Sustainable Investment Awards 2023

ESG engagement initiative of the year, EMEA: First Sentier Investors

Australian asset management firm First Sentier Investors has been awarded 'ESG engagement initiative of the year, EMEA' for its collaborative engagement to prevent marine microfibre pollution.

Will OultonMicrofibre pollution is a growing problem in our oceans. International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) research estimated that primary microplastics account for between 15-31% of all microplastics in the ocean(1), with those resulting from the laundry of textiles comprising 35%(2) of this.

In response, working with the Marine Conservation Society, First Sentier Investors has led an initiative with 30 institutional investors – including the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), Legal and General Investment Management (LGIM), Churches, Charities and Local Authorities (CCLA) Investment Management, Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS Central), MUFG Asset Management, Edentree Investment Management, Candriam Asset Management and NEST Corporation – and with 13 washing machine manufacturers to look at technology solutions to prevent synthetic microfibres from entering the marine environment.

Today, Grundig washing machines now have a microfibre filter fitted, the Fibrecatcher, Electrolux has developed a filter for its branded machines and Samsung has announced plans to develop machines with filters in partnership with Patagonia.

Furthermore, a law will come into force in France banning the sale of machines without a filter from January 2025 with a similar law being debated by the UK government in 2023.

The judges were impressed by this, "excellent idea [which] seems to have been largely successful" and stated that they, "would like to see pressure to make this a global initiative now".

Will Oulton, responsible investment advisor at First Sentier Investors, commented: "We are delighted to receive this prestigious industry award. This award provides us with the opportunity to raise awareness about the environmental consequences and the urgent need to prevent marine microfibre pollution with our finance industry peers. Our sincere appreciation goes to the invaluable contributions of the UK-based Marine Conservation Society's ocean scientists and to the growing number of institutional investors from all over the world, who have been instrumental in supporting us in collectively driving this important initiative forward."

1. Boucher and Friot (2017)
2. J. Boucher, D. FriotPrimary Microplastics in the Oceans: a Global Evaluation of Sources IUCN, Gland,
Switzerland (2017) (43 pp)