ESG Essentials: Air pollution linked to antibiotic resistance, Australia’s taxonomy and plastic risk

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New study links air pollution to antibiotic resistance

A new study analysing over 100 countries has found a convincing link between air pollution and antibiotic resistance, a discovery that adds to growing awareness of a problem that already kills approximately 1.3 million people per year

The study suggested that certain particulates in the air can transfer trace amounts of antibiotic-resistant bacteria to humans. 

Many of these bacteria are developed in factory farms and other forms of intensive agriculture, where animals, tightly packed in cramped conditions, are overfed antibiotics in a preemptive effort to prevent the spread of disease. This strategy however gives bacteria the time and conditions to become resistant. 

Many investors have called on agricultural groups to re-evaluate their use of antibiotics. The investor coalition FAIRR has set out on a sector-wide engagement to reduce their use, which the World Bank argues could lead to a $100 trillion loss to the broader economy by 2050 if current trends continue.

Australia begins work on sustainable finance taxonomy  

The Australian government working groups started developing a new sustainable finance taxonomy, joining many countries that have sought to put labels and standards on various environmental or “green” funds to prevent investor confusion and greenwashing. 

These working groups, which are a joint public-private initiative, will aim to produce a workable standard early next year for consideration by the Australian parliament. 

Emma Herd, co-chair of the Taxonomy Technical Expert Group (TTEG), was quoted in ESG Clarity, saying “The Australian taxonomy will play a key role in guiding the transition of our economy, financial portfolios, companies and economic activities by providing clear and consistent definitions of what is classified as a sustainable activity”. 

Given Australia’s role as a key critical minerals producer and as a large economy, these steps towards a clear taxonomy could be effective in directing capital towards green impact projects.

Companies exposed to billions of dollars as executives ignore plastic risks

New research from Planet Tracker finds plastic industry executives are displaying a “dangerous complacency” when it comes to the industry’s most pressing issues and risk factors.

Analysing over 8,000 documents, transcripts and disclosures across the plastic industry – from companies such as Exxon Mobil, Mondelez and P&G – Planet Tracker finds that the majority (83%) make no mention of plastic-related risks, like plastic pollution and harmful exposure to additives.Failure to account for these “very real and very material” risks could cost companies USD 100 billion in liabilities and litigation costs by the next decade, with Planet Tracker calling on financial markets to adequately price plastic-related risks into investments and push for concrete corporate change.

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