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The ESG Insider newsletter compiles news and insights on environmental, social and governance developments driving change in business and investment decisions. Subscribe to our ESG Insider newsletter, and listen to the ESG Insider podcast on SoundCloud, Spotify or Apple podcasts.

With Thanksgiving and Christmas on the horizon, people across the globe are planning holiday meals centered around turkeys, hams, and other meat and poultry products. The meat industry has also become a focus for some investors, and in this week's newsletter we explore how the pandemic has brought weaknesses in the sector into the public spotlight.

In the past, meat producers have been criticized for failing to sufficiently cut greenhouse gas emissions, and in recent months their workplace practices have come under scrutiny as thousands of slaughterhouse staff became infected with the coronavirus. Investors now want meat companies to tackle another risky aspect of their supply chain: the air and water pollution linked to the growing of animal feed and the raising of pigs, cows and chickens at industrial-scale facilities. The worry is that failure to act quickly could lead to tougher environmental regulations, more fines and higher compliance costs — with a material impact on the bottom line.

Our Chart of the Week shows just how much runoff pollution stems from certain food products. And in the latest ESG Insider podcast, we hear from the head of a big activist group that is pushing the meat industry to change risky practices, tackle climate change and shift to plant-based meat alternatives.

Chart of the Week

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Top Stories

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Between 2012 and 2017, the largest meat companies collectively discharged nearly 220 million tons of manure and facility waste into the environment, about 500 times the sewage waste generated by New York City each year.
Source: narvikk/E+ via Getty Images

Meat industry's role as polluter poses financial risk to investors

"It's time to examine the model and ask if the pollution-related risks — to workers, the environment, and to public health — are being adequately managed," says Mary Minette, director of shareholder advocacy at Mercy Investment Services, which owns stakes in big meat producers. Mercy filed a shareholder proposal asking America's second-largest poultry producer to address "the material financial risks" linked to water pollution. Large investors who voted for the proposal included Vanguard, Goldman Sachs Asset Management, UBS Asset Management and JP Morgan Investment Management.

Renewable energy groups see new day under Biden administration

Eager to advance their agenda under supportive new leadership in Washington, renewable energy groups have released policy wish lists, confident that President-elect Joe Biden's administration can work with what could be a narrowly divided Congress to strengthen renewable energy tax credits, invest in new transmission and establish a national renewable energy portfolio standard.

US emissions set to drop 9.2% in 2020 due to COVID-19, lowest in 3 decades

Economywide emissions in the U.S. are projected to fall 9.2% in 2020 compared to the prior year due to the societal and economic disruptions caused by COVID-19, although some of the decreases will be offset by the emissions produced by massive wildfires in the West, BloombergNEF reported.


Banks release global standard for measuring financed emissions

Global nature of financial system may increase risks from climate change

World oil, gas companies commit to increased methane emissions transparency


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Patti Poppe, current CEO of CMS Energy,

will become the next CEO of PG&E Corp.
Source: Consumers Energy Co.

'She's the perfect fit': PG&E Corp. stock jumps on CEO pick

First in Human: Big Pharma eyes diverse population data in COVID-19 vaccine race

US House chairman asks Biden to block Rio Tinto-BHP Resolution copper JV


OCC's 'fair access' rule would block bank boycotts of oil, other industries

Money managers, officials rebuke Labor Department's proxy voting proposal

Investors slowing down on fossil fuel divestment amid pandemic, survey finds

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