Public Call for Financial ‘Kitemark’ to Help Identify Sustainable Financial Products

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Financing Climate Change by Itzafineday via flickr

The Good Money Week annual research has highlighted an overwhelming public demand for the introduction of ‘kitemark-style’ label to allow customers to identify which financial products are sustainable/ethical.

In total, 63% of the UK public backed the idea and 43% said it would make them more likely to buy a financial product, rising to 53% of 18-24 yr olds.

The Good Money Week poll found a surprising lack of awareness of the £1.5 trillion sustainable investment market in the UK. In total, 54% of the GB public is unaware that sustainable and ethical financial products exist, rising to over 63% among millennials (18-34 year olds).

Simon Howard, Chief Executive of UKSIF, the body coordinating Good Money Week, said,
“The Good Money Week research throws down a very clear challenge to the sustainable investment sector: to step up on awareness and assurance. Not enough people in the UK know ethical and sustainable options exist for their pensions and savings and not enough are ready to buy without a mechanism such as a kitemark-style label to sort the wheat from the chaff. Creating and managing such a label would be no easy task, but is a job worth doing if it helps build trust and more sustainable capital markets“.

Headline findings from today’s Good Money Week research of the British public show:

• 60% believe in the ability of the financial sector to generate high returns in an ethically and responsibly way.
• 69% want a new law requiring financial advisors to ask customers if they’d like to exclude specific sectors or companies.
• Almost one in four people (23%) are likely to invest 10% of their pension in impact investment (i.e. funds that seek positive social or environmental returns alongside financial returns).
• 35% would like their bank, pension or savings provider to offer a fossil free option, up from 32% last year. Demand is highest among millennials – almost half (46%) want a fossil free option.
• London has the strongest support for sustainable and ethical investment in the UK – 53% of Londoners want to make at least some positive difference with their money compared to 45% nationally.
• 49% think sustainable or ethical investment funds should not invest in fracking companies.

The research was conducted by YouGov for Good Money Week, which aims to raise awareness among individuals, financial advisers, pension funds and charities of all types of sustainable investing and finance in the UK. Close to 50 activities will be held across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as part of the Week, which commenced yesterday.

Amanda Young, Head of Responsible Investment at Standard Life Investments, said,

“While it is exciting that we are celebrating the ninth year of Good Money Week, the survey results show there is still a lack of awareness of the variety and depth of values-based investment solutions available. Our own research demonstrates that investors have, over time, moved away from wanting to avoid specific sectors to wanting to invest in companies that deliver a positive impact. There are several solutions to help meet this goal from ethical and sustainable & responsible investing through to the growing interest in impact investing. Increasingly it is less about sectors and more about how companies behave and contribute to society. We do believe that it is possible to address the world’s many social and environmental challenges while still making a positive financial return.”

Huw Davies, Head of Retail Banking at Triodos Bank, said,

“Triodos Bank would very much welcome the introduction of a kitemark-style scheme to help people easily invest their money in ways that are good for people and the planet. Indeed, our own research conducted for Good Money Week showed that 53% of investors think it should be standard for financial institutions to make customers aware where their money is being invested[1]. We hope that all the major players in the UK financial system will rally around an initiative like this to return greater transparency and trust to the sector.”

Steve Waygood, Chief Responsible Investment Officer, Aviva Investors said:

It’s clear that the UK public are interested in sustainability, and as an industry, we need to do more to help people understand where their savings are being invested.

“In September Aviva published a report entitled ‘Money Talks – How Finance can further the Sustainable Development Goals’ at the UN, calling for a kite-mark system to be introduced – a Fairtrade for Finance – so that fund managers can demonstrate their credentials as responsible investors.

“Voluntary standards in other industries are relatively commonplace, like Fairtrade in the retail sector, but there is no equivalent for the finance industry. We would like to be able to certify that our funds take sustainability seriously so that we can assure our clients that our investment approach is both long term and responsible.”

Regional differences

The Good Money Week/YouGov survey showed significant regional differences when it comes to attitudes to ethical and sustainable investment.

• Scotland is the region most likely to respond positively to the introduction of a kitemark-style label – 49% of Scots are more likely to buy financial products, compared to the national average of 43%.
• London is the region with the strongest support for sustainable and ethical investment – 53% of Londoners want to make at least some positive difference with their money compared to 45% nationally.
• London and the South are the regions most aware that sustainable or ethical financial products exist – 52%compared to the national average of 46%.
• Northern Ireland is the region most likely to invest 10% of pensions in impact investment – 28% compared to 23% nationally.
• The Midlands – 75% of people in the Midlands want to see a new law that ensures financial advisors ask clients if they want to exclude specific sectors or companies from their investments based on their investment practices.