Martin Stewart, managing director at Stewart Investment Planning, spoke to Alex Blackburne about how a “strong inner-battle” between his work and his beliefs guided him naturally, to ethical investment.
People get into ethical investment for a variety of reasons. For some, it’s because they want to make the sector more transparent. Others cite disenchantment with large-scale companies and curiosity of the field. For many, it is simply because they want to make the world a better place.
For Martin Stewart, it was his personal beliefs that drew him to the water.
“There came a point in my career, around the late nineties, when I felt quite negatively consumed in the money business and the linked material world, whilst at the same time I was personally searching for the ‘meaning of life'”, Stewart says.
“I felt a strong inner-battle between the work that I was doing and my spiritual self, and this drove me to research and explore the ethical investment sector, gradually aligning and developing my business model to where it currently is: specialising in green and ethical investments whilst also delivering a comprehensive financial and lifestyle planning service to private clients.”
Stewart is the managing director of his own company, Stewart Investment Planning – ethical independent financial advisers covering the Bristol area.
Having joined the financial services industry as a tied agent at Guardian Royal Exchange Financial Management in 1991, Stewart was headhunted (or “saved“, as he jokes) just seven months into working there by a professional investment firm that offered independent financial advice to private clients.
“They provided me with an excellent mentor and an environment to develop my career“, he explains.
“After being awarded their best new associate of the year in 1992, I decided that I knew it all, and left to launch Stewart Investment Planning in January 1993.
“Eighteen years later, I am proud to still be here along with the fact that some of my earliest clients are still with me today, although the business itself is very different.”
Aligning your life goals and your finances
Stewart Investment Planning provide fee-based advice to clients, “to ensure full transparency and to remove any possible element of bias or doubt”, according to Stewart.
Speaking from his own experiences with regards to how he initially got involved in the industry, he explained the importance of talking to an expert about your finances.
“Comprehensive financial planning involves working out what’s most important to you and your goals in life. Then, by adding timescales and costs, you can work out how to get where you want to be by planning your finances accordingly.
“At the same time, our planning process considers your green and ethical needs and objectives to ensure that the financial plan outcome is fully aligned to it.”
“False myths” engulf ethical investment
When it comes to ethical investment specifically, though, Stewart is keen to point out that, as a financial adviser, he’s not here to pass judgement as to why people aren’t investing their money sustainably.
“I do not judge people if they choose not to invest ethically”, he says.
“It’s often a lack of knowledge and awareness, along with false myths about green and ethical investing that can put potential investors off and for this reason I do invest time sharing introductory information with those who express some interest in knowing more.”
Stewart’s words emphasise the seemingly widespread belief amongst UK ethical financial advisers, as we’ve seen in this series of features alone, that the public aren’t aware of the choices often right in front of them.
The main myths surrounding ethical investment are also a factor as to why people are often put off choosing to invest responsibly.
“A common false myth is that you have to sacrifice performance”, Stewart explains, “but this is no longer true.
“90% of wealth managers surveyed in the summer of 2009 said that their green and ethical portfolios performed as well as, or better, than their other [unethical] portfolios.”
‘Economics as if people mattered’
Now common practice in Blue & Green Tomorrow interviews with ethical IFAs, I asked Stewart who he would choose to be paired up with if he was stuck on a desert island, and his answer was one of the most thought-provoking yet.
“Right now, I would choose Dr E. F. Schumacher, because I have recently attended the Schumacher Centenary Festival held in my home city of Bristol, and it was an incredibly uplifting experience to listen to and meet so many people of whom he has inspired, helping them to rethink their values, goals and lifestyles.”
Ernst Friedrich Schumacher, better known as Fritz, was a German economist and philosopher, and author of influential publications such as Small is Beautiful (1973) and The Guide for the Perplexed (1977).
“He had a fantastic mind and spirit“, Stewart states.
“He was the embodiment of wisdom and pragmatism and believed that economics was a means to an end – its true aim was to enable people to live peacefully within themselves, with their fellow human beings of all races, religions and nationalities.”
Indeed, Small is Beautiful, which has the rather poignant sub-heading of ‘Economics As If People Mattered’, and many of his other titles, also had sustainable development themes. In the book’s epilogue, Schumacher comments on the growing need for control over “mankind’s population and consumption of resources“.
“Unless this is done”, he writes, “sooner or later – and some believe that there is little time left – the downfall of civilisation will not be a matter of science fiction.
“It will be the experience of our children and grandchildren.”
This outlook might sound grim, but it’s true. Ethical investment is one of the most effective ways to fight this kind of future.
The Stewart Investment Planning website has a ‘daily comment’ that changes every day. On the day that I’m writing this feature, the comment could not be more appropriate when it comes to ethical investment.
“Let good counsel and common sense be your characteristics”, it says.
The good counsel comes from the UK’s ethical IFAs – people like Martin Stewart. The common sense is very much down to you.
About where he’s based
Stewart Investment Planning is based three miles outside the heart of Bristol city centre, in the beautiful Leigh Court business centre.
Surrounded by parkland views in a relaxed stable courtyard office, it neighbours a local farm project growing organic fruit and vegetables, and is away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Famous Bristolians include ground-breaking artists Damien Hirst and the elusive Banksy, as well as TV personalities Stephen Merchant and Justin Lee Collins.
Arguably the most famous pirate in history – Blackbeard – is presumed to have grown up in the city.
Bristol is at the forefront of the UK’s sustainable movement and is a base for many leading groups and organisations, including Sustrans, the Centre for Sustainable Energy and Bristol Friends of the Earth.
The Schumacher Institute, also located in Bristol, and named after Martin Stewart’s personal influence, Fritz, have set up a Green Roots programme. Its aim is “to document and thus conserve Bristol’s history of sustainability and environmental action before the information, personal and collective histories, documents and evidence of action was lost and forgotten“.
The city’s determination to become more sustainable and eco-friendly has paid off in its carbon emission figures over recent years. In 2009, the City of Bristol local authority produced 2,122kt of carbon dioxide, compared to 2,515kt five years earlier in 2004.
Per capita, the local authority produced 4.9t of carbon dioxide – a reduction of 1.3t since 2004.
In 2008, Bristol was named as Britain’s most environmentally sustainable city. Long may it continue.
Previous interviewees include:
- Jeremy Newbegin, of the Ethical Partnership (New Forest and Guernsey)
- Lee Smythe, of Smythe & Walter Chartered Financial Planning (London and Kent)
- Julian Parrott, of Ethical Futures (Edinburgh)
- Ash Rawal, of Lighthouse Impact Ltd (Derby, Derbyshire and the East Midlands)
- John Ditchfield, of Barchester Green
What Kitchen Suits Your Style? Modern, Classic or Shaker?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ways Green Preppers Are Trying to Protect their Privacy
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.