Visualizing the Global Rise of Sustainable Investing
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Visualizing the Global Rise of Sustainable Investing

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No matter where you look, climate change is at the centre of every conversation.

With a wide range of global sustainability challenges and complex risks on the rise, investors are starting to re-evaluate traditional portfolio approaches.

The ESG Boom

Today, many investors want their money to align with a higher purpose beyond profit. This infographic from iShares unpacks the prolific rise of sustainable investing, and how its trillion-dollar potential is sweeping across the world.

ESG Sustainability

What is Sustainable Investing?

Sustainable investing considers environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors that create a lasting, positive impact on the world. As the term ‘ESG’ suggests, its scope goes well beyond environmental concerns alone. Examples include:

  • Environmental: Climate risks, resource scarcity, and clean energy
  • Social: Diversity, human rights, and cybersecurity
  • Governance: Business ethics, transparency, and anti-corruption

Simply put, it’s a force for good.

Although sustainable investing emerged in the 1970s, the movement has gained impressive traction in the last few years.

How Global Assets are Growing

Since 2012, total assets in sustainable investing have more than doubled:

Region2012 Assets2018 Assets
Europe$8.8 trillion$14.1 trillion
U.S.$3.7 trillion$12.0 trillion
Japan$0.01 trillion$2.2 trillion
Canada$0.59 trillion$1.7 trillion
Australia and New Zealand$0.18 trillion$0.7 trillion
Total$13.3 trillion$30.7 trillion

The U.S. and Europe are major players in this shift. In particular, specific legislation across European countries will continue driving ESG investment for years to come.

The European ESG Landscape

Across major economies in Europe, cultural shifts and new regulations are shaping the landscape of sustainable investing.

  • The UK has an ambitious net-zero greenhouse gas emissions target by 2050.
    Result: Most sectors will significantly ramp up their decarbonisation efforts to meet this goal.
  • As per France’s Article 173 (Energy Transition Law), investors must explain how they incorporate ESG factors into their investment strategies.
    Result: A majority of French institutional investors now manage their assets with ESG criteria in mind.
  • Nordic countries consider sustainability and social responsibility a cornerstone of their cultural mindset.
    Result: Nordic investors are increasingly integrating all three ESG aspects into their investments.

If Europe’s trajectory is any indication, sustainable investing will soon become second nature in other parts of the world too.

No Industry is Untouched

The rise of sustainable investing is a global phenomenon, and reaches a myriad of industries.

Here is a summary of just a few ESG efforts of some of the world’s most sustainable corporations:

CompanyIndustryCountryESG Efforts
Chr. Hansen A/SBioscience🇩🇰 Denmark• 100% green operations commitment by Apr 2020
• 82% of revenue directly supports UN Global Goals
AutodeskSoftware🇺🇸 U.S.• 100% renewable energy-run cloud services and offices
• 44% women on the Board
Banco do BrazilFinance🇧🇷 Brazil• $51 billion earmarked for green economy spending
• 99% adherence to Code of Ethics and Conduct Standards
City Developments LtdReal Estate🇸🇬 Singapore• S$100 million fully-allocated Green Bond
• 59% carbon emissions reduction target by 2030

The business world agrees: sustainable investing is smart investing.

How Can Investors Think Sustainably?

Many investment products allow investors to easily access sustainable investing, such as exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and index funds. These provide complete transparency—allowing investors to align their approach with the objectives that matter most to them.

Investors are able to:

  1. Screen out companies involved in controversial businesses
  2. Invest in companies with high ESG standards
  3. Advocate for specific issues like climate change

Not only this, but sustainable investing also has the potential to improve portfolio returns. In a 2015 paper covering ESG investing since the 1970s, 90% of ESG investing matched or overperformed traditional approaches.

The Bottom Line

Investors see a triple bottom line from sustainable investing: strong financial returns, and a lasting impact on both people and the planet.

As sustainable investing goes mainstream, it won’t simply act as a niche in a broader strategy—instead, it’ll be naturally integrated throughout a portfolio.

“With the impact of sustainability on investment returns increasing, we believe that sustainable investing is the strongest foundation for client portfolios going forward.

—Larry Fink, BlackRock Chairman and CEO

Sustainability is a global force that will continue to factor into everyday decisions.

Soon, sustainable investing will simply be considered “investing”.

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The Biggest Carbon Emitters, By Sector

The manufacturing and construction sector contributed to 6.3 billion tonnes of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2019.

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The following content is sponsored by Northstar Clean Technologies

The Biggest Carbon Emitters, By Sector

It’s no secret that greenhouse gas emissions need to decrease drastically in order to fight the effects of climate change.

As countries across the globe ramp up efforts to reduce global warming, every industry needs to do its part. So who’s lagging and who’s leading?

Although often less discussed, the manufacturing and construction sector is a large contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions.

The above graphic from Northstar Clean Technologies takes a look at the biggest contributors by sector in relation to greenhouse gas emissions.

Breakdown Of Emissions

The manufacturing and construction sector is a growing one, and as population and infrastructure expand, it’s vital that we take all actionable paths to reduce emissions.

Manufacturing and construction contributed to 6.3 billion tonnes of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2019. Let’s look at the breakdown of greenhouse gas emissions by sector over the years from Our World In Data.

In 2019 electricity and heat were the biggest carbon emitters, while transport came in second place.

Manufacturing and construction overtook the agriculture sector in 2007 to become the third largest contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions.

Building a Solution

One solution to reducing the impact of the manufacturing and construction sector is to repurpose materials. This reduces emissions and waste while also being both energy and cost-efficient.

Take a material like asphalt shingles as an example. This product is found on the roofs of approximately 75% of single-family detached homes in the U.S. and Canada.

In 2018, 86% of total asphalt shingles waste was dumped in landfills where they do not decompose or biodegrade. Reusing and recycling existing materials like asphalt shingles is a vital step in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the industry.

Northstar Clean Technologies repurposes the three primary components of asphalt shingles which are then recycled back into the market.

By reprocessing asphalt shingles into three primary components, Northstar’s clean technology has been shown to reduce CO₂ emissions by 60% compared to virgin production of liquid asphalt.

Click to learn how Northstar Clean Technologies is becoming one of the top material recovery providers in North America.

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Mapped: Carbon Dioxide Emissions Around the World

This graphic maps out carbon emissions around the world and where they come from, using data from the European Commission.

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mapping carbon dioxide emissions worldwide

Mapped: Carbon Dioxide Emissions Around the World

According to Our World in Data, the global population emits about 34 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO₂) each year.

Where does all this CO₂ come from? This graphic by Adam Symington maps out carbon emissions around the world, using 2018 data from the European Commission that tracks tonnes of CO₂ per 0.1 degree grid (roughly 11 square kilometers).

This type of visualization allows us to clearly see not just population centers, but flight paths, shipping lanes, and high production areas. Let’s take a closer look at some of these concentrated (and brightly lit) regions on the map.

China, India, and the Indian Ocean

As the two most populated countries and economic forces, China and India are both significant emitters of CO₂. China in particular accounts for about 27% of global CO₂ emissions.

And looking at the oceans, we see how much shipping adds to emissions, with many shipping lanes east of China clearly outlined as well as the major Indian Ocean lane between the Strait of Malacca and the Suez Canal.

The United States and Central America

The United States is one of the world’s biggest carbon emitters. While other countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia technically have higher emissions per capita, their overall emissions are relatively low due to smaller populations.

Across the U.S., the most brightly lit areas are major population centers like the Boston-Washington corridor, the Bay Area, and the Great Lakes. But also lit up are many of the interconnecting highways linking all these population centers, even in the less-populated middle of the country.

With so much traffic in and out of the U.S., the oceans become a murky mix of shipping and flight paths. To the south, very clearly visible is the major concentration of people around Mexico City and the traffic flowing through the Panama Canal.

South America’s Network of Emissions

Like the other regions, some of South America’s most populated areas are also the biggest emitters, such as São Paulo and Rio in Brazil and Buenos Aires in Argentina. This map also highlights the continent’s rough terrain, with most of the population and highway emissions limited to the coasts.

However, the cities aren’t the only big emitters in the region. There are clear lines intersecting the Amazon forest in many sections where cities and roads were constructed, including the economic hub city of Manaus along the Amazon River. Likewise, the oceans have many major shipping lanes highlighted, particularly East of Brazil.

Europe and North Africa

Germany is one of Europe’s biggest carbon emitters—in 2021, the country generated almost 644 million tonnes of CO₂.

Also making an impression are Italy (which is the second-highest CO₂ emitter after Germany) and the UK, as well the significant amount of trade along the English Channel.

Compared to the intricate network of cities, towns, and bustling highways spanning Europe, across the Mediterranean are far clearer and simpler lines of activity in Northern Africa. Two major exceptions are in the Middle-East, where Egypt’s Nile River and Suez Canal are massively lit up, as well as Israel on the east of the sea.

But a more significant (albeit murkier) picture is drawn by the massive amounts of shipping and flight paths illuminating the Atlantic and Mediterranean at large.

Net Zero by 2050

To mitigate the negative effects of climate change, countries around the world have made commitments to reach net-zero emissions.

Imagining the global map of emissions with these commitments in action requires a complete transformation of energy production, consumption habits, transportation infrastructure, and more. And even then, a future generated map wouldn’t be fully dark, as “net-zero” is not equivalent to zero emissions but a balance of emissions and removal.

How might this map of global emissions look in the near and distant future? And what other interesting insights can you generate by browsing the world this way?

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