In the News

How much is an elephant worth?

Ollie Gardner

29th January 2021

$1.75mn, apparently.

This is a great article about how economists and ecologists can work together to place a value on 'ecosystem services' - whether it be whale or a wetland.

The idea that a dead tree, for example, would be worth more to a business than one that is alive can lead to degradation of the Earth's natural resources that will come at a tremendous long-term cost. This suggests that decision makers may have a strong present bias (they value current gains disproportionately more) and also fail to take into account the negative externalities that they impose on society by their consumption of such ecological resources.

The teams working to value ecosystems, such as Brazil's Pantanal (the world's largest tropical wetland), are doing so not to present natural capital as private commodities but to communicate how valuable they are to society as a whole.

At the heart of this problem lies the inability to currently link aspects of environmental damage to specific companies and industries. Only once progress is made in this area can sustainability-minded investors make informed decisions about which firms they will align themselves with.

This article looks at the most recent annual letter that Larry Fink, founder of the world's largest asset management firm BlackRock, sends to top CEOs. The focus this year was on the investment opportunities that exist with the climate transition expected to take place over the coming decades.

Ollie Gardner

Ollie is a new economics teacher at an academically selective school having previously worked in the healthcare technology industry.

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