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Ethical investment, responsible investment, sustainable investment, impact investment: what’s in a name?

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In our month-long run up to National Ethical Investment Week 2012 (October 14-20), Simon Leadbetter asks, what’s in a name?

Ever since the idea behind Blue & Green Tomorrow crystallised, there has been a heated debate on what we should call this style of investment. Investment-that-doesn’t-screw-everyone-and-the-future, just wasn’t catchy enough.

Naming things is very important, as T.S. Eliot will tell you.

By naming a thing, you define and scope it. People’s understanding and acceptance of that thing is either aided or hindered by a name. From nations, political parties, organisations and individuals, a name can either accelerate or obstruct the fulfilment of potential.

Blue & Green Tomorrow?

We settled on Blue & Green Tomorrow for a few reasons. Our planet is more blue than green and the green movement has always been too land-centric for our tastes. Douglas Adams’ description of earth as a ‘blue-green planet’ always resonated and we’re not sure we’d like to live on an entirely green one. Tomorrow was born of a desire to be future looking, without using ‘future’, and it has a nice rhythm as a word.

Anyway, what to call the investment sector we cover.

What kind of investment?

We settled on sustainable investment early on, after flirting with responsible investment and discounting ethical investment for reasons we’ll set out below. That said, there is some evidence that ‘sustainable’ is reaching unsustainable proportions, with term rapidly approaching fatigue, as everything, from education policy to policing strategies, becomes ‘sustainable’.

Sustainable has origins in the 17th century and originally meant “bearable“, from sustain + able. There is clear evidence that from 1845 it was used in the legal sense of “defensible“; and from 1965 with the meaning “capable of being continued at a certain level“. Sustainable growth is recorded from 1965.

Sustainability is defined by the World Bank as, “a requirement of our generation to manage the resource base such that the average quality of life that we ensure ourselves can potentially be shared by all future generations. […] Development is sustainable if it involves a non-decreasing average quality of life.”

Sustainable investment can therefore be defined as managing our investments such that the average quality of life that we ensure ourselves can potentially be shared by all future generations.

Responsible hails from the late 16th century meaning “answerable (to another, for something)“. It derives from the Latin responsus, the past participle of respondere: “to respond“. From 1836 it came to mean “morally accountable for one’s actions” and retains the sense of “obligation” in the Latin root word.

Responsible investment can therefore be defined as an approach that is answerable for the outcome of one’s investments.

Ethical is an early 17th century word meaning, “pertaining to morality“, literally from ethic + -al. In the late 14th century, ethik was the “study of morals“, derived from the old French etique. This came from late Latin ethica, which in turn derives from the ancient Greek ethike philosophia or “moral philosophy“, the feminine form of ethikos. The meaning we know today of “a person’s moral principles” is evidenced from the mid-17th century.

Ethical investment can thus be defined as investment that aligns with one’s moral principles.

The challenge of a moral or ethical framework for investment is that it relies on a commonly accepted version of morality or ethics. You just need to look at the various religious conflicts around the world to see that commonly understood and accepted morality is a non-starter.

On a local level, the Church of England’s bishops are far more hot under the collar about the role of women (equal, we humbly suggest) and the gender of who you love, than whether their Church holds a stake in a media business that has blighted lives, such as Mille Dowler’s parents and the Hillsborough victims.

Other terms that are bandied around are socially responsible investment, or SRI, which adds a social or human dimension to the responsible definition above. Impact investment focuses on the difference that can be made by investing. Green investment is focused on the environmental or ecological impact of investment. And clean investment removes any moral or ethical dimension, focusing on the energy efficiency and low pollution aspect of investment target activities.

It’s fair to say that the various names mean very different things. An investment that is ostensibly clean, the manufacture of weapons for example, can by unethical, certainly when they kill innocent people, as they almost do with a wearing inevitability.

An investment that is sustainable can strain the tolerance of ethical or responsible investors, such as some of the most prevalent forms of pleasure (smoking, drinking, gambling, etc.). Renewable energy sources such as dams, tidal barrages and wind farms draw these investments into conflict with green investors who see natural habitats under threat.

The terms are loose enough that they allow an enormous amount of wriggle room for those who want to fit their fund or portfolio under the sustainable, responsible or ethical banner.

Despite the risk of its overuse, we are sticking with sustainable. The melting of the ice caps is just the clearest and latest sign that the way we invest and consume has become unbearable for our planet. Whatever the morals or ethics of the current situation, it is plainly suicidal to continue to pollute the Earth in the way that we have and waste limited resources on the scale that we do.

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, for as long as there are roses.

Simon Leadbetter is the founder and publisher of Blue & Green Tomorrow. He has held senior roles at Northcliffe, The Daily Telegraph, Santander, Barclaycard, AXA, Prudential and Fidelity. In 2004, he founded a marketing agency that worked amongst others with The Guardian, Vodafone, E.On and Liverpool Victoria. He sold this agency in 2006 and as Chief Marketing Officer for two VC-backed start-ups launched the online platform Cleantech Intelligence (which underpinned the The Guardian’s Cleantech 100) and StrategyEye Cleantech. Most recently, he was Marketing Director of Emap, the UK’s largest B2B publisher, and the founder of Blue & Green Communications Limited.

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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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Features

How Going Green Can Save Your Business Thousands

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Running a company isn’t easy. From reporting wages in an efficient way to meeting deadlines and targets, there’s always something to think about – with green business ideas giving entrepreneurs something extra to ponder. While environmental issues may not be at the forefront of your mind right now, it could save your business thousands, so let’s delve deeper into this issue.

Small waste adds up over time

A computer left on overnight might not seem like the end of the world, right? Sure, it’s a rather minor issue compared to losing a client or being refused a loan – but small waste adds up over time. Conserving energy is an effective money saver, so to hold onto that hard-earned cash, try to:

  • Turn all electrical gadgets off at the socket rather than leaving them on standby as the latter can crank up your energy bill without you even realizing.
  • Switch all lights off when you exit a room and try switching to halogen incandescent light bulbs, compact fluorescent lamps or light emitting diodes as these can use up to 80 per cent less energy than traditional incandescent and are therefore more efficient.
  • Replace outdated appliances with their greener counterparts. Energy Star appliances have labels which help you to understand their energy requirements over time.
  • Draught-proof your premises as sealing up leaks could slash your energy bills by 30 per cent.

Going electronic has significant benefits

If you don’t want to be buried under a mountain of paperwork, why not opt for digital documents instead of printing everything out? Not only will this save a lot of money on paper and ink but it will also conserve energy and help protect the planet. You may even be entitled to one of the many tax breaks and grants issued to organizations committed to achieving their environmental goals. This is particularly good news for start-ups with limited funds as the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) is keen to support companies opening up their company in a green manner.

Of course, if you’re used to handing out brochures and leaflets at every company meeting or printing out newsletters whenever you get the chance, going electronic may be a challenge – but here are some things you can try:

  • Using PowerPoint presentations not printouts
  • Communicating via instant messenger apps or email
  • Using financial software to manage your books
  • Downloading accounting software to keep track of figures
  • Arranging digital feedback and review forms
  • Making the most of Google Docs

Going green can help you to make money too

Going green and environmental stability is big news at the moment with many companies doing their bit for the environment. While implementing eco-friendly strategies will certainly save you money, reducing your carbon footprint could also make you a few bucks too. How? Well, consumers care about what brands are doing more than ever before, with many deliberately siding with those who are implementing green policies. Essentially, doing your bit for the environment is a PR dream as it allows you to talk about what everyone wants to hear.

Going green can certainly save your money but it should also improve your reputation too and give you a platform to promote your business.

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