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Earth Day 2021: From a broken world, we need to restore our earth

This year’s Earth Day lands upon a shaken world: As mankind seeks a return to a form of normalcy, simply going back to business-as-usual is not an option. The pandemic has reminded us of the fragility of the world, our societies and economies, and the need to protect ourselves from disasters including climate change and ecosystem destruction.

That’s why the theme of Earth Day 2021, marked on 22 April, is ‘Restore Our Earth’. [1]

It is global and it is urgent

  • Earth Day 2021 is a global call – to world leaders, innovators, industry and investment leaders and influencers – to take concerted action and find better solutions to restore our planet.
  • The pandemic that nearly every country is still dealing with is a harrowing reminder of how badly damaged the world’s ecosystems are: Biodiversity loss is an important cause of emerging infectious diseases and poses many other risks to businesses, society and the global economy. [2]
  • Humanity’s rapacious demand for resources and ecological services in a given year exceeds what the Earth can regenerate in that year. In 2020, the date when our use of resources exceeded the Earth’s capacity to replace them, was 22 August. [3]

Action for mitigation and adaptation

Climate change and other environmental degradations are threatening Earth’s natural systems, leading to new and fatal diseases that can cause the global economy to break down. Rather than dwelling on what’s gone wrong, the notion of restoring the Earth reminds us of the opportunities – including those for investors – that lie ahead (also see below).

This is not just whimsy; it is a crucial necessity. We must restore – and preserve – the natural world because we live in it. Every one of us needs a healthy Earth to support our jobs, livelihoods, health and survival.

Restoration - From reforesting to cleaning up to research

EARTHDAY.ORG – which established the Earth Day initiative in 1970 – has identified five pillars of action on ecosystem restoration.

  • The Canopy Project works to reforest areas in dire need of rehabilitation, including where communities are most at risk from climate change and environmental degradation.
  • Foodprints for the Future measures the environmental impact of growing, producing, transporting and storing food — from the natural resources consumed to the pollution caused and the greenhouse gases emitted.
  • The Great Global Cleanup encourages people to reduce and remove as much waste as possible, at a time when, for example, 270 000 people die prematurely every year from uncontrolled burning of household waste, and two billion people live without any waste collection services.
  • The climate and environmental literacy initiative is designed to complement civic education, to help create jobs, build a green consumer market and enable people to engage meaningfully with their governments on environmental issues.
  • Global Earth Challenge involves volunteers contributing to scientific research by monitoring threats to environmental and human health in their communities. An open platform helps researchers access high-quality data to assess international policies such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Ecosystem restoration – A multi-billion dollar investment opportunity…

Earth Day’s theme links tightly with the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration, launching on World Environment Day on 5 June. One of the objectives is to link opportunities and initiatives related to ecosystem restoration and businesses interested in sustainable production and impact investment.

This field of thematic investment offers immense opportunities, as illustrated in Exhibit 1.

The drivers underpinning the urgent need to invest in restoring the world’s ecosystems are compelling. They include a global population of some two billion additional people to feed, house, educate, and find jobs for by 2035; and the reality that 50% of the world’s GDP – some USD 44 trillion – depends moderately or mostly on natural resources. [4]

…and a multi-industry job

As an investment theme, ecosystem restoration covers opportunities from across a highly diverse universe – one that covers companies actively innovating land-based, marine and urban ecosystem repair and improvement (see Exhibit 2).

“We expect ecosystem restoration to be fuelled by a deluge of investment and create a raft of business opportunities.”

Ulrik Fugmann, co-head of the environmental strategies group

[1] More on

[2] Source: OECD on

[3] Source:

[4] Source: Facts and figures from Morgan Stanley, “The Business Case for Sustainable Investing”, April 28, 2015 & Global Energy & CO2 Status Report 2018, The latest trends in energy & emissions in 2018

Also read:

Any views expressed here are those of the author as of the date of publication, are based on available information, and are subject to change without notice. Individual portfolio management teams may hold different views and may take different investment decisions for different clients.

The value of investments and the income they generate may go down as well as up and it is possible that investors will not recover their initial outlay.

Investing in emerging markets, or specialised or restricted sectors is likely to be subject to a higher-than-average volatility due to a high degree of concentration, greater uncertainty because less information is available, there is less liquidity or due to greater sensitivity to changes in market conditions (social, political and economic conditions).

Some emerging markets offer less security than the majority of international developed markets. For this reason, services for portfolio transactions, liquidation and conservation on behalf of funds invested in emerging markets may carry greater risk.

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