Sustainability Webinars and Podcasts
Dr Hannah Wakeford, lecturer in Astrophysics in the School of Physics at the University of Bristol, and senior associate Laura Haworth join podcast host Miri Stickland to talk about the issue of space junk in Earth’s increasingly crowded orbit, its potential impact on planetary environments and shared lessons for sustainability in space and in our built environment.
Sustainability: Strategic planning for real estate projects
Managing Director of sustainability consultants Element Four, Georgia Elliot-Smith, and Commercial Real Estate Partner, Vicki Towers, join podcast host, Miri Stickland, to discuss the advantages of strategic sustainability planning within the real estate sector, the concept of Net Zero, why you shouldn’t assume that a BREEAM excellent rating necessarily means a high EPC rating and the direction of travel for the energy rating of buildings.
Sustainability and the Future of Farming
The impact of the global response to coronavirus on farming has added another angle to the already complicated debate around the future of farming in the UK. The systemic issues facing agriculture – including climate change, food security, biodiversity, renewable energy, imports and exports, and access to land – remain, but need to be assessed in a fresh context. The Agriculture Bill, currently going through Parliament, will give substance to these aspirations and set out a new environmentally focussed settlement for British farmers.
- With the UK's commitment to achieving net zero greenhouse emissions by 2050, concerns about food security that were brought into sharp focus with empty supermarket shelves in March 2020, and the overhaul of subsidies prompted by Brexit we have reached a pivotal moment for farming in the UK. In this context, there is a need to address the challenge of how to farm sustainably whilst producing sufficient food at an affordable price.
- In the short to medium term how farmers meet this challenge is likely to be shaped by the UK's Agricultural Bill. This will provide the legal framework for UK farming following Brexit and is the most significant reform of UK agriculture in 50 years. The headline reform is that subsidies will take the form of "public money for public goods", with a focus on environmental benefits such as air quality, soil quality, water quality, biodiversity, and forestry. This shift in emphasis is likely to result in significant changes in how farmers use their land.
- There are various approaches to farming sustainably and it is unlikely that there is "one size fits all" solution. For example, on one end of the spectrum consideration could be given to "rewilding" part or all of a landed estate, whilst at the other end "smart farming" can help farmers to increase yields further. There will probably need to be some farmers who focus more on nature recovery projects and other farmers will be dedicated to being highly productive. However, in both cases, it is hoped that farmers will receive the financial support needed to enable them to be environmental stewards of the land.
- It is not clear that the existing legal framework for the ownership and occupation of land (particularly the agricultural activities that farmers are expected to carry out for Farm Business Tenancies) and the current tax reliefs are entirely consistent with the change in emphasis of public subsidies to the delivery of public goods. In much the same way that sustainable farming requires a holistic approach to the use and management of land, it is essential that the legal and tax implications of how Landed Estates use their land is considered in the round to ensure that the conditions for obtaining any available tax reliefs and subsidies are satisfied.
Sustainable Investment - A Brave New World
As we start to emerge from lockdown, and hopefully move towards a period of global recovery, many wealthy families will be looking at how they can use their wealth to contribute to a more sustainable future. However, there are many issues for families and their advisors to consider when contemplating a sustainable investment program.
- Increasingly there is an understanding that part of an investor’s fiduciary duty is to manage risks, that include long-term risks such as environmental, social and governance (“ESG”) risks.
- For fiduciaries though, there is often a concern that sustainable investing could run contrary to the fiduciary duty of trustees to invest the trust fund to maximise benefits for beneficiaries.
- But there is a lot of evidence from the corporate world that the implementation of ESG measures in investment strategies is essential to long-term success. So in that sense the concept of ‘benefit’ needs to be expanded to recognise the benefits of sustainable investing for future generations of beneficiaries who will be most affected by climate change.
- Therefore, in private wealth structures, the key is, as with family governance principles, to plan and put in place processes so that the right people have the source of power and buy-in from the family to be confident in making sustainable investment decisions.
- Family offices and trustees should make careful records of all deliberations and decisions in relation to proposed investments, and discussions with family members and external advisors (especially where family members have differing views on the benefits of sustainable investments), as well as looking at ways of limiting their liability and taking appropriate professional advice on these issues.