This week it’s World Earth Day. Earth Day is an annual celebration that honours the achievements of the environmental movement and raises awareness of the need to protect our natural resources for the future.

To celebrate this, we’ve asked Investment Managers EQ Investors to provide us with two case studies that they felt would be interesting, which highlight particular projects that they’re aware of and that they support through the investment portfolios.

With special thanks to Johnny Bowie, Sustainability Analyst for his insight – and in particular for finding a project to highlight which is so close to our hearts, in Wales!

Challenge 1 – Promoting inclusion for higher education in the UK.

 A recent research paper on education access by the UK Parliament finds that there is a clear negative relationship between pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and their chances of going into higher education. Furthermore, they are almost twice as likely to drop out before the start of their second year. Moreover, students with disabilities are also underrepresented and more likely to drop out of higher education

Widening participation and retention in universities is important to ensure that the student cohort at higher education institutions is as diverse as possible, as there should be no barriers to studying and no barriers to learning. Providing quality education for all remains a UN Sustainable Development Goal that requires progress globally and, in the UK.

Solution- Cardiff University 

Cardiff University has a well-thought-out widening participation strategy, which is underpinned by the university’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. The university has four key aims in its strategy, which overall look to make the university accessible to individuals that come from all walks of life. 

One way in which the university has looked to achieve increased participation is through its step-up programme. This is a free, two-year academic programme for 16–18-year-olds allowing them to experience university life through masterclasses and university summer festivals. The programme is aimed at students who come from an educationally disadvantaged or disrupted background.

Between 2019 and 2020 the university engaged with 282 students with between 9 to 14 hours of teaching time per student. 110 previous step-up students enrolled in the university in September 2020.

Another initiative the university has set up is the Discovery project, a programme designed specifically for 14–19-year-olds with autism spectrum conditions (ASC). The project aims to help those with ASC through regular mentoring sessions on campus or online, as well as supporting the participants to develop important skills to succeed as an independent university student. 

Cardiff University received investment into its bond issue via the Columbia Threadneedle UK Social Bond Fund.

Challenge 2- Building Resilience in the grid

All eyes turned to Sharm El-Sheikh for the COP27 meeting, aiming to tackle the climate crisis. With the current funding for climate solutions still not at the levels required, investment in the energy transition needs to be scaled up so that targets set out in the Paris Agreement can be met.

Solar and wind-based electricity generation produces intermittent flows of power as wind speeds vary and sunlight changes throughout the day. With the continued adoption of these renewable energy technologies, grid operators will need to find ways to deal with the temporal separation of generation and consumption of electricity. Smart grids and energy storage systems will bring stability and flexibility to the grid.

Solution: Alfen

Alfen’s focus is on producing smart energy solutions looking to ensure the reliability and sustainability of the grid. Its products include smart-grid solutions, energy storage systems and EV charging infrastructure.

In 2021, Alfen invested €16 million into R&D to continue innovating its smart grid solutions and EV charging infrastructure. 3,240 new substations were built, which are bits of essential infrastructure that connect new renewable energy projects to the main grid.  Through this addition, Alfen contributes to improving clean energy access, with potentially 206,000 households gaining supply to renewable energy.

Alfen offers an array of electric vehicle charging equipment that can be used at home and in public locations. In 2021, Alfen produced approximately 114,800 charge points and made innovations in share point security, with the introduction of password protection connected to a smartphone app.

Alfen receives investment through the Regnan Global Equity Impact Solutions fund.

There are many opportunities to invest in companies whose core products and services address global challenges and contribute to delivering the UN Sustainable Development Goals. These two case studies demonstrate that investors can make a positive impact through their investments whilst not sacrificing their returns.

Many Thanks to Johnny Bowie for his contribution.

This article should not be taken as investment advice as investing in this way may not suit your circumstances. If you would like to discuss doing good with your money, do get in touch and we’d be happy to help.

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