Jeremy Newbegin, director of The Ethical Partnership, spoke to Charlotte Reid about his hope that people will start to see the reasons for ethical finance.
When trying to understand the world of ethical finance, it is good to have someone who made the journey from sceptic to full-time enthusiast to guide you through it.
Jeremy Newbegin, director of The Ethical Partnership, took a long time to be convinced of the benefits of ethical investing, even though he used to work for a company that was doing some work towards ethical finances when it was a very small sector in the 1980s.
Like many ethical investors he is motivated in no small part by his faith and in our discussion said of all the people he would genuinely like to be stuck on a desert island with would be Jesus. Newbegin sees the decision to be involved in ethical financial advice as “very simple” saying, “I am a committed Christian and it just fitted my beliefs and my lifestyle”.
On the edge of the New Forest
The Ethical Partnership, which has one of its offices near Lyndhurst, Hampshire, is an independent financial planner, focusing on ethical and socially responsible investment.
There are four directors who all worked together previously before setting up this company. They boast that between them they can offer a combined 50 years experience in ethical investment, as well as over a hundred years in financial services.
Newbegin makes clear that they offer more general advice as well, because they “don’t turn people away”. He explains this approach by saying that as clients “get to know me they will get more of an understanding” of ethical investments, because of the work of The Ethical Partnership”.
He points out that ethical funds can be complicated which is why they offer bespoke, tailored portfolios as well more general portfolios.
“We are all different, we all have different morals, and beliefs”.
“Bespoke portfolios are for people who want to make every effort to match their beliefs and lifestyle. They are very strict on criteria and this can potentially affect the performance.”
He believes that what is stopping ethical investment from taking off in the UK is “the belief that performance is not good ”. He does admit that there are potentially, compromises to be made when achieving a return on ethical investment and doing the right thing “because you aren’t prepared to cut corners for profits sake”.
Newbegin added, “However, that doesn’t mean you won’t get a decent return. In fact looking forward I am excited about the prospects for specialist sectors like renewable energy, waste management, water management, and health”.
Another factor that puts people off from looking at ethical alternatives is that “people have busy lives and suffer from apathy because they can’t be bothered or haven’t the time to move [their money]”.
However, Newbegin is hopeful that attitudes will change thanks to the lack of integrity amongst some politicians, journalists, and of course the credit crunch and the subsequent behaviour of the banks.
“It is time we wake up and realise that we are all in this together. We only have one planet. We also need each other to help make a sustainable living for all. We need to treat each other with respect and honesty, and look after those less fortunate than ourselves.
“If we keep going down the same route we will only make things worse”. It’s time for change.
You reap what you sow
The director sums it up with the phrase ‘you reap what you sow’ .
Newbegin has a stark warning for the future, which is that if attitudes towards money do not change then “in the end it may well bring about an economic disaster – if we are not already too late”.
“Integrity needs to be the foundation of all we do. If that had been the case we wouldn’t be in the situation we are now in.”
However, he does appreciate that people have a lack of knowledge about ethical investments and he sees that as “the industry’s fault”. We need to educate people.
When people are asking about investments in general, Newbegin says rarely are the ethical options discussed, and if they are then they are spoken about negatively.
If you believe in something you will have a passion about that subject
This is why it is better to get advice from an organisation like The Ethical Partnership, as Newbegin says, “If you believe in something you will have a passion about that subject, and are more likely to have better knowledge.”
Bad advice is something of a worry for Newbegin as he says, “there are a lot of wolves out there dressed in sheep’s clothing” who are potentially giving out ethical financial advice with very limited knowledge. If people take their advice they could be put off by a bad experience.
Newbegin is hopeful that with the current economic and social environment people will be inclined to change their behaviour and opinions,
“All that has happened recently with bankers, politicians, journalists, police etc, I hope that, but maybe I am being naïve, people are unhappy with the lack of integrity and that ethical investment will strike a chord.”
About where he’s based
Newbegin’s office is situated in a village called Woodlands, near the beautiful New Forest National Park.
The surrounding area includes places such as Ashurst, Southampton and the popular tourist destination Lymington.
The Georgian market town of Lymington, Hampshire, is world renowned as a sailing resort. The southern port comes complete with a cobbled high street and just to the north is the New Forest National Park.
All of this surrounding beautiful scenery led to Channel 5 giving Lymington the title of ‘best town on the coast’ in 2008.
Throughout the town’s history it has had a number of uses for its close proximity to the sea. In the 18th century, Lymington gained a reputation for smuggling, as smugglers would use the ports to bring their secret stashes to land.
But then it gave way to respectability in the 19th century, as Lymington became well-known for shipbuilding and trade, which in turn gave way to yacht making. The town’s sailing history, as well as its strong tides, making for some challenging race tracks, meant Lymington became the home to some world famous regattas.
In 2009 the local authority New Forest District Council (NFDC) created 2,283kt of carbon dioxide, which is a slow dip as that figure was 2,630 in 2005. The biggest contribution is large industrial installations.
The NDFC is helping residents to become environmentally aware by creating more opportunities for energy efficient and renewable energy products.
The local authority is also a member of the Southern Home Energy Conservation Action Network (SHECANe), a group of 14 local authorities in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. Since 1997 they have been working together to fulfil the requirements of the Home Energy Conservation Act 1995.