It has become clear that we are at a precipice of change. The status quo has been shattered and there is an opportunity to reconsider a new normal. This applies to capital markets as well and underpins the need to deliver a more regenerative approach to investing and how we rebuild our economies to become structurally more sustainable.
Despite the easing of lockdowns throughout the world, there remains speculation about whether the old demand trends for fast or luxury fashion, as well as eating, drinking and travel, will hold. For example, only 9% of people polled by YouGov in the UK wanted things to return to exactly how they were before the crisis.
From our perspective, we see a great opportunity in companies that are positioned to transition to a more regenerative form of capitalism – where companies that treat workers well, don’t exploit vulnerable communities in their supply chain, that take proactive action in a crisis, and that limit their impact on the environment, will be more attractive to investors.
Sustainable investment themes have accelerated
Sustainable themes have accelerated as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. Firstly, momentum for environmental policy has gathered pace, despite the fragile state of the global economy. Policymakers have been quick to draw the link between the coronavirus and the environment – like viruses, greenhouse gases care little for borders. The debate around carbon policy, and specifically carbon tax, has notably speeded up. The recent eye watering impairments within the oil sector brings further caution to the broader carbon capital at risk in the system.
There has been important research quantifying pollution reduction, one of the few positives from this crisis, and a staggering drop in emissions through the crisis, at a level that is obviously unsustainable but has at least demonstrated the efficacy of urgent policy response. As a result of the global measures to combat Covid-19, the IEA (International Energy Agency) expects global CO2 emissions this year to decrease to levels of 10 years ago. This is significant and could support the case for a more agile economic culture that includes more working from home. It is effectively an ‘investment-free’ solution to help deliver the legal commitments of the Paris Agreement.
Finally, another interesting new theme is sustainable supply chain management. For years, efficiency has been the overriding aim in supply chains – “just enough, just in time”. Covid-19 has shifted the focus to security. While this has implications for working capital, it also offers new revenue opportunities. For example, infectious diseases have previously been mischaracterised as an issue mainly for developing markets. But R&D investment into non-Covid infectious diseases in developed markets is increasing, which has the potential to create entirely new revenue streams.
All in all, we expect the journey ahead to be much more complex than the Q2 market rally might suggest. As active long-term investors, our focus remains finding high quality companies that are leading the transition to a more sustainable world.