Still pursuing green

Fake meat is just a headline-grabbing focal point for real ethical changes in the US. In the first of three chapters, Rathbone Global Sustainability Fund manager David Harrison explains why responsible capitalism is ascendant in America. 

30 January 2020

Responsible capitalism is running hot over in the US, and it looks like it isn’t simply a flash in the pan. In November I took a trip across the Atlantic to meet some current and potential investments on their home turf. I found a whole society that is much more aware of the environmental and social costs of consumption and doing business than I have ever seen in America. Even more than my last trip six months earlier.

I first started working in responsible investments in the mid-2000s. Back then, responsible investing – and environmental, social governance (ESG) in particular – was a niche corner of the funds world. Mostly catering for charities and other institutional investors, this method of assessing companies was little known, especially outside Europe. To increasingly see American companies address environmental and societal issues is fantastic.  But while it’s great to see this growing wave of sustainable thinking among American businesspeople, I reckon you need to be careful of the hype – some questionable businesses are trying to ‘greenwash’ themselves to fit in with the sustainability mood.

As you would expect, the West Coast leads the way in sustainability, both among businesses and consumers. But during my visit I was surprised by just how much the East Coast and Midwestern centres have caught up. Reusable coffee cups are everywhere, more and more taxis are hybrids, and there were a few electric buses too. I saw quite a few cyclists as well. This is big news in Illinois which, along with neighbouring Michigan, is car country. There are other changes in consumer behaviour too.

Read the full report here.