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WWF Publishes Guide to Responsible Commodities Investing

The WWF today released a guide to responsible investing in commodities.

The report, The 2050 Criteria Guide to Responsible Investment in Agricultural, Forest, and Seafood Commodities, is backed by Credit Suisse and addresses 10 commodity sectors: aquaculture; beef; cotton; dairy; palm oil; soy; sugar; timber, pulp and paper; wild-caught seafood; and bioenergy.

WWF says these sectors are high priority because of their affects on global biodiversity, greenhouse gas emissions and water use.

An increase in population and consumption between 1961 and 2008 has led to a decline in biocapacity per person (see chart), according to WWF. It says in 2008, the Earth’s total biocapacity was 12 billion hectares, while the population’s ecological footprint was 18.2 billion hectares, meaning it would take 1.5 years for the Earth to regenerate the renewable resources that humans use in one year.

The 2050 Criteria outline environmental and social risks associated with each sector — biodiversity loss and conversion; climate change and air quality; soil erosion and degradation; water use; pesticides and toxicity; nutrient loading and eutrophication; disease and animal care; labor; local and indigenous communities; and society and consumers — and “key performance criteria” for identifying environmentally and socially responsible companies and projects.

WWF works with global companies in the food, agriculture and consumer goods sectors, and says major players are taking steps to address resource challenges. It says examples of this include industry roundtables on palm oil, soy, sugarcane, cotton and forest products, and cooperation between Unilever, Tesco, McDonald’s, and other companies on whitefish stock sustainability. It also cites The Sustainability Consortium, led by Walmart, and its efforts to establish an industry-wide sustainability labeling system for consumer goods.

A June report by Deutsche Bank’s climate change investment research group found companies with high ratings for corporate social responsibility and environmental, social and governance factors have a lower cost of capital and are a lower risk to investors.

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