Reflecting on ESG in 2021 with Caroline Langley: Greenwashing and green clothing

ESG Clarity asks readers if their sustainable New Year’s resolutions and ESG predictions for 2021 came true


It’s that time of year again – the days are getting colder and the festivities are beginning. Last year, we asked ESG Clarity readers how they were going to spend a sustainable Christmas and heard about recycled wrapping, staying local, Zoom carols and much more.

We also asked for our readers’ sustainable resolutions and predictions in the ESG space for the year to come. Now the year is drawing to a close we wanted to see whether they stuck to their resolutions and how their predictions played out over the course of the past 12 months.

Here we speak to Quilter Cheviot investment director, Caroline Langley.

How did you do keeping your sustainability New Year’s resolution?

I resolved not to use disposable cups and bottles in 2021. I have done very well with this, aided a lot by more working from home. We invested in an Aarke Carbonator so we have been making our own sparkling Surrey water which has been a great success and saved using a lot of depressing plastic bottles. 

On my commuting days I have mostly been filling up my reusable coffee cup at home, also saving money that way. Sometimes, when timing is tight, I grab my eco-cup for the barista to fill at the station. On cold mornings I enjoy the feeling of holding the warm coffee cup as I wait on the platform.

And what about your resolution for 2022?

For 2022 I aim to make good choices about the clothes I buy, starting with only buying what I need, experimenting with renting occasion outfits and, when I do decide to buy, selecting eco-fabrics and brands developing circular business models. There are many more options today so looking professional and choosing well for the planet is more achievable than before but still an exciting personal challenge.

Were your predictions right for 2021?

I hoped 2021 would be the year we tackled greenwashing. There has been progress, with more public awareness about this problem engendered in the build up to COP26.  In the investment space, the Financial Conduct Authority has given this issue higher priority, stressing it is “essential that funds marketed with a sustainability and ESG focus describe their investment strategies clearly and any assertions made about their goals are reasonable and substantiated.” 

See also:- Reflecting on ESG in 2021 with James Clark: Renewables and repurposed funds

I believe that taxonomies are a powerful weapon against greenwashing. If there are common standards and common definitions around what assets and products are actually considered ‘green’ then it reduces the risk that firms make exaggerated or unsubstantiated claims. This is why the EU’s taxonomy will be implemented next year and the UK government is currently looking at designing its own taxonomy. Things are moving in the right direction and I am optimistic there will even more progress in 2022.

What’s your big prediction for next year in the ESG space?

The number of people who are working on ESG risks, issues, reporting and opportunities is rocketing upwards – it’s no longer a matter for a niche department but something permeating all areas of all businesses. That’s an exciting development for bringing measurable change to the issues that matter.

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