Sustainable Investment: investments that also yield social returns

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Feeding 9 billion and creating sustainable cities

Over the next 40 years, the global population will grow from 7 billion to 9.3 billion1, the number of people aged over 65 will double and urban populations will grow exponentially.2. Fundamental changes will be needed to ensure growth and tackle natural resource constraints or competition over them.

  • Global population growth means food productivity must rise by 70%
  • Western countries struggling with obesity-related health concerns
  • Investors should reward companies developing technology to meet these challenges

Malnutrition and under-nutrition: feeding 9 billion mouths
If we are to feed a population of this size, food production will need to rise by 70%3 without water contamination, soil erosion or deforestation by making fertilisers and pesticides more environmentally-friendly minimising food waste and water usage sharing knowhow with small farmers putting in place a responsible sourcing policy.
Companies such as Yara International and K+S are using natural ingredients in their products such as nitrate and potassium.

The other food issue: obesity
Food companies can be part of the solution by improving nutritional levels, formulating appropriate products and minimising ingredients including salt, sugar and saturated fats, following nutritional experts’ guidance, improving labelling and conducting responsible marketing.

European food groups have responded, including Danone, Unilever and Nestle. Even the quality of food packaging has improved. Companies in this area include Devro (UK) and Viscofan (Spain).

Given the link between obesity and diabetes, Danish group Novo Nordisk, a world leader in the treatment of diabetes with around half the market, provides another avenue for profiting in this sector.

Towards sustainable urbanisation
By 2050, more than two thirds of humanity will live in towns and cities4 ,increasing the pressure for adequate infrastructure and services: sewage systems, water, electricity, transport, education and health. With urban areas responsible for 80% of CO2 emissions and consuming 75% of energy resources worldwide, there is an imperative to grow sustainably.

Companies likely to benefit include Suez Environnement, Pennon or United Utilities (water and waste management); Firstgroup (UK), Groupe Eurotunnel (France; sustainable transport); Allianz, Rhon Klinikum, Orpea and Medica (health infrastructure and housing for the aged).

By investing in and rewarding such companies, investors not only contribute to society but also preserve our ultimate source of wealth.

Discover more about Socially-Responsible Investing (SRI) funds on Parvest website.

[1] United Nations Population Fund

[2] OECD Environmental Outlook to 2050,

[3] FAO (October 2009) How to Feed the World by 2050, Technical Paper.

[4] Idem

Helena Vines Fiestas

Deputy Global Head of Sustainability

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