As the urgency to control greenhouse-gas emissions grows, one significant source of emissions that is often overlooked is food waste. A study published last week in Nature found that about 33% of food produced globally is wasted annually. As this food decomposes in landfills, it releases methane and carbon dioxide. In 2017, emissions from food waste equaled the annual greenhouse gas emissions of the United States and European Union combined. 

Organizations everywhere must be proactive rather than reactive to tackle these challenges. One of the best ways to do that is by staying informed on ESG and climate-related issues via our best-in-class ESG and Climate & Biodiversity programs. 

1. IPCC publishes final warning. On March 20, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Sixth Assessment Report. IPCC’s research clearly shows that  human activity has unequivocally driven climate change. As a result, the world is currently on track to fall short of achieving the 1.5°C (2.7°F) limit from the 2015 Paris Agreement, and unless significant actions are taken immediately, we will exceed 2°C (3.6°F). Countries and companies must make drastic changes in energy consumption, land use, and infrastructure now in order to limit the most severe impacts of climate change.

2. Cutting emissions in Europe. Last week, the European Union (EU) parliament voted in favour of a proposal stating that EU member states must reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 40% compared with 2005 emission-levels. This proposal binds all EU countries into an agreement to reduce their emissions. However, each country’s targets will differ based on GDP and cost-effectiveness to ensure that the targets are realistic and achievable. The new regulation limits the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation, agricultural, and infrastructure industries. It will also have significant impacts on companies operating in the EU by closing loopholes that limit the ability to save emissions from previous years, borrow from the future and emissions trading between countries. 

3. ESG backlash deepens in the US. On March 16, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced new state level regulations that disincentivize ESG-focused decision-making by financial institutions and state-level governments. Banks and other financial institutions will be prohibited from discriminating against customers on the basis of their political opinions. Government funds will also be withdrawn from banks that engage in “corporate activism”. Finally, investors will not be allowed to consider any ESG-related factors while making investment decisions. While Florida is the first state to pass legislation against ESG, 18 other US Governors from states including Montana, Tennessee, Alaska, Georgia, and more have joined DeSantis in creating an alliance and signing a declaration against the influences of ESG in the financial sector. 

4. UK companies make slow progress on diversity. Companies everywhere are increasingly conscious of the value of DEI, especially in leadership positions. In the UK, women now occupy  40% of the board seats at FTSE100 companies, and one in five (19%) of every chair position, which compares favourably with 11% at European companies. That’s according to the recent European Gender Diversity Barometer, which was created by Ethics & Boards, a governance advisor, and ecoDa, the European body for institutes of directors. However, women still only occupy 28% of executive roles at FTSE100 companies, with just 9% as CEOs. At 15% of UK businesses, there is no female representation in executive leadership at all. 

5. Germany’s reckoning for climate change. A new study by the Environment and Economy Ministries in Germany estimates that the impacts of climate change could cost Germany up to €900 billion by 2050. The Institute for Ecological Economy Research (IÖW), the Society for Economic Structures Research (GWS) and Prognos AG developed several different scenarios for climate change between 2022 and 2050 to develop the study. The study examines the effects of extreme weather events, such as heat, fires and flooding. Even a best-case scenario would result in a €280 billion bill, which would damage Europe’s largest economy. The study estimates that Germany’s GDP would decrease by 0.6-1.8% as a result. Germany has already seen first-hand the impacts of climate change, with the massive floods in 2021 in the Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia regions costing dozens of lives and €80 billion.

Ira Srivastava is Competent Boards Program Coordinator. Follow Competent Boards on LinkedIn.

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