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Invest ethically, reap prosperity

Making your money grow whilst helping to save the planet: sounds like the perfect combination right? Alex Blackburne finds out all you need to know about ethical investments.

Ethical investment is one of the fastest growing sectors in financial planning in the UK, with over £11billion of public money tied up in ethical funds.

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Making your money grow whilst helping to save the planet: sounds like the perfect combination right? Alex Blackburne finds out all you need to know about ethical investments.

Ethical investment is one of the fastest growing sectors in financial planning in the UK, with over £11billion of public money tied up in ethical funds.

This figure, calculated by the not-for-profit ethical investment research service EIRIS, has almost trebled in the last ten years.

The rise in demand for ethical investments is down to more people recognising the importance of investing ethically, and subsequently acting upon it.

In fact, figures released last week as part of National Ethical Investment Week (NEIW) show that 42% of adults in Great Britain want to ‘make money and make a difference’.

Mark Robertson, head of communications at EIRIS, explained the reasoning behind the rise in prominence of the sector.

Since the credit-crunch, people are better informed about the impacts that their spending and investments can have, both positive and negative, and more of us are turning to ethical investmentwhich takes a longer-term approach,” he said.

By avoiding companies with a negative impact, or focusing investment on those providing positive products and services tackling key sustainability challenges, green and ethical funds offer the opportunity to both make money whilst tackling global problems.”

However, UK Sustainable Investment and Finance (UKSIF), who run NEIW, also found that 55% of adults with investments in the UK said “they did not clearly understand what their savings and investments support”.

So, to cater to that group, as well as the 36% of adults with investments “who wanted to know more about impact investing”, what is ethical investment all about?

Ethical Investment

In a nutshell, it means investing in companies which have moral, social and environmentally responsible practices, and/or ruling out any organisations that invest in tobacco, guns or oil, for example.

Animal testing, child labour, genetically modified (GM) crops and producing excessive carbon emissions are other practices which are considered unethical.

The UK’s first ethical unit trust was launched in 1984 by Friends Provident – a year after the establishment of EIRIS – and was labelled a Stewardship Fund.

It may be possible to trace ethical or socially responsible investment back to the 18th century Quakers, although many believe the sector was created in the 1950s, around the time of the Vietnam War.

Back to 2011, and the criterion for modern-day ethical investment varies from fund-to-fund, but shades of green are used to measure the level of strictness.

’Light green’ funds are generally more adaptable when it comes to selecting stocks, and tend not to have rigid guidelines for investors, whilst a ’dark green’ fund is usually more inflexible in its ethical requirements, and in contrast tends to have rigid guidelines in place.

In order to establish whether or not an investment is ethical or not, the sector primarily uses a method called ‘negative screening’.

This involves investigating a company and specifically highlighting the unscrupulous investors, from such things as companies with a poor human rights record, to those dealing in the alcohol or tobacco industries.

It’s about emphasising the unethical dealings within a company.

On the other hand, there is ‘positive screening’, which, as you can probably guess, is where the sector highlights ethical companies – this time focusing on areas such as good ethical employment practices, pollution control and all things to benefit the planet – to determine a company’s ethicalness.

Mike Head, consultant at the Ethical Investors, explained that there was a crucial link to be made when it came to investing ethically.

The key issue with ethical investment is making the connection between money and morals; how many anti-war protesters hold arms companies in their pension or ISA?

How many individuals [who don’t actively seek ethical investment] are indirectly but unknowingly holding shares in banks?

Ethical consumers often avoid activities in the retail arena but completely miss the same action with their money.”

Ethical ISAs

Mirroring the rise in popularity of ethical investment is the ethical ISA – a tax-free way of saving money,but with one important difference from the regular version, in that your money is used to invest in purely ethical funds.

Isa.co.uk explains how, “Ethical ISA funds are used to invest in unit trusts, gilts, the stock exchange, life assurance and many other similar ventures”, as opposed to possibly investing in tobacco, weapons or oil companies which non-ethical funds might do.

The rates for ethical ISAs might not be the best on the market, but your morals certainly won’t be blemished, with Triodos, one of the leading providers of ethical funds in the UK, boasting how they “only [finance] enterprises which create social, environmental or cultural added value”, in sectors such as “organic food and farming, renewable energy, social housing, and fair trade.”

Ethical Financial Management company, the Ethical Investors, label ISA providers as either neutral or positive, depending on their ethical stance.

Neutral providers are companies such as building societies, who the Ethical Investors deem to be, “Ethically neutral as they do not undertake direct lending to companies and the society exists to benefit its members, rather than shareholders.”

As of October 2011, Leek United, Stafford Railway and Harpenden make up the top three neutral providers on the table.

Meanwhile, positive providers, “Positively vet their customers (meaning those that they loan money to) on social, ethical or environmental grounds,” with Triodos, Ecology Building Society and the Co-operative Bank/Smiletopping the list.

Jon Lee, Business Development Manager at Ecology, explained how where they invested money was the central point to whether or not they subsequently received investment.

We asked our members why they chose to save ethically with us earlier this year and found that for 40% of them, trust in how we manage their money and confidence in where it goes – and where it doesn’t – was the most important consideration.

Equal numbers felt that knowing their investment would be put to work specifically towards helping projects that improve the sustainability of our built environment was the top priority.”

Ethical pensions

Ethical pensions, through which an investor is able to save for the future without having a negative social, moral or environmental impact, are also increasingly popular in the UK.

As with the ethical ISAs, a concern in this sector is the return, with many doubters claiming the ethics surrounding ethical pensions often mean the performance quality is sacrificed.

Investment experts, though, deny this, with many maintaining that investing ethically carries with it no financial disadvantages in terms of performance and revenue, and can even see businesses or individual investments performing better than non-ethical ones.

The Ethical Investors’ Ethical Fund Directory, which lists the ethical funds available in the UK to individual investors, and gives ratings in the areas of Environment, Animals and Social, is a great place to start if you’re looking at investing sustainably, whilst YourEthicalMoney.org is the go-to place for all things ethical when it comes to investment, and has practically everything you need to know about the sector on its website.

Otherwise, if you want to know more, phone your IFA, if you have one, or fill in our online form and we will put you in touch with one of our expert panel of specialist financial advisers.

Picture source: epSos.de

Features

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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Features

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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