The Economist Sustainability Week – a few key highlights

Attending The Economist in-person this October after the initial March ‘22 event we attended was interesting and productive.

FGA were part of the first speed networking session for 5 chosen startups which was being trialled, many joined in.

Many linkedin and card exchanges happened every 3 minutes

As well as this we heard from many CEOs and Sustainability Directors across the 3 day event.

A few key facts discussed:

$750 billion in energy transition investment in 2021. In March it was said we needed $2.5-5 trillion to reach transition goals. This isn’t there yet but it is a vast improvement. 

Did you know?

1,000,000 – million – 6 zeros 

1,000,000,000 – billion – 9 zeros ($750,000,000,000 – close to $1 trillion) 

1,000,000,000,000 – trillion – 12 zeros 

The lobbying group has calculated that $8 trillion has been divested from fossil investments to date which has more than quadrupled recently. In a presentation FGA created in 2020, which included information from, this figure was said to be $1.5 since 2012. This is fast acceleration.

This is good news for clean tech advancement and it was said that 85% of new energy is now renewable. 

In electricity terms we use 60 giga watts per year and need to eliminate 50 to get down to 10. With just 5-7 years to achieve this. Still a very big task.

Unilever’s Thomas Lingard called for activism and radical collaboration and said:

“If you have a high carbon business and you are not willing to shift you are not going to have a business down the line”

Again transition plans were called for. When Unilever put their sustainability plans to the board 99.5 agreed to go ahead. ‘No brainer’.

Roche’s Richard Erwin on the same panel as Lingard discussing business travel and scope 3 reduction:

“Scope 3 we haven’t got a clue…I use to jump on a flight to San Francisco for 2 hour meeting, I won’t be doing that anymore”

Business travel seemed to be the tricky one to handle and the one many mentioned as a challenge, realising it needed to change/reduce a lot. This is likely why The Economist held at least 3 panels with aviation specialist appearing on them:

Day 2: The power if public-private partnerships in decarbonising the hard to abate

With Rolls Royce’s Warren East moderated by COPs Nigel Topping discussing tech. 

Day 2: Clearing hurdles on the way to sustainability – becoming a net-zero company

easyJet’s Jane Ashton was asked – Will flying get more expensive? Jane alluded to the fact that carbon prices are increasing so it is likely. RyanAir’s CEO this year saying the same. Ashton, discussing easyJet’s new plan which cuts offsets, uses Science Based Targets (by WWF) and investment in hydrogen. 

On an earlier panel, African businessman Mo Ibrahim said the Congo’s forest sinks about 4% of global C02, not a small figure from the original carbon capture tool: trees. Although offsets are often negated we know it’s not the trees that are the problem but ethics, monitoring and trust in reforestation.

A final aviation panel on Day 3: Developing better, more sustainable fuels with British Airways, Convex Insurance, US Department of Energy and our own CEO, Sarah Wilkin, on future feedstock, finance, fuel cost sharing mechanisms and new stakeholders such as Convex, sports and other were discussed. FGA discussing the report they have created which can be requested on the form here.

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