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“From poisoning and injuring marine life, to the ubiquitous presence of plastics in our food, to causing major life-threatening diseases, the growth of plastics is threatening our planet’s survival.” (Earth Day Network)

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“From poisoning and injuring marine life, to the ubiquitous presence of plastics in our food, to causing major life-threatening diseases, the growth of plastics is threatening our planet’s survival.” (Earth Day Network)

This year’s Earth Day on 22 April is focused on the global drive to end plastic pollution. There is an estimated 150 million tonnes of plastic in oceans today and, at current rates, we are on track to have one tonne for every three tonnes of fish by 2025 and more plastic than fish in our waters by weight by 2050 (according to World Economic Forum figures).

“From poisoning and injuring marine life, to the ubiquitous presence of plastics in our food, to causing major life-threatening diseases, the growth of plastics is threatening our planet’s survival.” (Earth Day Network)

We need a global effort to eliminate single-use plastics and significantly reduce use, and improve recovery, of the rest. The damage caused by our current use and disposal of plastics makes the system unsustainable and we support the global drive for solutions.

As investors, we see the financial value, the environmental and social impacts and, therefore, the benefit to our clients in supporting those companies that can deliver this transition.

No single action is likely to provide a complete solution in our view so we are focused on the full range of meaningful changes that need to be made, which include:

  • Changes to food production and packaging to deliver safe food with reduced wastage without reliance on plastic packaging
  • Readily biodegradable packaging
  • Plastics derived from natural sources
  • Improved recycling rates.

Ultimately, however, it is the development of closed-loop ‘circular economy’ models that we believe will be critical.

One of our key investment themes is Increasing Waste Treatment and Recycling. Only 14% of plastic packaging is currently collected for recycling and just 5% is retained for subsequent use, highlighting the opportunity for companies working to improve this. Across our portfolios, we own Suez, Pennon and China Everbright, which continue to revolutionise the waste recycling space.

Recent measures announced by the UK government are positive steps in this sphere: the proposed deposit return scheme for drink containers mirrors similar enterprises in Norway, Germany and some US states, which boosted recycling rates to above 90%.

Another key theme across our portfolios is Making Food Production Sustainable, where we look for companies offering sustainable alternatives to current food production and packaging.

Dutch company Corbion is a new holding for our funds. The company uses natural ingredients to produce lactic acid, which is used as a food preservative. This is already a great theme for us and Corbion is now moving a step further in converting its lactic acid into polylactic acid, a bioplastic.

Bioplastics have a role to play in making our system more sustainable but it is critical to understand they are not a solution on their own to marine littering. Even those that are biodegradable typically require industrial conditions, which are very different to those found at the bottom of the ocean.

Smurfit Kappa, Europe’s largest paper packaging producer, is another core name for the funds. Paper and packaging companies are caught at the centre of the waste debate and we see strong financial and environmental opportunities in those that can do it sustainably.

Three-quarters of the fibres that Smurfit Kappa uses are from recycled sources and the remaining 25% come directly from its own plantations and third-party suppliers. We see value in Smurfit’s responsible resource management, operational efficiency and products that help to reduce waste and resource use as well as increasing recyclability, reusability and degradability.

While we continue to invest in solutions providers, very few of us can say we are not part of the plastics problem. Plastic is a priority engagement issue for us in 2018 and we are working with our investee companies to drive change.

Progress is under way but too slow. Unilever, for example, has already cut packaging waste per consumer by 28% since 2010 and has targeted at least 25% recycled plastic content in its packaging by 2025.

Sachets are a particular issue for the company and it is investing heavily in technology called CreaSolv, a chemical process that breaks down the polymers in sachets so the plastic can be reused. This, and other aspects of the company’s Sustainable Living Plan, puts Unilever at the forefront of global companies in our view but even this progress is unlikely to drive the fundamental change our oceans need.

Earth Day’s focus on this important issue is critical. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation recently announced at the World Economic Forum Event in Davos that several leading consumer brands are working towards 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025 and we also note various supportive government statements and initiatives in 2018.

As investors, we welcome this focus but stress that we remain a long way from a global resolution that protects our natural environment. As long as our business activities remain unsustainable, their future earnings are in doubt and so is their value.  We will continue to invest in those companies that stand to gain from the move to sustainable business models and engage with those who have more to do.

Our clients want to invest in companies that can earn sustainable financial returns by delivering positive environmental impacts. After all, there is little point in saving for a retirement by the beach, if we have no beaches worth going to.

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Duo glide around world’s largest fountain in Dubai

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Duo glide around world's largest fountain in Dubai 1

Paragliders Llorens and Goberna take magical flight above the Palm Fountain.

Horacio Llorens and Rafael Goberna defied gravity to perform The Breaking Pointe flight around the world’s biggest fountain at The Pointe, Palm Jumeirah in Dubai. Here is all you need to know:

– Spaniard Llorens is a five-time world champion and Infinity Tumbling Guinness World Record holder, who has performed a series of spectacular projects during the last five years including paragliding with a flock of starlings and with the beautiful Aurora Borealis as a backdrop.

– Brazilian Goberna was a Guinness Book of World Records winner at only 12-years-old and, in December 2016, he took to the skies above one of the seven wonders of the natural world when paragliding at Iguazu Falls.

– This time around, the duo teamed up in Dubai to showcase The Palm Fountain at the Pointe, Palm Jumeirah. They overcame a tricky preparation period to expertly glide between the fountain’s powerful jets of water.

– Spanning across the boulevard, the Palm Fountain features two giant floating platforms covering 14,000 square metres of sea water. Reaching an impressive 105 metres high and lighting up the Dubai sky with 3,000 LED lights, the fountain “dances” to hit songs from sunset until midnight.

– They undertook training first at Paramotor Desert Adventure on January 12 to test out their brakes and motors with technician Ramon Lopez finally arriving after being held up by the heavy snow in Madrid.

– Training was crucial for the challenge of flying during the night with low visibility as safety director Alan Gayton ensured they had a reserve parachute in case of a technical issue with the main parachute. Llorens and Goberna also had to study the movement of the water with great precision in order not to get caught up in the jets of water

– Flying over water, it was also mandatory to have a lifejacket with rescue boats, jet skis and divers on hand which came handy when Goberna suffered a technical malfunction on the first January 14 practice run.

– After repairs long into the night, they returned to Paramotor Desert Adventure to test out the motors again before completing the stunning flight on January 15 with Llorens and Goberna performing in harmony.

– Llorens, 38, revealed: “As soon as we got the opportunity, we wanted to fly there. We needed to know the area really well beforehand and we needed to know how to ‘play’ with the fountain – this was new for us. Such strong streams of water shooting 100 metres up is a lot, so we had to be really prepared.”

– Goberna, 26, explained: “The motor wasn’t flying so good because, prior to arriving in Dubai, it was last used in Europe at high altitude. I needed to adjust the carburettor in the air inside the motor. In the first practice flight over the water, I broke one propeller. I really couldn’t understand what was happening and then another one broke. Eventually, a backup motor was required. After a long journey, the final result was beautiful! The team worked incredibly hard to make it.”

– Llorens added: “The highlight for me was playing between the super shooters with Rafael, because it’s something we’ve never done before; it felt really new and really powerful.”

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EU sets itself jobs, training and equality targets for 2030

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EU sets itself jobs, training and equality targets for 2030 2

By Jan Strupczewski

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission on Thursday announced goals for the 27-nation bloc to reduce poverty, inequality and boost training and jobs by 2030 as part of a post-pandemic economic overhaul financed by jointly borrowed funds.

The EU executive arm said the European Union should boost employment to 78% in 2030 from 73% in 2019, halve the gap between the number of employed women and men and cut the number of young people neither working nor studying to 9% from 12.6%

“With unemployment and inequalities expected to increase as a fallout of the pandemic, focusing our policy efforts on quality job creation, up- and reskilling and reducing poverty and exclusion is therefore essential to channel our resources where they are most needed,” the commission said.

The goals, which will have to be endorsed by EU leaders, also include an increase in the number of adults getting training every year to adapt to the EU’s transition to a greener and more digitalised economy to 60% from 40% now.

Finally, over the next 10 years, the EU should reduce the number of people at risk of poverty or social exclusion by 15 million from 91 million in 2019.

“These three 2030 headline targets are deemed ambitious and realistic at the same time,” the commission said.

The goals are part of the EU’s set of 20 social rights, agreed on in 2017, to make the EU more appealing to voters and counter eurosceptic sentiment across the bloc.

They say everybody has the right to quality education throughout their lives and that men and women must have equal opportunities in all areas and be paid the same for work of equal value.

The unemployed have the right to “personalised, continuous and consistent support”, while workers have the right “to fair wages that provide for a decent standard of living”.

(Reporting by Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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UK aero-engineer Meggitt eyes return to growth after pandemic slump

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UK aero-engineer Meggitt eyes return to growth after pandemic slump 3

LONDON (Reuters) – British engineer Meggitt said that it could return to profit growth in 2021 provided there are no further lockdowns, despite a weakening in the struggling aviation market at the end of 2020 and early this year.

Pandemic restrictions halted much flying globally last year and forced plane makers Boeing and Airbus to cut production rates, dragging down suppliers like Meggitt, which makes and services parts for such aircraft.

Meggitt’s underlying operating profit plunged by 53% to 191 million pounds ($267 million) in 2020, it said on Thursday, despite continued growth in its defence business which makes parts for military jets and accounts for about 45% of the business.

Meggitt, however, said it expected air traffic to recover in the second half of the year which would help it return to profit growth over the year, although its guidance for flat revenue disappointed analysts who had expected growth of 6%.

Meggitt’s Chief Executive Tony Wood said in November that he had expected flying to start to recover by Easter, but new variants have led to more restrictions and delayed the recovery.

“It has gone back a couple of months… it’s now very much in the summer,” Wood said of the recovery in an interview on Thursday.

Further in the future, Meggitt is positioning itself for the move to lower emissions flying, and its sensors and electric motors will be used on electric urban air mobility platforms, such as flying taxis, and in hybrid aeroplanes being developed.

But Meggitt said new tax breaks announced in Britain’s annual budget on Wednesday aimed at encouraging investment would not change its plans.

“Yes, it will be a benefit. Are we looking at any acceleration as a result specifically of that? Not really,” Woods said.

Shares in Meggitt were down 1% to 427 pence at 0943 GMT. The stock has risen by 50% since news of a COVID-19 vaccine last November, but is still down 23% on where it was pre-pandemic.

($1 = 0.7165 pounds)

(Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Alistair Smout and Susan Fenton)

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