By John Niekraszewicz
A few years ago, my wife was invited to be an artist in residence that included daily trips to the landfill for art supplies. Witnessing firsthand how wasteful our society has become caused Valerie to take action, not only in her art-making but also in our daily lives. What started out as reclaiming garbage and incorporating it in a painting has evolved into creating large wall hangings using household plastic waste, using river clean-up debris in collages, and even using images of this art for the print design in some of her fashion wear.
John on the river collecting garbage.
By integrating sustainability in her art practice, Valerie creates awareness of the world’s environmental degradation issues. This is how I became aware of the amount of waste our society produces. I used to ignore the plastic bottles and debris I saw floating down the river on our kayak trips, but not anymore. Now, when we go kayaking on the rivers, I am cognizant of objects that do not belong and remove them before they cause more damage. But it takes an army of like-minded people to tackle these global challenges so that we can achieve a better and more sustainable future for everyone.
This past year, many of us have been doing our part to help reduce air pollution by reducing our time driving and purchasing electric and hybrid cars. The impact on our environment has been immediate. The reduced air pollution increases visibility as witnessed by villagers seeing Himalayan mountain ranges more than 100 miles away that have not been seen in decades. We need to do more.
With the introduction of the Paris Agreement on climate change and the United Nations adoption of ambitious sustainable development goals to limit global warming and protect our environment, momentum is building. There is a call to action to improve health and education, end poverty, reduce inequality, tackle climate change, and preserve our oceans and forests.
While climate change creates complex risks for all businesses, strong environmental policies also create new opportunities for companies to lead. As more countries enlist in the Paris Agreement’s effort to limit global warming, companies are discovering ways to add value by taking steps towards carbon neutrality.
Some examples of how companies reduce their carbon footprint include shifting from trucks to railcars for long-haul transportation of goods and reusable and compostable packaging. Others see the most practical way to reduce demand for carbon-based fuels is to increase efficiency and embrace renewable alternative energy sources such as solar and wind power.
There is also increasing pressure on corporations throughout the agricultural supply chain to address the harms caused by agricultural practices. As with climate change, companies that are not managing risks caused by abusive pesticide use face reputational risks and potential economic losses.
As Canadians, we can invest in these socially responsible companies through our Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSP’s) and Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSA’s). And as investors, we can tell companies that we care about pollution and waste, climate change, water, products, and companies that source responsibly, contribute to society, and treat their people fairly and equitably.
But selecting companies to invest in can be difficult, especially if companies “greenwash” their sustainability processes by giving false or misleading statements. This is why several mutual companies have created sustainable investing departments to assist portfolio managers in their company selection process. These sustainability professionals provide environmental, social, and governance (ESG) analysis to portfolio managers that help identify companies to avoid or opportunities to research. In addition to being a solid investment, a company with solid ESG practices will be looked at more positively when making investment decisions.
Investors can also invest in bonds that have positive environmental benefits. “Green bonds” are issued by companies and governments to fund projects that have positive environmental benefits. For example, the City of Ottawa used a green bond to help support a clean Light Rail Transportation (LRT) project. Some companies will issue green bonds with the promise to reduce their carbon footprint by a set timeframe. If they do not meet specified targets, they are penalized by paying a higher interest coupon on the issued bonds.
The pressure to change how we treat our planet and people is growing. So is the will to act more sustainably. Now is the time to up your game and incorporate more sustainable activities into your daily lives. You can support sustainable investing companies by adding them to your investment portfolios. And before adding to the landfill, think of how these items may be repurposed. They may even be admired in an art gallery or on someone’s wall.
Don’t be surprised if one day you hear someone say, “I just came back from the art gallery, and all of the art was junk. And the artist was wearing a dress that looked like garbage. And the show was fantastic.”
This article outlines several strategies, not all of which will apply to your financial circumstances. You should obtain professional advice from a licensed financial planner or financial advisor before acting on any information in this article and to help navigate your options. Then you can enjoy life & have fun.
John Niekraszewicz (Nick-ra-shev-itch) BMath, FCSI, CFP, FMA is the Certified Financial Planner specializing in Wealth & Estate Planning that is responsible for the AHIP Association Health & Dental Plan provided by JVK Life & Wealth Insurance Group that receives a sales commission. John is also the Principal of JVK Life & Wealth Advisory Group - provider of mutual funds and investments. John welcomes your questions and can be reached at 1-800-767-5933 or firstname.lastname@example.org