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O2: Ultrafast 5G technology to play 'huge role' in building greener economy

O2: Ultrafast 5G technology to play 'huge role' in building greener economy

O2 argues Britain can become a leader in 5G 'if we invest now', as it publishes report outlining how technology remains a key component for the low carbon transition

5G mobile technology will play a critical role in greening the UK's economy after the pandemic, delivering sizeable reductions in carbon emissions that will steer the UK closer to its net zero ambition, a new report from O2 today argues.

The report contends that the application of 5G networks across four industries - transport, utilities and home energy, manufacturing, and healthcare - could help the UK save as much as 269 megatonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) by 2035, the equivalent of all of England's 2018 carbon emissions combined.

It argues the mobile technology can enable ultra-fast communication between the myriad devices working to steer Britain's economy towards a net zero future, including smart meters that allow households to monitor and reduce their carbon consumption, autonomous vehicles, and smart grids.

"Ultrafast connectivity can play a significant part in rebuilding Britain whilst helping to green the economy, and at O2 we are committed to playing our part," O2 chief executive Mark Evans said. "Our Greener connected future report sets out a vision for how connected solutions enabled by 4G and 5G could power a green revolution over the next decade and beyond.

"If we invest now, there is a real opportunity for Britain to become a leading adopter of 5G and unleash the power of connected solutions to build a greener future for generations to come."

The lion's share of carbon reductions savings geneated by the introduction of 5G technology over the next 15 years will come from the powering of smart thermostats and heat pumps that eliminate the need for gas powered heating, according to the report. In total, 5G-enabled smart heating could remove up to 138 megatonnes of CO2 between now and 2035, it said.

And overall, 5G networks could save the utilities and home energy sector 181 megatonnes of CO2 through a number of measures, including the smarter transfer of energy from electric vehicles straight to the national grid.

The report estimates 5G could also be responsible for the removal of 43 megatonnes of carbon across the transport sector by 2035, as people become more comfortable working from home and 5G-powered autonomous vehicles and smart clean tech become more commonplace.

The vast majority of estimated transport reductions relate to 5G innovations and technologies allowing people to work from home more effectively, according to the report.

The study, which O2 produced with market research consultancy IC&Co and clean tech consultancy Cenex, also forecasts that 5G could prompt the removal of a further 40 megatonnes of carbon in the manufacturing sector, as increased automation drives efficiencies and delivers improvements to productivity.

Steve Martineau, COP26 high level climate action champions lead, said that the report "makes clear that connectivity has a major role to play in reducing carbon emissions and rebuilding Britain".

He added: "There is no doubt that connectivity has helped us navigate the Covid-19 crisis, enabling us to work and socialise remotely, deliver remote healthcare and order food and supplies like never before. This unplanned disruption has shown us that there are many things we can do, which were unthinkable just a few months ago."

The report comes as O2 unveiled a 'living billboard' in East London made from moss and plant seeds and emblazoned with the words 'Go Green'.

The sign's message will become more apparent as the plants on the billboard grow over the next two weeks, the firm said.

Tracey Herald, head of partnerships and social impact, said that the billboard was an attempt to encourage people to "return to the new normal in a more environmentally friendly way" after lockdown.

"Priority's unique billboard, and the Go Green week of offers are designed to do just that, giving our customers a wealth of fantastic incentives to help them embrace both greener lifestyles and choices."

Passers-by interested in growing plants at home will also be able to tear off and take home posters made from wild-flower seed paper near the billboard, according to O2.

The new report builds on O2's plans to become a net zero emissions business by 2025, but it also comes at a time when the UK's 5G roll out is facing a number of challenges. The government's U-turn on its decision to allow Chinese tech giant Huawei to participate in the UK's network is set to lead to some technical disruption, while unfounded conspiracy theories about the impact of 5G on human health have catapulted the technology into the headlines. At the same time the UK's smart meter roll out has faced significant delays and technical challenges as poor mobile connectivity has limited the effectiveness of some installations.

ESG fund flows breaks records despite active equity's continued decline

ESG fund flows breaks records despite active equity's continued decline

Latest report from Calastone reveals how ESG funds are demonstrating remarkable resilience in face of economic downturn

ESG and global equity funds both continued to break records over the past month and quarter, however this did not prevent active equity funds losing £638m overall in July alone, according to the latest Fund Flow Index from Calastone.

Over the course of April to July, global equity funds recorded four of the eight best months on record for inflows, with investors funnelling £3.1bn into the asset class, and £605m in July alone.

"Overwhelmingly" global in their nature, ESG funds have boosted the global equity flows considerably, with one third of money committed to global funds over the last year heading to ESG investments; in June and July, this increased to over half, with July's figures seeing ESG global inflows of £320m, compared with £285m for non-ESG funds.

Year-to-date, FFI: Global ESG has averaged 78.4, meaning buying activity outweighed selling by over 3:1, compared to FFI: Equity, which has barely kept its head above water with 51.

Each of the last four months has seen a new record for ESG inflows, with the total £1.2bn inflows greater than the previous five years combined, almost all of which (99 per cent) entered active management.

Equity funds overall suffered a second consecutive month of net outflows, with passive equity funds' inflows of £398m unable to negate active equity's £638m outflows, resulting in negative net flows of £240m in July.

UK equities were hardest hit, responsible for £377m outflows, bringing the two-month total outflow total to £1.1bn, while equity income funds broke its record for a second consecutive month as investors redeemed £705m.

Reaching its 26th consecutive month of outflows, European equity funds lost another £62m, although this is the lowest level in nearly two years, well below the monthly average of £211m.

Fixed income maintained its strong performance, with another £654m flowing into the space in July, boosting its record to positive territory for 14 of the past 16 months.

Edward Glyn, head of global markets at Calastone, said: "Caution on equity markets has prompted outflows from equity funds for two months in a row.

"Weakness in stock markets in July seems to have justified that scepticism and ensured that June's outflows from equities continued though at a lower level.

"But even though capital is leaving equity funds overall, a wide gulf is opening up between those funds in favour and those leaving investors cold. The dichotomy between growth and value helps explain why this is happening.

"This explains the outflows from UK-focused funds and helps explain the increased surge in outflows from income funds. Meanwhile, global funds, where growth stocks make up a larger share of holdings, are benefiting from a flood of inflows.

"But crucially they are also benefitting from a huge marketing push by the fund management industry in favour of ESG funds, partly in response to very strong investor demand for ESG products and partly because they offer better margins for managers.

"Indeed because ESG funds tend to be actively managed, they are also the one area of real strength for active equity funds, which are otherwise suffering at the expense of their passive counterparts."

This article first appeared at Investment Week

McCain invests £25m in bolstering potato farmers' climate resilience

McCain invests £25m in bolstering potato farmers' climate resilience

Following two of the worst harvests in decades, the new McCain Potato Farmer Pledge campaign aims to help British farmers adapt to increasingly erratic weather

With much of the UK baking in near record high August temperatures, one of the country's leading food brands has today launched a major new campaign to help farmers adapt to escalating climate impacts.

McCains, the UK's largest manufacturer of frozen potato products, has unveiled the 'McCain Potato Farmer Pledge' backed by a £25m investment designed to help its supply chain better manage the impact of both climate change and the coronavirus crisis.

"British potato farmers have been hit immensely hard in recent years," said Howard Snape, regional president at McCain GB and Ireland. "Having faced a major drought and one of the wettest harvests on record, they've experienced two of the worst crops in 40 years. Added to that, without us honouring our contracts with growers and finding alternative outlets, they would have been left with a huge surplus of wasted potatoes due to COVID-19 shutting down the hospitality industry."

He added that the new investment would both help the potato industry prepare for projected changes to the climate and strengthen McCain's relationships with its suppliers. "However, we can't do this alone - to overcome the challenges facing growers, everyone needs to take the initiative to work collaboratively," Snape said. "It's why within our sector we're committed to working with farmers, customers, industry leadership groups and government to create a sustainable future for years to come."

The new campaign includes a grant funding scheme to help farmers invest in more sustainable irrigation systems and other emerging clean technologies, new multi-year incentives to reward farmers who continue to produce potatoes over the next three to five years, and enhanced sustainability-focused contracts.

McCain said the new contracts would improve prices on early season varieties to build greater flexibility into the farm-to-production system and reduce delays, while an Indexation Model aims to measure changes in costs of production to ensure fair and sustainable contract pricing for growers. 

The campaign follows McCain's work to minimise food waste during the coronavirus lockdown by reallocating potato varieties normally earmarked for food service clients to retail product lines, donating surplus stock to food banks via a partnership with FareShare, and storing potato stock where possible. 

It also builds on the company's existing 'Farms of the Future' initiative, which aims to promote regenerative farming practices that can enhance biodiversity and soil health. 

"The last two years have seen two of the worst potato crops in the last 40 years and this paired with the impact of COVID- 19 has left our growers with a number of challenges including bad crops and surplus potatoes," said Daniel Metheringham, director of agriculture for McCain GB and Ireland. "McCain growers saw an average 18 per cent reduction in yield in 2018 and 16 per cent of our 2019 storage crop was still left in field. This Pledge is about doing all we can to help our growers and we can't thank them enough for all their work." 

The initiative was welcomed by NFU President Minette Batters, who last year unveiled a wide-ranging new strategy for the farming sector to deliver net zero emissions by 2040 and bolster climate resilience across the industry.

"Following two seasons of extreme weather impact followed by Covid-19 market disruption, growers need all the support they can get to have the confidence to grow into the future," she said. "We're therefore pleased to see McCain taking a leadership position and providing this much needed investment opportunity and making a commitment to support their growers, and we look forward to working with McCain to help ensure that British potato production has a strong and sustainable future."

McCain is one of a number of leading food brands to step up investment in enhancing the climate resilience of their supply chains. For example, earlier this year Lucozade Ribena Suntory launched a new £500,000, five year research programme to identify more climate resilient blackcurrant varieties.

'Structural changes are needed': Schroders warns recovery likely to lead to resurgence in global emissions

'Structural changes are needed': Schroders warns recovery likely to lead to resurgence in global emissions

Latest edition of investment giant's Climate Progress Dashboard warns coronavirus crisis could undermine efforts to put global economy on track for net zero emissions

Schroders has today published the latest edition of its Climate Change Dashboard, warning that without rapid structural changes to the global economy the greenhouse gas emissions reductions that have resulted from the coronavirus crisis will prove short-lived.

The Climate Progress Dashboard, which has been updated each quarter since its launch in 2017, assesses the progress governments and industries are making towards the Paris Agreement's goal of limiting temperature increases to below 2C by 2100, providing projected temperature trajectories for 12 policy areas.

The latest edition concludes that despite the sharp reduction in greenhouse gas emissions experienced in the first half of the year, projected temperature increases remain unmoved at 3.9C - far in excess of the Paris Agreement's goal of 'well below' 2C.  

The report notes that the coronavirus crisis has triggered progress in some areas. For example, Schroders assessment of carbon pricing trends, oil and gas investment, and the management of fossil fuel reserves all points to lower temperature increases than those projected in the last edition of the Dashboard.

Credit: Schroders
Credit: Schroders

However, this progress is offset by higher projected temperatures relating to future renewables capacity, which could be hampered by the escalating economic crisis, and future fossil fuel production, which could be increased by stimulus packages in carbon intensive economies.

The report notes that while the EU has announced that up to three-quarters of its Covid-19 stimulus plan will be tied to the delivery of climate targets, there is evidence that the global focus on climate change has slowed.

"On the face of it, the Covid-19 crisis appears to have sparked a turning point in global greenhouse gas emissions," said Andrew Howard, global head of sustainable investment at Schroders. "If current lockdown trajectories continue, global energy demand may fall by six per cent and carbon emissions by eight per cent, according to data from the International Energy Agency.

"However, there is also an unprecedented economic cost. The International Monetary Fund has predicted the global economy could shrink by as much as five per cent this year. It has revealed unemployment levels have already reached the highest levels seen in at least half a century. We believe that as economies recover from the Covid-19 crisis, falls in emissions are likely to be reversed, if recoveries from past crises provide any guide. Tougher structural changes are needed if we are going to avert the equally devastating long-term impacts of the climate crisis."

The report echoes a study published last week in the journal Nature Climate Change which warned that without an ambitious 'green recovery' the reduction in emissions caused by the coronavirus crisis would have a negligible impact on temperatures.

The study, which drew largely on Google and Apple mobility data, detailed how the impact of lockdown measures on emissions are proving short-lived and as such temperature projections for 2030 are only 0.01C lower than was previously the case.

"The direct effect of the pandemic-driven [lockdown] will be negligible," said the researchers. "In contrast, with an economic recovery tilted towards green stimulus and reductions in fossil fuel investments, it is possible to avoid future warming of 0.3C by 2050."


The Net Zero Investment Hub is brought to you in partnership with Schroders, as part of its support for the world's first Net Zero Festival this autumn. All the content on the Hub is fully editorially independent unless otherwise stated.

You can find out more about the Net Zero Festival and reserve your place here.

Plastic-free parenting: Pura co-founder Guy Fennell on launching a sustainable baby care brand in lockdown

Plastic-free parenting: Pura co-founder Guy Fennell on launching a sustainable baby care brand in lockdown

Guy Fennell, cofounder of environmentally friendly baby wipe company Pura, talks to BusinessGreen about his plans to disrupt the wasteful baby care industry with kerbside nappy recycling and plastic-free baby wipes

Guy and Abi Fennell have had a busy year. Not only did they launch a new sustainable baby care product company in the midst of a global pandemic, but they had their first child, a baby boy called Ezra.

"It has been a challenge," Guy tells BusinessGreen on a video call from the offices of the newly launched Pura, piles of cardboard boxes peeking out behind him. "But it's been a good challenge. Our mission is to make sure that the British public are aware that the wipes they have been using are potentially made from plastic."

Pura has got off to a raring start, with more than 45,000 orders placed for the company's compostable, plastic-free, and recyclable wipes in its first month, prompting Shopify to dub Pura "one of the most impressive" launches in a year where online store creations have boomed as people's shopping habits moved online.

The boxes stacked in the company kitchen are a recent delivery of Pura's plastic-free wipes, Guy says, destined for friends and family living nearby in Cheshire. But most Pura wipes are sent directly to consumers within 24 hours of an online order, in an attempt to keep prices low, supply chains simple, and life easy for busy parents. Last mile deliveries in London are delivered by electric vehicle in an attempt to reduce the firm's emissions still further.

"Whenever you hear about eco products on the marketplace, they are usually anything between 25 and 60 per cent more expensive than mainstream brands," Guy says. "It was really important for us that we made a brand that is accessible and really easy in the sense that you can order from the sofa at home and have those products delivered to you by next day delivery." Boxes of 10-packs of Pura wipes start around the £20 mark, with customers who take out monthly subscriptions to getting a discounted rate that comes to "around 3p a wipe", according to the company website.

Pura has thus far been fully funded by Abi and Guy, who set aside their careers in the fashion and wholesale industries to dedicate themselves to the venture. In the autumn, the firm is aiming to expand into new products, with a plan to sell nappies that biodegrade much faster than the 200 to 500 years that is standard for the majority of plastic-based nappies produced today. And plans for a pilot kerbside nappy recycling scheme are already underway with Pura working in partnership with Welsh nappy recycling plant NappiCycle and a local authority to test the viability of collection services. The Fennells hope the approach will resonate with increasingly eco-conscious parents, enabling a wider roll out across the UK.

Pura's impressive sales to date point to a growing appetite for environmentally responsible baby care products after years of bad press for disposable wipes, which make up the overwhelming majority of material in the greasy fatbergs that choke sewage systems and cause harm to ecosystems when they breakdown into microplastics when spewed across riverbeds and in waterways.

But Guy stresses that a lesser-publicised fact is that the majority of wipes on the market today have significant environmental impacts throughout their entire lifecycle. With 90 per cent of wet wipes in the UK made from plastic, the products boast carbon intensive production processes. It is also notable that a number of leading oil majors are betting on continued demand for plastics to justify investment in new oil capacity as the transition to cleaner forms of transport gather pace. Meanwhile, at the other end of the lifecycle those plastic wipes that are disposed of correctly in the bin will still either fester in landfill for roughly a century or be incinerated, resulting in further emissions.

"Clearly the big thing over the last two years has been sea plastics and plastic bottles," Guy reflects. "And while it's been great to see the likes of Holland and Barrett and other UK retailers to take the stance to delist plastic wipes - and I admire what they've done - the UK consumer really doesn't know what they are using [when it comes to wipes]".

In contrast, Pura's wipes are 100 per cent compostable and 100 per cent biodegradable - meaning they can go in compost and will biodegrade on landfill. And in order to make this clear to consumers, the company has developed a proprietary 'traffic light' labelling system on its packaging that allows consumers to gauge the wipes' sustainability credentials at a glance. "We wanted a very, very clear message and a message that other brands could use," Guy says.

He adds that Pura "in talks with" the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) about banning plastic wipes all together and says he is confident "it will happen, it's just a matter of when". The firm is also speaking to the government about whether the symbols on Pura's packaging could be made compulsory for other brands, he adds.

Thus far, the government has resisted calls from Friends of the Earth and other environmental groups for it to extend its various bans on single use plastic products to include single-use wipes made out of plastic. While a government spokesperson stated in March 2018 that wipes would be amongst the "avoidable plastic waste" set to be eliminated in the 25-Year Environment Plan, it retracted its position three days later, in the wake of media reports of outrage from parents. One parent allegedly tweeted: 'Mate, have you tried wiping a baby's bum with a tissue?'

But the Fennells contend that growing concerns over environmental impacts and the rise of alternatives to plastic wet wipes will allow the government to move ahead with a ban on plastic wipes without eliciting the same level of opprobrium from parents. Guy stresses that the couple understands how important baby wipes are to the lives of busy parents; the inspiration for Pura came, after all, when he and Abi first started thinking about starting a family and noticed - for the first time - a barrage of baby wipes scattered around the homes of friends with newborns. "There were literally brands of baby wipes everywhere - the dog basket, downstairs toilet, the kitchen - these wipes were literally scattered around the whole house," Guy remembers. "I'm an inquisitive guy, and I did some research."

Over the months to come, Guy says, Pura will be working towards fleshing out its pathway to reaching a number of sustainability milestones, including achieving carbon neutrality by 2021, becoming a net zero business by 2025, and achieving B Corp certification.

The firm is currently working with the Carbon Trust to identify the sources of its largest emissions in order to implement a string of mitigation measures over the years to come. While reticent to share the details of research that remains at an early stage, Guy admits that "there is a lot of work to do with our factories and other third parties".

But, he stresses, the company's mission to lead efforts with local and national governments to ban plastic wet wipes and introduce kerbside nappy recycling to the UK are as important to Pura's attempts to chalk off in-house sustainability achievements.

"If you are going to go into an environmental product, you have to make a genuine change," he says. "I want to leave a legacy for Ezra. And if we don't make a change then Ezra will be brought into a world where for his generation - it will just be a complete mess, potentially."


The Net Zero Leadership Hub is brought to you in partnership with BT, as part of its support for the Net Zero Leadership Stream at the world's first Net Zero Festival this autumn. All the content on the Hub is fully editorially independent unless otherwise stated. You can find out more about the Net Zero Festival and reserve your place here.

Why Good Energy is joining the campaign to fight for ethical pensions

Why Good Energy is joining the campaign to fight for ethical pensions

Juliet Davenport explains why the energy provider has become the latest pledge partner for the new Make My Money matter campaign - and why more businesses should consider doing likewise

This week Good Energy signed up to the Make My Money Matter campaign as a pledge partner.

Film director Richard Curtis launched the campaign to raise awareness on where the trillions of pounds is invested in UK pensions. Most people don't spend time thinking about their pension and where that money goes and would probably be shocked to find that often it is supporting the arms trade; big tobacco; or deforestation.

In the transition to a zero-carbon economy, pensions could be the new frontline. An important first step was taken last week when the UK's biggest pension fund, NEST, took the decision to ban investments in fossil fuels and shift £5.5bn into sustainable stocks. This marks a line in the sand, that if followed, could mean the end for fossil-based stocks.

Good Energy was founded 20 years ago to fight the climate change. We are joining the campaign to highlight both the lack of action on sustainable pensions, but the challenge in forcing fund managers to pay attention. From our experience there are few funds willing to stick their neck out as NEST has done. We are in the process of writing to pension funds to ask them to lay out their investment strategies around fossil fuels.

And as it turns out, the right option can also the more economic one. New research from both HSBC and BlackRock, hardly climate campaigners, shows that green investments have outperformed fossil fuel stocks both in recent years and during the COVID-19 pandemic. This should make common sense. As the world moves towards clean energy, projects which actively pollute the planet will become less valuable and eventually left stranded.

Alongside NEST's announcement was polling which showed people's concerns, but lack of action on this issue. The survey found that while 65 per cent of pension savers agreed their pension should be used to tackle climate change, but only one per cent had actually made a change in the past year to how it was invested.

The main public challenge remains awareness. Under the banner of 'Be a Net Zero Hero', Make My Money Matter is helping individuals ask their pension providers for a fund which aligns with zero carbon emissions by 2050. We would urge everyone to take the time to write to their providers and demand they take tangible steps on sustainability and climate risks. It is a simple, but powerful ask which could have a significant impact.

Juliet Davenport is chief executive and founder of Good Energy

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