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Pornography and the ethical investor



We were surprised* to turn on BBC2’s Newsnight on Wednesday and be plunged into a debate about pornography. We shuddered as Jeremy Paxman rolled his tongue around the word ‘masturbation’. This followed a debate on Radio 4’s Moral Maze, where phrases rarely heard on radio were uttered by Michael Buerk, Claire Fox, Melanie Phillips, Matthew Taylor and Giles Fraser. The debate is both uncomfortable for many and complex for a free society.

The cynical may see the BBC’s recent interest in pornography as an attempt to drive ratings. Others may question the timing during an emerging crisis in Egypt. Nevertheless, it is good that the issue is being discussed, rather than ignored.

Adult entertainment, pornography’s more polite euphemism, has long been a ‘sin stock’ and excluded from ethical investment funds. Funds that have their origins in abolitionism, temperance and abstinence aren’t easy bedfellows with slavery, alcohol and sex (specifically, filmed sex). It may seem old-fashioned or prudish to many, but some human activities can cause harm and need banning, regulating and monitoring.

The debate on whether you should film or photograph sex acts, and then distribute them widely, comes with greater challenges: most critically, the participants’ consent and who is looking.

Very few people today see anything wrong with sex between two (or more, in some cases) consenting adults. Some organised religions, but by no means all of their adherents, take exception to extramarital or group sex and/or homosexuality – but seem quite happy to support payday lending firms, planet-wrecking fossil fuel giants and companies with opaque human rights practices.

Stigmatising pornography as a social ill by religious leaders seems odd when some organised religions’ oppression of women, victimisation of homosexuals, abuse of children and the encouragement of shame for natural sexual urges has surely done more harm overall to society than pornography.

Throw in the incredible wealth accumulation, too frequent unethical investment, financial scandals, sectarian battles, bloody crusades, repeated pogroms, implicit racism, hypocrisy, anti-science and the general lack of hierarchical equality, and you might feel organised and established religions across the world have more significant issues that are closer to home.

The word ‘pornography’ comes from ancient obscene paintings in temples of Bacchus, the god of wine, ritual madness and ecstasy. Pornography literally means ‘depicting prostitutes’ (‘porne’ means ‘bought or sold, relating to female slaves’ and ‘graphy’ means ‘to write’).

Since internet porn became more mainstream in the noughties (or naughties), 4% of all sites and 13% of web searches are porn-related, according to Forbes. Perhaps surprisingly, 30% of all users are women. It seems the ‘Private Shop’ was a barrier to using porn for women and the internet has taken that away. There is evidence that adult channels at hotels always had a high usage by women when they were watching in the privacy of a room.

There is also no scientific evidence that watching porn increases violence against women. Comparing the declining or stable levels of violence against women, albeit it always too high, in countries that permit pornography and endemic violence against women in countries or regions that prohibit it, it is clear the link is not causal. While there are harrowing and truly appalling tales of people being forced to act out pornographic acts, this is always in the context of an abusive relationship. Pornography may be another symptom, rather than the cause or exacerbating circumstance.

The two core issues are clear and they are: explicit participant consent and always protecting those who are watching, especially if they are minors.

Explicit consent

It is impossible to know in any online video or magazine whether the people involved have consented to what is being done to them or what they are doing. You do not know if they have been sex trafficked or are being abused off camera. It is almost impossible to know the age of the participants.

Certification and monitoring of the industry should be extremely tight and sanctions against any transgressors exemplary and harsh.

Protecting children

Children and young adults clearly need to be protected from violence and misinformation about sexual relationships. This applies as much to those who argue some sex is a sin, to those who argue anything goes. Parents, teachers, internet service providers and the government all bear a heavy responsibility to ensure that what our children are watching is age appropriate and in the context of comprehensive, accurate sex education.

Advertisers, the media and their regulators also carry significant responsibility in sexualising children and objectifying people, often men but especially women.

Finally, while national newspapers such as the Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Express like to whip up a moral panic about pornography, they themselves are often purveyors of soft and hard porn (the Sun’s page 3, the Mail online’s right-hand column of shame and Express owner Desmond’s ‘other’ interests). They should probably put their own houses in order before judging others.

Pornography remains an area for divestment for many ethical investors with strong and genuinely held beliefs and values. An informed divestment choice should always be welcomed. Abuse, sex trafficking and shielding children concerns us all, probably more than it does. We respect those opinions but would take a more liberal view as long as conditions of consent and protection are satisfactorily addressed. It is open for debate if they ever can be. For us, there are far greater economic, social and environmental ills that need excluding.

* disturbed

Further reading:

Selling virginity is an example of unethical profit maximisation gone too far

There is such a thing as an unethical investment

David Cameron declares war on online pornography

The sextet of sin: investing in war and death (cheerful headline or what?)

Will only unspeakable tragedy make investors see the necessity of responsible investment?

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.


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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5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable




sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.

1. Weather stripping

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.

Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.

Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.

2. Programmable thermostats

Programmable thermostats

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.

Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!

3. Low-flow water hardware

With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.

Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.

Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.

4. Energy efficient light bulbs

An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.

New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.

5. Installing solar panels

Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.

Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.

From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!

These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.

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