE 100’s subsidiaries was registered in a tax haven. The FTSE 100 only reduced the gender pay gap by 0.3 per cent between 2017 and 2018 – at which rate it would take 53 years for them to equalise incomes.