Coronavirus: Assessing the Effectiveness of Government Responses

Since the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic on March 11, global stock markets have seen losses not experienced since the 2008 financial crisis.

EU Sustainable Finance Action Plan: Final Taxonomy Report Published and Other Developments

The highly anticipated final report by the TEG (Technical Expert Group) on the EU Taxonomy was published in early March, followed by a stakeholder information session. You can read our blog post on last fall’s developments here.

Coal Investments: Up in Smoke?

Growing public concern over climate change is pushing investors to increasingly assess how their portfolios are pivoting to a low carbon economy. Because of its large carbon footprint, the coal industry is a prime target of environmental activism and divestment campaigns, and it is becoming the investable hot potato few want to hold.

Coronavirus, oil prices and ESG: three takeaways for investors

Monday’s rout of the global equity market has left investors reeling. Major benchmarks including the S&P 500, FTSE 100 and the DAX were down well over 7%. In Canada, the commodities heavy TSX Composite shed over 10%.

Shipbreaking: Clean Shipping in Deep Water

Cleaner shipping has been a trending topic particularly since the International Maritime Organization (IMO) declared that 2020 will mark the “beginning of a decade of action and delivery” for the shipping industry.[i] A key approach to cleaner shipping is for companies to renew their fleet with more environmental-friendly vessels. However, this approach triggers an obsolescence of older vessels and increases shipbreaking activity. In Sustainalytics’ 10 for 2020 report, we mention the issue of shipping practices with large environmental impacts including shipbreaking practices which we will explore more in depth in this article.

Chilean Aquaculture: Expansion into Troubled Waters?

In November 2019, as part of the Sustainable Seafood Engagement, Sustainalytics visited Chile to learn more about the country’s rapidly growing aquaculture industry. Commercial salmon farming has developed quickly in Chile over the past two decades, and today the country is the second largest producer of seafood in the world. Although salmon is not a native species to Chile, the climate in the southern part of the country (zones 10 and 11) offers excellent conditions for farming activities. Farmed salmon now represents the country’s second largest export and the industry provides thousands of jobs for people living in some of Chile’s most remote communities.[i] Despite this economic success story, the industry also faces environmental and social challenges which may cause investor risk. These risks may become more pronounced in the future, as the sector now looks to expand deeper into biodiversity hotspots.

Infographic - Creating Impact Through Thematic Investing

In this year’s edition of our 10 for series, we put an environmental, social and governance (ESG) lens on 10 investment themes that may offer investors an opportunity to create a positive social and environmental impact through the equity market. The trends we identify are driven by corporate initiatives to scale new technologies, improve social conditions, conserve ecosystems and mitigate climate change.

Plastics - A Material Issue for Investors

The plastic waste issue is currently one of the fastest growing environmental topics on the political and business agenda. Plastic is a vital product to the global economy; however, the way it is being produced and managed is unsustainable, especially at the use and after‐use phases. The carbon footprint and emissions associated with plastic production along with the issue of the environmental and potential health impacts of plastic waste are a matter of growing concern for investors. In light of the environmental, social and financial challenges, the linear “take, make and dispose” approach cannot continue. The alternative is a circular economy approach, which focuses on maximizing resource value, making resource use more efficient and extending product value during use.

South Africa and ESG Risk

A Case Study On November 1, 2019 Moody’s cut its rating outlook for South Africa from “Baa3 stable” to “Baa3 negative,” putting the country’s bonds on the cusp of junk status after several harbingers of a potential downgrade.[i] Earlier this year, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund cut their 2019 growth forecasts for South Africa to around 0.8%, while the Institute of International Finance warned that the country’s public debt could grow to 95% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2024.[ii] The other two big credit rating agencies (CRAs) – Fitch and S&P – downgraded South Africa’s credit rating to sub-investment grade back in 2017, citing a deterioration in the country’s public finances.[iii]

A Case for Impact Investing in Public Equities

As awareness around environmental and social issues has grown, so has the number of investors who deliberately seek to allocate capital to create positive social and environmental impact. Impact investing is as old as the sustainable investment industry, with the bulk of strategies to date having been executed through private equity and debt vehicles. However, as a more diversified pool of investors look to adopt impact investing strategies, fueled by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Climate Agreement, a broader set of asset classes are being considered – here enters public equities.

Sustainable Finance and the EU Taxonomy: Developments from the Trilateral Negotiations

As global leaders meet in Madrid for the COP25 amid mounting concern over the international response to climate change, the EU Taxonomy experienced a setback with the UK and France blocking the plans. The new framework, intended to drive financial flows that will accelerate the shift to a low carbon future, will likely become a global standard affecting investors around the world. If enacted, it could cement the EU’s position as the world’s pace setter on climate legislation.

PFAS Sparks a Wave of Litigation in the U.S. Chemical Industry

In 2019, a wave of litigation related to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) emerged in the United States, as several states filed lawsuits against PFAS manufacturers, including DuPont, Chemours and 3M. This legal action accompanies increased regulatory scrutiny of this potentially risky class of chemicals. In this article, we will focus on the risks chemical companies face related to PFAS contamination of drinking water in the United States and the ESG risks posed to chemical companies and their investors.

Revising Mining Codes: Equality for Nations or Nationalization?

In recent years, an increasing number of nations, particularly in Africa, have been amending their mining codes. Governments likely view these amendments as a way of getting more for their people from their natural resources. But are these amendments slowly leading to the nationalization of the sector in some of these countries and how are the companies reacting?

The Impact of Country ESG Risks on Company Operations

In this article we explore how operating in Peru affects the world’s second largest mining producer of precious metals, Barrick Gold. Based on analysis from our recently launched Country Risk Ratings, we discuss how the challenges facing Barrick’s mining operations in Peru are strongly influenced by the country’s ESG risks.

Brazil: Deforestation in the Global Context - Part 2

In our previous blog post, we detailed the impact that the new Brazilian government’s policies have had on deforestation and could have on Brazil’s Indigenous Peoples. In this second article, we will explore how material recent developments in Brazil could be for the companies, communities and financial institutions involved. We will also take a closer look at Brazilian meat processing company JBS SA (JBS) and the consequences it may face due to international concern over deforestation.

Emerging market equities, ESG risk and sector tilts

The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF’s) recent downward revision to its projections of near-term global expansion reflects growing concerns about brewing market tensions. Central issues affecting capital markets include trade disputes between the US and China, Brexit and subdued investment and demand for consumer durables. According to the IMF’s latest outlook, global real GDP will grow 3.2% in 2019 and 3.5% in 2020 – a downgrade of 10 basis points (bps) for each year compared to the IMF’s previous outlook last April.[i]

The fairy-tale of Faroese fish farming

Aquaculture is the fastest growing food production sector in the past 20 years. It will become vital in meeting the rapidly increasing demand for seafood, and is expected to provide 50 per cent of total seafood consumed in the coming years.[i] Contributing to an increased protein supply and global food security, aquaculture also carries many risks. These risks include the potential spread of diseases and parasites, use of antibiotics and pesticides, and the escape of fish from fish farms which can jeopardize wild populations.

The business case against letting the well run dry

Do you believe climate change is a problem needing urgent attention? Have extreme weather events got you thinking about the personal or professional risks you face? Are you interested in how the global population will be fed in the future? Concerned about the mass migration of people in search for a better life? Worried about the outlook of energy production? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you may also want to consider the vital element connecting all of the above: water.

Brazil: Deforestation in the Global Context

On January 1, 2019, Jair Bolsonaro began his tenure as the president of Brazil. On his first day in office, he signed several decrees aimed at increasing power for the Ministry of Agriculture, at the expense of the Ministry of Environment. According to NGOs, this indicates a shift in government priorities away from environmental stewardship and protection of Indigenous rights towards bolstering the agricultural industry’s interests.

Implications of the use of rare-earth elements in the wind energy market

Investors who are bullish on renewable energy are often drawn to the wind energy market. Alongside solar, wind energy has been rapidly adopted worldwide and continues to receive significant investments compared to other renewables.[i]