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Under The Radar – 25 March

This week we discuss:

  1. An ESG Dilemma

  2. Lab made meat: the beginning of the end for livestock farming? 

  3. Taliban backtrack on opening schools for girls

An ESG Dilemma 

What happened?

Save the Children charity has turned down a $1m donation offered by Neptune Energy (a North Sea gas producer) to help with Ukrainian relief efforts, due to a conflict on climate change grounds. 

What Does It Mean?

In a highly contentious move, Save the Children has turned down a significant donation to help humanitarian efforts in Ukraine. The charity refused to take the million-dollar donation from oil and gas company, Neptune Energy, stating that they were conflicted due to their commitment to working on climate change issues.

Charities are usually applauded for holding firm on ethical grounds and turning down donations that conflict with these, however, Save the Children’s decision has prompted backlash. 

Whilst ESG issues have been ubiquitous for charities, businesses and the media alike in recent years, there has been more emphasis placed on the E – environmental, and considerably less on social and governance issues. 

The unprovoked war in Ukraine, and the humanitarian disaster that has followed, undoubtedly showcase major social and governance crises on a scale not often seen, provoking questions as to whether a charity meant to deliver humanitarian assistance was right to turn down a donation on environmental grounds.

Criticism of the charity has predominantly centred around the fact that the Ukrainian humanitarian crisis is ravaging the country right now and turning down offers to help is putting people in direct danger. However, across the world we have seen humanitarian disasters – from floods to forest fires – that have climate change at their root cause, and the number of these disasters is only set to increase.

In an era of intense reputational scrutiny, perhaps the charity was wise to air on the side of caution in the long-term, but it continues to be a rather difficult sell in the face of the harrowing images pouring out of Ukraine.

Lab made meat: the beginning of the end for livestock farming? 

What happened?

The Good Dog Food company, a collaboration between Agronomics and Roslin Technologies, has created ‘cultivated pet food’ in an attempt to increase sustainability in the industry. pet food. The lab grown meat is set to land on British supermarket shelves in the next 18 months.

What does it mean?

In recent years we have witnessed heightened attention on the impact of livestock and meat consumption on the environment. In 2020, double the amount of people gave up meat compared with the previous year, with roughly one fifth of Gen Z following a meat-free diet. What might be surprising to some is that pets consume roughly 20% of all the meat produced on the planet, significantly contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.

With sustainability and ESG at the forefront of many minds across sectors, the food industry has undeniably come under greater scrutiny to innovate in more sustainable ways. It was seemingly only a matter of time until lab-grown food alternatives entered the mainstream market. 

Cultivated meats are certainly one way of moving to more sustainable food production.  It provides high-quality meat alternatives by taking a biopsy from an animal and replicating the cells – a process which can produce 3,000kg of meat in 40 days, the equivalent of about eight cows, as opposed to the 28 months it takes to rear a singular cow for slaughter. 

If successful, The Good Dog Food company’s entry to the market could spark a transformation in wider meat production and provide a sustainable alternative to our favourite meats without the drawbacks currently associated with a carnivorous diet. While the planet may thank companies like Agronomics and Roslin Technologies for such developments, cattle farmers and the like, whose livelihoods depend on being able to sell the meat from their livestock, will not be so welcoming of the news. 

Taliban backtrack on opening schools for girls

What happened? 

Widely condemned by the international community, the Taliban have made a last-minute U-turn and reversed their earlier decision to reopen secondary schools for girls in Afghanistan. Girls have been barred from going to school since the Taliban takeover in the country in August last year. 

What does it mean?

The Taliban’s decision to keep secondary schools shut has shocked the country and the wider international community alike. Since their forced takeover in August, the new government has asked for multiple criteria to be fulfilled for girls to be able to go back to school. These demands included a strict observance of a modest, ‘Islamic’ dress code, as well as a ban on gender mixing in schools. Up until now, the government has stated that if all the criteria are met, schools for girls will reopen. It has now become clear that this was an empty promise.

During the Taliban’s previous rule in the country, between 1996 and 2001, education for girls was completely banned. During the US occupation, education resumed, and girls were able to go to school as they pleased.

Immediately after the US’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Taliban shut down secondary level education with assurances that they would reopen institutions later on. Women and girls in the country are now saying they have lost all remaining trust in the current government. An 18-year-old student from Kabul told the Telegraph that she “thought that the Taliban had changed but they are unchangeable.”

Education for girls has long been an issue in the region with certain fundamentalist groups believing that it opposes Islamic law. The assassination attempt on Malala Yousafzai by the Pakistani Taliban for campaigning for girls’ right to schooling was a gunshot heard all around the world. The depressing news of schools remaining shut is a stark reminder of life in Afghanistan under Taliban rule as well as highlighting how women around the world continue to suffer oppression, with fundamental human rights like education ripped away at will.

This Week’s Must Reads

  1. “Turkey’s dilemma: whose side is Erdogan on?” by Owen Matthews for the Spectator

  2. “How Big Tech lost the antitrust battle with Europe” by Javier Espinoza for the Financial Times

  3. “Oligarchs, power and profits: the history of BP in Russia” by Tom Wilson for the Financial Times

  4. “I tried to give Britain a different narrative”: Tony Blair and Michael Sheen in conversation” by Michael Sheen and Tony Blair for The New Statesman

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