Investing in solutions for the planet

3 min read 29 Aug 23

Harnessing the power of innovation can deliver positive outcomes for investors and the environment.

From toxins in the air we breathe to heavy metals in our rivers, there is no shortage of environmental challenges that need to be addressed.

Awareness of these issues is undoubtedly rising, as is interest in solving them. Yet despite this progress, a rising population that consumes more as it grows richer heaps greater strain on the planet.

There is persistent tension between fostering global economic development and reducing the cost to the environment. Addressing this issue is at the heart of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which codify the world’s most pressing sustainability issues.

In areas where companies can develop solutions that can enable the modern economy while at the same time lowering our environmental footprint, there are powerful opportunities for investment success to go hand-in-hand with delivering a positive environmental impact.

Innovating for impact

The imperative to address environmental challenges can imply a need for dramatic steps. Yet it can be incremental improvements – evolutions in technology and how it is used, rather than revolutionary technologies themselves – that often have the greatest impact.

Modest advances in the efficiency of ubiquitous systems may well bring larger material benefits than radical solutions in niche areas.

Companies that enable others to have a positive impact, through the products or services they offer, can be catalysts for wide-reaching change.

Generating more from less

Given rising global demand for energy, technological progress is the key to promoting inclusive and sustainable industrialisation.

While there has quite rightly been, a focus on how we generate electricity, how we use it is often overlooked. But there is great potential to reduce emissions from the existing industrial base by making our consumption more efficient.

The potential impact of ‘retrofitting the world’, using technologies that make it more energy-efficient, is demonstrated by Schneider Electric, a French industrial group that is leading the digital transformation of the industrial automation market.

One way in which the company is having an impact is through innovative solutions that look to tap the value of data to maximise the efficiency of systems. From office air conditioning to electricity grids, the systems underpinning the modern economy are increasingly automated and digitised. Being connected to the so-called ‘Internet of Things’ means critical data can be collected from across smarter systems and then analysed with real-time information, then used to optimise processes.

More efficient systems that cut electricity use will not only save money for Schneider’s customers, but should also result in tremendous environmental benefits. The company set a target to help its customers save/avoid a cumulative 800 million metric tons of carbon (CO2) emissions from 2018 to the end of 2025. As of 2022, the company has so far delivered 440 million tons of emission savings.

Aspiring for wider impact

This is just one illustration of how a company can deliver benefits for the environment far beyond its own operations. To better gauge a company’s impact, investors can consider how it enables other companies to conserve energy or water, for example, or otherwise reduce their environmental footprint.

There are clearly multi-billion-dollar opportunities for innovative companies that can successfully deliver products and services that help solve the world’s environmental challenges.

For their shareholders, this means they can aspire to not only achieve sustainable financial returns over the long term, but also to contribute to having a demonstrably positive impact on the environment.

The value of your investment can go down as well as up so you might not get back the amount you put in. The views expressed here should not be taken as a recommendation, advice or forecast.

While we support the UN SDGs, we are not associated with the UN and our funds are not endorsed by them.

Related insights