It is Thanksgiving weekend in Canada, where Competent Boards was founded four years ago and has its spiritual home. In 2020, the Global Alliance for Buildings and Construction reported that buildings accounted for 38% of global carbon emissions, so as a remote organization, we are glad not to contribute to that total via an office environment.

We are also always grateful for the help and support of our amazing global Faculty, 180-plus global experts in environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks and opportunities. And for all those who are taking or have taken our education programs in ESG or climate change. By seeking out new knowledge and a new mindset, you are playing your part to shape a brighter future for all. Thank you. 

Why not join them? Our new condensed but rich ESG Lite program is a great place to start, which opens its cyber doors on October 27. Or you could sign up for one of our world-class ESG or climate-change Designation and Certificate programs, where you will get an unrivaled learning and networking experience. 

  1. Investment with purpose. Deloitte announced last week a 10-year US$1.5 billion commitment to social impact. The global professional services giant is focused on three main areas to create more equity in society: education and workforce development, financial inclusion and health equity. The money will be put to immediate use in boosting skills-based hiring and apprenticeships, venture philanthropy for social entrepreneurs and increasing employee fellowship programs. Among the first organizations to take part will be the Black Economic Alliance Foundation, focusing on financial inclusion; Health Equity Catalyze Cohort to improve health equity; and OneTen, whose focus is addressing education and workforce development. 
  2. Perfect storm. This year, a heady combination of geopolitical, social and economic forces has caused disruption around the world, including to the ESG plans and hopes of governments, investors and companies. Last week, Thomson Reuters published SPECIAL REPORT: ESG Under Strain, which closely examines the risks, challenges and opportunities ahead. That includes greenwashing allegations at companies ranging from Deutsche Bank and Shell to ALDI and H&M. On the plus side, regulatory efforts have gathered speed in the European Union, US (via the SEC), UK and Asia-Pacific region. The Inflation Reduction Act that became law in the US this past August has US$370 billion to support clean energy  and accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels. The report concludes: “It is increasingly clear that companies will be held to account for what they say they are doing on ESG by governments and regulatory bodies. In addition, companies must align their operations to take account of burgeoning ESG rules and regulations, particularly in terms of disclosing what their carbon emissions are in the various countries in which they operate.”
  3. Shareholders have more say. Investor proposals related to ESG topics continued to climb this year to their highest point in five years. By mid July, there had been 813 proposals in the Russell 3000 Index, as well as 642 logged in the S&P 500 Index. This data forms part of a new analysis conducted by the Conference Board and ESGAUGE. Top of the list were environmental and social concerns: 471 proposals were a sizeable increase from 403 in 2021 and 339 in 2019. Climate-related proposals rose, too: 101 in 2022, a big jump from 61 last year, with an unprecedented one in four of those proposals gaining majority support at the annual shareholder meetings. The anti-ESG movement that has gained traction on the Republican right in the USA was also a contributing factor: two conservative groups, the National Legal and Policy Center and the National Center for Public Policy Research, filed 49 proposals.
  4. Focus on the natural world. Biodiversity issues remain low down the list on many board agendas in Asia, according to a new report from Nature Positive, an environmental consultancy group. The Asian markets biodiversity report card shows that although 70% of companies referred to biodiversity on their websites, only 42% recognized it as a material issue. More than a fifth (22%) use biodiversity as a buzzword, rather than making the vital connection between business and nature. Researchers screened the reports and websites of 192 companies listed on four stock exchanges: Japan, Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong. There are real and imminent problems: 42% of all species could be lost in Southeast Asia by 2100, says the report. 
  5. Greener wheels. The announcements about more sustainable ways to travel by air and car have been bumper to bumper in the last couple of weeks. Ford has broken ground on a massive new auto complex in Tennessee, US, that will turbocharge its electric-vehicle production. The auto giant aims to have a worldwide EV production rate of two million by 2026. Had enough of planes? Then OceanSky Cruises may be for you. This Swedish company is bringing back the age of opulence and adventure in sustainable air travel through a fleet of airships. One of the first offerings is an expedition to the North Pole that will cost approximately US $200,000 for a cabin for two people. And finally easyJet announced plans to scrap its carbon offsetting scheme by the end of the year. Instead, the British budget airline is targeting a 78% drop in its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 via efficient aircraft, sustainable aviation fuel and operating improvements.

Mathew Loup is Competent Boards’ Director, Marketing & Communications. Follow Competent Boards on LinkedIn.

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