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20 questions with… Peter Michaelis

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Peter Michaelis answers 20 questions on life, sustainability and everything.

Head of sustainable and responsible investment (SRI) at Alliance Trust, he has managed money in the SRI world for over 12 years. He and his team joined Alliance Trust in August 2012 from Aviva Investors.

Before that, he completed a PhD in environmental economics and worked as a senior environmental engineer in the steel industry.

We want the world to be as blue and green tomorrow as it was yesterday. What’s your mission?

To leave it a bit better for my having passed through.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

An astronaut – but a proper beyond our solar system one. That, or an inventor of something really cool. Mind you, I did one of those career tests as a teenager and it suggested I become a lumberjack…

How would your friends describe you?

Laid-back. But I don’t feel it; it’s just how I appear.

What was your ‘road to Damascus moment’ in terms of sustainability?

None, really. I just think it is common sense. The difficulty is more to avoid being drawn into accepting that everything will be OK without making any major changes. This is why I find Matt Ridley (aka ‘the Rational Optimist’) so dangerous – he promotes complacency.

Who or what inspires you?

Amongst many: Charmian Gooch and Global Witness for courage and integrity; Jonathon Porritt for his passion and indefatigability (is that a word?); and Tim Jackson for intellectual rigour and strength of argument.

What really grinds your gears?

Lack of consideration.

Describe your perfect day.

One filled with laughter.

What do you see when you look out your window at home?

Squirrels cavorting in trees.

What do you like spending your money on?

Experiences.

What’s your favourite holiday destination?

Somewhere with mountains, beaches and sea. Wales on a rare good day!

What’s your favourite book?

Two short ones that everyone should read: The Man Who Planted Trees – Jean Giono; A Short History of the World – Gombrich.

What’s your favourite film?

Monty Python’s Life of Brian – any quote from it brings a smile.

You’re made prime minister. What’s the first thing you do?

Switch all taxation from income to energy and materials. After a little turbulence we would have full employment and much less use of energy and resources.

If you were stuck on a desert island, which famous person would you like to be stuck with and why?

Penelope Cruz. To discuss how to integrate sustainability into the valuation of equities.

What was the best piece of advice you have ever been given? And the worst?

The best: find a way to be of service. The worst: tobacco stocks are a good investment.

What would you like to be doing five years from now?

More of the same.

What’s your biggest regret?

Spending so much time lounging on sofas as a student.

What one thing would you encourage readers to do to make their life more sustainable?

Shop less and spend more time lounging on sofas with friends!

What’s the one idea that you think could change the world for the better?

The only physical things we need are food, shelter and clothing.

What’s your favourite quote?

The future ain’t what it used to be.

Further reading:

In the business of ‘investing for generations’

Alliance Trust Investments changes position on fracking following review

Video: Sense in Sustainability by Alliance Trust Investments

Sustainable investment in the age of technology

The Guide to Sustainable Investment 2014

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