With 2015 reportedly one of the hottest years on record for the globe, temperature wise, the severe impacts of climate change are already evident, especially in the investment world.
Investment portfolios could lose up to 45% of their value due to short-term shifts in investor sentiment about climate change, according to a study released in mid-November by the Institute for Sustainable Leadership at the University of Cambridge. Scott Kelly, one of the study’s authors notes that, “Far from being a lost cause, investors can ‘climate proof’ their investments to a significant extent by understanding how climate change sentiment could filter through to returns.”
Advisors should be pleased that many of the companies in their clients’ portfolios are recognizing the risks and opportunities associated with climate change increasingly and that some are willing to show leadership around the transition toward a low-carbon global economy.
Several companies operating in Alberta’s oilsands have embraced change. Represenatives from Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., Cenovus Energy Inc., Shell Canada Ltd. and Suncor Energy Inc. were on the podium with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley when she recently announced Alberta’s new climate change strategy, which includes a new carbon tax, a cap on oilsands emissions, the phasing out of coal-fired electricity and increasing use of renewable energy.
This growing acceptance of carbon pricing is one of the most important first steps companies can take to not only protect shareholder value, but to build in preparation for a carbon-constrained future, says Michelle de Cordova, director of corporate engagement and public policy, environmental, social and corportate governance (ESG) services with Toronto-based Northwest & Ethical Investments LP (a.k.a. NEI Investments).
Four out of five of the world’s largest companies by revenue identify climate change and carbon as material issues to their business and report on their carbon emissions, according to KPMG LLP’s 2015 Survey of Corporate Responsibility Reporting, which was released in late November . More than half of those companies publish targets to reduce their carbon emissions, with the majority of companies in Germany (94%), the U.K. (83%), France (63%) and the U.S. (59%) doing so.
But it’s not just the world’s largest companies taking action. More than 430 companies of varying sizes around the world have already disclosed that they incorporate an internal carbon price as part of their business decision-making process, while another 583 companies have declared that they will be incorporating carbon pricing over the next two years, according to one of the latest reports from London, U.K.-based CDP Worldwide (formerly known as the Carbon Disclosure Project).
With increasing public concern about the environment, it’s in companies’ best interests to contribute to a sustainable future. This is perhaps most apparent for companies in carbon-intensive industries. such as mining, energy and oil and gas. Fortunately, companies in these industries are recognizing the long-term importance of carbon pricing to mitigate climate change. Many are even advocating for change.
In June, BG Group PLC, BP PLC, Royal Dutch Shell, Statoil ASA and Total SA wrote an open letter to the United Nations and national governments stating, “Our companies are already taking a number of actions to help limit emissions. … For us to do more, we need governments across the world to provide us with clear, stable, long-term, ambitious policy frameworks. We believe that a price on carbon should be a key element of these frameworks.”
Investment managers and advisors are also recognizing the value of incorporating ESG analysis into their activities. A CFA Institute survey of its members conducted this past June found that almost three-quarters of those surveyed consider ESG issues in their investment analysis or decisions.
Why? For most respondents, ESG analysis was used to help manage investment risks, while 44% of those surveyed said their clients and investors demanded it. CFA members surveyed also felt that taking ESG analysis into account was part of their fiduciary duty, it served as a proxy for management quality, and was used to identify investment opportunities.
This is just the beginning. With countries around the world agreeing to transition to a low carbon economy, we’ll be hearing a lot more about mitigating the effects of climate change and the impact that it will have on your clients’ investment portfolios.