Earth Day has been and gone, but there is no reason to stop investing in our planet — or your environmental, social and governance (ESG) education. The regulatory pressure on boards and senior business leaders to have that kind of knowledge will only increase as the year plays out.

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1. A new heavyweight entry joined the ratings game last week. Fortune, in partnership with Diligent, released the Modern Board 25 rankings, which examined boards of directors among S&P 500 companies. The rankings look at how effective the respective boards were in terms of ESG criteria and whether the companies were set for long-term sustainable growth. Led by Microsoft, the inaugural top 10 were:

  1. Microsoft
  2. Hewlett Packard Enterprise
  3. Walgreens Boots Alliance
  4. Intel
  5. 3M
  6. Baker Hughes
  7. Anthem
  8. Linde
  9. HP

2. Mastercard has ticked a big green box. CEO Michael Miebach announced on its website that all employee bonuses would now be linked to company ESG initiatives. Mastercard’s ESG priorities are carbon neutrality, financial inclusion and gender pay parity. This follows a successful pilot program for executive vice-presidents and above. Mastercard aims to be fully net zero by 2040.

3. There was another step towards net zero last week, thanks to the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), a partnership between CDP, the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). SBTi released Foundations for science-based net-zero target setting in the financial sector, a set of targets and guidelines to help asset managers, banks and other financial institutions set up “quantitative net-zero targets linked with emissions reductions in the real economy”. The paper has four guiding principles:

  • Set targets that cover all relevant operational and financing activities 
  • Align financial activities with the most recent climate-change science 
  • Engage with and influence clients to get to economy-wide decarbonization
  • Finance both emissions-reducing activities and green technologies

4. Hat tip to Apple. It has been working hard with companies in its complex global supply chain to speed up its transition to clean energy. Last week, the tech giant announced that 213 of its providers in 25 countries would power all Apple production with renewable energy. Apple’s goal is to be fully carbon neutral by 2030. In 2021, its renewable projects stopped 13.9 million metric tons of carbon emissions.

5. ESG, but in which order? Asian and western investors have increasingly different views on what the ESG priorities are. According to Robeco’s The Global Climate Survey 2022, seven out of 10 Asian-based investors said that climate change was the core of their investment policy, up from 57% in the previous year. The survey also revealed that 57% of Asian investors believed that the climate-related parts of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were highly important. By contrast, a survey of investors by Big Capital Investors revealed that 67% of all investors aged 25 or under and 57% of investors aged 45 or under prefer to put their money in social impact investments. General health, well-being and mental health were areas that piqued most interest.
Mathew Loup is Competent Boards’ Director, Marketing & Communications. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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