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Bringing ethical investment back to its roots

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The principles of ethical investment chime notoriously well with the values held by charities, faith groups and the public sector. Alex Blackburne spoke with Helen Wildsmith of CCLA – a client-owned fund manager that provides responsible investment solutions for all three.

Ethical investment has witnessed significant in the last decade or two. In the UK alone, almost £11 billion is now invested in green or ethical retail funds, compared to just £199m in 1989. But the sector’s beginnings are even more humble.

It’s said that the Religious Society of Friends – also known as the Quakers – devised the idea of investment that isn’t solely for profit. And John Wesley, the 18th century theologian who laid the foundations of the Methodist movement, is also often credited with paving the way for the ethical investment industry to prosper.

“‘The love of money’, we know, ‘is the root of all evil’; but not the thing itself”, he said, in a 1760 sermon called The Use of Money.

Blind money can lead to missed opportunities and unintended consequences

The fault does not lie in the money, but in them that use it. It may be used ill: and what may not? But it may likewise be used well: it is full as applicable to the best, as to the worst uses.”

Ever since those light bulb moments, ethical, sustainable, responsible investment has always chimed well with religious groups and charities.

They’re mission-driven organisations who care about the impact they have on the world”, says Helen Wildsmith, head of ethical and responsible investment at the CCLA, a specialist investment management group for churches, charities and local authorities (hence its name).

We offer investment funds that invest in listed equities, in bonds, in property, and we have cash deposit funds for churches, charities and the public sector, and so from that point of view, we look like a normal fund management house, but the unusual bit is that we only serve UK not-for-profit organisations and we’re owned by our clients.”

This means that when any organisation invests one of CCLA’s long-standing Investment Funds, it automatically becomes a co-owner of CCLA. Clients are assisted by CCLA’s dedicated ethical and responsible investment team in aligning their organisation’s principles with their investment portfolios – whether it’s avoiding certain industries or focusing specifically on making a social or environmental impact.

A statue of John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, in Georgia, US.

The natural alignment between ethical investment and charities and churches is something that directly influences and inspires many people to work in the sector. Jeremy Newbegin, director of The Ethical Partnership, is just one of a number of specialist ethical financial advisers that B&GT has spoken with who have said that their religion led them naturally to ethical investment.

His Christian beliefs go hand-in-hand with this kind of investment, but it was still his personal preference to become a financial adviser in this field. Muslim investors, however, have less of a choice to make, with Sharia law – Islam’s legal system – preventing them from investing in certain industries. This has led to the growth of Islamic investment funds, like the SWIP Islamic Global Equity Fund, which specifically prohibit investment in tobacco, pornography and financial services, amongst other areas, meaning these vehicles are often found under the more broad ethical investment umbrella.

Seeing the vast opportunity presented by this combination, this year’s National Ethical Investment Week (NEIW) – perhaps more so than the previous four years – has urged religious groups and charities to invest ethically, producing all-you-need-to-know guides for representatives in each area.

And given that many of the popular and lucrative non-ethical industries and funds could potentially undermine the good work being done by churches and charities, ethical investment is seen as the obvious way to go. Health charities, for example, wouldn’t want to invest in companies or funds that harm health, and on the other hand, would have significant interest in investing in new medicines, techniques and technologies which might improve health.

CCLA hosted an event called Whose ethics? on Tuesday, and has another event set up for today titled In the age of austerity is ethical investment still relevant for charities?

At the Whose ethics? event, we invite the trustees of churches and charities who haven’t yet had a chance to think through what they could be doing in terms of all the different techniques you can use to align your mission with your investment”, explains Wildsmith.

“We run through the different approaches, giving hints and tips about how to have discussions and how to write a policy.

The importance of charities in particular in responsible investment is something that has been brought up a number of times already during NEIW. With 162,624 UK charities producing a combined annual income of over £57 billion, an increased adoption of ethical investment in this sector alone would do wonders for its popularity and its perception.

A report from 2009 by Charity SRI, a joint initiative between EIRIS and the UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association (UKSIF), runs through some of the many ethical options for charities. Called Responsible Investment by Charities: the Role of Pooled Funds, the guide clearly explains what charities should do if they want to focus on or exclude various industries and areas in their investments.

CCLA provides the secretariat for the Church Investors Group, a coalition of over 30 investors that have over £12 billion in combined assets. “We believe it will serve to increase the witness and influence of the church in society if our investment portfolios reflect the moral stance and teachings of the Christian faith”, the group’s website states.

Two CCLA funds, Wildsmith says, are amongst the five largest socially responsible investment (SRI) investment funds in Europe. It recently altered the make-up of one of its funds, the Ethical Fund, which from January 2013 will have a 10% turnover limit “for companies that derive turnover from alcohol, gambling, pornography, tobacco and strategic military sales”. This figure will decrease from 33%, and for the first time, will also apply to the extraction of coal for energy use.

You may wonder why the fund allows these sectors at all. Businesses like supermarkets or off-licenses for example, sell alcohol and mild pornography, but don’t derive the vast majority of their turnover from selling these products. By implementing a turnover threshold, these companies are able to invest ethically.

It’s very easy for individuals and trustees to see the investment as a black box and not think about what’s happening inside it. Blind money can lead to missed opportunities and unintended consequences”, describes Wildsmith.

UKSIF has modelled NEIW on Fairtrade Fortnight so aspirations are very high. We hope it will be as famous as Fairtrade Fortnight as the decades pass.”

It’s clear that if you want your personal morals and principles to be reflected in all aspects of your life – regardless of whether you’re religious, give to a charity or work for a public sector body – then ethical investment is by far the wisest and best route to go down. It seems fitting, therefore, to round off this piece with a quote by John Wesley, which still serves as a simple and eloquent bit of life advice for people wanting to do good.

Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as ever you can.”

By opting to invest ethically, you might just be making the biggest difference to the world that you’ll ever make in your life.

National Ethical Investment Week runs until Saturday, October 20. Join the movement on Twitter using the hashtag #NEIW12.

Further reading:

Charities told to lead the way in responsible investment

National Ethical Investment Week 2012 begins

Ethical investment demand rises as individuals turn to sustainability

National Ethical Investment Week calls on religious groups to take action

£11 billion invested ethically in the UK: infographic analysis

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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