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National Ethical Investment Week: three ideas for policymakers

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It’s National Ethical Investment Week (NEIW) – a great initiative to raise awareness about green and ethical investment among the financial community and public at large. But this year, awareness-raising needs to stretch to another important section of society: policymakers.

It’s remarkable that last month’s party conference season in the UK came and went with barely a mention of responsible or ethical investment. Given the potential that responsible investment has to shape the future of the UK and the world, and to influence the way companies behave, that seems like a big oversight.

To paraphrase Charles de Gaulle, “Policymaking is too serious a matter to be left to the policymakers.” So to start the ball rolling, here are three ideas for policymakers this NEIW.

1. A ‘Stern report’ for stranded assets

Seven years ago this month, the government-backed report by the economist Lord Stern became the most significant attempt to put an economic cost on the effect of global warming.

The Stern report provided a financial justification for action on climate change and catalysed action by investors, companies and the public sector. Much research has built on this, most recently from the Carbon Tracker Initiative, which showed that 80% of the fossil fuel reserves that investors currently treat as assets are ‘stranded’ and need to be drastically revalued.

However, carbon is only one of several ‘stranded assets’. If we accept that companies will at some point have to pay a reasonable price for the natural services they currently take for granted – services such as freshwater provision or biodiversity – then investors, companies and the public sector need to understand the likely economic impacts so that they can act.

Research funded and supported by the government on how bringing such ‘externalities’ onto the balance sheet would affect the global economy could have a similar impact as Stern had.

2. Investment in financial education, with new rights to information

Much of the money circulating around the financial system is owned by ordinary members of the public, through their ISAs, pensions and other savings. This makes them part-owners of the businesses they invest in, and gives them the power to change corporate behaviour.

But people rarely have the information and knowledge they need to use their power. Improved education in schools and colleges and by investors themselves can change that.

Leading responsible investors such as the Environment Agency Pension Fund report back to their members on how they are being responsible with their money, while others such as NEST have conducted comprehensive research on the “characteristics, circumstances and attitudes” of their members and then shaped policies accordingly.

Policymakers should incentivise more investors to follow these trailblazers with investment in financial education and new rights to information so that anyone with an ISA or a pension can understand and influence how their money is being managed.

3. Rethinking listing rules

Information drives markets. If the information investors receive is shallow and short-term, then investors decisions are likely to be, too. So if a company is not obliged to report on how it is managing sustainability, then assume that the market won’t price in the sustainability of that entity.

While there are numerous ways to improve corporate sustainability reporting, the one that would have the biggest and most immediate impact would be for major stock exchanges – such as London Stock Exchange – to introduce sustainability reporting as a listing requirement.

Stock exchanges play a unique role in capital markets, one which positions them to be critical levers for improving the depth, consistency and comparability of corporate disclosure on climate change and sustainability performance.

It is standard practice for businesses to issue thorough financial reports, so why not sustainability reports?

Elliot Frankal is director of ESG Communications, a PR firm specialising in responsible investment for retail and institutional investors. It is currently hiring; see here for more information. 

National Ethical Investment Week 2013 runs from October 13-19. Join the debate on Twitter using the hashtag #moneydoinggood.

Further reading:

Responsible investors need to let the light in

We’ve had 20 years of sustainable investment and is the world getting any better?

We need more people with complete sustainability literacy

What gets measured gets managed: sustainability in 21st century business

The Guide to National Ethical Investment Week 2013

Environment

How to Build An Eco-Friendly Home Pool

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eco-friendly pool for home owners
Licensed Image from Shutterstock - By alexandre zveiger

Swimming pools are undoubtedly one of the most luxurious features that any home can have. But environmentally-conscious homeowners who are interested in having a pool installed may feel that the potential issues surrounding wasted water, chemical use and energy utilized in heating the water makes having a home swimming pool difficult to justify.

But there is good news, because modern technologies are helping to make pools far less environmentally harmful than ever before. If you are interested in having a pool built but you want to make sure that it is as eco-friendly as possible, you can follow the advice below. From natural pools to solar panel heating systems, there are many steps that you can take.

Choose a natural pool to go chemical free

For those homeowners interested in an eco-friendly pool, the first thing to consider is a natural pool. Natural swimming pools utilise reed bed technology or moss-filtration to naturally filter out dirt from the water. These can be combined with eco-pumps to allow you to have a pool that is completely free from chemicals.

Not only are traditional pool chemicals potentially harmful to the skin, they also mean that you can contaminate the area around the pool if chemical-filled water leaks or is splashed around. This can be bad for your garden and the environment general.

It will be necessary to work with an expert pool builder to ensure that you have the expertise to get your natural pool installed properly. But the results with definitely be worth the effort and planning that you have to put in.

Avoid concrete if possible

The vast majority of home pools are built using concrete but this is far from ideal in terms of an eco-friendly pool for a large number of reasons. Concrete pools are typically built and then lined to stop keep out any bacteria. This is theoretically fine, except that concrete is porous and the lining can be liable to erode or break which can allow bacteria to enter the pool.

It is much better to use a non-porous material such as fibreglass or carbon ceramic composite for your pool. Typically, these swimming pools are supplied in a one-piece shell rather than having to be built from scratch, ensuring a bacteria-free environment. These non-porous materials make it impossible for the water to become contaminated through bacteria seeping into the pool by osmosis.

The further problem that can arise from having a concrete pool is that once this bacteria begins to get into the pool it can be more difficult for a natural filtration system to be effective. This can lead to you having to resort to using chemicals to get the pool clean.

Add solar panels

It is surprising how many will go to extreme lengths to ensure that their pool is as eco-friendly as possible in terms of building and maintaining it but then fall down on something extremely obvious. No matter what steps you take with the rest of your pool, it won’t really be worth the hassle if you are going to be conventionally heating your pool up, using serious amounts of energy to do so.

Thankfully there are plenty of steps you can take to ensure that your pool is heated to a pleasant temperature while causing minimal damage to the environment. Firstly, gathering energy using solar panels has become a very popular way to reduce consumption of electricity as well as decreasing utility bills. Many businesses offer solar panels specifically for swimming pools.

Additionally, installing an energy efficient heat pump or boiler to work in conjunction with your solar panels can be hugely beneficial.

Cover it!

Finally, it is worth remembering that there are many benefits to investing in a pool cover. When you cover your pool you increase its heat retention which stops you from having to power a pump or boiler to keep it warm. This works in conjunction with the solar panels and eco-friendly heating system that you have already had installed.

Additionally, you cover helps to keep out dirt and other detritus that can enter the pool, bringing in bacteria. Anything that you can do to keep bacteria out will be helpful in terms of keeping it clean.

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Features

4 Ways To Get a Green House in 2018

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green house and homes
Featured Image From Shutterstock - By Photographee.eu

Demand for green houses is surging. In 2020, almost 20% of all homes on the market will be green.

If you would like to buy a green home, this is a great time to look into it. Prices are still pretty low and there are a lot more financing options available than there were right after the recession.

If you’re thinking about buying a house, now could be a very good time to make the move! A number of factors in the housing market right now mean that you might be able to afford your dream home. Although in many parts of the country house prices are still rising, if you do your research and plan wisely, there are lots of good schemes to help you get your foot on the property ladder, or trade up to the house you’ve always wanted.

Interest Rates and Stamp Duty

Although the Bank of England raised interest rates by 0.25% recently, they remain very low, which is good news if you’re thinking of taking out a mortgage. However, rates may not stay low and it’s predicted that there’ll be a further rate rise during 2018, so don’t wait too long. Another factor that’s going to help first time buyers in particular is the Chancellor’s decision to abolish stamp duty for first timers purchasing properties for under £300,000.

Different options

For many people looking to buy a green home, raising a deposit of between 5% and 20% may not be a realistic option, in which case there are a growing number of schemes to help. Increasingly popular are shared ownership schemes, through which the buyer pays a percentage of the full value of the property (typically between 25% and 75%) and the local council or a housing association pays the rest, and takes part ownership. This is suitable for buyers who may struggle to meet the up-front costs of buying outright. There will often be a service charge or management fees to pay in addition to the mortgage. The Government’s Help To Buy scheme is a good place to start looking if you’re interested in this option. This scheme is now available to people looking to buy green homes too.

ISA Options

If you’re still saving for a deposit, another scheme is the Help to Buy ISA. You can get a 25% boost to your savings on amounts up to £200 per month with this scheme. It’s only open to first time buyers and you can claim a maximum of £3000.

Other costs

Green home buyers are going to run into a number of other ancillary costs, most of which are common to other homebuyers.

When calculating how much you can afford, it’s vitally important to remember that buying a house comes with a whole host of other costs. Depending on the cost of the property that you’re buying, you may have to pay stamp duty of anywhere between 1% and 5%. There’ll be estate agents fee if you’re also selling a property, although there are a wide range of online estate agents operating such as Purple Bricks or Right Move that have lower fees than traditional high street companies. Conveyancing costs to a solicitor can add another £1000-£3000 and you may need to take out life insurance and hire a moving firm.

There are other initial costs such as, fixing parts of the home that aren’t upto your taste. Getting new furniture to fill up all the new-found space in your new home. If you are moving away from the city, you need to consider the cost of transportation as well, as it can take up quite a lot over time. Take your time, do your homework and shop around and soon you could be getting the keys to your perfect home.

I hope this article was useful for you to learn more about the basics that you need to be aware of before you start the process of buying your first home. If you have any doubts with regards to this, let us know through the comments and we will be glad to help you out. If you have any suggestions regarding how we can improve the article, let us know them through the comments as well for us to improve.

Do you have any other reservations against buying your first home? Do you see your house as an asset or a liability? Do you think it is important for everyone to get themselves a new home? Let us know through the comments.

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