Skip to main content Skip to site footer

You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience.

Responsible spotlight - September 2022

one year ago
Roundel Responsible Investing

Are cryptocurrencies really damaging the environment?

Cryptocurrencies have not had the best environmental track record and it’s easy to understand why. The primary argument for crypto not being ESG-friendly stems from the processing power required to mine the cryptocurrency and complete transactions in it. When you compare how much electricity needed to mine a digital asset versus the electricity used by a reasonably large country each year, you start to get the idea. For instance, Bitcoin the world’s first and most recognised cryptocurrency, consumes more electricity in a year than Sweden. A huge carbon footprint which becomes understandable when you realise that about 1 billion people around the world will use cryptocurrencies in 2022.

The crypto industry recognises it has an ESG problem and is looking for solutions

Even Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk, whose tweets usually move the crypto market, suspended the automaker's acceptance of bitcoin for purchases last year due to concerns about the cryptocurrency's impact on the environment. But it is crypto’s second-biggest crypto currency. Ethereum that has been making most of the headlines recently, as this month it updated its technology known as ‘The Merge’ which will reduce its energy consumption by 99%. Before The Merge, Ethereum mining used up as much electricity as Switzerland, which is about 72 terawatt-hours a year.

The Merge is a step in the right direction on sustainability

Ethereum, previously ran on proof-of-work, where computers all around the world competed to solve puzzles so they could add a new block to the chain. That is very energy-inefficient because all the crypto miners compete to solve the puzzle at the same time, with only one winning; so all other energy is wasted. On the other hand, Ethereum has moved to a proof-of-stake approach which means that the network chooses a participant to make the next update based on the amount of the respective cryptocurrency that participant holds and how long they have held it, as well as an element of randomness. This move could represent 0.2% of the world’s electricity consumption disappearing overnight. And although other cryptocurrencies, including the biggest, Bitcoin, will remain as energy-intensive as before, the announcement has enthused environmentally conscious investors, as pressure grows on the crypto world to bolster its ESG credentials.

Roundel 1

Our view

While we welcome any technology advances that can reduce a carbon footprint by 99%, we are still wary about cryptocurrency as an asset class. Not just because of the speculative frenzy that surrounds it. But mainly because for the most part crypto in all its forms just doesn’t face the same standards of consumer protection, disclosure, governance, safety and soundness that traditional assets do. It may be that, with some stricter standards, crypto assets could represent the digital asset of the future but first there are many hurdles to clear. Yes, it’s true digital assets are in the midst of a transformation and crypto’s role in finance is growing. But we think that it’s important to remember the technology is still new and we believe it’s not yet out of its ‘wild west’ boom and bust phase.

Latest investment news

Panel podcast - Has inflation peaked?

Article | Podcasts | 07/09/2022

Economic forecasts predict inflation peaking over the summer months in major economies, before falling back towards the end of the year. While food and energy prices continue to soar and headline inflation levels ratchet ever higher, it can be hard to see what would cause inflation and indeed interest rates to pivot downwards.

Archinomics Monthly - August 2022

Article | Investments | 05/09/2022

China struggled to contain broad-based Covid outbreaks, as it stuck to its strict zero-Covid policy. The People’s Bank of China cut borrowing costs as economic data revealed that growth remains weak in the face of sporadic lockdowns, the ongoing property crisis and a severe drought which has led to power cuts.

Markets turn defensive

Article | Podcasts | 17/05/2022

Uncertainties surround financial markets at every turn. Whether from the Ukraine crisis, a slowdown in China or more aggressive central bank policy. And as inflation soars and growth slows, the risk of contagion is rising.

We use cookies to give you the best possible experience of our website. If you continue, we'll assume you are happy for your web browser to receive all cookies from our website. See our cookie policy for more information on cookies and how we manage them.