Should you avoid the gas guzzling jet?

By Jonathan Jackson. Published at Aug 19, 2019, in Features

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The world has definitely changed. In some ways for the better and certainly with its heart in the right place.

So, having just written an article about faux meat and the changing tide towards meat substitutes, I now find myself engaged with the anti-flying movement.

Recent coverage of the faux meat market led me to companies such as Impossible Foods who is supplying Burger King in the US with substitute plant-based meat patties and has the likes of Bill Gates and Google Ventures as an investor.

Then there is Beyond Meat, a NYSE listed substitute-meat company, capped at almost $10 million, whose goal is to help to reduce carbon emissions.

Even coming from a rabid meat-eater like me, it’s a noble pursuit.

It seems this movement towards sustainable action; behaviours that would actually fundamentally change living habits is gaining momentum and has now impacted flying.

Just don’t tell Meghan and Harry.

The royal couple who can’t seem to take a trick lately, is currently under fire for hiring a private jet to take them to Ibiza for a holiday.

The pair has come under fire, because as self-prescribed eco warriors, they are meant to be setting a better example. Meghan and Harry have even been criticised by insiders with royal protection officer Ken Wharfe stating: “Frankly it is hypocritical. Harry can’t be preaching about the catastrophic effects of climate change whilst jetting around the world on a private plane. It’s all well and good standing up and preaching but I think the public will see this as hypocritical. Why put another plane in the air when you could go commercial.”

Apparently, even the queen takes the train.

Bottom line: have some environmental nous, know your audience and don’t be a hypocrite.

When the boat comes in

Sixteen-year old Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg is certainly living by her actions and along with broadcaster and naturalist, David Attenborough, she is helping the anti-flying movement pick up steam.

With broad acceptance from the general public, along with a scientific consensus that global warming is real and that it is primarily caused by human activities, we’re now our turning attention to what we can do to reduce carbon emissions.

As widely reported last week, Thunberg announced that rather than flying to the United Nations climate summit in New York next month, she is crossing the Atlantic on a zero-carbon emission yacht.

She hopes that the decision will persuade flyers to purchase carbon offsets to mitigate the environmental damage caused by flying, if not swear off air travel altogether.

The movement seems to be paying off — airlines are seeing optional purchases of carbon offsets soar. Europe’s largest discount carrier, Ryanair, for one, says the number of customers making voluntary offset payments has almost doubled in 18 months, while Lufthansa reported a 500% lift in the uptake of its credits within a year.

Yet, this push for carbon neutrality is not unique to the airline industry — the demand for zero carbon emission travel is gaining traction across the wider transportation sector.

It comes at an interesting time, with Uber set to release its flying cars in the foreseeable future, and Virgin Galactic aiming to send us to space.

Imagine the carbon offset price of that. There is certainly an interesting dichotomy happening between reducing carbon emissions through flights and actually flying somewhere.

Personally I couldn’t think of anything worse than taking a ship, or a yacht from Australia to England. My irrational fear, having watched too many pirate movies, would be that I contract scurvy or be raided by eye patch wearing thieves of the sea.

Neither of which would happen, but who knows, right?

Socially responsibility and the market

How to be socially responsible or have a social impact, is something all companies could learn about by going to Social Suite’s website. It is also something we should take to heart. Now, at the risk of me sounding like a hypocrite, I will never give up meat or flying, but I would consider paying the carbon offset and I would also consider socially responsible investing.

There are plenty of funds to choose from including iShares MSCI KLD 400 Social ETF (DSI), an ETF which tracks an index of companies that have "positive environmental, social and governance characteristics and boasts around 400 holdings. Thirty percent of the portfolio is in the technology sector and includes Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), Alphabet (GOOG, GOOGL), whose mantra is ‘don’t be evil’, Facebook (FB) and Verizon Communications (VZ).

Some people see some of these companies as ‘evil’ highlighting the fact that ethics are personal.

According to US News, one of the best socially responsible funds is the CRBN ETF, which has more than 1,200 equity positions in the US and abroad. “This is a low-cost fund (the expense ratio is a mere 20 basis points) doesn't claim to invest in companies with no carbon footprint, just companies with "lower carbon exposure than that of the broad market." Its three largest holdings are Apple (AAPL), Microsoft and (AMZN), though collectively they make up less than 6 percent of the entire portfolio.

You can read US News’ full article here.

For a list of products Australian Ethical invest in, click here.

They include Accenture, Adobe, Alphabet, Kyocera Corporation, Intel, PayPal and may others.

One further Australian stock you may be interested in is Koppar Resources (ASX:KRX).

The $7.2 million capped KRX is looking to produce battery-grade lithium hydroxide from geothermal brines with a renewable electricity by-product, from its Vulcan Lithium Project in Germany.

If successful, it could be the only ‘zero carbon’ lithium product supplying the burgeoning EU electric vehicle market.

Perhaps Meghan and Harry could take an electric vehicle for their next trip to Spain, instead of a gas guzzling jet.

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