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Apple bombs in new EIRIS sustainability ratings report



EIRIS tackles the big question: “Are we on track for Rio+20?” in its latest sustainability report, and discovers that the UK and continental Europe are trumping US and Asian counterparts.

Global responsible investment research firm EIRIS released a new report today that ranks a number of large companies on sustainability performance. It follows EIRIS’s launch of a new system to measure sustainability performance in March.

Puma, the German sportswear manufacturer, came out number one despite operating in a high risk sector as far as human-rights are concerned. Puma’s strong environment record and improvements in supply chain labour standards cemented its position as leader. The sportswear industry has suffered a number of blows to its sustainability credentials over the last few decades, so the positive news provided by Puma will be welcome.

The National Australia Bank (NAB) grabbed the bronze prize for its training of Clydesdale and Yorkshire banks staff to identify environmental and social risks. Though given its announcement today that it will cut 1,400 jobs at those very same banks by 2015, we just hope the staff uses that training in their next position.

So how did the UK do? 20% of UK companies scored an “A”—the highest grade of five. Mainland Europe faired a little worse at 12%. But, somewhat surprisingly, US and Asian companies only achieved 2% and 1%, respectively; plenty of room for improvement in those regions ahead of Rio+20.

Mark Robertson, report author and head of communications at EIRIS said, “Big differences in corporate sustainability performance exist at the global and regional level. Tighter sustainability legislation in Europe and more public awareness contributes to this difference.

Given these differences it is vital that investors use their influence as shareholders to drive improvements in sustainability performance.

Indeed, Mark Robertson featured in Blue & Green Tomorrow’s Guide to Sustainable Investment and told us, “The reasons for moving the market are becoming ever clearer—the financial crisis, the Rio+20 summit, the UN PRI, growing customer interest in finance… And behind those are the sustainability mega trends of climate change, resource scarcity—all the big issues that are coming our way”.

It’s clear that some companies are taking sustainability very seriously. So, without further ado, here is the top 10 Global Sustainability Leaders as per the report:

1: Puma despite operating in a sector at high risk for human-rights abuses, Puma has a strong environment record and demonstrates improvements in supply chain labour standards.

2: FirstGroup derives more than 90 per cent of sales from rail and bus services and the company has made major improvements in reducing its environmental impacts.

3: National Australia Bank Owner of Clydesdale and Yorkshire banks trains staff to understand and identify environmental and social risks when doing business.

4: GlaxoSmithKline scores well across the board, demonstrating particular strengths in providing drugs cheaply to developing countries.

5: Roche, the Swiss pharmaceutical company has a strong equal-opportunities policy and operates an advanced code of ethics with strong anti-bribery rules.

6: Novartis, another Swiss pharmaceutical company, has strong environmental reporting and a good anti-bribery programme.

7: Philips Electronics, the Dutch electronics company, has made significant progress on environmental issues, particularly through increasing the energy-efficiency of its products.

8: Deutsche Börse, the German stock exchange, scores highly for its strong practices in relation to environmental issues, corporate governance and stakeholder engagement.

9: Novo Nordisk, the Danish pharmaceutical company, has reduced its water use and its all-round environmental, social and governance record is strong.

10: Go-Ahead Group, the UK bus and train company, has a strong record on the environment.

Sadly, it’s not all good news; a number of high profile companies suffered at the hands of EIRIS’ A–E rating system.

Apple, which was recently in the news for its perceived lack of interest in renewable energy, only earned itself a “D”, mainly for failures in addressing supply-chain risks.

Oil and gas companies ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and Occidental Petroleum all received the lowest ranking of “E” for perhaps obvious reasons.

The research also painted a poor picture of the FTSE all-world developed large-cap index, with only 5% at grade A, 14% at grade B, pushing the weighting very much to the lower end of the scale with 41% at either D or E grade.

After praising those companies addressing sustainability issues with verve, Carlota Garcia-Manas, Head of Research at EIRIS said, “…it’s clear that companies need to do much more if they are to meet the concerns of their stakeholders and investors whilst managing the impacts of their businesses upon society and the environment in a sustainable way, both now and in the future”.

Echoing the words of Mark Robertson, it is crucial that investors engage on issues of sustainability. Beyond the moral implications of considering the planet and its people, investors are fast realising the serious financial implications of those companies that fail to tackle global sustainability mega trends head on.

Ask your IFA how you can get involved, or fill in our online form and we’ll connect you to an independent specialist.

Further reading:

The Guide to Sustainable Investment

Barclays under fire… again

EIRIS launches system to measure sustainability performance


How Climate Change Altered this Engineer’s Life



how climate change affect our lives
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Living the life of an engineer likely sounds pretty glamorous: you are educated and highly regarded, typically have high paying gigs, and with the breadth of knowledge and array of fields of specialty, your possibility for jobs is usually immense.  But what if there was something else that needed your attention? Something bigger than just being an engineer, going to work every day and doing the same technical tasks typically associated with the profession?

For Kevin McCroary, that is exactly how it played out.  A successful engineer, gainfully employed in a prosperous job, a simple trip to the Philippines made him see that there was a bigger issue at hand than using his engineer training in a traditional profession.  This bigger issue was that of climate change.  And working as a volunteer for underprivileged children in the Philippines, he saw first-hand the extensive pollution and poverty that existed here and that impacted the livelihood of these kids and their families.

Upon returning home, from his trip to the Philippines he had a new perspective of the impact we as individuals and as humanity have on the earth, and more than that Kevin wanted to know more.  He started to do some research and study these human-environmental interactions, and shortly thereafter ended up in Greenland.  There, he spoke to a man who had lost his home in a tsunami, and, who, through consistent weather tracking could indeed confirm that the current weather trends were “strange:” there was undeniably a general warming tendency happening in the arctic, causing an array of negative effects.

The combination of these observations, as well as his own research, led Kevin to conclude that something had to be done.  With that in mind, he launched his project Legend Bracelet.  The mission is simple: create a reminder of the legacy we are leaving behind.  As individuals and as humanity, we are leaving behind an imprint on the earth, and the magnitude of it is something that needs to be brought to the forefront of public awareness.  The idea is to have a bracelet that can serve as a daily reminder of the impact on the earth that each of us can have every day, regardless of how big or small.  The bracelet has two capsules: the first is filled with sand or earth, and the second is empty.  As the owner, you are to fill the empty one with your own earth, carrying it with you as a reminder and symbol of your connection and commitment to helping look after our environment.

We are all impacted by climate change, and we all have a responsibility to help.  And it can start with something as simple as putting on a bracelet.  Support Kevin on his Kickstarter campaign for Legend Bracelet, tell others about it, or take action in your own way and play your part in slowing down the effects of climate change.  You may think “but I’m just one person!” You are indeed.  But so is he.  Every change starts with one.

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5 Things You Can Do Yourself to Improve the Value of Your House



home renovation and improvement
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Whether you want to own it or list it, every once in a while, a house needs a facelift. This will not only improve quality of your life but will capitalize your home’s value significantly, too.

The best way to improve home value by yourself is to upgrade only what is necessary and nothing more. For instance, why would you buy a new bathroom door when a little retouch and a coat of fresh paint will suffice? By taking this approach, you are allowing yourself to make several small improvements instead of venturing just one or bigger ones. Select projects thoughtfully and know when you should stop.

Pitch in for the kitchen

If you really want a return on investment one day, start in the kitchen. By many, the kitchen still represents the heart and the soul of the house, the central hub of a property and it will all on its own add colossal value to your home. Moreover, the kitchen can be a breaking point in selling the house, so you should not hold on to your wallet in this area.

There are many little things you can do to spruce up the overall image of your kitchen. You may paint the kitchen cabinets, replace old door handles, add additional storage space with a sliding wall or a kitchen island if there is enough room for it. In addition, you may open the living space up by taking a kitchen wall down. Possibilities for do-it-yourself are many.

Add an attic or a basement bedroom

Properties are usually valued by two things: land size and the number of bedrooms. The price range between a three to four-bedroom home is two to four hundred thousand. Since you can’t change the size of your land, you can at least increase the number of bedrooms.

If you are prepared to go full-scale, converting the attic or the basement into the bedroom is another especially favored project that will by far boost up your home’s value once you decide to put it on the market. Until you decide to list it you will enjoy in your own extra space for entertainment, living, sleeping, playing, exercising, or whatever you fancy.

Transformation with paint

If your walls have scrapes and stained paint, a vintage color or shabby wallpaper, several cans of paint can make a striking distinction. In order to increase the value of your home, it is recommended to go with neutral colors that will unify the whole house and make the space visually bigger.

transformation with paint

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Poznyakov >

Bottom line, nothing can transform a home like a cast of fresh new paint. It is the number one way to beef up a property value of any budget. Additionally, painting the house is still one of the easiest, fastest and highest value drivers.

Secure with style

All of your effort and money would be wasted if you can’t protect the investments you made. A good security door costs as little as a few hundred dollars but if it saves you just once from being robbed it instantly pays itself off. People avoid putting security screens on windows because they mostly do not look stylish enough, but there are other options, such as installing shutters. There are so many elegant and cool shutter options that we found at Independent Blinds & Awnings that it’s really hard not to find something for you.

Basic maintenance for a worry-free mind

A clean house is a healthier house for you and your family. By making a clean house your number one on the list for improving, you accomplish a couple of things at once.

First, you stay on track with maintenance issues and, consequently you are able to recognize future problems before they become costly ones. Secondly, you don’t allow dirt and garbage to pile up over time. Thirdly, smudged, dirty windows can have a bad impact on the overall perception of the house. Same as eyes are windows to the soul, windows are for the home. Therefore, you need to wash them properly.

Spice up the landscaping

Big backyard is an all Australian dream and still, it is more often than not the most ignored area of the house. However, landscaping is really important as it frames a property from every corner.

Simple, low budget cosmetic changes in the front yard including installing garden beds, adding plants, pebbles or mulch, and paving or painting the front walls will positively lift the curb appeal as well as the property value. As for the backyard, you may span a lawn to create more open space for you and your family to move freely, cut and reduce unruly trees and vegetation, and fix the fence if needed.

Adding value to your home through a cosmetic or structural renovation is an actual way to quickly enhance your money invested in a property. In the end, you need to make sure that if you will continue to live in the house and renovate, that your renovations will contribute to a good lifestyle and that it will give the impression of a “ready to move in” property once you decide to list it.

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