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Global Head of Research and Innovation on how work from home policies can promote environmental sustainability

Steven Bullock, Trucost Global Head of Research and Innovation, joins Yahoo Finance to discuss the state of the environment after COVID-19 and how corporate America can shift priorities to push environmental sustainability to the forefront.

Video Transcript

JEN ROGERS: A lot of people during the coronavirus pandemic have been looking for any silver lining with the environment. We're flying less. We're driving less. You've probably seen the pictures of birds and fish returning to Venice, Italy. Is there actually a silver lining here though? I want to bring in our next guest. Steven Bullock, he's Trucost global head of research and innovation. And Steven, you've been writing and examining climate in a cost-POVID-- COVID world. And I just want to start broadly with whether or not you think we're going to be in a better or worse situation vis a vis the climate when-- when COVID is behind us.

STEVEN BULLOCK: Sure, thank you. Well, firstly I think the pandemic has, you know, reminded us that economic stability, health, and environmental issues are all interconnected. And what we see is perhaps an opportunity for-- to define a new way of doing business that is good for economic growth, which is obviously clearly a priority right now, but also considers broader environmental and social objectives.

So the research that we put together really kind of helped advise companies on three things that they can do in this post-pandemic world. Firstly, companies could promote videoconferencing, for example, and reduce business air travel by about 40%. That would actually bring the whole entire airline industry in line with a climate-aligned pathway by 2030, or in other words in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Secondly, companies in the professional services sector, well, they could actually adopt policies that promoted working from home for three days a week. And that would align the whole passenger transport sector, which would obviously bring with it reduced congestion and improved air quality in our cities.

And then finally, on another positive note if businesses were to reshore and buy locally for just 7% of international dry goods, then that would actually put the whole shipping sector on a climate-aligned pathway as well.

AKIKO FUJITA: So you know, Steven, I can see how those measures you talked about will put us in-- in line with some of the targets of the Paris Climate Agreement. But we've already seen this tension between those who want this path to sustainability and then, you know, leaders who have said, look, this is not the time to prioritize that because of the economic downturn. We heard from the administration say, you know, a Green New Deal, this war against coal is only going to slow the recovery. How do you see the two sides finding some kind of resolution?

STEVEN BULLOCK: Yeah, sure. You know, we've-- we've seen already governments in certain countries start to think about these economic stimulus packages that have green strings attached. If you look at Europe, for example, they've just announced that 25% of their recovery fund will be ring-fenced for climate action.

But I think it's useful to remember that, I think, you know, from a government and policy level, they aren't the only players in this space. They aren't the only players in the recovery and the wider climate agenda. And I think it's useful to look at what the-- what investors are doing and more broadly what capital markets are doing as it-- as it relates to ESG.

AKIKO FUJITA: And Steven, you know, you talked about the private sector playing a role here as well. How do you make that economic case to keep those sustainability-- sustainability goals in place at a time when many of these companies are hurting as a result of the shutdown?

STEVEN BULLOCK: Absolutely, well, we've seen-- and just had to build on the point from-- you know from earlier that, you know, investors are-- you know, there's sentiment in ESG is remaining-- remaining strong. We've seen massive inflows into the ESG funds even through the pandemic. And companies that are generally performing better on-- on ESG are also those that have been better positioned for the future. And you can see that, actually, they're outperforming the market generally.

So I think there's a real opportunity for investors and governments and companies to have a better understanding of these environmental risks and opportunities and look to build these back to work strategies that can combine both the economic recovery that we need but also these broader environmental and social issues.

JEN ROGERS: Steven Bullock is Trucost global head of research. Great to get your thoughts. Thank you so much for joining us.