The world’s oceans hit their hottest level on record, supercharging the extreme weather effects caused by climate change, as food chain LEON offers ‘carbon-neutral’ burgers and fries. Meanwhile, assets held in ‘sustainable’ Exchange Traded Funds jump threefold (but most funds fall short on United Nations goals), 70 per cent of UK finance professionals are not confident in their firms’ commitment to ethical finance, and the UK’s water industry joins the United Nations ‘Race to Zero’ campaign. It’s the Good With Money weekly news brief.
Climate change: oceans hottest ever in 2020
The world’s oceans hit their hottest level on record in 2020, supercharging the extreme weather effects caused by climate change, say scientists.
More than 90 per cent of the heat trapped by carbon emissions is absorbed by the oceans, which means their rapid rise in temperature is an undeniable signal of the worsening crisis. The researchers found the five hottest years in the oceans had occurred since 2015, and that the rate of heating since 1986 was eight times higher than that from 1960-85.
Reliable instruments for measuring ocean heat stretch back to 1940, but it is likely they are now at their hottest for 1,000 years and heating faster than at any time in the last 2,000 years. Warmer seas provide more energy to storms, making them more severe, and there were a record 29 tropical storms in the Atlantic in 2020.
Hotter oceans also disrupt rainfall patterns, which lead to floods, droughts and wildfires. Australia and the west coast of America suffered devastating wildfires in 2020. Heat also causes seawater to expand and drive up sea levels. Scientists expect about one metre of sea level rise by the end of the century, endangering 150 million people worldwide.
LEON launches ‘carbon-neutral’ burgers and fries
Restaurant chain LEON is offering customers ‘carbon-neutral’ burgers and fries by offsetting the emissions released in their production.
The firm has partnered with environmental solutions provider ClimatePartner to measure the carbon footprint of its range of burgers and fries across their lifecycle. This includes the production of ingredients, manufacturing, storage, cooking, packaging and waste.
LEON is investing in rainforest conservation projects in South America and tree-planting efforts in the UK to offset the equivalent amount of Co2.
A ‘carbon-neutral’ label has been added to baked waffle fries, the LOVe Burger, the Chargrilled Chicken Burger and the Fish Finger Burger, as well as two new burgers called Crispy Chicken Parm and Vegan Sweet Carolina BBQ.
LEON recently committed to becoming a net-zero business by 2030. In a statement, it said its decision to offer ‘carbon neutral’ menu items will help engage consumers with the journey. The brand believes it is the first of its kind to offer a carbon-neutral burger and fries.
Sustainable ETF assets jump but most funds fall short on UN goals
Assets held in Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) that claim to invest according to environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles rose three-fold in 2020, a new study shows.
However, the research found that only a fraction of those ETFs were aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (or “Global Goals”.
Assets under management in ESG ETFs jumped from $59 billion (£43.5 billion) at the end of 2019 to just over $174 billion (£128 billion) at the end of 2020, according to TrackInsight, the Financial Times’ data partner.
Money invested in SDG-aligned ETFs over the year rose 250 per cent from under $21 billion (£15.5 billion) to about $72 billion (£53 billion), but the total was less than half of that attracted by the broader ESG universe.
“There are challenges with launching ETFs targeting individual SDGs,” said Kenneth Lamont, senior fund analyst for passive funds research at Morningstar Europe. “While some like ‘climate action’ and ‘responsible consumption and production’ may be more easily captured, others like ‘zero hunger’ and ‘reduced inequalities’ may be trickier.”
Seven in 10 UK financial professionals ‘not confident’ in firm’s ethical finance
Seven out of ten professionals working in the UK financial services industry are not confident in their firms’ commitment to ethical finance, according to a survey from the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI).
When 563 respondents were asked how confident they were that their firm is “committed to the adoption and execution of ethical finance policies and ESG (environmental, social, and governance) principles as regards lending, investing, wealth management and fund management activities,” 70 per cent said they were “not confident”. A further 10 per cent said they were “neutral”, while only 20 per cent said they were confident in their firms’ commitment.
For those who were not confident, factors included the challenge of gaining traction with senior management, “too many ESG ratings agencies” and “poor data declaration” from investee firms.
UK water industry joins UN Race to Zero campaign
Water UK has become the first industry trade body to join the United Nation’s ‘Race to Zero’ campaign as an official partner.
Race to Zero was launched last year as part of preparations for the crucial COP26 climate talks to be hosted in Glasgow. The idea of the campaign is to rally support across businesses, cities, regions and investors globally.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has announced 20 official Race to Zero partners, including the We Mean Business Coalition, B Corporation, the SME Climate Hub and The Climate Pledge, orchestrated by Amazon and Global Optimism.
Water UK is the driving force behind the utility sector’s roadmap for reaching net-zero by 2030, published in November 2020. This estimates that the industry will need to invest up to £4 billion in new infrastructure, technology and jobs to meet its commitment.
It will focus on reducing the release of methane, improving energy efficiency, increasing self-generated renewables use from solar and anaerobic digestion, using renewable electricity, providing biogas to the grid, moving to electric for construction equipment like diggers and rolling out electric and alternative fuel vehicles for fleets.