By now we have looked at an overview of ESG, followed by innovations in technology, food, business, and transport. This week I’m imagining myself by the seaside with an ice cream cone in hand, gazing out over the vast ocean. I recently heard that water was originally not going to have its own UN Sustainable Development Goal because it was viewed as an essential underlying party to all the goals. Two specific and very valuable goals were agreed in the end and are used as one of the guiding principles in our Responsible Futures portfolio.
In the UK we’re lucky to have high quality water so readily accessible that we perhaps often overlook its importance and how much work goes into ensuring we have this essential supply. Some of us worry about not drinking the recommended 6-8 glasses but how many of us consider how easy it is to fill from the tap, take a quick shower before the long trek to our home offices, or flush the toilet and wash our hands?
Two happy birthdays
The recent Covid-19 crisis has highlighted how essential water is not only for hydration but also for sanitation. It is water that activates the soap as we diligently wash our hands for two happy birthdays. Matt Damon, one of the founders of non-profit Water.org recently stated in an interview for Time magazine that “Water is the very first level of protection, water is PPE”.
Statistics from the UN/WHO show that on top of the 1 in 3 people that do not have access to safe drinking water, 2 in 5 do not have access to basic hand washing facilities. This equates to 3 billion people or 38% of the global population. Water.org have also found that 66% of healthcare facilities in low income countries don’t have soap or running water either. The problem of lack of access to basic sanitation is further exacerbated by inefficient or nonexistent waste management or disposal.
SDG 6 ‘Clean water and Sanitation’ works towards ensuring everyone has access to clean drinking water and toilet facilities, as well as looking at reducing water pollution, managing the supply and increasing recycling and safe refuse collection globally. The Responsible Futures Portfolio currently incorporates the Fidelity Water & Waste Fund which invests in water distribution, treatment and purification, as well as waste management and recycling. This works in tandem with the L&G Clean Water fund which focuses on technologies and developments in water treatment and processing, the safe use and disposal of chemicals, and the engineering behind wastewater and sewage facilities. It is a vast industry with both local and global implications to enable us all to live in a safe and clean environment.
Although there is now a dedicated SDG it is true that water links many of the sustainable themes and is universal to everyday life, meaning there is a huge scope for development. In 2017 a UN report found that 70% of the world’s freshwater is used for agriculture and the World Bank predict that to feed a planet of 9 billion people by 2050 agricultural production will be required to increase by 50%. We also find that levels of water pollution are increasing, not just with household, agricultural or contaminants but also with human byproducts including the medicines that have run through our systems and are linked to the increasing antimicrobial and antibacterial resistance.
A blue planet
It is now largely accepted that we are surrounded at all times by some form of pollution, in the air, the ground, the food we eat and especially in the water. At least 80% of marine debris is plastic with an estimated 8 million tons ending up in the ocean each year. On one of our walks down to the shoreline in Leith I remarked to my husband that there seemed to be a lot of littered disposable plastic gloves and masks building up on the streets. It came as no surprise then to see this in the news which prompted Maria Algarra of “Clean This Beach Up in Miami” to launch #TheGloveChallenge campaign to highlight the issue and work to safely clean the beaches of this discarded PPE.
As lockdown restrictions are being eased it might be easier to organise group beach cleans again, but one of the best ways to combat marine waste pollution is by recycling and properly disposing of your waste, which can then be picked up a processed carefully by a company like the ones in the Fidelity Water & Waste Portfolio. It was recently found during research conducted on US and UK coastlines that microplastic pollution has been vastly underestimated. In South Wales alone they found that the birds were eating about 200 pieces of plastic a day and over half the river insects contain microplastic fragments.
Throughout this lockdown we have seen uplifting stories about nature thriving and air pollution lifting and the same is true in our oceans. Time magazine also recently published news of a study of humpback whales off the coast of Brazil who have made a remarkable recovery to nearly return to their pre-hunting population number. On average a single humpback whale can store 33 tons of CO2, the population in Brazil can therefore store 813,780 tons of CO2 which is apparently around twice the yearly emissions of a small Caribbean country. Hunting bans have paved the way for this but cleaning up our oceans will also make a significant impact. SDG 14 ‘Life below water’ looks specifically to conserve and sustainably use ocean resources by reducing waste pollution and protecting coastal and marine areas.
Last week many celebrated Global Biodiversity in the run up to World Environment Day next week. The European Commission has pledged to raise at least €20bn (£18bn) to fund commitments to plant trees, reduce the use of harsh chemical pesticides and protect a diversity of landscape, including oceans, rivers and lakes but also the often forgotten wetlands, bogs and marshlands. We are two years into the UN Water Action Decade (2018-2028) which works alongside the SDGs and looks to enhance development projects and raise awareness of water related challenges such as access to safe water and sanitation, pressure on resources and ecosystems and the risk of droughts and floods. As we so often take our access to clean water and good sanitation for granted, charity work and awareness campaigns are important, but it goes hand in hand with the time and investment needed to take care of our planet.
This week’s lockdown tip directs you towards one of Scotland’s best resource on recycling and living more sustainably – https://www.zerowastescotland.org.uk
~ Ellie Maletto
Please note that the content of this letter is for information purposes only and should not be considered as a recommendation to invest in any particular investment strategy or any individual company.
Although our physical offices are currently closed, we are business as usual from home, and available by phone and email as always. Please get in touch!