I’ve been nerding out on batteries for last few weeks, compiling a list of companies that have invested more than $17 billion in R&D to innovate the next generation of energy storage devices.
Whenever I bring up the project in the real world, people automatically want to start talking to me about Tesla. Elon Musk has done an amazing job at convincing us that he’s the Tony Stark of the green economy, and will bring us amazing batteries that look cool and smell nice. What’s interesting about the partnership between Panasonic and Tesla to build a $5 billion gigafactory to pump out batteries is that Panasonic is the one supplying all the batteries.
Nobody noticed it. There were no talking heads on tv. No tweets. No memes. Investors quietly sold their shares into cash, and a notice was put up the website.
Nobody noticed when the iShares Oil Sands Index ETF quietly died. Expect for me, of course, because I’m The Sustainable Economist. You see, the Oil Sands Index ETF is my benchmark for the energy sector in Canada. It’s what I use to show people how renewable energy is a better investment than the tar sands. And oh my, how ugly that chart looks right now:
My latest Green Transition Scoreboard research showed more than $6.22 trillion of private investments into the green economy globally since 2007. I talk about it and most people’s eyes glaze over. I lost them at the word trillion…
Ok, so it’s a heck of a lot of money that is being invested in all different types of green infrastructure. Renewable energy, green buildings, smart grids, energy efficient water infrastructure, and R&D on all sorts of different clean technologies. We take care to consider what should and shouldn’t be included in the tally. Bandaid technologies like ‘clean coal’ and carbon capture & sequestration are obviously omitted, as are most biofuels because they are a tradeoff between food & fuel (only biofuel from algae is included). We have pretty strict standards, as dictated by the remarkable Hazel Henderson who serves as our moral compass and futurist.
When we released the first Green Transition Scoreboard in 2010, we were thrilled to have reached $1 trillion. The goal of $10 trillion in private investments by 2020 seemed audacious. Governments were still dealing with the great recession, companies were hoarding cash, and environmentalists’ hearts had just been broken after a failed meeting in Copenhagen.
My, how times have changed.
After releasing a discussion paper on climate change, the Ontario government has opened it up to public consultation. Here is my open letter to Glen Murray, Minister of Environment & Climate Change:
Dear Minister Murray,
Thank you for opening this topic up for discussion. I am excited that Ontario is taking a leadership role on climate change, and I applaud you and your staff for the work that you are doing.
Great job on the mission statements. It’s very clear what we are trying to accomplish:
- Establish Ontario as a leader in climate change mitigation and science
- Redesign and build strong carbon neutral economy, communities, infrastructure and energy
- Leave a legacy of a healthy world for our children and future generations
- Protect ecosystems, including air, land and water
Since you’ve opened up the floor, here are my ideas:
When I talk about ‘responsible’, ‘ethical’, or ‘sustainable’ investments, people often jump to the conclusion that they will be sacrificing financial returns. It seems there is an inherent psychology that assumes that cheaters, polluters, and exploiters will earn higher profits. Fortunately, this isn’t the case!
I crunched the numbers of my model portfolios (through Jan 31, 2015) and here is a table of the results:
Looking to make the world a better place while growing your money?
According to a recent report from the Responsible Investment Association, more than $4 billion has been allocated in Canada to “investments made into companies, organizations, and funds with the intention to generate a measurable, beneficial social and environmental impact alongside a financial return”. This definition speaks to the notion of a ‘blended’ return whereby investors are rewarded with both a financial return AND a social / environmental impact. It’s a clear win-win-win for the economy, society, and the planet.
I often have difficulty communicating the benefit of socially responsible investments (SRI). There’s definitely a feel-good element from ‘doing less evil’, but I always felt compelled to measure it. In an attempt to quantify the impact of SRI in Canada, I decided to compare the sustainability scores of companies in the traditional S&P/TSX 60 Index with the scores of companies in the more responsible Jantzi Social Index (JSI). The results were disappointing. The weighted score of the S&P/TSX 60 is 65.86, while the Jantzi Social Index scored only marginally better at 68.03.