It’s been a turbulent start to 2021 and if, like me, you’ve been following the news with some trepidation I hope today’s newsletter will offer a few hopeful notes about the changes this year could bring.
📚 Bruno Latour, the French savant, has a new book out in French called “Where am I?”. It’s a short essay, reflecting on the lockdown and the climate crisis.
His book takes Kafka's Metamorphosis as a starting point, where the young Gregor is transformed into a giant insect, unable to move, and invites us to reflect on how we are immobilised right now, and what this means for who we are, and what we live for.
It’s hopeful in a way because he notes that the pandemic didn’t sweep the climate crisis off the political agenda, and because we, as citizens, are not in a precipitate rush to restore “business as usual” because we emerged from these successive lockdowns “with doubt”.
It’s that doubt that can be channeled for change as we prepare to enter the “second lockdown” of the coming climate regime, the emergency in progress.
Highlights from Green and Sustainable Finance
This year, I intend to broaden the scope of both the podcast and newsletter to explore how social action is contributing to the climate finance sphere. Hitting the ground running, here are a couple of important ESG milestones to watch for in 2021.
1. Human rights abuses in business has been a hot topic over the past month with the EU-China investment deal shining a spotlight on the Uighur situation, and the Pinduoduo case which publicizes the brutal, and illegal working conditions expected by Chinese tech companies - so-called 996 culture of 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., six days a week.
In 2021 the EU will pass a law that makes human rights due diligence mandatory for EU companies.
👉 This could be a game changer for modern slavery in the supply chain, in the same way that the GDPR changed the playing field for data privacy. It may impose a legal duty to carry out human rights due diligence, and impose sanctions for breaches.
Watch out for an upcoming podcast episode on this topic, where I talk with researcher Michael Rogerson. If you aren’t already, make sure you subscribe here to receive the podcast episodes in your mailbox 🎧
2. Investors file a climate resolution at HSBC, Europe’s second largest fossil financier after Barclays.
👉 A coalition of 15 institutional investors representing $2.4 trillion in assets & 117 individual investors, coordinated by London-NGO ShareAction, have filed a climate resolution at HSBC. The filing group includes Europe’s largest asset manager and top 25 shareholder Amundi.
In the words of one filer: In the end, increasing financing for green activities only gets us halfway; the Board must be clear on its intent to withdraw financing of harmful emissions.
The move follows similar action against Barclay’s last year.
🎙️If you missed our episode last year with Wolfgang Kuhn from ShareAction who coordinated the Barclays resolution, you can listen here.
3. Following on from Latour’s reflections on Kafka and our insect-like condition during the lockdowns, here is a striking scientific paper title on insect decline that borrows from a Chinese historical reference:
Insect decline in the Anthropocene: Death by a thousand cuts
Death by a thousand cuts was the worst form of torture punishment in Imperial China - the lingering death, or slow slicing - in which a knife was used to remove parts of the body over an extended period of time, eventually resulting in death. The image certainly grabs attention, but I wasn’t sure it helps to promote empathy for the plight of insects.
From the podcast and beyond
After a pause over December to record a series of new interviews, I'm excited to share what’s coming up this season.
We'll continue the work of Season 1 by exploring different angles of change in the financial sector related to climate change. In addition, we’re going to dig more into the “S” of ESG with upcoming episodes tackling modern slavery in the supply chain, climate litigation in Australia, financial feminism and reputational currencies on the holochain.
In case you missed the first episode, I talked with Edouard Morena about climate narratives and the Just Transition. Don't miss this one if you're interested in narrative and change.
📺 And finally, I’ve been moderating webinars with researchers in collaboration with the Misum Centre for Sustainable Markets in Sweden. Check out the latest one 👇
Until next time… stay safe and hopeful. 🕯️❤️