News and articles

Marine litter: Epidemic or opportunity?

Marine litter on a beach

Today, we are at a crossroads. As consumers, our life is built around cost and convenience. We rarely look at the long term consequences of our daily decisions. Nowhere is this more evident than in the build-up of plastic drifting across our oceans and invading watercourses everywhere. The facts are alarming:

  • Approximately 8 million pieces of marine litter enter the sea every day.
  • Over 800 different species of marine organisms are known to be harmed or killed by encounters with marine litter, mostly plastic [UN Convention on Biological Diversity, 2016 report on Marine Debris].
  • The amount of litter on UK beaches has consistently risen for the last 20 years. Clean-up work now costs Local Authorities over £18m each year having risen 37% over 10 years.

As sunny days at the beach beckon, it is saddening to know that the Mediterranean has some of the world’s highest concentrations of micro plastics.  In 2015, researchers found “A global inventory of small floating plastic debris” as evidenced by the alarming world map, below. At higher, Northern latitudes up to 100kg of plastic debris can be found floating on any single square kilometre of the ocean.

Source: Erik van Sebille et al 2015 Environ. Res. Lett. 10 124006, Retrieved from:

Buy now, pay later

The basic problem is that consumers, companies and governments are not having to pay now for the long term, global cost of the damage they cause to animals’ lives and our environment, so they tend not to factor it into decisions.

The sad truth is that the majority of marine litter could be effectively resolved by small changes in consumer behaviour, corporate activities and new guidance from regulators and legislators. The principal solution is to eliminate single-use disposable plastic items and encourage a circular economy, one where consumers choose reusable items to reduce the quantity of waste they produce and where companies design products with ease of recycling in mind.  Other simple changes include introducing plastic container deposit schemes, encouraging and participating in community clean-ups and most obviously, carrying a cup with us when we’re out and about.

Raising awareness

The way we lead our lives today is clearly having unintended consequences which many of us are uncomfortable with, based on the research of scientists.  Raising awareness of how to minimise pollution is beneficial but increasingly people are looking for other ways in which they can be ‘part of the solution’.

Paying closer attention to how we invest is one such option, by aiming to support companies with a strong Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) ethos or those seeking solutions to the challenges of sustainability.

With mounting evidence that adopting an ESG or traditional ethical framework imposes no downside from either a performance, risk or cost perspective, there is no reason not to ask clients whether they have environmental or ethical requirements they want integrated into their investment mandate. Asking that question on the client fact find could give your clients the satisfaction of owning investments more closely aligned to their values.

Where does Parmenion fit in?

The PIM Strategic Ethical Active portfolios offer a convenient, carefully curated set of funds to suit a broad range of risk appetites and four distinct ethical profiles. Our Sustainability Leaders (Profile B) portfolios in particular can be a good fit for clients who want a specific focus on the environment.

As individuals, we must ask ourselves whether we keep on as before, despite the damage we see around us, or whether it’s time to change course and set a new direction.  With an increasing risk of financial penalties being introduced on firms reliant on single use plastics and reputational damage to follow, companies offering sustainable solutions present genuine opportunities to future-focussed investors.

If you have any queries as a result of the above article, please speak to your relationship manager, contact client services on 0117 204 7600 or email and we will be happy to assist. Full details of the structure, fund composition, cost and performance of our Ethical portfolios can be found at

A note on sources: Data other than that cited separately has been sourced from Surfers Against Sewage Marine Litter report which consolidates peer-reviewed scientific literature and reports by government and non-government organisations. Beach debris photograph taken by Greg Martin.

Hear Andrew speak at our upcoming investment courses

Our investment team will be travelling the UK once again this Autumn. Here they will share their knowledge and expertise on both core and advanced investment topics. Each event is accredited for 5 hours CPD. The ‘Advanced Principles of Investing’ builds on our hugely popular ‘Fundamentals of Investing’ course, which more than 700 professionals have already attended.These courses are a great way for paraplanners and Advisers to develop investment knowledge and meet the Parmenion investment team.