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Why it pays to take a deeper look at sustainable investments

Understanding the downstream impact of a business’s actions is key to sustainable investing. Regnan’s MOHSIN AHMAD explains why

YOU may have heard sustainable investors refer to the second or third-order effects associated with a business.

Understanding a business’s downstream impacts — sometimes referred to as “externalities” — is a key concept in sustainable investing. (Pendal CEO Richard Brandweiner explains the idea here).

Sustainability proponents can often fail to account for these effects when promoting a new solution.

That means responsible investors need to take a wide, system-level view when considering challenges like climate change and food security, says Regnan’s Mohsin Ahmad (pictured below).

“It’s not just farm-to-fork,” says Ahmad, who co-manage’s Regnan Global Equity Impact Solutions fund.

“It’s what happens before the farm — with a farm’s suppliers — and what happens after the fork — how a consumer manages recycling and food waste.”

This week London-based Ahmad was in Sydney to address Regnan’s Director Roundtable on Sustainable Agriculture, a meeting of top executives and directors seeking to improve agricultural and food production practices.

Second-order impact

Ahmad uses the example of biodiesel — a renewable and biodegradeable fuel — to illustrate how second-order effects can play out.

“Biodiesel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 72 per cent versus conventional diesel,” he says.

“On the face of it, that sounds great.

“But when you look at the system-wide effect of everyone moving to biodiesel, there’s a lot more that’s going on when you scratch the surface.”

Land needs to be diverted from food production to produce biodiesel. Often, this requires deforestation and reduces biodiversity.

Forests are often replaced with monoculture which reduces the soil’s ability to sequester carbon. There are also knock-on effects in terms of chemical usage which generates run-off that pollutes waterways.

The net, system-wide result is that climate change is exacerbated, biodiversity reduced and food security risks rise as a result of wide biodiesel adoption, says Ahmad.

Positive impact

Second-order effects are not always negative, however.

Regenerative farming is often criticised as a high-cost approach with lower yields than industrial farming methods.

“That may well be true near-term. But what it doesn’t take into consideration is the system-wide positive effects of regenerative farming practices,” says Ahmad.

“The fact that you’re not using chemicals or you’re using less chemicals means there’s less pollution going into the waterways and less fossil fuel for fuel usage because many of these chemicals are produced based on hydrocarbons.

“There are benefits from a climate mitigation perspective and a biodiversity perspective… but also from the perspective of the soil health as well.

“Those practices, the evidence shows, improve the organic content of the soil which means there’s greater potential for carbon sequestration.

“It also means that there’s more water retention, your crops are healthier and as a result yields over time over the long run will actually improve based on regenerative farming practices.

“So, you can have this positive feedback loop as well.”

Ahmad says this means investors need to take a wide approach and pick solutions that are genuinely going to have a positive effect on whole system.

Read more about sustainable agriculture investing in Regnan’s Catalysing Sustainable Agriculture and Food Production report.


About Mohsin Ahmad

Mohsin is a fund manager with Regnan’s impact investment team. He focuses on Regnan Global Equity Impact Solutions Fund. Before joining Regnan, Mohsin was a senior analyst working on the Hermes Impact Opportunities Equity Fund. He has worked on thematic equity funds such as water, clean energy and agriculture.

About Regnan

Regnan is a responsible investment leader with a long and proud history of providing insight and advice to investors with an interest in long-term, broad-based or values-aligned performance.

Building on that expertise, in 2019 Regnan expanded into responsible investment funds management, backed by the considerable resources of Pendal Group.

The Regnan Global Equity Impact Solutions Fund invests in mission-driven companies we believe are well placed to solve the world’s biggest problems.

The Regnan Credit Impact Trust (available in Australia only) invests in cash, fixed and floating rate securities where the proceeds create positive environmental and social change. Both funds are distributed by Pendal in Australia.

Visit Regnan.com

Find out about Regnan Global Equity Impact Solutions Fund

Find out about Regnan Credit Impact Trust

For more information on these and other responsible investing strategies, contact Head of Regnan and Responsible Investment Distribution Jeremy Dean at jeremy.dean@regnan.com.


This information has been prepared by Pendal Fund Services Limited (PFSL) ABN 13 161 249 332, AFSL No 431426 and is current at June 8, 2022. PFSL is the responsible entity and issuer of units in the Regnan Global Equity Impact Solutions Fund (Fund) ARSN: 645 981 853. A product disclosure statement (PDS) is available for the Fund and can be obtained by calling 1300 346 821 or visiting www.pendalgroup.com. The Target Market Determination (TMD) for the Fund is available at www.pendalgroup.com/ddo. You should obtain and consider the PDS and the TMD before deciding whether to acquire, continue to hold or dispose of units in the Fund. An investment in the Fund or any of the funds referred to in this web page is subject to investment risk, including possible delays in repayment of withdrawal proceeds and loss of income and principal invested. This information is for general purposes only, should not be considered as a comprehensive statement on any matter and should not be relied upon as such. It has been prepared without taking into account any recipient’s personal objectives, financial situation or needs. Because of this, recipients should, before acting on this information, consider its appropriateness having regard to their individual objectives, financial situation and needs. This information is not to be regarded as a securities recommendation. The information may contain material provided by third parties, is given in good faith and has been derived from sources believed to be accurate as at its issue date. While such material is published with necessary permission, and while all reasonable care has been taken to ensure that the information is complete and correct, to the maximum extent permitted by law neither PFSL nor any company in the Pendal group accepts any responsibility or liability for the accuracy or completeness of this information. Performance figures are calculated in accordance with the Financial Services Council (FSC) standards. Performance data (post-fee) assumes reinvestment of distributions and is calculated using exit prices, net of management costs. Performance data (pre-fee) is calculated by adding back management costs to the post-fee performance. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. Any projections are predictive only and should not be relied upon when making an investment decision or recommendation. Whilst we have used every effort to ensure that the assumptions on which the projections are based are reasonable, the projections may be based on incorrect assumptions or may not take into account known or unknown risks and uncertainties. The actual results may differ materially from these projections. For more information, please call Customer Relations on 1300 346 821 8am to 6pm (Sydney time) or visit our website www.pendalgroup.com

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