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A seriously ethical approach to investment

Cindy Rose, head of SRI research at Aberdeen Asset Management, spoke with Alex Blackburne about its Ethical World Fund, which highlights that investing ethically can diminish the risks involved with conventional investments.

[The fund’s] objective is to incorporate ethical considerations into investment decisions”, explains Cindy Rose, head of SRI research at Aberdeen Asset Management.

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Cindy Rose, head of SRI research at Aberdeen Asset Management, spoke with Alex Blackburne about its Ethical World Fund, which highlights that investing ethically can diminish the risks involved with conventional investments.

[The fund’s] objective is to incorporate ethical considerations into investment decisions”, explains Cindy Rose, head of SRI research at Aberdeen Asset Management.

It has 15 screening criteria that start with alcohol and go down to weapons, if you list them alphabetically.

Seven of the screens are done as a percentage of sales […] The other eight screens have to do with the history of the company.”

Using negative screening, Aberdeen examines companies over a three-year rolling period to assess if it contravenes the stated criteria.

Alcohol is the first of the 15 screens that the Ethical World Fund implements. Aberdeen places a turnover limit of 10% of sales on it, so any companies generating a higher proportion of their revenue from this sector would be disregarded.

Animal testing is another screen, and this time Aberdeen are even stricter, allowing no animal testing whatsoever. This means that pharmaceutical companies, which must conduct or outsource it, won’t appear amongst the stocks.

The same goes for petrochemical companies, some of which have to conduct animal testing by law to ensure their product isn’t dangerous when humans come into contact with it.

The next three negative screens are business practices, community and corporate governance.

The environment criterion is also conducted using negative screening. Patterns of legal breaches or fines for environmental hazards over the rolling three-year period mean exclusion in the fund’s portfolio.
Gambling, human rights, labour, military and nuclear energy are next, followed by pornography.

Our threshold turnover limit for sales for pornography is 5%”, says Rose.

Some people will [have] zero tolerance on a fund for these different things, within negative screening.

We found that if you do this, for example for pornography, you wipe out entire sectors like grocery store chains, petrochemical companies that sell soft porn in their stations, telecommunications companies with mobile communications, and hotels, so we permit a small amount of sales from pornography, so that the clients’ investible universe is not too limited.”

Product quality, tobacco and weapons are the final three exclusions.

It’s a fairly hefty and intricate list of activities and screens, and Rose stresses that the Ethical World Fund is for a particular type of investor.

It really suits the type of investor who wants to avoid certain activities in the market”, she says.

There are lots of different types of investors. Some are interested in having a voice in companies that aren’t traditionally held in negatively screened SRI funds, and they want to be able to encourage a company to do better.

This is not that type of fund. This fund is for people who have a very black and white view on things, and might not want animal testing or nuclear activities, or companies that have poor ESG records.

It’s a fairly heavily screened fund, performance is fairly strong, and the investment process works.

It’s based on due diligence and a lot of homework, and in fact the average time we hold companies for is over five years now, so it is very much a buy and hold approach.”

Last week, Blue & Green Tomorrow wrote about a group of investors that managed $3 trillion of assets had called for improved reporting of environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) activities.

Aberdeen has an ESG engagement policy for all its equities, not just its SRI funds, and is also a signatory to the UN Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI).

Rose describes how this helps them understand the sustainable investment world better.

It really does commit us to understanding the underlying ESG issues for all of our holdings, and that gives the managers a better 360 degree view of a company”, she says.

It tells you a bit more about the risks that they might not pick up, and just basic financial assessment.

It gives us better relationship management qualities with the companies that we invest in, simply because we are always going to see them, and we can ask about things that might not come up in normal financial conversations.

It’s a good way of keeping track and also follows the guidelines of the stewardship codes because we can report on a company’s activities to our clients.”

Concluding, Rose adds that ethical investment – specifically, the nature of the Ethical World Fund’s carefully-selected, negatively screened portfolio – dilutes the potential hazards of conventional investing.

In its broadest sense, I think ethical investment highlights risks that could be there, that if you weren’t looking at ESG issues, you might miss”, she says.

We really think that the market is coming around to the fact that these things are all integrated.

It’s a myriad of things that go together that make up the balance sheet, and it would take some forensic accounting to pull them all apart, but at the end of the day, they do have an impact.”

For more information about Aberdeen Asset Management’s Ethical World Fund, visit its website.

Alternatively, if you want to find out more about sustainable investment more generally, ask your IFA or fill in our online form.

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Features

What Kitchen Suits Your Style? Modern, Classic or Shaker?

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shaker kitchen designs

A kitchen is the centre of the home. Your kitchen ranges between where friends and family gather, talk about their day, cook meals, have drinks, to somewhere you can just enjoy each other’s company. The kitchen is the heart of the home. But, everyone’s lifestyle is different. Everyone’s taste is different. So, you need a kitchen that not only mirrors your lifestyle but matches your taste too. Whilst some prefer a more traditional design, others want a modern feel or flair – and it’s all down to personal taste.

When it comes to redesigning your kitchen, what style would you go for? It’s a difficult one isn’t it. With so many different styles to go for, how can you know exactly what you want until you’ve seen it in action? Leading kitchen designer, Roman Kitchens, based in Essex, have provided three examples of bespoke kitchens and styles they specialise in, accompanied with beautiful images. This design guide will get you one step closer to picking your dream kitchen for your home.

1. Modern

New home in the city centre? Or even a sleek new modern build? You want a trendy and modern kitchen to reflect your city lifestyle. In modern kitchen design, colours are bolder and fresher, with sleek design and utilities that are distinctive and vibrant.

modern kitchen designs

This modern kitchen is sleek and smooth with flawless design and beauty. Minimalism doesn’t stop this kitchen standing out. Featured walls of wood and vibrant mint green draw the eye, whilst the white surfaces reflect the light, illuminating every nook and cranny of this kitchen. This kitchen features products from Rotpunkt, innovators of modern kitchen design. Made with German engineering, a Rotpunkt Kitchen is the ultimate modern addition to your home. Rotpunkt Kitchens have timeless design and amazing functionality, they work for every purpose and are eco-friendly. Sourced from natural materials, a Rotpunkt kitchen uses 37% less timber, conserving natural forests and being more environmentally conscious.

2. Classic

Prefer a homely and traditional feel? Classic kitchens are warm, welcoming and filled with wood. Wood flooring, wood fixtures, wood furniture – you name it! You can bring a rustic feel to your urban home with a classic kitchen. Subtle colours and beautiful finishes, Classic kitchens are for taking it back to the basics with a definitive look and feel.

classic kitchen designs

With stated handles for cupboards, Classic kitchens are effortlessly timeless. They convey an elegant but relaxing nature. Giving off countryside vibes, natural elements convey a British countryside feel. The wood featured in a classic kitchen can range between oaks and walnut, creating a warmth and original feel to your home. Soft English heritage colours add a certain mood to your home, softening the light making it cosier.

3. Shaker

Any kitchen planner will tell you that the meeting point between traditional and modern design, is a Shaker kitchen. They have a distinctive style and innovative feel. Shakers are fresh, mixing different colour tones with stylish wood and vinyl. The most important feature of a Shaker kitchen is functionality – every feature needs to serve a purpose in the kitchen. Paired with stylish and unique furniture, a Shaker kitchen is an ideal addition to any home.

shaker kitchen designs

The ultimate marriage between Classic and Modern kitchens, this Shaker kitchen has deep colour tones with copper emphasis features. All the fittings and fixtures blur the line of modern and tradition, with a Classic look but modern colour vibe. Unique furniture and design make Shaker Kitchens perfect for the middle ground in kitchen design. Minimal but beautifully dressed. Traditional but bold and modern at the same time. Storage solutions are part of the functionality of Shaker kitchens, but don’t detour from conveying yours as a luxury kitchen.

Whatever you choose for your new kitchen, be it Modern, Classic or Shaker – pick whatever suits you. Taste is, and always will be, subjective – it’s down to you.

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Features

Ways Green Preppers Are Trying to Protect their Privacy

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Environmental activists are not given the admiration that they deserve. A recent poll by Gallup found that a whopping 32% of Americans still doubt the existence of global warming. The government’s attitude is even worse.

Many global warming activists and green preppers have raised the alarm bell on climate change over the past few years. Government officials have taken notice and begun tracking their activity online. Even former National Guard officers have admitted that green preppers and climate activists are being targeted for terrorist watchlists.

Of course, the extent of their surveillance depends on the context of activism. People that make benign claims about climate change are unlikely to end up on a watchlist, although it is possible if they make allusions to their disdain of the government. However, even the most pacifistic and well intentioned environmental activists may unwittingly trigger some algorithm and be on the wrong side of a criminal investigation.

How could something like this happen? Here are some possibilities:

  • They could share a post on social media from a climate extremist group or another individual on the climate watchlist.
  • They could overly politicize their social media content, such as being highly critical of the president.
  • They could use figures of speech that may be misinterpreted as threats.
  • They might praise the goals of a climate change extremist organization that as previously resorted to violence, even if they don’t condone the actual means.

Preppers and environmental activists must do everything in their power to protect their privacy. Failing to do so could cost them their reputation, future career opportunities or even their freedom. Here are some ways that they are contacting themselves.

Living Off the Grid and Only Venturing to Civilization for Online Use

The more digital footprints you leave behind, the greater attention you draw. People that hold controversial views on environmentalism or doomsday prepping must minimize their digital paper trail.

Living off the grid is probably the best way to protect your privacy. You can make occasional trips to town to use the Wi-Fi and stock up on supplies.

Know the Surveillance Policies of Public Wi-Fi Providers

Using Wi-Fi away from your home can be a good way to protect your privacy.However, choosing the right public Wi-Fi providers is going to be very important.

Keep in mind that some corporate coffee shops such a Starbucks can store tapes for up to 60 days. Mom and pop businesses don’t have the technology nor the interest to store them that long. They generally store tips for only 24 hours and delete them afterwards. This gives you a good window of opportunity to post your thoughts on climate change without being detected.

Always use a VPN with a No Logging Policy

Using a VPN is one of the best ways to protect your online privacy. However, some of these providers do a much better job than others. What is a VPN and what should you look for when choosing one? Here are some things to look for when making a selection:

  • Make sure they are based in a country that has strict laws on protecting user privacy. VPNs that are based out of Switzerland, Panama for the British Virgin Islands are always good bets.
  • Look for VPN that has a strict no logging policy. Some VPNs will actually track the websites that you visit, which almost entirely defeats the purpose. Most obviously much better than this, but many also track Your connections and logging data. You want to use a VPN that doesn’t keep any logs at all.
  • Try to choose a VPN that has an Internet kill switch. This means that all content will stop serving if your VPN connection drops, which prevents your personal data from leaking out of the VPN tunnel.

You will be much safer if you use a high-quality VPN consistently, especially if you have controversial views on climate related issues or doomsday prepping.

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