Dawn of a sustainable future?

Dawn of a sustainable future?

I can see blue sky and sunshine from where I sit, no clouds and no aircraft vapour trails.

Only occasionally do I hear a car on the road; it is beautifully quiet and the birds sing without having to compete with the noise of everyday life.

It has been like this now for a couple of weeks and is likely to stay this way until June at least. Covid-19 has brought the world to a standstill, well almost.

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A major pandemic had long been predicted, but when, where and how it would strike was impossible to say. It seemed to be the stuff of TV serials, not real life.

People I have spoken to have commented that today is what life must have been like in the 1930s and 1940s: shopping locally, no cars and much more community spirit.

Key points

  • Covid-19 will have a huge impact, but there may also be some positives
  • Sustainable investing has held up well during the crisis
  • ESG may become centre stage

It seems we love to look back to a time when our communities and society were strong, which largely got washed away in the drive for globalisation and individualism.

Covid-19 is taking a terrible toll and will leave a very deep and lasting impact on us, but I am optimistic it will also lead to many positives.

Perhaps we are getting a glimpse of the shape of things to come as the world moves towards a sustainable economic future.

There have been numerous media reports about the drop in pollution – satellite images from around the world show air quality is much improved.

Where I am in Bristol, pollution levels have fallen by 40 per cent, and the air is noticeably cleaner – most of which is down to a reduction in traffic.

This plays into a major theme running through environmental, social and governance investing – the decarbonisation of the economy.

A visible aspect of this is the electric vehicle replacing combustion engines. The drive to electric vehicles is very much under way, but this period of lockdown could well add extra impetus to this move.

Power generation is another area where change is progressing well.

In 2019, 75 per cent of new power capacity built worldwide was renewable, and with the UK experiencing nice weather recently, some households on renewable tariffs are being paid for the power they generate.

Whatever the economy does, the sun still shines and the wind still blows.

ESG resilience

A question I have been asked a lot recently is whether ESG investments have performed better than those without an ESG mandate.

There have been numerous reports indicating this is the case. In fact, one from MSCI indicated a marked performance, and it is not difficult to see why this might be.

Oil and gas is a major sector that ESG funds tends to avoid, and with the oil price having fallen so sharply, it has not been a good sector to be invested in.

ESG funds can also be light on their exposure to consumer stocks and airlines, areas that have been hard hit in this market sell-off.