The Sustainable Summer series gives investment professionals from the responsible investment space an opportunity share their habits and summer activities that are contributing to a more sustainable world.
For these light-hearted pieces, we ask about summer plans and holidays, and charitable work.
Here, Christine Dawson, ESG research editor at ESG Clarity, describes holidaying in a pod and why she is so glued to the garden.
To view the full Sustainable Summer series click here.
How has your year been so far? Have you stuck to any sustainable New Year’s Resolutions?
I go for themes rather than resolutions these days. This year’s theme was “outdoors”. Within that is something about getting out and about more, but also just enjoying the outdoors more. That’s going quite well. It’s been helped by moving to an area that is better for getting out for walks, bike rides and sea swims and the fact the new place has a garden. It’s quite low maintenance so I’m grateful for the weeding and watering as an excuse to stay out there longer.
How are you connecting with nature this summer or protecting biodiversity near to where you live or work?
I’m getting quite in to protecting biodiversity in the garden. There are lots of flowers that bees, butterflies and other pollinators seem to enjoy. I am perhaps taking it a bit far, watering the dandelions on the lawn during the heatwave, for example, because I see how much the bees love them. And I’ve decided the kale isn’t flourishing enough to harvest but it’s not going to get replaced just yet because the slugs like it and they have their own important part in the ecosystem. I’ve also made sure to put out water for birds, bats, hedgehogs, insects, frogs… whatever might have been struggling to find water when there was such a dearth of rain.
In terms of connecting with nature, I enjoy watching insects and birds in the garden. When I’m out on a walk I do find myself stopping for a minute to look at the river or the harbour. Those are lovely ways to connect to the surroundings, but nothing beats sea swimming which feels more like diving into nature than just observing it.
What do you find are the benefits of spending more time in the great outdoors?
Pottering in the garden quickly became my go-to mental health fix after moving house. I find the great outdoors – or even the lesser outdoors like just a walk down the road – always provides a welcome perspective shift and nice ways to engage the senses.
I think there is also an indirect benefit in that time spent outdoors tends to be more active than being inside. So there is a health benefit in that you just end up getting more exercise.
Are you planning a holiday? How will you make it ESG-friendly?
I’m planning a staycation later in the summer. I don’t doubt there will be some day trips that involve driving, but there will be others we can do by train or bike. Overall, there won’t be a big carbon footprint from it. I decided a few years ago to cut back on flights and the last one I took was in 2019. There has been a pandemic since then, which solved any dilemma over foreign holidays for a while, but sticking to the no flying did become an interesting challenge when I went to Seville for two months last year. I managed to get there in a weekend, seeing Paris on the way. The way back was more leisurely and involved a stop in Barcelona and one in Bordeaux.
We have already had a couple of fairly local and environmentally friendly trips this summer, one to a gorgeous campsite in the New Forest, which has wooden pods you can rent. There’s a walk you can do from the campsite across a patch of open, grassy land dotted with trees and shrubs – the typical New Forest landscape, if you know it. This takes you to a pub in a village called Canada (eh?) But the best bit is that on the way you pass loads of small herds of horses, donkeys and cattle.
Are you taking part in any charity events or initiatives benefitting the climate or society?
It’s not charity, but I do offer my time for childcare and babysitting for family and friends and I know that makes a difference for them. On the green side, I’ve signed up to the local Green Party and I’m looking forward to hearing at the monthly meeting the initiatives they have going on in the area that I can get stuck into.
Has your employer got any sustainable activities planned this summer? What does it do in the workplace to ensure it mitigates its impact on the environment?
There aren’t any specific sustainable activities planned, but the group has been seeing sustainable trends recently. Bonhill has a really flexible approach to work with no minimum level of travel to the office, which means a much lower carbon footprint from commuting. Another thing to come from the pandemic is international travel has dropped considerably now international teams have seen how effective video calling is as a way of connecting remotely.
What would you like to see more of in the investment industry from a sustainability perspective?
I’d like to see the investment industry get much better at effecting change in the most polluting companies, especially big oil. For all the positive active ownership activities the investment industry undertakes, there is still massive planned and actual expansion in the fossil fuel sector. There has to be a responsibility for investors to call this out in a much more compelling way than they currently are.
I would imagine a tougher line from investors would be welcome from many of those who work in fossil fuels but are aware the sector is stuck in a planet-wrecking rut.