Last month, Royal Dutch Shell (The Hague, the Netherlands; www.shell.com) released a report1 that assesses the company’s alignment with 19 industry associations on climate-related policy. In the report, Shell CEO Ben van Beurden states “The need for urgent action in response to climate change has become ever more obvious since the signing of the Paris Agreement in 2015. As a result, society’s expectations in this area have changed, and Shell’s views have also evolved.”
The report outlines four key policy positions that were evaluated: support of the Paris Agreement goals on climate change; government-led carbon pricing mechanisms; low-carbon technology policy; and the role of natural gas for energy. Of the 19 industry associations evaluated, Shell found that it was aligned with nine of them, had some misalignment with another nine, and had “material misalignment” with one, the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM). Due to this misalignment with climate-related policy positions, Shell stated that it will not renew its AFPM membership next year.
As Van Beurden stated, expectations around sustainability issues, including climate change policy, have changed, and they are strong. Asset management firm BlackRock (www.blackrock.com) has seen a “surge in clients’ interest in incorporating sustainability-related insights into their investments.” Factors including environmental, social and governance (ESG) are now commonly tracked and evaluated for investments. BlackRock says that sustainable portfolios can be created without compromising financial goals, and in fact, suggests that ESG-friendly portfolios could be more resilient in downturns.
A report by Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing and Bloomberg2 that includes results from a survey of 300 respondents at U.S. asset-management firms, says that sustainable investing has indeed gone mainstream and is no longer a niche market. It further suggests that sustainability is a good investment: “Asset managers surveyed overwhelmingly agree that strong corporate ESG practices can potentially lead to higher company profitability and that companies with such practices may be better long-term investments.”
Sustainability as a core value
A look at the websites of major chemical process industries (CPI) companies reveals that most, if not all, have a sustainability-related statement. For example, BASF SE (www.basf.com) says “Sustainability is at the core of what we do, a driver for growth as well as an element of our risk management.” And SABIC’s (www.sabic.com) website states “SABIC recognizes that in order to succeed in today’s global marketplace, sustainability must be embedded in the way we do business.”
The need to incorporate sustainable practices in industry is clearly understood, but this changing landscape presents challenges that need to be tackled on various fronts. For more insight on some of these challenges for petroleum refiners, see the Newsfront in this issue, “U.S. Refiners Reckon with Uncertain Energy Future” (pp. 14–17). ■
Dorothy Lozowski, Editorial Director
1. Industry Associations Climate Review, www.shell.com/sustainability/transparency/public-advocacy-and-political-activity
2. Sustainable Signals: Growth and Opportunity in Asset Management, www.morganstanley.com/assets/pdfs/2415532_Sustainable_Signals_Asset_Mgmt_L.pdf