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‘Advisers can lead by learning about sustainable investing’

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Anders Faijersson Ferguson, founding principal of Veris Wealth Partners, spoke with B&GT about sustainable investment and the part we all play in realising a blue and green future.

On the June 8, we were presented with the exciting news that 72% of financial advisers highlighted the sustainable investment sector as a growth opportunity. The report, entitled Gateways to Impact, predicted a market potential of $650 billion.

Among the report’s researchers, contributing financial support, expertise and guidance, was Veris Wealth Partners; a leading sustainable wealth management firm founded by Anders Faijersson Ferguson, which was dedicated to aligning families’ and foundations’ financial objectives with an overriding concept that “sustainability matters”.

“We opened our doors at Veris five years ago”, explains Ferguson, “and have been building our state of the art platform ever since.

“Over the last ten years it became clearer and clearer that there was an all-new emerging viewpoint on the intersection between sustainability and business performance, and that just made so much sense to me.

“Socially responsible investing had come a long way in 25 years, but we needed a more comprehensive approach and something that investors and business people could better understand to take the next big leap.”

Ferguson’s career has involved a variety of aspects in the sustainable business world. Beginning postgraduate life with a degree in environmental studies and history, he is now a principle consultant to Envestnet Sustainability Platform and the founding partner of Uplift Equity Partners, a global private equity fund investing in sustainable wellbeing. He also co-founded Spirit in Business and the Global Leaders Academy.

We asked how Ferguson began his career in the world of sustainable investment: “It simply made sense”, he says. “Beginning a long time ago; you could see that the world as we knew it wasn’t going to work very well if we continued on the path we were going.

“I resigned from a consulting company that I built in the ‘90s which was focussed on co-operative employee ownership and sustainability. In this, I had the opportunity to travel Tibet and China for three and a half months. It was while I was there that I had my own personal epiphany that as business leaders, in terms of the material world which was driving our lives, we had become collectively the new kings and queens of the active changing agent that was driving good and bad.

“It was a clear vision internally, that business people needed to start exploring what really drives us, and not just business people, people in NGOs, people in governments.

In 1999, the NGO (non-governmental organisation) Spirit in Business was founded. On the team was vice president of Innovest, Matthew Kiernan, who has commented on socially responsible beliefs in business – “Investing as if the future mattered”.

“In those days”, Ferguson says, “Innovest was using ESG (environmental, social and governance) factors very effectively. Together, we were testing the costs of excellence in management because managing these ESG sustainability factors drew better management and therefore we could determine better companies.

“I don’t think I was the only person around whose light bulb went off.

“It was really helpful to me. It made a lot of sense in all of the work that I was doing and informed my view on why it was important to create an independent wealth management firm in the United States, focussed on sustainable investing.”

Of the 1,065 financial advisers who took part in the comprehensive survey launched on June 7, 72% expressed some interest in recommending sustainable investments to their clients. William Crager, president of Envestnet, one of the study’s main sponsors, said, “Sustainability is not a fad. In fact, it has become an essential part of business performance and competitiveness.

“The business world is changing. The need for efficiency feeds innovation in sustainable practices that are designed to lower costs and protect future supply and distribution chains. This study shows that advisers can lead by learning about sustainable investing and sharing that information with their clients.”

Ferguson told B&GT how the research helped to build an innovative impact investment ‘platform’: “Envestnet provides technology and asset management for independent investment advisers like ourselves and other tens of thousands of advisers and we partnered to create a state of the art investment platform for financial advisers to access sustainable and impact investment products in a professional, easily accessible and professionally sourced way.

“We opened our doors in 2007 and a year later the entire economics system pretty much imploded. So we have been building our platform and firm during those critical years.

“Three or four years ago, Hope Consulting released a joint study which had some major implications over the investing side. This was funded by Rockefeller Foundation.

“The number one impediment they found was financial advisers and this is where, with our experience, myself and our managing partner took and interest.

“There has been some research on what consumers think about sustainable, socially responsible, and impact investing, but the whole idea of what financial advisers think, who are really so critical of the field, has really never been examined.

“To come back and see that two thirds of financial advisers already have some practice here or are looking at and curious about how to build their practice, was frankly a little stunning to all of us.”

There is an abundance of approaches to sustainable investing out there, but none as yet have defined the sustainability adviser so explicitly. Inspiringly, the strongest interest shown in the Gateways to Impact study, were from advisers practicing with less than ten years of experience, and women.

“We all believe that we have laid a new foundation”, says Ferguson, who has a clear view of what the next generation of investors will look like. “We have begun to establish a change of dialogue in the industry … new advisers and younger clients understand what a more sustainable business world will look like.

“They may own a Prius, they may be buying renewable energy, eating organic food or local food, buying fair-trade coffee or shopping at a company, even a global company, that is demonstrating a brighter commitment in these areas.”

Have a look at Blue & Green Tomorrow’s Guide to Sustainable Investment for more information about making your money make a difference.

Further reading:

Survey reveals promising trends in sustainable investment

Why the best financial advice includes ethical investment options

Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

What is going green?

Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.

The first step in going green

There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.

Making needed changes within the company

After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.

Reducing the common paper waste

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.

Make money by spreading the word

Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.

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Energy

5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable

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sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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