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Ethical investors are not tree huggers, but air breathers* (and responsible global citizens)

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Some commentators like to paint ethical or responsible investors as a slightly deluded, financially naïve bunch of simple folk, more fond of ‘doing good’ and hugging trees, rather than operating in the red-blooded arena of serious investors. More astute investors, they argue, ignore such silly ethical considerations and pursue profit above anything else.

It’s sad that the same criticism of naïve ‘do-gooders’ was levelled at those who argued for the abolition of slavery, extending the franchise to poor men and then women, to withdraw from the colonies and, more recently, that smoking might be just be a little bit bad for you.

Those who oppose reform and progress have successively held the view that investors should be free to maximise profit from owning slaves, employing the disenfranchised and disserving poor, oppressing women, exploiting colonies and getting doctors to promote smoking.

Vested interests and their friends in the media despise change. It upsets the balance sheet to have voices questioning existing models. Let us not forget that every freedom we enjoy today was fought for, tooth and nail, and dragged kicking and screaming from the cold dead hands of those who benefited from the status quo.

Profit shall be the whole of the law

Commentators of the type described above, let’s call them profiteers, take any criticism of their worldview very personally and often resort to personal attacks if challenged. They cannot understand why anyone could or would see the world differently. Investment is all about profit and nothing else. Nothing. To do less than profit maximisation is wrong-headed and moronic. To consider investment’s effect on societies, families, individuals and the environment is foolish.

Film buffs may be reminded of the unpleasant character in Aliens, Carter Burke, who would shaft anyone “for a goddam percentage”. Or Michael Douglas’ amoral character, Gordon “greed, for lack of a better word, is good” Gekko. Sadly, profiteers see these characters as role models, rather than the horrific archetypes they are meant to be.

If that profit-only investment philosophy holds true, then there is nothing wrong with someone selling themselves into slavery. Or selling their organs or bodies for profit. Clearly, those who subscribe to the ‘profit before anything else’ worldview draw a line somewhere between what is legitimate and what is not illegitimate investment activity. They would surely, hopefully, balk at the suggestions above.

Ethical and responsible investors simply draw the line somewhere else. Often they draw a line to reflect their moral view towards the environment, society and prosperity. To do otherwise would be hypocritical and inconsistent.

Profit matters, but people and planet matter, too

Where you draw that line is clearly up to you. You can choose to minimise the harm you do by ruling out certain companies and sectors (negative screening), or maximise the good you do by ruling in certain companies and sectors (positive screening).

You can be more purist in your approach (dark green) or less so (light green). You can deliberately hold stakes in unethical companies so you can attend annual general meetings and hold them to account as an activist shareholder.

What you will always find with ethical investors and advisers, however, is that they are more engaged in and informed about the impact of their portfolio. Profit is required but it is balanced against the impact on people and the planet.

Profiteers often like to describe the ethical investment industry as confused by terminology, as though this is just a question of semantics. The ‘muppets’ (Goldman Sachs’ term), you and me, simply can’t cope with more than one term for something.

When compared to the deliberately impenetrable jargon and doublespeak of the investment world, ethical investment terms are refreshingly clear and descriptive. Yes, there are a number of terms that describe slightly different flavours of this style of investing – socially responsible, responsible, ethical, good and, our personal favourite, sustainable.

It’s all pretty much of a muchness and we’re fairly confident that the investor population is smart enough to work it all out without too much trouble. Choosing not to be the antonym of the above helps, i.e., don’t be an antisocial, irresponsible, unethical, bad and unsustainable investor.

Profiteers argue that you should only look after yourself and maximise the return today. Silly ethical considerations such as the environment or our children’s future should be limited to charity and shopping.

More enlightened investors question the impact (another word) their investments are having. With the value of financial trades outstripping the value of real trade 26:1, it is not in the arena of charity, ethical shopping and fair trade that we will secure a more sustainable future. Enlightened investors  still want a return but not at the expense of people’s lives and the environment.

All we suggest is that you make an informed choice by asking your adviser or wealth manager which companies you are investing in.

You can then ask yourself, Is that company building the world I want for my children and grandchildren? If that company arms dictators, pollutes the air we breathe, the land and seas we take our food from and is exhausting finite resources, we humbly submit that they are probably not fit and proper recipients of your money.

It is 179 years since slavery was abolished throughout the British Empire (with a few lucrative exceptions). Today we rightly look back at investment in slavery as abhorrent to our values and culture. In another 179 years, will we look back at investment in companies that sell arms to oppressive regimes, use child labour, promote smoking in countries with no health education, pollute the environment and exhaust scarce resources as equally abhorrent?

We believe we will.

Want to learn more about investing sustainably? Have a read of our Guide to Sustainable Investment and our Guide to Sustainable Banking, and stay tuned until Friday, when we’ll be publishing a second Guide to Sustainable Investment.

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

* with apologies to Robin Williams and Barry Levinson’s Man of the Year

Further reading:

Are we investing in the future we want for our children and grandchildren?

National Ethical Investment Week 2012 begins

Ethical investment demand rises as individuals turn to sustainability

Talk of high returns amongst ethical investors detracts from the point

£11 billion invested ethically in the UK: infographic analysis

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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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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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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