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National Ethical Investment Week is more than an ‘arbitrary promotional event’



A sneering phrase has entered into the lexicon of National Ethical Investment Week (NEIW). First coined by the Investors Chronicle in 2012, it was this weekend spread by the Daily Telegraph. The phrase in question is “arbitrary promotional event”.

Dismiss an awareness-raising event as trivial and random (arbitrary), then chuck it into the bin labelled ‘promotional’, which is akin to the dark arts of advertising, marketing and public relations in the eyes of most journalists (even though those dark arts effectively pay their salaries). Move along reader, nothing to see here but trivial marketing.

One can assume, given the slur, that both titles – the Investors Chronicle and the Telegraph – would be equally dismissive of the countless ‘promotional’ days, weeks, fortnights and months designed to simply raise awareness about everything from animal protection, asthma, cancer, dementia, fashion, fish and chips, humanitarian issues or some zoological crisis – often held under the auspices of a charity, industry body or the UN, and celebrated locally or internationally.

The IC runs a number of events itself throughout the year – many held on an annual basis. Meanwhile the Telegraph has in the past covered such events as Walk to School Month, Wool Week and Movember. Are they all arbitrary promotional events, as well?

The Telegraph journalists are seemingly upset that they were “sent reams of promotional materials by public relations officers” during NEIW. Perhaps they would prefer it if it was cash paid to the advertising department, as all upright conventional funds do.

One of the charges levelled at the ethical investment industry is that it is a mixed bag of providers and funds. It’s worth pointing out that there is no universal philosophical, moral, economic, social or environmental agreement on what defines sustainable, responsible or ethical, so how could there be a ‘one size fits all’ ethical investment? It needs a mixed bag to cater for the mixed bag of investors.

Both the IC and Telegraph try to sugarcoat their attacks with lofty assertions of “their own research”, which is often wrong or misleading, reveals nothing new or hints at a great swindle being foisted on their readers.

It takes about three minutes to read something on this amazing technology called ‘the internet’ to find most of the issues raised about ethical investment are openly discussed and then promptly punctured online.

Many newspapers and journalists still hanker after the days when they were the sole curators and disseminators of truth, as they saw it. After all, if all those blogs and start-up media companies were ‘proper magazines’, we’d clearly accept the consensus view of investment and the media it feeds. Profit is the whole point; planet and people can go hang.

The Telegraph article points out that only £8.6 billion of the £716 billion invested in funds in the UK is invested ‘ethically’, or in funds that are promoted as such.

Data from responsible investment research firm EIRIS suggests the actual figure is £12.2 billion, while the 134 funds in Blue & Green Investor’s library have around £22 billion invested in them.

It comes down to definitions. What one person feels is moral, another may feel is immoral and ‘vice’ versa. Being able to make informed choices about all funds available would make sense. Far from keeping fund holdings ‘secret’, most players are conforming to wider industry norms and regulation.

Every fund, ethical and conventional, should publish their entire holdings online and frequently (we would say in realtime). This is how markets function, with the buyer having access to accurate, up-to-date information, rather than the seller having all the cards.

Let’s put the arbitrary promotional week into context. The UK financial services industry spends £1.6 billion on advertising, spread over the course of a whole year. That doesn’t include the millions spent paying and giving bonuses to sales people who mis-sold payment protection to consumers and default swaps to businesses.

Add this figure to this the other billions (probably trillions) spent avoiding the inland revenue, the siphoning of profits in opaque fee structures, fixing Libor rates, money laundering for drug barons, sanction breaking with our enemies and feeding speculative bubbles, while demanding public bailouts when private failure occurs.

National Ethical Investment Week spends an infinitesimal fraction of this for one week, and does a lot less damage.

So in a small attempt to ensure National Unethical Investment Year-after-Year-after-Year doesn’t dominate all 52 weeks, the industry created a dedicated week to focus what little resources it has on raising public awareness on investment and finance whose prime focus isn’t to screw people and planet for a small percentage gain in profit. Cue opprobrium and sneering from certain sectors of the media.

That the Telegraph and IC get a significant portion of their revenue from the mainstream (or unsustainable, irresponsible and unethical) financial sector and other harmful industries clearly has absolutely nothing at all to do whatsoever with their other blemish-free editorial impartiality.

The Telegraph was founded in 1855 by Colonel Arthur B Sleigh to air a personal grievance against the Duke of Cambridge. Sleigh, an interesting character by any standard, was unable to pay his print bill so the paper was sold to another publisher, Joseph Levy.

It seems the Telegraph only exists today to the air grievances of an outraged minority, with outdated ideas, about anything which could be called progress. At least it’s in keeping with the newspaper’s tradition.

Further reading:

Calls for greater investment transparency applies to more than ethical funds

‘There are no moral or ethical considerations when investing’

Ethical investors are not tree huggers, but air breathers (and responsible global citizens)

There is a disconnect between investment and the real world

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.


New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035



renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart /

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.


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How Going Green Can Save A Company Money



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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