Commodity prices and sustainability

Blog article commenting: Commodity prices and sustainability

Please write about 250-300words’ comment on the blog article ‘Commodity prices and sustainability’ (all the blog articles relate to the subject sustainable development and please also read the previous blog articles in the ‘Previous blog articles for your information and reading’ section for continuity). The Comments should add meaningful insights, encouragement and suggestions from sustainable development point of view:

Commodity prices and sustainability

One area which has been on my mind for the last few months has been the decline in commodity prices and the consequences for investing in businesses which take sustainability seriously. The implications are far reaching and create a material challenge towards many corporate sustainability initiatives, which have been premised on rising commodity prices.

This will be the time when true leadership and strategic thinking will need to over-ride, myopic and short term thinking, which is the hallmark of the investor industry. Take the transportation industries (my homeland) – companies from Fed Ex to Maersk to Cathay have spent tens of billions of dollars on upgrading their hard assets, operational systems and processes in order to squeeze efficiencies and in the process create positive synergies for the environment – e.g. less Co2.

 These are however public companies and investors trade quarter by quarter. The easy way out is for these companies to lose discipline and the commitment to required to re-align their businesses and go for cheap and easy wins to assuage their shareholders.

Those CEOs and management teams that have spent time with their boards and shareholders, and have aligned them with the company’s long term approach to competing may stay the course but it is far from clear who succeeds.

 If I look at companies we invest, the “Green” them to investing has lost part of its allure and money is now looking to the distressed part of the energy sector, even looking at what were considered “stranded assets” as potential economic opportunities.

 There is no question in my mind that sustainability builds better business, but I suspect we are going to go through a very tough several years and I question whether there will be sufficient capital to fund the opportunities available.

Previous blog articles for your information and reading

 Regulation in shipping

Every time you buy a can from the supermarket or turn the switch on your wall to turn on the light, the chances are that the can came in a container from a ship and the coal used to make the electricity also was transported by sea.

Shipping is an indispensible part of World trade and touches every part of our daily lives but to most of us is an invisible industry. Despite being the most efficient form of transport, events like the Exxon Valdez have created a plethora or regulation which is in the process of strangling the industry.

 The lack of effective lobbyists on behalf of the shipowners and the much more effective environmental lobbyists have created an uneven playing surface for legislation. Legislation in the EU which goes into force on 1 January 2015, with the good intention of reducing sulphur emissions in short sea shipping will both choke the industry and push more cargo back onto the roads.

 Rushed legislation without sufficient input from the private sector has led to haphazard and uncoordinated policy which will affect 1.6b tonnes of intra European trade.

Better dialogue and discourse between government and shipowners is needed before it is too late. Once capital starts to flow out and distrust of regulators has reached its zenith, it will be too late for Brussels to turn the tide.

Market forces have increased efficiency in shipping. There is a clear link between reduced emissions, consuming less fuel and profitability of shipping companies. Simply put, shipping companies are incentivized to consume less fuel as it goes to their bottom lines and this is good for the environment as it means less Co2, SOx and NOx.

 So far regulation from the EU will have emissions go up not down.

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