Each year on April 2022 we celebrate our Planet Earth, which as a living system, changes according not only to the intrinsic but also to the extrinsic factors. Many climate scientists have shown through their research that global warming during Anthropocene has been a consequence of Human activity, accelerated by the industrial revolutions.
As awareness raised so did the pressures to move away from exhausting the limited resources our Planet has been offering us so they can be used and consumed for longer allowing future generations to also use and consume them. To do so without reducing socio-economic welfare requires updates on processes, technologies and mindsets. Investment is thus needed. Investing in our Planet, if correctly done, implies an investment in society and consequently an increase in welfare. The latter stemming from for example reduced health problems due to cleaner air resulting from improved production technologies which pollute less too.
Increasingly more investors are aware of this need and opt for responsible alternatives allocating their money in sustainable investments, enlarging the sustainable investment pie. They also show the mindset change investors need to undergo. Yet risks of continuous greenwashing in investment still exists as the OECD recently pointed out, asking for standardisation to make sustainable investments easier to track and compare. The United Nations estimated in 2018 a range of 5 to 7 USD trillion annually needed to meet the agreed SDGs by 2030. Between 2018 and 2020 sustainable assets under management rose 15% according to the World Economic Forum to about USD 35.3 trillion. Yet, this level is behind UN’s expectations by 17% on average, as shown in the graphic below created by me with UN data. The lockdowns imposed as the Pandemic emerged resulted in a slowdown of investment projects as risks of unprecedented recession emerged, and the resulting drop on the global output might explain to a great extent this deviation.
Also due to the Pandemic the issuance of sustainability bonds, green bonds and social bonds, financing instruments for socio-economic and environmental purposes, accelerated to unprecedented levels too. By the end of this year, sustainability bonds issuance is expected to exceed USD 1.5 trillion. Will the pace be maintained and the sun rise through forests expanding our life and our planet’s?
Being sustainable means that existing resources will be used in a way that current as well as future generations can access and use them to the same extent permitting similar or better living conditions. So, it’s not only for the future but also for the present! Hence, I’m sharing with you the 3 fundamental reasons why you’ll fall in love with sustainability as soon as you realise the good of it.
Thanks to technological and knowledge improvements the air has gotten cleaner. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 395 million people suffer from chronic respiratory diseases (CRD), over 10 million die annually and 4 million of them do so prematurely. Other sources identify over 500 million of CRD and a 39,5% increase on CRD between 1990 and 2017. The WHO has identified “tobacco smoke, indoor and outdoor air pollution, and air containing microbes, toxic particles, fumes or allergens” as the top sources of unhealthy air. It is known that GHG emissions have soared since the beginning of the Anthropocene as the world was making economic progress, which paved the way to further research and the current knowledge. It has been a trade-off society has incurred. Given that technological developments and policies have enabled an increased renewable energy generation in the energy mix, powering further progress, society has a duty to transit to a cleaner energy mix, doing so reliably and robustly. Aligning stakeholders to do so has been challenging but as more benefits from deploying such technologies are understood less resistance is faced. An illustration of such improvements is the air quality in Beijing, more in the spotlight in the last two weeks due to the 2022 Winter Olympic games. It has been reported that Beijing has improved its air quality implementing very tough measures such as a winter without heating to force replacement of old coal boilers for cleaner versions and halt of the production from polluting sources. In the graphic below, which I elaborate using Air Quality index data, it’s observable that Chinese air improved during 2008 Olympics but retreated 3 years later, to improve again. Recently, the FT published two pictures of the same location of Beijing in 2008 and 2022. The first showing thick levels of pollution and the second a clear sky. Cutting pollution implies fewer toxic particles in the air and an expected improved air quality, which reduces the number of people with chronic respiratory diseases and hence a healthier population, in what concerns CRD, hence a better life quality. Doesn’t that make you happier?
2. Getting wealthier
Sustainable goods and practices are characterised by being durable, which means they last longer than non-sustainable ones being manufactured for multiple uses. They also should be conceived for reparation and re-integration in the manufacturing cycle extending the product and its components life expectancy. This means that instead of spending for example, 30 euros for a sweatshirt every year, you spend for example 60 euros on a sweatshirt which can be used in great conditions for 7 years. In doing so, the materials you’re saving by reusing multiples times the same product are being saved for future generations, so they can also be accessed and used while simultaneously you’re financially saving.
Multiple studies such as the IPCC reports show that climate change will affect geographies with extreme weather events. Knowing the risks to be faced and how to mitigate them, may allow for future savings, which ultimately increase wealth.
It has been shown that being sustainable has benefits for the Planet, the People and the Organisations. Leading organisations such as Unilever have embraced in sustainable practices and improved their revenues as shown in the graphic below, I created based on macro trends data, along with its profits, share value and distributed dividend and yield. Paul Polman, its CEO between 2009 and 2019 has been the face of sustainable leadership pushing for a systemic transformation in businesses and in society.
3. Building better
As a responsible citizen or organization, you embrace in sustainable practices, which include consuming and producing responsibly. Doing so, allows the finite resources to be maintained for a longer period allowing future generations to use them and enjoy high living standards. Aren’t we grateful for the land which has been feeding the world? Or to get to beaches and mountains that have been kept accessible and clean throughout the years by our ancestors? Haven’t we benefited from Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Marie Curie, and millions of inventors, studies, good practices that have been contributing to society’s increased welfare and life standards? So why are we preventing future generations from enjoying the good in our Planet and improve future life standards? Do you want to Build Better? Reach out to me, perhaps I can help you!