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Good Money Week: What’s on financial advice experts minds?

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Lisa Stonestreet UKSIF’s Good Money Week Programme Director told Blue & Green: “There are advisers, such as those in the Ethical Investment Association (EIA), who have a long established track record of working with their clients to make sure financial objectives and values can be aligned.” This is what some of the EIA’s leading thinkers told us.

Julian Parrot of Ethical Futures said: “After a number of years of upheaval and change in the ethical sector, 2015 was a year of consolidation and restructuring. Leading the way, the Sustainable Futures team, confident in their new home at Alliance Trust, reacted positively to market dynamics by creation of a range of risk rated multi-asset funds.

“Elsewhere, we have seen a successful rebrand at EdenTree and RLAM have finally got ‘the paperwork’ sorted to bring the old CIS Sustainability funds under one roof and made tentative steps to market them.  Following the divorce between Friends Life and F&C, we have also heard positive words from both camps looking to breathe new life into established funds. Finally, whilst funds are the usual focus, it was encouraging to see the Parmenion ethical portfolios featuring in the shortlist for the Moneyfacts ILP Awards.

“Hope springs eternal for a range of new funds and a surge in demand – but I feel this will not materialise without growth in retail distribution, therefore my wish for next is simply that the marketing teams get behind the promotions of quality funds that have in many cases outshone their mainstream peers in recent year. Likewise, I call on my fellow IFA’s to recognise the nascent demand amongst their clients or even just to consider a particular ethical or sustainable fund as a useful portfolio diversifier.”

Lee Coates OBE of Ethical Investors said: “Good Money week is a crucial element in the growth of responsible investment, but it has to contend with ingrained barriers in the financial services industry.  These barriers are two-fold: Lack of Regulatory guidance – whilst the Regulator requires advisers to take note of a client’s Attitude to Risk (AtR) before giving advice (and avoid this area at their peril) there is no such guidance on ascertaining a client’s attitude to the impact of their investments.

“By impact I am referring to the social, environmental and sustainable impact of placing their money in Fund A or Fund B.  For those who would be given the choice, investing responsibly is just as important as their AtR. The lack of direction from the Regulator thereby leads to the second barrier.

“Poor financial advice – advisers have a requirement to consider a client’s AtR, needs and objectives when giving advice – the Know Your Client requirements.  However, it really is up to the adviser to decide what they want to know and anything, such as responsible investment, that might get in the way of a sale is clearly not needed!  If advisers were doing their job properly they would automatically need to know if each client had any social, religious, environmental or other aspect of their life which should be incorporated into the advice process.

“It is true (and sad) that many people will not apply any values at all other than profit to their investments but by asking the question of all clients a good adviser can do their job properly.  By choosing not to ask the question an adviser is making decisions on behalf of a client that are not theirs to make.“

Lisa Hardman of Investing Ethically said: “It seems as if more attention is being paid to SRI at a high level such as “Zurich pledges to focus 10 per cent of investments on delivering ‘positive impact’ ” and an increasing number of companies are taking individual action on a range of sustainability issues, however, this is not translating into more funds for retail investors.

“The range of funds has not significantly changed over the last couple of years although we understand from a number of the fund managers already offering ethically screened funds that some potentially new ethically screened funds are being consulted on so we hope the overall range of funds will increase over the next few years. We are not presently seeing new fund managers coming to the table to offer ethically screened funds.

“The main ethical issues our clients focus on are currently: The arms trade and tobacco, fossil fuels and wanting to invest positively. Just avoiding ‘bad’ stuff is not enough. We are getting more questions about crowdfunding and supporting social enterprise and local business.”

John Ditchfield of Barchester Green said: ““My view is that 2016 is likely to be a big year for responsible investment as the movement to divest from fossil fuels continues to win support from major trusts, foundations and other corporate investors. We also think private investors are finally getting the message that responsible investments can performance very well and that will lead to more activity from individuals investing their savings and/or moving to responsible funds.

“Looking at our own business the merger of Barchester, Castlefield and GAEIA is exciting news because this will create a really substantial and sustainable advice service with the right structure and vision to grow into the mainstream; the group assets under advice will be around £430M”.

Tanya Pein of IN2 Consulting said: “All pension money belongs to individual members and they care deeply about these issues. Responsible investment (RI) is mainstream: retail investors hear warnings about the financial risk of climate change from the Bank of England et al, and they regularly ask about it.

“Retail investors place their trust their fund managers to act on bad practice of all kinds – and increasingly they want specific information about what engagement is going on; not just reassurance. There are expert RI advisers out there – look them up on the EIA website. There is more demand for RI advice than there are advisers to meet it, so it’s smart for all advisers across the UK to use the Good Money Week resources and learn more.

Independent SRI Consultant John Fleetwood of 3D Investing added: “I’d like to see more funds following WHEB and Impax’s lead by issuing impact reports.  Given that many investors base investment decisions on social impacts as well as financial returns, measuring impact can be just as important as monitoring financial performance.

“I’d also encourage fund managers to publish all of their holdings with a brief description of the nature of the business activity.  It’s actually remarkable how difficult it can be to get the full report and accounts from some funds.

“The short form report is widely available but this only lists the top 10 holdings.  In some instances fund managers insist on sending paper copies running to several hundreds of pages which is absolutely crackers.  Come on guys, at the very least it must be easy to publish a pdf on your web site.”

UKSIF’s Stonestreet again: “Good Money Week is an excellent opportunity for advisers [such as those above] to highlight their expertise and for those who may less experienced in this particular area to learn more about how best to meet their clients’ needs in an evolving and growing market.”

“As increasing numbers of investors look to combine their environmental and social concerns with their financial decisions it’s never been more important for advisers to be aware of how to accurately reflect this in their approach to financial planning.”

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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