Universities funded by fossil fuels as fashion goes circular

Written by Lori Campbell on 30th Nov 2020

British universities have accepted £60 million in funding from fossil fuel giants in the past five years, reveals new data, as Adidas and H&M join a ‘world-first’ circular fashion pact. Meanwhile, half of Brits have ‘no idea’ what green finance is, Ikea pledges to make half its restaurant meals plant-based by 2025 and figures show the UK is decarbonising twice as fast as any other major economy. It’s the Good With Money weekly news brief.

UK universities received £60m in funding from fossil fuel firms

Britain’s most prestigious universities have taken more than £60 million in research and teaching funding from fossil fuel giants in the past five years, new figures reveal.

Data obtained via the Freedom of Information Act shows that earth sciences departments at the majority of the 24 Russell Group universities in the UK have taken money from fossil fuel interests since 2015. This is despite the fact that, publicly, several have declared a “climate emergency” and pledged to divest from fossil fuel companies.

The earth sciences department at Imperial College London was by far the largest recipient of funding, accounting for around half at £30.1 million.

Research into ways to extract oil more efficiently was among projects funded by the coal, oil and gas sector at Imperial College London in the last five years, the figures show. Some projects have been funded by well-known oil majors including Shell, Total and Chevron.

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Adidas and H&M join circular fashion pact

High street giants Adidas and H&M have joined a ‘world-first’ project to create a circular model for fashion.

The ‘New Cotton Project’ has received 6.7 million euros (£6 million) in funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme to make fashion more sustainable.

Over a three-year period, textile waste will be collected, sorted and regenerated into Finnish biotechnology group Infinited Fiber Company’s unique, cellulose-based textile fibres. The fibres will be used to create different types of fabrics for clothing that will be designed, manufactured and sold by global brand Adidas and companies in the H&M Group.

The initiative will also include at the end-of-use, clothing take-back programmes. Garments that can no longer be worn will be returned for regeneration into new fibres.


Slow fashion: Top 5 sustainable fashion innovations


Half of Brits have no idea what green finance is, reveals new poll

More than half (55 per cent) of Brits have no idea what green finance is and how it can help tackle the climate crisis, a new poll reveals.

The study by Tandem Bank showed that even those who do know how to make their finances greener struggle to fund the changes they want to make. Those polled say they believe sustainable finance solutions are limited, and difficult to understand and access.

However, Brits are keen to increase their green credentials with 60 per cent of respondents saying they would change their bank if a competitor offered them a greener and more environmentally responsible product or service. Around 50 per cent said they would move their savings to a bank account that only invested their money in green causes, with Londoners and residents of Northern Ireland most keen to do so.

Tandem recently acquired green loans company Allium Lending Group to accelerate the building of the UK’s first green digital bank.


What you need to know about: Tandem Bank


Half of Ikea meals to be plant-based by 2025

Ikea has pledged to ensure that 50 per cent of the main meals offered in its restaurants, and 80 per cent of the pre-packaged foods it sells, are plant-based by 2025.

Ikea is best-known for its flat-pack furniture but is also one of the largest food providers in the world. In 2019, more than 680 million people bought food in one of its restaurants.

In a statement, Ikeasays its new targets are motivated by the health and environmental benefits of eating less red meat and more plant-based foods.

The  global livestock industry is estimated to account for 15 per cent of global annual emissions and to use 83 per cent of all existing agricultural land. Only 28 per cent of the world’s largest 60 intensive farming firms have set any plans for climate risk mitigation.


Is the plant-based sector immune to greenwashing?


UK tops decarbonisation league table

The UK has halved the carbon intensity of its electricity system over the past decade, decarbonising twice as fast as any other major economy, according to a new report.

The switch has been powered principally by the UK’s move away from coal to renewable energy sources such as wind and biomass according to a Drax Insights study, which was conducted by academics from Imperial College London.

Renewable power generation has grown six-fold in the UK over the past decade, while output from coal power plants fell from 30 per cent to just two per cent of the electricity mix over the timeframe. This has helped the UK to cut the carbon intensity of its power by 58 per cent – double the reduction seen in other major economies over the same period.

The latest edition of Drax’s Electric Insights Quarterly, which launched four years ago, also details how the transformation of the UK’s power sources means British households have each reduced their CO2 emissions by three quarters of a tonne per year since the start of the decade, roughly equivalent to the CO2 generated by a family of four taking a return flight from the UK to Spain.