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Economy

Leading voices need to reframe the debate during National Ethical Investment Week

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An awful lot of journalism during National Ethical Investment Week will get bogged down in a tired debate about performance and gleefully pointing out ‘unethical’ companies which appear in funds’ holdings. This sterile debate misses the point entirely and is no longer a defensible argument in the face of emerging trends.

It is true that in recent years, there have been greater returns to be had from investing without sustainable, responsible or ethical constraints, but that’s because the market massively fails to price in any externalities – the social and environmental costs. Friedrich Hayek realised this and he is the father of modern classical liberal economics.

The president of Harvard University Drew Faust recently strongly came out against divestment from fossil fuels and this sentiment was echoed in an article in the Financial Times. But again, both miss the more fundamental point. The endowment is harming the future, through investment, of the same young people it has been endowed to help, through education.

Educating someone today while investing in companies that degrade their future, is a sure sign of wilful blindness or reckless endangerment.

This cannot make sense to any forward-thinking, rational or ethical human being – and certainly not a highly educated one. A reckless, profiteering investor would probably accept the central thesis of profit maximisation, but following that logic investment in commodities, weaponry, tobacco, gambling, pornography and alcohol while arguing for the reintroduction of slavery is equally justifiable. If someone is willing to sell themselves into slavery, why should the state fetter the market?

An optimised investment strategy focuses on sustainability. A sustainable investment strategy recognises that there are dimensions to investment where we ensure we leave behind a viable economy, society and environment.

As a society, we accept restrictions on all sorts of potentially harmful activities, often through the imposition of outright bans, regulatory oversight, age restrictions or taxes. The sale of alcohol, cigarettes, weapons, gambling, pornography, prostitution, movies, driving, drugs (both legal and illegal) all fall under these constraints. We don’t necessarily agree where the lines fall, but all but the most dogmatic libertarians accept some restrictions.

Why should this same thinking not apply to the burning of fossil fuels which cause respiratory, gastric and dermatological harm (especially to the young) as well as being a prime mover in climate change? The opium trade was economically valuable and caused wars (it’s why we owned Hong Kong). The same is true for the slave trade.

In 100 years, our descendants will look back on fighting wars over oil and burning fossil fuels as equally immoral and foolish as we see the opium and slave trade today.

Focusing on performance alone, in a “look at this, not at that, and certainly not at that” approach, simply says we should focus on marginally better returns today, but do not look at the fallout and costs heaped on tomorrow. These are costs which we have paid in the blood of our soldiers, the health of our children and the economy crippling subsidies and dependence (some would say addiction) with which we underwrite the ‘mature’ oil and gas industry. These costs will fall even more heavily on subsequent generations.

As for the presence of certain stocks in the portfolios of ethical funds, big business is not the enemy. They can be when they fund misinformation, but most sensible CEOs and boards recognise growing consumer, shareholder and political pressure to clean up their act. Resource inefficiency and pollution (another inefficiency) simply means lower profits than are possible. Ethical funds play a key role in leaning on large companies with dubious records to clean up and embrace sustainability.

We desperately need to reframe the debate. Smart investors are already moving their assets into more sustainable options. The wealthiest individuals, organisations and countries have contingency plans in place for when the bubble bursts.

The militaristic developed world can just march in and take what it wants when things run out. It’s what we’ve always done. We have the wealth to fight, adapt and engineer our way through the problems we face, but it would be a lot cheaper and more prudent to mitigate the effects our excess.

The sterile arguments of the business as usual crowd are jeopardising our country’s potential in leading the sustainability revolution and the future prospects of our children.

We need to reframe the debate. Join us.

Further reading:

Invest, spend and vote sustainability: why National Ethical Investment Week matters

National Ethical Investment Week 2013: bigger, bolder, broader, better

A round-up of events for National Ethical Investment Week 2013

The Guide to Sustainable Investment 2013

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.

Economy

Report: Green, Ethical and Socially Responsible Finance

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“The level of influence that ethical considerations have over consumer selection of financial services products and services is minimal, however, this is beginning to change. Younger consumers are more willing to pay extra for products provided by socially responsible companies.” Jessica Morley, Mintel’s Financial Services Analyst.

Consumer awareness of the impact consumerism has on society and the planet is increasing. In addition, the link between doing good and feeling good has never been clearer. Just 19% of people claim to not participate in any socially responsible activities.

As a result, the level of attention that people pay to the green and ethical claims made by products and providers is also increasing, meaning that such considerations play a greater role in the purchasing decision making process.

However, this is less true in the context of financial services, where people are much more concerned about the performance of a product rather than green and ethical factors. This is not to say, however, that they are not interested in the behaviour of financial service providers or in gaining more information about how firms behave responsibly.

This report focuses on why these consumer attitudes towards financial services providers exist and how they are changing. This includes examination of the wider economy and the current structure of the financial services sector.

Mintel’s exclusive consumer research looks at consumer participation in socially responsible activities, trust in the behaviour of financial services companies and attitudes towards green, ethical and socially responsible financial services products and providers. The report also considers consumer attitudes towards the social responsibilities of financial services firms and the green, ethical and socially responsible nature of new entrants.

There are some elements missing from this report, such as conducting socially responsible finance with OTC trading. We will cover these other topics in more detail in the future. You can research about Ameritrade if you want to know more ..

By this report today: call: 0203 416 4502 | email: iainooson[at]mintel.com

Report contents:

OVERVIEW
What you need to know
Report definition
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
The market
Ethical financial services providers: A question of culture
Investment power
Consumers need convincing
The transformative potential of innovation
Consumers can demand change
The consumer
For financial products, performance is more important than principle
Competition from technology companies
Financial services firms perceived to be some of the least socially responsible
Repaying the social debt
Consumer trust is built on evidence
What we think
ISSUES AND INSIGHTS
Creating a more inclusive economy
The facts
The implications
Payments innovation helps fundraising go digital
The facts
The implications
The social debt of the financial crisis
The facts
The implications
THE MARKET – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Ethical financial services providers: A question of culture
Investment power
Consumers need convincing
The transformative potential of innovation
Consumers can demand change
PUTTING FINANCIAL SERVICES IN AN ETHICAL CONTEXT
An ethical economy
An ethical financial sector
Ethical financial services providers
GREEN, ETHICAL AND SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE ISSUES IN FINANCIAL SERVICES
The role of investing
Divestment
The change potential of pensions
The role of trust
Greater transparency informs decisions
Learning from past mistakes
The role of innovation
Payments innovation: Improving financial inclusion
Competition from new entrants
The power of new money
The role of the consumer
Consumers empowered to make a change
Aligning products with self
THE CONSUMER – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
For financial products, performance is more important than ethics
Financial services firms perceived to be some of the least socially responsible
Competition from technology companies
Repaying the social debt
Consumer trust is built on evidence
Overall trust levels are high
THE ETHICAL CONSUMER – SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE ACTIVITIES
Payments innovation can boost charitable donations
Consumer engagement in socially responsible activities is high
Healthier finances make it easier to go green
SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE COMPANIES
37% unable to identify socially responsible companies
Building societies seen to be more responsible than banks….
….whilst short-term loan companies are at the bottom of the pile
CONSUMER TRUST IN THE BEHAVIOUR OF FINANCIAL SERVICES COMPANIES
Overall trust levels are high
Tax avoidance remains a major concern
The divestment movement
Nationwide significantly more trusted
Trust levels remain high
CONSUMER ATTITUDES TOWARDS GREEN AND ETHICAL FINANCIAL PRODUCTS
For financial products, performance is more important than principle
Socially conscious consumers are more concerned
CONSUMER ATTITUDES TOWARDS TRANSPARENCY
Strategy reports provide little insight for consumers
Lack of clarity regarding corporate culture causes concern
Consumers want more information
THE ROLE OF FINANCIAL SERVICES FIRMS IN SOCIETY
The social debt of the financial crisis
THE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITIES OF FINANCIAL SERVICES FIRMS
For consumers, financial services firms play larger economic role
Promoting financial responsibility
CHALLENGER COMPANIES AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
Consumer trust is built on evidence
The alternative opportunity
The target customer

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Economy

A Good Look At How Homes Will Become More Energy Efficient Soon

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energy efficient homes

Everyone always talks about ways they can save energy at home, but the tactics are old school. They’re only tweaking the way they do things at the moment. Sealing holes in your home isn’t exactly the next scientific breakthrough we’ve been waiting for.

There is some good news because technology is progressing quickly. Some tactics might not be brand new, but they’re becoming more popular. Here are a few things you should expect to see in homes all around the country within a few years.

1. The Rise Of Smart Windows

When you look at a window right now it’s just a pane of glass. In the future they’ll be controlled by microprocessors and sensors. They’ll change depending on the specific weather conditions directly outside.

If the sun disappears the shade will automatically adjust to let in more light. The exact opposite will happen when it’s sunny. These energy efficient windows will save everyone a huge amount of money.

2. A Better Way To Cool Roofs

If you wanted to cool a roof down today you would coat it with a material full of specialized pigments. This would allow roofs to deflect the sun and they’d absorb less heat in the process too.

Soon we’ll see the same thing being done, but it will be four times more effective. Roofs will never get too hot again. Anyone with a large roof is going to see a sharp decrease in their energy bills.

3. Low-E Windows Taking Over

It’s a mystery why these aren’t already extremely popular, but things are starting to change. Read low-E window replacement reviews and you’ll see everyone loves them because they’re extremely effective.

They’ll keep heat outside in summer or inside in winter. People don’t even have to buy new windows to enjoy the technology. All they’ll need is a low-E film to place over their current ones.

4. Magnets Will Cool Fridges

Refrigerators haven’t changed much in a very long time. They’re still using a vapor compression process that wastes energy while harming the environment. It won’t be long until they’ll be cooled using magnets instead.

The magnetocaloric effect is going to revolutionize cold food storage. The fluid these fridges are going to use will be water-based, which means the environment can rest easy and energy bills will drop.

5. Improving Our Current LEDs

Everyone who spent a lot of money on energy must have been very happy when LEDs became mainstream. Incandescent light bulbs belong in museums today because the new tech cut costs by up to 85 percent.

That doesn’t mean someone isn’t always trying to improve on an already great invention. The amount of lumens LEDs produce per watt isn’t great, but we’ve already found a way to increase it by 25 percent.

Maybe Homes Will Look Different Too

Do you think we’ll come up with new styles of homes that will take off? Surely it’s not out of the question. Everything inside homes seems to be changing for the better with each passing year. It’s going to continue doing so thanks to amazing inventors.

ShutterStock – Stock photo ID: 613912244

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