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Sustainability Newsletter #46

 Published on 02/10/2023

#Key Figure - 10%

Swiss glaciers lose 10% of volume in worst two years on record

Switzerland’s glaciers have lost 10% of their volume in the last two years, after suffering consecutive years of record melt. According to the scientific group Glacier Monitoring Switzerland (GLAMOS), Switzerland’s glaciers lost as much ice in two years as in the three decades before 1990. Dr Matthais Huss, who leads GLAMOS, tells: “This year was very problematic for glaciers because there was really little snow in winter, and the summer was very warm. The combination of these two factors is the worst that can happen to glaciers.”  The analysis by the Swiss Academy of Sciences found 6% of Switzerland’s total glacier volume vanished in 2022, which is the biggest thaw since measurements began. Experts have even stopped measuring the ice on some glaciers as there is essentially none left, such as the St Annafirn glacier in Canton Uri. In order to stop Switzerland losing its ice, the world should manage to keep warming to a maximum of 1.5C above preindustrial levels.

Sources : ReutersCarbon Brief

Trends and Initiatives

France opts for salary transparency to combat gender inequality

Freeing salaries from confidentiality: that is the aim of a recent ruling by the French Court of Cassation, allowing employees to ask to see the pay slips of their male and female colleagues in equivalent positions. In 2021, according to INSEE, the average salary of women was 15% lower than that of men in France, for equivalent working hours (compared to 13% estimated gender pay gap across the EU). Moreover, a recent survey by ADP Research shows that 75% of men will have received a pay rise by 2022 in France, compared with only 59% of women.

However, the situation could evolve following a court ruling in March 2023. An employee accusing her former employer of pay discrimination won a ruling from the French Cour de Cassation allowing her to consult the pay slips of her male colleagues. As a result, this case law now enables any employee who requests so to ascertain, and potentially prove, whether or not he/she is suffering from pay inequalities in relation to employees working in positions at comparable levels to his/her own. If the employer refuses, the employee is entitled to take legal action.

Pay transparency regulations are also spreading around the globe. In New York City, for example, job seekers can now find out what some of the top companies in the world are paying for certain roles. California this year introduced similar legislation that requires employers to include pay scales in job postings. In the UK the government launched a pay transparency pilot scheme that encourages organizations to display salaries in all of their job ads. Meanwhile, Japan requires companies to increase disclosure of their gender wage gap by listing it on company websites and annual securities reports. A step forward that encourages companies to be more transparent.

Sources : Le MondeNovethicInseeADP ResearchEuropean Parliament

Sustainable Finance

Wall Street regulator tackles misleading ESG fund labels by requiring labelled funds to invest 80% in alignment with theme

In September, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) voted to impose the most sweeping overhaul for fund-labeling regulations in more than two decades. Therefore, the world’s biggest investment firms are getting much tougher rules for naming funds, as the SEC clamps down on labels it says can be misleading. Backers say the measures in particular will help rein in overblown claims about environmental, social or governance investments (ESG). The agency also would bolster its long-existing requirements that a fund generally invest 80% of its assets in line with the stated focus.

“These final rules will help ensure that a fund’s portfolio aligns with a fund’s name", SEC Chair Gary Gensler said in a statement. “That benefits investors and issuers alike.” The new SEC rules would apply to funds with trillions of dollars in assets combined. In addition to ESG, they would impact thematic investment strategies with labels like “growth” or “value.”

Sources: BloombergESG TodayReuters

Society and Planet

European Union bans microplastics in consumer products

The European Commission announced the adoption of a series of measures aimed at fighting microplastics pollution, including banning the sale of a broad series of products to which microplastics have been added. Microplastics are often added to many products due to their ability to add texture, although they often are released into the environment, polluting ecosystems and food chains, and leading to negative health effects for humans and animals.

Under the new rules, the sale of microplastics – covering all synthetic polymer particles below five millimeters that are organic, insoluble and resist degradation – and of products to which microplastics have been added on purpose will be prohibited. Products in the scope of the new restriction include granular infill material used on artificial sport surfaces, which is the largest source of intentional microplastics in the environment, cosmetics, as well as detergents, fabric softeners, glitter, fertilizers, plant protection products, toys, medicines and medical devices, among others. The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) estimated that these new measures would prevent the release of 500,000 tones of microplastics into the environment, although the costs could reach €19 billion over the next 20 years for industry, sports clubs and municipalities.

Sources: ESG TodayEuropean Comission

Company News

Energy company RWE demolishes wind turbines to expand a coal mine in Germany

-          Company : RWE AG

-          Sector : Energy

-          Clover rating : 0/10

After razing the village of Lützerath, RWE is now tackling a wind farm. The German energy company has started to dismantle wind turbines with a view to expanding its Garzweiler open-cast coal mine in the western Rhineland. The extension of this mine, one of the largest in Europe, which produces one of the most polluting types of coal, was relaunched last autumn following a controversial agreement with the German government. The energy company was given the final go-ahead to mine the subsoil at Lützerath, thereby razing the village and the neighbouring wind farm to the ground. In exchange, it has undertaken to phase out coal mining in the Rhine coalfield earlier than planned, in 2030 instead of 2038. For its part, the German government defends itself by saying that the aim is to "secure" the country's energy supply, following the Russian gas cuts linked to the war in Ukraine.

Sources : NovethicEUobserver


Apple's plan for climate-friendly watches: clean energy, fewer planes

-          Company : APPLE INC


-          Clover rating : 5/10

Apple announced the launch of its new Apple Watch lineup, incorporating a series of sustainability features in the product line. According to the company, the achievement marks a major step towards its goal to improve carbon footprint across its full product lineup, including in the supply chain and product use. Overall, the company said that its design innovations and clean energy use have reduced product emissions for each Apple Watch model by at least 75%. Apple’s efforts to decarbonize its products focus on electricity, materials, and transportation, which are the three primary sources of emissions across the product life cycle. Apple has indicated using 100% clean electricity to manufacture its products, 30% recycled or renewable materials by weight, and that 50% of its shipments are made without using non-air modes of transport, such as shipping.

Sources: ESG TodayReuters


BMW invests $750 Million to convert UK MINI plant to all-electric production



- Clover rating : 8/10

In September, BMW Group announced that it will invest more than $750 million to transform its UK-based MINI Plant Oxford, transforming the site for all-electric production from 2030. The new investment follows BMW’s announcement in 2021 to expand company efforts to combat climate change, including goals to significantly reduce vehicle emissions throughout the lifecycle, reduce CO2 emissions by 40% per vehicle by 2030. Earlier this year, the company said that its goal to reach 50% global electric vehicles sales could be reached earlier than 2030. The announcement of this new investment marks a win for the UK government, which has set goals to establish itself as a hub for sustainable investment.

Sources: ReutersThe New York Times


E-Waste recycling: How companies can leverage the circular economy to address global e-waste

E-waste is the fastest growing solid waste stream on the planet — by a margin of 2 to 4 times compared to other streams. Spurred by increasing consumer demand for the newest technologies and the shortening life spans of many devices, e-waste is piling up in landfills. Despite the steady increase in the amount of e-waste being generated each year, a mere 17% is being responsibly recycled. 

Rather than perpetuating the linear “take, make, dispose” model, a circular economy minimizes waste, conserve resources, and promote sustainable product lifecycles. Electronic devices are a perfect entry point into the circular economy because E-waste frequently contains valuable resources (copper, iron, silver, alluminium), making them strategic targets. By ensuring that discarded electronic devices are recycled and reintegrated into the production cycle, businesses contribute to a more sustainable and efficient economic model.

E-waste recycling also offers tangible business advantages. By responsibly managing e-waste, businesses enhance brand reputation and constituent trust. Extracting valuable materials from recycled electronics also reduces the need for purchasing virgin resources, resulting in potential cost efficiencies. As a result, incorporating responsible e-waste recycling into a corporate strategy represents an easy win for both businesses and planet.

Sources : ESG TodayErnst & Young

Sustainability Newsletter 46