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Divestment might be more effective than climbing a building

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Six Greenpeace activists are in the process of climbing the Shard, London and Europe’s tallest skyscraper, in protest against Shell’s exploration in the vulnerable Arctic. But encouraging wealthy individuals and large pension funds to divest their money from the oil giant would perhaps produce their desired result.

In the last couple of weeks, there have been a number of signs to suggest the tide might just be turning over investment in fossil fuels.

Praise has been heaped on the Carbon Tracker thinktank, which said in April that as much as 80% of global fossil fuel reserves need to be left in the ground if we want a fighting chance of fending off the worst effects of climate change. Its analysis, if it’s to be believed, makes for sober reading for both private and institutional investors around the world.

The fossil fuel divestment movement had, up until June this year, been centred primarily in the US, with environmentalist Bill McKibben and 350.org at the forefront. The message that is currently working its way through some of the biggest cities and universities across the pond, appears to have finally reached European shores – in the form of practical action.

Click here to read The Guide to Climate Change 2013

At the beginning of July Dutch bank Rabobank revealed it would not be lending to any firms involved in shale gas extraction (known as fracking) or oil sands. Its motivation was environmental, with the risk of water and soil contamination too high in its opinion.

A few days later, even bigger news. Storebrand, a major Norwegian pension fund, revealed its intention to divest from 19 fossil fuel companies. This landmark announcement was enhanced when it revealed that its drivers for doing so were purely financial. It wanted to ensure “long-term, stable returns”, it said, and fossil fuels will be “worthless financially” in the future.

Many comparisons can be drawn between the fossil fuel divestment campaign of the modern day and the apartheid divestment campaign of the late-80s. However, as evidenced by Storebrand, the major difference is the motivation of those doing the divesting: for financial and moral reasons respectively.

In the days since Storebrand’s announcement, the Church of England and EU climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard have both been involved in stories that add weight to the divestment movement.

This brings us to Greenpeace’s daring stunt in London. Its intention is to “shout from the rooftops” about Shell’s plans to drill for oil in the Arctic.

To be clear, Arctic oil and gas exploitation is a despicable activity with massive risks to a fragile environment.

Shell was banned from drilling in the Alaskan Arctic by US authorities in March, over fears that it wouldn’t be able to deal with the harsh conditions or the impact of a possible spill. Its next step, according to Greenpeace, has been to team up with Russian energy firms to drill for oil in the Russian Arctic instead.

The sad irony is that Arctic exploration wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for human-induced global warming. The resources that Shell and co are drilling for are the very same resources that are causing the dramatic decline in the polar regions.

And what makes Shell’s activity in the Arctic even more loathsome is the fact that some of its peers, most notably French multinational Total, have condemned drilling in the region on reputational grounds.

So Greenpeace’s Save the Arctic campaign, which has been predominantly directed at Shell, is very much justified. The group is spreading a hugely important message, and deserve nothing but respect for communicating it long before it became fashionable or the investment community even considered it.

Meanwhile, the six climbers at the Shard have shown incredible bravery to be doing exactly what direct action groups do: stage protests to get an issue into the public eye.

However, Greenpeace may be going about its job the wrong way in this instance.

By opting to scale the Shard, it may be putting off a significant proportion of the population. And most likely, this alienated cross-section will contain the very people who have the power or influence to make something happen at Shell: the investors.

Rather than focusing on the environmental and social implications of drilling the Arctic – which are massive and critical – Greenpeace’s protests would be more effective if centred around money.

We know investment shapes our world more than any other activity. We know that the investment world is out to make a profit. And many investors are of the ‘profit at any cost’ mindset. If you can communicate to them that investing in a particular stock is detrimental financially in the long-term, they’re more likely to do something about it.

So Greenpeace needs to go one step further with its campaign and encourage serious and widespread divestment from worthless fossil fuel stocks. Doing so may just bring about bigger and more important results than climbing to the top of a tall building.

Further reading:

Greenpeace activists scale London’s Shard in Shell Arctic drilling protest

Environmentalism: does active mean effective?

Total boss condemns Arctic drilling

Norwegian pension fund divests from ‘financially worthless’ fossil fuel firms

The Guide to Climate Change 2013

Economy

Report: Green, Ethical and Socially Responsible Finance

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“The level of influence that ethical considerations have over consumer selection of financial services products and services is minimal, however, this is beginning to change. Younger consumers are more willing to pay extra for products provided by socially responsible companies.” Jessica Morley, Mintel’s Financial Services Analyst.

Consumer awareness of the impact consumerism has on society and the planet is increasing. In addition, the link between doing good and feeling good has never been clearer. Just 19% of people claim to not participate in any socially responsible activities.

As a result, the level of attention that people pay to the green and ethical claims made by products and providers is also increasing, meaning that such considerations play a greater role in the purchasing decision making process.

However, this is less true in the context of financial services, where people are much more concerned about the performance of a product rather than green and ethical factors. This is not to say, however, that they are not interested in the behaviour of financial service providers or in gaining more information about how firms behave responsibly.

This report focuses on why these consumer attitudes towards financial services providers exist and how they are changing. This includes examination of the wider economy and the current structure of the financial services sector.

Mintel’s exclusive consumer research looks at consumer participation in socially responsible activities, trust in the behaviour of financial services companies and attitudes towards green, ethical and socially responsible financial services products and providers. The report also considers consumer attitudes towards the social responsibilities of financial services firms and the green, ethical and socially responsible nature of new entrants.

There are some elements missing from this report, such as conducting socially responsible finance with OTC trading. We will cover these other topics in more detail in the future. You can research about Ameritrade if you want to know more ..

By this report today: call: 0203 416 4502 | email: iainooson[at]mintel.com

Report contents:

OVERVIEW
What you need to know
Report definition
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
The market
Ethical financial services providers: A question of culture
Investment power
Consumers need convincing
The transformative potential of innovation
Consumers can demand change
The consumer
For financial products, performance is more important than principle
Competition from technology companies
Financial services firms perceived to be some of the least socially responsible
Repaying the social debt
Consumer trust is built on evidence
What we think
ISSUES AND INSIGHTS
Creating a more inclusive economy
The facts
The implications
Payments innovation helps fundraising go digital
The facts
The implications
The social debt of the financial crisis
The facts
The implications
THE MARKET – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Ethical financial services providers: A question of culture
Investment power
Consumers need convincing
The transformative potential of innovation
Consumers can demand change
PUTTING FINANCIAL SERVICES IN AN ETHICAL CONTEXT
An ethical economy
An ethical financial sector
Ethical financial services providers
GREEN, ETHICAL AND SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE ISSUES IN FINANCIAL SERVICES
The role of investing
Divestment
The change potential of pensions
The role of trust
Greater transparency informs decisions
Learning from past mistakes
The role of innovation
Payments innovation: Improving financial inclusion
Competition from new entrants
The power of new money
The role of the consumer
Consumers empowered to make a change
Aligning products with self
THE CONSUMER – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
For financial products, performance is more important than ethics
Financial services firms perceived to be some of the least socially responsible
Competition from technology companies
Repaying the social debt
Consumer trust is built on evidence
Overall trust levels are high
THE ETHICAL CONSUMER – SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE ACTIVITIES
Payments innovation can boost charitable donations
Consumer engagement in socially responsible activities is high
Healthier finances make it easier to go green
SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE COMPANIES
37% unable to identify socially responsible companies
Building societies seen to be more responsible than banks….
….whilst short-term loan companies are at the bottom of the pile
CONSUMER TRUST IN THE BEHAVIOUR OF FINANCIAL SERVICES COMPANIES
Overall trust levels are high
Tax avoidance remains a major concern
The divestment movement
Nationwide significantly more trusted
Trust levels remain high
CONSUMER ATTITUDES TOWARDS GREEN AND ETHICAL FINANCIAL PRODUCTS
For financial products, performance is more important than principle
Socially conscious consumers are more concerned
CONSUMER ATTITUDES TOWARDS TRANSPARENCY
Strategy reports provide little insight for consumers
Lack of clarity regarding corporate culture causes concern
Consumers want more information
THE ROLE OF FINANCIAL SERVICES FIRMS IN SOCIETY
The social debt of the financial crisis
THE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITIES OF FINANCIAL SERVICES FIRMS
For consumers, financial services firms play larger economic role
Promoting financial responsibility
CHALLENGER COMPANIES AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
Consumer trust is built on evidence
The alternative opportunity
The target customer

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Economy

A Good Look At How Homes Will Become More Energy Efficient Soon

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energy efficient homes

Everyone always talks about ways they can save energy at home, but the tactics are old school. They’re only tweaking the way they do things at the moment. Sealing holes in your home isn’t exactly the next scientific breakthrough we’ve been waiting for.

There is some good news because technology is progressing quickly. Some tactics might not be brand new, but they’re becoming more popular. Here are a few things you should expect to see in homes all around the country within a few years.

1. The Rise Of Smart Windows

When you look at a window right now it’s just a pane of glass. In the future they’ll be controlled by microprocessors and sensors. They’ll change depending on the specific weather conditions directly outside.

If the sun disappears the shade will automatically adjust to let in more light. The exact opposite will happen when it’s sunny. These energy efficient windows will save everyone a huge amount of money.

2. A Better Way To Cool Roofs

If you wanted to cool a roof down today you would coat it with a material full of specialized pigments. This would allow roofs to deflect the sun and they’d absorb less heat in the process too.

Soon we’ll see the same thing being done, but it will be four times more effective. Roofs will never get too hot again. Anyone with a large roof is going to see a sharp decrease in their energy bills.

3. Low-E Windows Taking Over

It’s a mystery why these aren’t already extremely popular, but things are starting to change. Read low-E window replacement reviews and you’ll see everyone loves them because they’re extremely effective.

They’ll keep heat outside in summer or inside in winter. People don’t even have to buy new windows to enjoy the technology. All they’ll need is a low-E film to place over their current ones.

4. Magnets Will Cool Fridges

Refrigerators haven’t changed much in a very long time. They’re still using a vapor compression process that wastes energy while harming the environment. It won’t be long until they’ll be cooled using magnets instead.

The magnetocaloric effect is going to revolutionize cold food storage. The fluid these fridges are going to use will be water-based, which means the environment can rest easy and energy bills will drop.

5. Improving Our Current LEDs

Everyone who spent a lot of money on energy must have been very happy when LEDs became mainstream. Incandescent light bulbs belong in museums today because the new tech cut costs by up to 85 percent.

That doesn’t mean someone isn’t always trying to improve on an already great invention. The amount of lumens LEDs produce per watt isn’t great, but we’ve already found a way to increase it by 25 percent.

Maybe Homes Will Look Different Too

Do you think we’ll come up with new styles of homes that will take off? Surely it’s not out of the question. Everything inside homes seems to be changing for the better with each passing year. It’s going to continue doing so thanks to amazing inventors.

ShutterStock – Stock photo ID: 613912244

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