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Eight tips on how to invest ethically

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James Howard of Emerald Knight lays out eight sure-fire tips for investors who are looking into more ethical, sustainable, responsible and above all enlightened vehicles for their money.

Ethical investment is becoming the chosen vehicle for many investors who demand more than just financial growth from their money.

According to our research, almost half of people (47%) say they are likely now, or at some point in the future, to choose ethical investment over the more traditional vehicles such as the property and stock markets.

And it’s clear that the market is growing. Data from the UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association (UKSIF) shows that responsibly-managed assets in the UK recently passed €1 trillion for the first time, representing over 18% of the total responsible investment market in Europe.

If you’re thinking of giving ethical investment the green light, it’s important to do some careful planning. Here are some tips for anyone considering it.

1. Decide which issues are most important to you

You can screen out by excluding companies due to the nature of their business, such as tobacco firms, gambling enterprises, or companies investing in arms manufacture or nuclear energy.  Or screen in by actively supporting companies which have positive social and environmental policies in place, such as renewable energy, carbon offsetting, or healthcare. Or perhaps you’d like to combine both.

2. Be clear about your financial objectives

You need to be very clear about what you want to achieve financially as well as ethically, just as you would for any other type of investment. For example, what is your attitude to risk? Do you want to invest in a portfolio of socially responsible companies, or stick to one specific company or project? Are you looking for income or capital growth? What are the desired timeframes?

3. Research your options

You can list all the positive and negative screens you’d like to employ and then start identifying funds/investments providing a good match. You can, for example, access databases of ethical investment funds, ISAs and other investment options, through websites such as www.YourEthicalMoney.org or  www.ethicalmoney.org.

4. Exercise your tax allowances

Many ethical investments can be held within an ISA wrapper, which helps to avoid future income tax or capital gains tax. Many of them are also SIPP (self-invested personal pension) approved, which allows a greater degree of flexibility if you want to use your private pension to invest in different asset classes.

5. Seek advice and ask questions

It’s important to take advice from an Independent Financial Adviser, especially if you’re new to ethical investment. Websites such as www.unbiased.co.uk allow you to search for an IFA who specialises in ethical investment by postcode. An IFA will help to match your financial and ethical goals with the most appropriate investment options, and the more they know about your objectives, the better the recommendations will be.

6. Check out past performance

Of paramount importance, whether you’re investing with a specific company, project, or fund, is a proven track record and previous results. For specific projects, ask whether they’ve carried out robust due diligence checks, and in what way your capital will be protected. Are there defined exit strategies? Finding out about reporting practices is also a good idea, in terms of quality and frequency. An IFA will be able to help you with this.

7. Compare costs

Some ethical investment funds, for example can charge higher fees as the investments are more complex and require more research, so this is something to compare when you’re researching your options.

8. Don’t assume that you have to sacrifice profits for principles

It’s most certainly possible to invest with a conscience and still make money. Ethical investment typically involves investment in the few industries which have managed to remain in positive growth through the global recession. And in some cases, ethical investments/funds have outperformed more mainstream investments.

James Howard is a director at Emerald Knight, which specialises in socially responsible investment.

Further reading:

Ethical investment has blossomed into a viable and lucrative strategy

Poll maps growth of ethical investment understanding and demand

£11bn invested ethically in the UK: infographic analysis

Ethical funds performing poorly? We think not

The Guide to Sustainable Investment 2012 (NEIW edition)

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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