Exclusive interview: John Fleetwood, Founder of 3D Investing

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John Fleetwood entered the financial industry just as the financial world was rocked by ‘Black Wednesday’ in 1987. In 1991 he started to advise people on ethically screened investments, something that he did for the next 13 years. Having left financial advice he use his experience to provide research on ethical, environmental and social issues to financial institutions engaged in promoting socially responsible investments and is the founder of 3dinvesting.com. Today he talks to Blue & Green.

In 140 characters or less – what is 3D investing?

3D Investing is a practical way of investing so as to maximise social impact, minimise ethical compromise and deliver on financial expectations.

What was the driver for creating 3D investing – what gap did it fill?

SRI funds are largely driven by criteria, but this can be misleading as this just because a fund states an aim to invest in X, Y or Z, doesn’t mean that it actually invests much of its money in those areas. 3D Investing focuses on the content of the fund to identify those funds that actually make a difference. Furthermore, we analyse and compare funds on their content so that we can identify those funds that actually deliver social impact, that minimise the ethical compromises and that have delivered on their financial goals.

There are several tools that compare SRI funds but few really say which are the best, and even if they do, its based on their processes rather than what they actually invest in. 3D Investing aims to address this gap – to identify investments that really are different to the conventional market.

Who is it primarily for?

It’s for socially motivated investors that want to use their money positively whilst also meeting their financial needs. However, our prime objective is to make it easy for advisers and asset managers to offer 3D portfolios for their investors.

What difference does 3D investing want it to make?

We want to direct more money into investments that actually make a difference.

What are the barriers to making that difference?

There’s a lot of vested interests in keeping things just as they are. Much SRI has been driven by large institutions that want products that look very similar to the rest of the market and a culture has been built of comparing funds by criteria rather than looking at content. Also many advisers and managers still think SRI is just negative screening and take a very simplistic view of avoiding a few things and carrying on with business as usual. It will take time to challenge these entrenched views.

Who’s helping you overcome those barriers?

Blue & Green Tomorrow! It’s great to have a media partner that is helping us to get the message out there. Also, people like Ethex, the Social Stock Exchange and pioneer fund groups like Triodos and Wheb that share our vision of moving money toward investments that actually make a positive difference.

Are trends in investment behaviour today commensurate with the social and environmental challenges we face?

Where do I start? I haven’t noticed much of a change since the financial crisis broke. Short-termism is still rife so most investments are trades rather than true investments. There’s no linking of financial remuneration to social or environmental performance so business goes on as usual. Clearly, climate change is a huge issue that requires an equally profound change in investment strategy.

The divestment movement has made an impact and there are opportunities to invest in solutions, but the pace of change is still slow. The culture is very much one of catering to a small minority of people that are interested in more than fianncial return. I look forward to the day when this reversed and the minority are the diehards that reject any form of social conscience when investing.

How can people – individuals and organisations – find our more about 3D investing?

Go on to the web site – www.3dinvesting.com – or send me an email – info[at]3dinvesting.com.