Fighting single use plastic one investment at a time

Streets across the UK we’re up until recently disrupted by protestors urging the government to act to slow down climate change and reduce the damage we are doing to the planet.

For some, the plight means supergluing body parts to pavements, but for those not willing to go to such extremes, turning away from certain stocks can also help the fight.

In years gone by, investors have shunned companies because of their involvement in the production of weapons and tobacco, fracking or gambling.

With tobacco, the players are easy to spot. Fracking, too, can be avoided without too much concern.

Avoiding firms that produce weapons hasn’t been quite as easy. In fact, six years ago the Church of England was thrust into the spotlight amid having failed to live up to its investment policy of doing just that.

At the time, the Church Commissioners and Church of England Pension Board were both invested to the tune of £10m in General Electric, a company involved in the production of engines for military jets and the supply of systems and technologies for unmanned drones.


Defending its investment, the church claimed that less than 3% of General Electric’s business was related to arms, but that was enough to cause a stir and made investors even more vigilant.

Within the “Socially Responsible Investing” field, however, there is a new kid on the block – single use plastic.

It is estimated that a million plastic bottles are purchased every 60 seconds around the world, and this is likely to increase by 20% before the end of 2020.

In the UK alone, 13bn plastic bottles are used every year and only half of these are recycled. Much of this ends up in landfill and the sea, meaning it makes it way into the soil, the sea and everything living therein.

Investors can do their bit by focusing on companies developing new materials that can replace, or at least phase out, single use plastic.

Currently there aren’t many to choose from – it was only last year that the first fully recyclable shampoo bottle was made via a collaboration between Proctor and Gamble, Terracycle and Suez.

Some companies are focusing on reducing their waste at least, and by looking in company reports and releases, you can find them. Biffa, for example, now runs a significant number of its trucks using biofuel produced from the waste of cooking oil.

Protesters lining the streets will no doubt have an impact on companies and government policy, but what we choose to do, or not do, with our money is even more powerful.

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