Tag Archives: ESG

Greece’s Sovereign Wealth Fund appoints bespoke team of International ESG advisors to build value of its public assets portfolio

A multi-disciplinary group of international advisors led by ESG specialists, Earth Active, has been appointed by Greece’s sovereign wealth fund, Growthfund.

The group, comprising London-headquartered Earth Active and Gong Communications and Athens- based Sympraxis, combines expertise in ESG audit, capacity building, policy and strategy and best practice implementation with ESG stakeholder communications.

Commenting on the appointment, Anthi Trokoudi, Chief Communications and Sustainability Officer at Growthfund said, “The international team we have appointed draws on specialists with many years’ experience, much of it honed in complex contexts where they have perfected the art and science of combining data and culture to bring about transformations that support ESG best practice. What our team in Growthfund aims for with regards to the vital issues of Sustainability and Climate is to achieve managing public companies and public real estate responsibly”.

Narda Shirley, Gong Communications Founder & CEO said, “The role of the sovereign and public wealth funds has never been more important in demonstrating global leadership on climate change, a just transition and the biodiversity crisis. Our bespoke, cross-functional team brought together for this unique engagement is supporting the team at Growthfund in delivering its vision to add value to Greece’s public enterprises and assets for the benefit of its people. We feel very lucky to be part of this ambitious project and for the association with such an iconic portfolio of assets that includes at one extreme flagship real estate and at the other, infrastructure projects such as the refurbished Corinth Canal.”


About Growthfund

Growthfund, the National Fund of Greece is a holding company established in 2016 with the Greek State as its sole shareholder, as represented by the Minister of Finance. Its mission, as Greece’s Sovereign Wealth Fund, is to: play an active role in the modernisation of Public Enterprises, maximise the value of public property, ensure enhanced services for citizens/consumers and contribute to the national economy.  In 2021, Growthfund (HCAP), signed up to the One Planet Sovereign Wealth Fund initiative (OPSWF). Growthfund’s portfolio includes subsidiaries and holdings in public enterprises that are active in key sectors of the Greek economy, such as Real Estate: Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund (HRADF), Hellenic Public Properties Company (HPPC), GAIAOSE, ETVA-VIPE, TIF HELEXPO; Energy and Utilities: PPC, EYDAP, EYATH; Transport and Infrastructure: Athens International Airport, OASA (Transport for Athens) AEDIK, 23 Regional Airports; Food Supply: CMT, CMFO, Hellenic Saltworks; Technology: PHAISTOS Fund; and Postal Services: HELLENIC POST The value of the portfolio managed by Growthfund currently stands at €6 billion, and its companies have a total of 31,000 employees.


About Earth Active

Earth Active is a globally experienced team of bespoke ESG advisors, with headquarters in London. We create sustainable value for clients from their investments by understanding the intrinsic links between E, S and G, and focusing on the investment outcome. We are specialists in leadership and governance with a deep technical understanding of the challenges of climate change, biodiversity, environmental, and social performance.  We work across the agriculture and forestry, energy and renewables, manufacturing, industrial and extractives and retail sectors for clients including development finance institutions, commercial banks, private equity and multinational companies.


About Gong Communications

Gong Communications, part of the Wilful Group, is a corporate and B2B communications agency with offices in London and Nairobi. A certified B Corp since 2017, Gong works at the intersection of finance & risk, sustainability and global development for clients including the IFC, UNESCO, Aon and Old Mutual. Alongside ESG, key themes in its work for clients include stakeholder communications around diversity and inclusion, innovation, entrepreneurship and technology.


About Sympraxis

Sympraxis team provides end to end sustainability strategy, implementation and communication services to clients such as OTE (Deutsche Telecom), Papastratos (Philip Morris International), Beiesdorf, Google, SOS Children’s villages and the European Commision. In the past 22 years Sympraxis has supported more than 500 projects with an overall value that exceeds 50m€, in 16 countries throughout the globe.

AFRICA NET ZERO: SIGGI HUEGEMANN AND DR INNOCENT UWUIJAREN ON AFRICAN HYDROGEN

“One cannot decarbonise the world without hydrogen. And one cannot decarbonise Europe without African hydrogen […]. Africa will automatically play a very strong role [in decarbonising the world] because of the sheer potential, there is no way around it. And what is really needed now is close political cooperation and willingness, to allow the financial markets to invest in those regions of the world.”

In the latest episode of our Africa Net Zero series, we were delighted to sit down with two guests: Siggi Huegemann and Dr Innocent Uwuijaren from the African Hydrogen Partnership. We learned more about the African hydrogen journey so far and discussed what the future might hold as the continent becomes one of the world’s major producers.

Thank you, Innocent and Siegfried, for sharing your insights with us!

AFRICA NET ZERO: SIGGI HUEGEMANN AND DR INNOCENT UWUIJAREN ON AFRICAN HYDROGEN

Announcing the launch of Wilful

Across the globe we are witnessing an unprecedented push to find solutions to the climate emergency and more sustainable ways of living. Awards such as the recent Earthshot Prize provide a glimpse at some of the ingenious ideas worldwide which will help tackle climate change.

Through our merger with CherishPR, announced on October 19th, we have created Wilful, a new firm that works at the intersection of tech innovation and sustainability. We asked the team what most excited them about Wilful, and this is what they had to say:

Wilful quotes

GREENWISHING OR GREENWASHING? CAN YOU TELL THE DIFFERENCE?

By Hannah Hughes, Senior Account Director

The Race to Zero is on and with it, a global push to agree corporate financial reporting and transparency rules.  With more companies focused on declaring how their business plans are consistent with climate goals, the challenge now becomes how to see through the greenwashing – how to spot it, and how to stop it.

What is greenwashing, and what isn’t?

Greenwashing is defined as “the process of conveying the false impression or providing misleading information about how a company’s products are more environmentally sound”. In the corporate world, this often translates as embellishing business commitments to reaching net zero, with no credible action behind it. Something that alternative milk maker Oatly found out the hard way, when it was targeted by a short seller for overstating its ESG credentials.

The pursuit of net zero and corporate commitments to reduce carbon emissions is still relatively nascent. That means there is an absence of clear and universally adopted reporting guidelines. Work is well underway to improve this (organisations like CDP currently provide the gold standard for the global disclosure system for investors, companies, cities, states and regions to manage their environmental impacts), but in the meantime there is too much free rein for interpretation. Or more accurately, misinterpretation.

In a recent journalist briefing, our client Volans, the think tank and advisory firm at the cutting edge of sustainability, opined that while there is certainly no place for greenwashing within business – it is important that ambitious and optimistic targets are recognised and supported. These targets have a part to play in moving the sustainability agenda forward as long as the intentions behind this ‘greenwishing’ are earnest. “Businesses do need to make big, bold claims about going green,” CEO Louise Kjellerup Roper says, “in order to keep up with what is expected of them.” These targets ensure business leaders have to focus on coming up with a plan of action, and while few have all the answers they need to achieve these goals right now, open discussion and identifying challenges are key to make meaningful change at the scale and speed required.

Language analysis

As climate commitments become more widely reported, so too does analysis of the language used to detail them. Claims of being ‘net zero’ are currently under scrutiny by journalists like Jess Shankleman and Akshat Rathi at Bloomberg Green who ask: is it right for businesses that buy carbon offsets to claim ‘net zero’ or should they be called ‘carbon neutral’ or even ‘carbon responsible’ instead? The article goes so far as to state that if “companies really want to cancel out emissions with offsets, they would have to purchase more expensive carbon-removal credits that actually draw down greenhouse gases. Only when companies have achieved all the reductions they possibly can, and balanced the rest with carbon removals, would they achieve ‘carbon-neutrality’ or reach ‘net zero’.”.

The article points to a more deep-rooted problem of clarity in language. Besides false claims, vague wording and use of the passive voice is a strong indicator of lack of action. Phrases like “we are”, “we will” and “we have” are far more encouraging to see than “we believe” and “we expect”. In the table below, we’ve looked at the nuanced changes in language that reflect responsible and accurate communications around climate change commitments.

Looking past the language

The clearest way to identify if a company is greenwashing is to look beyond the language and understand what actions it is taking. BlackRock, for example, notable for CEO Larry Fink’s bold assertions that stakeholder capitalism must prevail, has, in the past, been picked up for not acting in line with his statements. We are now starting to see those words put into action in voting against 255 board directors that failed to act on climate issues.

Louise suggests looking at a company’s lobbying history. Companies that are really committed to putting their words into action are political activists, she notes. That means actively lobbying government and regulators for change and putting themselves forward as part of the solution. Not just getting in the way of progress and lobbying against. That is what the banks involved in Bankers for Net Zero, like Tide, Handelsbanken and Triodos, do. Rather than take the easy option of saying “no” to changes they don’t want to see, they are stepping up to be part of the positive change and ultimately, the solution.

Next steps

As a company focused on helping our clients communicate their positive impact, the correct use of language around climate commitments is high on our agenda. The drive towards greater responsibility and a tighter interpretation of terms will ultimately expel greenwashing and promote a better future for us all.

Let’s hope such scrutiny effects change fast enough to make a lasting difference to our planet. Until then, for our part, we will continue advising clients on responsible use of language and claims around climate and net zero.

A new language of commitment to climate change

ESG: MINIMAL RISK, MAXIMUM REWARD? 

Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG)-led investments have been thrust into the limelight over the last year. ESG-focused funds and impact investments delivered strong yields and gained additional investors, despite a broader pandemic-induced sell off. Conscious capitalism has shifted the focus for investment away from shareholders to the wider stakeholder community, reshaping the investment agenda towards one of sustainability and long-term gain. 

Is ESG enough?

Progressive policy is fuelling momentum for this trend, encouraging the private sector to Build Back Better and helping set legal precedents. With the race to achieve carbon neutrality at the top of many business agendas, leaders now have a better understanding of the scale of the challenge ahead. More businesses are now stepping up and addressing pressing issues like climate change, but is ESG enough to deliver the changes necessary? 

By 2025, a predicted third of global assets under management will have an ESG-led mandate. Should the forecast USD 53 trillion of institutional capital be allocated with ESG considerations, this will represent more than a doubling of such investment in the decade from 2016. Yet based on current investment and global indicators, social inequality is still on the rise – especially in developing markets – while the effects of climate change are worsening. 

Throwing more money at these problems isn’t enough on its own – there has to be a more considered approach. Standardising ESG measurements, for example, means capital can be deployed more effectively and efficiently. Innovative financing models, like green and social bonds, are building resilience in emerging markets – often worst hit by the neglect of global capital allocation. 

Lessons from Africa 

In Africa, every dollar of impact capital has a more profound effect than in the developed world. Access to social goods is limited. Over half of the continent does not have a reliable electricity connection, while around only a fifth of people use the internet and secondary school enrolment is a mere 43 per cent. This lays bare the level of development required, especially at a time when equality between the developed and developing world grows wider as a consequence of Covid-19.  

The continent is ahead of the curve when it comes to ESG and impact investing, being rooted in development finance. With adequate funding, it is well positioned to allocate capital to close the divide. Gong client, Old Mutual Alternative Investments (OMAI), is one of the continent’s leaders in this regard. Its investments are guided by the UN’s SDGs and assessed according to 90 separate impact measurements. As such, they are improving access to affordable education and housing, while also addressing gender and racial inequality. 

OMAI’s approach acknowledges the nuances of the investment environment, while shaping how best to generate social impact returns as well as above-market financial performance. This is evident in the infrastructure arm of OMAI’s business – African Infrastructure Investment Managers (AIIM). The resilience of its portfolio, including renewable energy, has been proven through the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Renewable energy plants stood strong and digital infrastructure remained robust as demand for their services increased. According to the UNDP, for every dollar spent on resilience-building infrastructure, like renewable energy, the economic return is fourfold. So where the conversation of Building Back Better in Europe and America is centred on climate change, in Africa it is equally about development.

The developed world’s perspective 

Across the world, the coronavirus pandemic has realigned investing priorities and funds are allocating a larger proportion of their portfolios to generating impact. Over a fifth of retail investors in the UK plan to dedicate capital to impact generation. That proportion is even larger among people under 35, as they are more willing to trade financial returns for social ones.  

Meanwhile, we have witnessed the formation of multiple financial alliances across the institutional investment space over the last five years, driven by the same goal: to achieve carbon neutrality. Our infographic demonstrates how this movement – which most recently has been given additional fuel by the UN-backed Race to Zero campaign – has gained momentum over time. 

In the UK, we continue to see the trend for institutional investment being deployed responsibly among pension funds. The Make My Money Matter campaign, which asks pension funds to halve the emissions of portfolios by 2030, has united over 50 employers, including Gong, in tackling the climate crisis. 

ESG really is starting to make a difference. Growing awareness, a generational shift and mounting investor pressure combined with more systematic carbon reporting is accelerating the move to improved global sustainability. As we move away from greenwashing and ESG as window-dressing, the demonstrable benefits of a concerted commitment to sustainability are reasons for optimism.