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Ethical investment pioneer: Claudia Quiroz, Quilter Cheviot

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National Ethical Investment Week (NEIW) is underway, and we’re publishing daily interviews, conducted by Greenhouse PR, with a different ethical investment pioneer each day until Friday.

The next interviewee is Claudia Quiroz, investment director at Quilter Cheviot and pioneer of the firm’s Climate Assets Fund.

She follows UKSIF chief executive Simon HowardSebastian Parsons of Stockwood Community Benefit SocietyPaul Ellis of Ecology Building Society and James Vaccaro of Triodos Bank.

Tell us, in 20 words or fewer, about the Climate Assets Fund. What’s your mission?

To invest in companies delivering a cleaner and more efficient economy – arising from the convergence of climate change, demographics and resource scarcity.

What motivates you to do what you do?

I enjoy the opportunity to invest in sustainable growth. Growth is the key reason for investors’ interest in sustainability and environmental themes.

Most end-markets in this space are expected to see compelling growth over the next three to five years. This generates attractive investment opportunities when one understands the changes taking place with regard to consumer preferences, government spending, energy supply and security, food supply/demand imbalance and the general need for a cleaner and more efficient economy – the new economy.

For example, companies meeting demand for energy efficiency are set to benefit the most going forward. Energy efficiency is one of my favorite investment themes as it is not only the cheapest but also the quickest way of cutting carbon emissions.

We are talking about companies involved in transport infrastructure, building insulation and efficient lighting, industrial productivity gains, smart grid and energy storage, just to mention a few.

What are the biggest challenges in building momentum for ethical finance?

The recognition that sustainable investing, as well as ethical investing, means different things to different people. Unfortunately a ‘one size fits all’ strategy does not work.

What trends or developments are you most excited about in sustainable and ethical investment?

The industry has moved away from the focus on negative screening. We have increasingly stopped talking about what not to invest in and started to talk about ‘what to invest in’. As such, investment conversations are far more interesting and portfolios generate much better and consistent returns.

What one thing could change the future of finance?

The understanding that there are huge investment opportunities around solving the challenges to deliver more energy, food and water, for example, with a limited pool of resources and within a carbon constrained economy.

For instance, we have identified a universe of around 1, 000 companies around the world providing the products, technologies and services to deliver ‘the new economy’- cleaner and more efficient.

Where do you want to take the Climate Assets Fund next?

We are very proud of the Climate Assets Fund. I joined Cheviot four years ago particularly to develop this investment strategy.

Today, we have a dedicated team with over three years’ performance track record and an established investment process. I am looking forward to capitalising on our new sales and marketing team, as Quilter and Cheviot came together only early this year and now we are in the process of teaching our sales force about how we, at Quilter Cheviot, do sustainable investing.

What can we, as individuals, do to make a difference?

Put our money where our mouth is!

We have seen consumers increasingly buying organic food and wooden furniture from sustainable sources, insulating their homes, travelling by bike and train or even offsetting carbon emissions when flying. There is an increasing awareness of the economic impact of environmental issues. However we have not seen the same levels of demand for sustainable investment.

If you were prime minister for a day, what would be the first thing you’d do?

Ensure a high level of education for all, particularly on environmental issues.

I came from quite a poor background. However I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to study and go to university. Education changed the way I look at the world and the changes taking place with regard to climate and investments.

What’s the coolest project or product you’ve come across, and inspired you?

The ‘Shinkansen’– the Japanese bullet train – is a very inspiring piece of engineering. I am a very pragmatic investor and I like technological advances that make real improvements to people’s lives.

The high-speed train reduces commuting travel time between key urban cities supporting social mobility and shifting passengers from the road to the rail – a more environmentally friendly and cost efficient way of transport.

Can you recommend a life or game changing book for our readers? 

Socially Responsible Investing: Making a Difference and Making Money by Amy Domini – all about why the way we invest matters and how to make profitable investments without sacrificing your values.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Very early in my investment career someone said to me, “Your job is most certainly to invest in good companies, but remember, not all good companies make you money”.

I think that the key is to time investment well, buying shares of high quality companies before their positive attributers are fully reflected in the share price.

If you could encourage people to invest in one thing, what would it be and why?

I would like retail investors to realise that to smooth returns and reduce volatility during the economic cycle, one needs to invest in multi-asset classes. We have seen long equity funds have high volatility in the downturn. I would encourage financial advisers to discuss these particular issues with their clients.

Can you leave us with who’d be your ethical investment pioneer?

Amy Domini is my ethical investment pioneer. She is a true pioneer in the field of responsible investing. She launched the Domini 400 Social Index, now part of the FTSE Indexes range back in 1990. She had the idea of promoting an index constructed by using environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues as a benchmark.

She is a still a very active investor involved in many boards in the US and advising on how the way we invest matters to the planet and all of us. Since launch to the end of September 2013, her social index returned 849% compared with the Standard & Poor’s (S&P 500) increasing 733%. This is without doubt a very impressive long-term investment performance!

National Ethical Investment Week 2013 runs from October 13-19. Join the debate on Twitter using the hashtag #moneydoinggood.

Further reading:

‘Positive’ investment worth £1.6bn in the UK

63% of UK investors want to be offered sustainable investment options

£11 billion invested ethically in the UK: infographic analysis

Survey: environmental issues concern ethical investors the most

The Guide to National Ethical Investment Week 2013

Greenhouse is a sustainability communications and PR agency. Visit www.greenhousepr.co.uk for more.

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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