David Tebbutt gives us the lowdown on Paul Robinson’s fund that helps Africans.
Not so long ago, you’d have wondered who on earth would want to invest in countries like Brazil, China, Russia or India. Yet, in the past decade, they’ve developed quite remarkably. Now, despite the problems in North Africa, some would say that Africa as a whole offers fantastic development potential.
The Alquity Group, established 11 years ago, believes this to be the case and has started an Africa fund to help investors and ordinary Africans benefit from its activities. Not only does it invest in African companies and companies whose main business is in Africa, but it also donates a minimum of 25 percent of its management and performance fees to microfinance initiatives run by Opportunity International. Alquity Chairman Paul Robinson believes its fee structure is mid-range compared with similar operations, meaning that investors aren’t penalised for doing good.
Alquity’s investments are highly liquid – 90 percent of its holdings could probably be sold in three days and the remainder in a few more. It invests in substantial organisations with good prospects and is careful about which parts of Africa it considers. At the moment it’s investing in 11 of the 54 countries that make up the continent, the land area of which is so large it exceeds that of the USA, China, the EU and India combined.
According to the US Geological Survey, Africa has 89 percent of the world’s platinum, 74 percent of its chrome, 60 percent of its diamonds, 51 percent of its phosphates, 12 percent of its oil and 9 percent of its natural gas. And the figures for the last two are likely to be a gross understatement, as new discoveries are being made all the time.
The altruistic angle isn’t new to Alquity – the firm’s name is a blend of ‘altruism’ and ‘equity’. Its primary purpose is to deliver attractive returns regardless of ethics or social concerns. But then it believes in transforming lives through donations and sustainable investments. It takes its prospects’ environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) stance into account, not least because it leads to better returns. It also takes RiskMetrics company ratings into consideration.
Paul Robinson is the mastermind behind this operation. He is also a trustee of the One Foundation and its trading arm, Global Ethics. He’s a serial entrepreneur who believes in ‘profit for a purpose’. The One Foundation sells condoms and uses the profits to fund HIV/AIDS projects in Africa. Profits from its bottled water help fund ‘play pumps’, which are roundabouts that pump water up into accessible storage from deep underground. In each case, the connection between purchased product and benefit in Africa is clear. The same goes for investment funds and microfinance – there’s a strong resonance between the two.
It’s early days for the fund, launched in the UK and Europe last June. While the parent group manages $130m in funds, Alquity Africa has so far grown from $1m to $5.14m. Robinson is on record as hoping to create 100,000 jobs in Africa by 2012. A sustainable job costs around £60 to create and each job supports around five people. Since performance fees don’t materialise until mid-year, it’s not really possible to measure progress towards that goal yet.
On the subject of giving investment advice, when pressed, Robinson said, “What investors choose to do depends on their risk profiles. But ask yourself about the prospects of Europe and the USA by comparison with developing countries.” He illustrated this with charts showing returns between 2000 and 2010, based on Bloomberg figures. The MSCI Developed Markets grew 32 percent while the Emerging Markets grew 350 percent. Both dipped substantially in 2007/8 but the Emerging Markets has made a slightly stronger recovery. Alquity is banking on the African markets performing in a similar way, recommending investment for at least three to five years.
The company’s top 10 holdings at the end of December represented about a third of the portfolio. In order of size, these were in South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, Zambia and Ghana. Egypt is the only one that has been subject to recent upheavals. In sector sequence they were telecommunications, materials, energy, banks, food retailing, media and pharmaceuticals.
Investors, in theory, can do themselves and others good with very little effort. To pinch a phrase from Robinson, it’s “armchair philanthropy”.
How Going Green Can Save A Company Money
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
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.
5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable
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 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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