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Accessing those hard-to-reach SDGs

Past performance does not predict future returns. You may get back less than you originally invested. Reference to specific securities is not intended as a recommendation to purchase or sell any investment.

One of several ways we highlight the impact of our investments is showing how our themes are aligned to the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Each theme is limited to one main SDG although, in reality, there are overlaps and most companies in our portfolios are exposed to areas helping to meet more than one SDG.

We have consistently found, however, gaps where our themes do not have significant exposure to particular SDGs. This is not surprising given the fact we designed the themes specifically for investment, whereas the SDGs involve civil society, governments and other aspects of human endeavour. Nevertheless, we believe it is important to examine whether investment could have a positive impact on these areas and will donate a portion of the management fee from Liontrust ESG Trust PLC (ESGT) to projects that explore potential for instruments relating to four of these harder-to-access SDGs:

- SDG 1: End Poverty: via provision of access to loans at fair rates for those in poverty

- SDG 2: End Hunger: via investment in food production and distribution in developing regions

- SDG 14: Life Below Water: via development of bonds in blue carbon (marine sequestration of carbon dioxide) or to back marine protected areas

- SDG 15: Life on Land: via bonds to back biodiversity or carbon and biodiversity enhancement through reforestation

Any investment instruments that are developed may be appropriate for ESGT to support but not necessarily. Our view is that early-stage funding of these projects could, in time, lead to a wider set of themes and we believe shareholders should therefore view the allocation of a portion of the management fee as an investment in the long-term future of sustainable investment and, by association, ESGT itself.

Case study: SDG 1: End Poverty in all its forms everywhere

Globally, the number of people living in extreme poverty declined from 36% in 1990 to 10% in 2015 but the pace of change is decelerating and the Covid-19 crisis risks reversing decades of progress. New figures published by the UNU World Institute for Development Economics Research warn the economic fallout from the pandemic could increase global poverty by as much as half a billion people, or 8% of the total population, which would be the first time the figure has increased globally in 30 years.

Despite huge improvements, more than 700 million people, or 10% of the global population, still live in extreme poverty today, struggling to fulfil the most basic needs like health, education, and access to water and sanitation. The majority of people living on less than $1.90 a day are found in sub-Saharan Africa and worldwide, the poverty rate in rural areas is 17.2%, more than three times higher than in cities. Meanwhile, having a job does not guarantee a decent living with 8% of workers and their families worldwide living in extreme poverty in 2018. One out of five children in developing countries also live in extreme poverty and ensuring social protection for vulnerable groups is critical to reducing this.

As an example of how we can help to improve this, Liontrust intends to work with Fair Finance to develop investment instruments to provide access to capital for those excluded from traditional banking services. Currently, these people have to resort to payday lending or expensive lenders, often paying a poverty premium and making financial services unnecessarily expensive, leading to a debt spiral. We believe appropriate finance should be enabling and fairly priced, encouraging entrepreneurship and allowing people to avoid illegal or high-cost lenders for essential purchases.

Case Study: SDG 14 Life below the waves – Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources

The ocean provides natural systems that make the earth habitable for humankind. Our climate, weather, drinking water, essential protein for over a billion people and half the oxygen we breathe are all ultimately provided and regulated by the sea. The ocean is also the biggest carbon sink on the planet, absorbing nearly half our CO2.

Better management of this essential resource is key to a sustainable future and yet life in the ocean is under threat from overfishing, agro-chemical, plastic and noise pollution, climate change and acidification. Much of the ocean’s biomass and biodiversity, which plays such a complex climate regulating function, is being fished out; ironically, this is also negatively impacting the fishing industry, particularly small-scale fisheries.

Marine biodiversity is critical to the health of people and our planet: we need more marine protected areas (at least 30%) and for them to be effectively managed and monitored. Meanwhile, overfishing and habitat destruction must be tackled and sustainable methods of fishing encouraged.

The recent Dasgupta Review highlights that much of the social progress over recent years has been at the expense of natural capital, describing an ‘impact inequality’ and calling for better balance between what humanity takes from nature and what we leave behind for our descendants. Liontrust’s Sustainable Investment team has been engaging on biodiversity-related issues for 20 years, focusing on areas including palm oil, timber and plastics. But while we can be sure our clients have avoided the worst-polluting and damaging-causing companies, palm oil has caused 39% of forest loss in Borneo since 2000. Deforestation elsewhere is still rampant and there are over five trillion pieces of plastic in oceans.   

Greater effort is imperative as biodiversity loss poses a systemic risk; more than half of the world’s GDP is dependent on nature and its services, so this unprecedented loss places us all in danger. It is critical for the asset management industry to engage with companies to limit damaging activities, not least because this is also vital to tackling climate change.

Through conversations with expert organisations such as ZSL (Zoological Society of London), we can get a better grasp of complex issues, make more targeted requests for change and continue to drive better treatment for one of the planet’s greatest natural resources.

Understand common financial words and terms See our glossary
Key Risks 
Past performance is not a guide to future performance. The value of an investment and the income generated from it can fall as well as rise and is not guaranteed. You may get back less than you originally invested. The issue of units/shares in Liontrust Funds may be subject to an initial charge, which will have an impact on the realisable value of the investment, particularly in the short term. Investments should always be considered as long term.
Some of the Funds managed by the Sustainable Future team involve foreign currencies and may be subject to fluctuations in value due to movements in exchange rates. Investment in Funds managed by the Sustainable Future team involves foreign currencies and may be subject to fluctuations in value due to movements in exchange rates. The value of fixed income securities will fall if the issuer is unable to repay its debt or has its credit rating reduced. Generally, the higher the perceived credit risk of the issuer, the higher the rate of interest. Some Funds may invest in derivatives. The use of derivatives may create leverage or gearing. A relatively small movement in the value of a derivative's underlying investment may have a larger impact, positive or negative, on the value of a fund than if the underlying investment was held instead.


This is a marketing communication. Before making an investment, you should read the relevant Prospectus and the Key Investor Information Document (KIID), which provide full product details including investment charges and risks. These documents can be obtained, free of charge, from www.liontrust.co.uk or direct from Liontrust. Always research your own investments. If you are not a professional investor please consult a regulated financial adviser regarding the suitability of such an investment for you and your personal circumstances. 
This should not be construed as advice for investment in any product or security mentioned, an offer to buy or sell units/shares of Funds mentioned, or a solicitation to purchase securities in any company or investment product. Examples of stocks are provided for general information only to demonstrate our investment philosophy. The investment being promoted is for units in a fund, not directly in the underlying assets. It contains information and analysis that is believed to be accurate at the time of publication, but is subject to change without notice. Whilst care has been taken in compiling the content of this document, no representation or warranty, express or implied, is made by Liontrust as to its accuracy or completeness, including for external sources (which may have been used) which have not been verified. It should not be copied, forwarded, reproduced, divulged or otherwise distributed in any form whether by way of fax, email, oral or otherwise, in whole or in part without the express and prior written consent of Liontrust. Always research your own investments and if you are not a professional investor please consult a regulated financial adviser regarding the suitability of such an investment for you and your personal circumstances. 
Peter Michaelis
Peter Michaelis
Peter Michaelis joined Liontrust in April 2017 as part of the acquisition of ATI, where he was Head of Investment. Peter has been managing Sustainable Investment funds since 2001 when he was promoted to lead Portfolio Manager at Aviva Investors.

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