By Lionesses of Africa Operations Dept
Since our previous letter in March on the EU’s move to legislate ESG to all via the financial world (here), where financial companies marketing their products within the EU now have to prove if they are ESG compliant (or not, they do have the choice). To take this seriously at a high level and to show this is not just a tick-box exercise, there is no doubt now (as we foretold) that this will filter quickly through to corporations and their supply chains. The finance world (if it wants the ESG tick) must pay attention, research, investigate and invest with ESG in mind.
Is this a good thing, or will there be unintended consequences that will hide the good and great work being done elsewhere? For example in the various SDGs covered by our inspirational membership (now 1.2 million strong). The HoF was speaking to one of his banking pals this week who said that meeting the ESG requirements is being discussed and enacted across all departments. Discussions with clients on lending, on issuance of bonds, notes, IPO’s and indeed M&A all now include ESG compliance.
This does not mean that there will be instant bans on flying; that electric will replace petrol or diesel cars starting from tomorrow; coal or gas fired power stations will be shut down; indeed there are very few countries that overnight can switch totally from carbon fuels to green, and so at a minimum gas powered power stations will be with us for many years. One can also not forget that the development world (currently the worst offenders in the carbon world, could rightly claim (and are) that the ‘west’ has an unfair advantage given that its industrial revolution happened centuries ago when no one really cared about smoke filled lungs. Although to be fair, according to Peter Brimblecombe in his book “Attitudes and Responses Towards Air Pollution in Medieval England” (the HoF’s bedtime reading never fails to surprise…), the fears over smoke in the lungs were first mentioned in the 12th century leading (in the following century), to King Edward I, banning the burning of ‘sea-coal’ in 1272. Still, the developing world does have a point.
As many have recognised, even Greta Thunberg, it will be impractical to stop all flying, and we agree as face to face meetings (in spite of our overnight change to zoom meetings), and factory, farm and mining visits will still be necessary. But there are many other ways one can cut our own carbon footprint, although not everyone has the willpower to become Vegan overnight – as the old story goes:
‘There was a 137 year old French lady. She was interviewed about the secret of her long life. She told the journalist: “I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I’ve never gambled, I eat frugally, and exercise each day.” He then asked: “does that mean you will live forever?” “No, but it feels like it,” she replied in a resigned tone….’.
…but as the title of Greta Thunberg’s book makes clear “No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference” (here), we can all do our bit personally. What the EU’s regulations mean is that companies and especially the large corporates who are used to being reported on the front pages, need to be very careful to ensure ESG means ESG.
So how will all of this be measured? What will give the incentive for all these companies to truly change? As we mentioned in our last letter on this subject (here), there have been some very ‘interesting’ uses of ‘Green’ Bonds from companies that haven’t a green bone in their corporate bodies, yet were bought aggressively and over-subscribed when issued. Sadly until a serious system of measurement appears, many of those doing great work in Green or ESG and our own area of SDG may be hidden from view by the large fog that descends as all companies, banks and finance houses claim the high ground, which with their huge war-chests of money they can do with ease. Sadly in recent years, so long as you say something enough times and loud enough, it becomes the truth.