The problem of waste—too much of it, that is—is one everyone is aware of today, from bans on plastic bags and straws, to the increasing use of energy efficient LED lighting, to the boom in electric car production.
As with most things, these new trends can create opportunities for savvy investors.
UBS Global Wealth Management’s chief investment office is pointing the way to these potential opportunities, specifically in waste reduction, in “The Future of Waste,” a paper it issued last week.
This research, directed at financial advisors and investors, is the first in a series of “Future of…” papers that the firm intends to roll out to get clients up to speed on issues affecting the world, and thus, their portfolios, in the years ahead—issues that will often touch on sustainability themes, although not always.
Waste reduction, in fact, is not explicitly a sustainability theme, but it’s an area likely to attract impact investors because of its direct, as well as indirect, links to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Directly, waste reduction will help create clean water and sanitation (goal No. 6), affordable and clean energy (goal No. 7), and responsible consumption and production (goal No. 12). But it will also indirectly support areas like climate action, hunger, and life on land and water, the report said.
According to UBS, food waste costs US$1 trillion a year, even as 10% of the world’s population goes hungry. They also point out that the volume of plastic in the ocean could outweigh the volume of fish within the next 30 years.
To help investors wrap their heads around the problem, UBS divides the waste landscape into “solid waste,” which includes plastics, food, and paper and cardboard; and “energy waste,” carbon and methane emissions and pollution.