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A Q&A with Simon Howard, Chief Executive of UKSIF

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Simon Howard

Readers of Blue & Green Tomorrow (BGT) will, we hope, have been looking at the animation and tweets coming out of Good Money Week, the annual initiative co-ordinated by UKSIF to promote the idea that “you can make money and make a difference”. UKSIF is the UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association, a group of some 230 financial service firms with an interest in sustainability. The UKSIF team has been busy on GMW but Simon Howard found some time to answer six questions for us:

What has been the most interesting development in sustainable investment in 2016?

There is a great deal to consider – it has been a good year! I have written before for BGT on the excellent developments in fiduciary duty that we have seen from the Pensions Regulator (TPR), but I will flag it once more: TPR has told trustees of defined contribution pension funds that they SHOULD consider all material financial factors. To any sensible person this must have the effect of putting climate change on the agenda of everyone involved in providing pensions for others – whether that is in Defined Benefit (DB) or Defined Contribution (DC) form or in the context of giving advice.

Looking forward it means that a range of other factors such as the impact on the corporate reputation of aggressive corporate tax behaviour and the threat of anti-microbial resistance should begin to be discussed too. In fact I think TPR’s statements mean responsible investment will become the standard approach.

Beyond that I continue to note the monthly retail sales statistics from the Investment Association. They have a category called “ethical”. In terms of funds currently outstanding ethical accounts for about 1%, but the sales month-by-month in the past year or so have consistently been more than 3%. This is a really interesting gain in market share. Some UKSIF members have suggested it is sales in DC pension schemes showing up.

Also interesting have been some of the comments from the new Prime Minister. Her suggestion that employees and consumers be represented on company boards, and that annual pay votes be binding go further than many commentators were expecting. It all suggests that corporate responsibility may shoot up the political agenda.

Mrs May has also set up the Inclusive Economy Unit (IEU) under Rob Wilson MP. The mission of the IEU, enthusiastically espoused by Mr Wilson when he spoke at Good Money Talks on 24th October, is to encourage better use of private investment and support markets that deliver social impact as well as financial returns, to improve delivery of public services to increase social impact while bringing value for money in the commissioning of public services, and to encourage responsible business, from social enterprise startups to companies that aim at “profit with purpose”. If we start seeing developments in the social/impact space it will be extremely exciting.

And the most frustrating development?

I’m an idealist and like things to be simple. It’s extremely frustrating that the logical conclusions of COP21 and all the other work being done on responsible and sustainable investing are not being taken up more rapidly. There are successes and there is movement but it is too slow.

What is the biggest theme for sustainable investment in 2017?

UKSIF will continue to work on the fiduciary duty area. We want to translate the “should consider” guidance from TPR into more areas e.g. DB pensions and contract based DC, so we will be doing a lot of work with regulators. But with a lot of political change underway perhaps it’s fair to say that the big issue of 2017 may not yet have been identified. It’s possible for instance that the UK may see significant fiscal stimulus with a green tinge to it as part of the Brexit-economic mitigation plan. UKSIF is suggesting that!

Do you think we have reached, or are approaching, the tipping point in the take up of sustainable investment?

I don’t know about a tipping point but it certainly feels different to me. In the institutional space people know that COP21 meant something and so climate change is on the agenda. TPR opinion cited above and the retail sales figures also suggest change is coming. There is a long way to go and a recession or market collapse won’t help but I think things are going our way.

What impact do you think Brexit will have on sustainable investment?

I think sustainable investment is relatively Brexitimmune. At the bluntest level CO2 priced in sterling or euros is still CO2. But I don’t think a UK government could seriously retreat from existing EU-inspired regulation and if we get a Democrat president in the USA I don’t think the global drive will ebb. As I said above we may even see a fiscal package with a greenish tinge, certainly that is what we will be pushing for. People more expert than me tell me that the UK is already ahead of the EU in certain areas of climate regulation and I don’t expect that to change. Famous last words. I am worried about fracking, especially if it is proposed as anything other than a bridge technology, but I suspect the protests we will see as fracking comes in will tend to drive “our” issues up the political agenda and not down. Certainly Mrs May’s comments on corporate governance do not suggest she is an opponent of change and responsible attitudes. I may be wrong. I hope not. We should remember that the government has a very small majoritythey can’t be too radical in any area without a referendum behind them.

If you could make one change to benefit sustainable investment, what would it be?

That’s a very wide question isn’t it? I’m from a fund management background and so my answer will be pretty prosaic- no doubt your other contributors have the really big picture answer. At one level proper pricing of externalities would be a game changer. Combine that with more transparency throughout the financial services value chain and we may get somewhere quite fast. The practical answer for 2017 is as abovemore fiduciary duty in regulation.

Company Profile

The UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association (UKSIF) is the membership association for sustainable and responsible financial services. We promote responsible investment and other forms of finance that support sustainable economic development, enhance quality of life and safeguard the environment. We also seek to ensure that individual and institutional investors can reflect their values in their investments.

This article was first published in our latest Guide to Sustainable Investment

Environment

How to be More eco-Responsible in 2018

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Shutterstock / By KENG MERRY Paper Art | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/kengmerrymikeymelody

Nowadays, more and more people are talking about being more eco-responsible. There is a constant growth of information regarding the importance of being aware of ecological issues and the methods of using eco-friendly necessities on daily basis.

Have you been considering becoming more eco-responsible after the New Year? If so, here are some useful tips that could help you make the difference in the following year:

1. Energy – produce it, save it

If you’re building a house or planning to expand your living space, think before deciding on the final square footage. Maybe you don’t really need that much space. Unnecessary square footage will force you to spend more building materials, but it will also result in having to use extra heating, air-conditioning, and electricity in it.

It’s even better if you seek professional help to reduce energy consumption. An energy audit can provide you some great piece of advice on how to save on your energy bills.

While buying appliances such as a refrigerator or a dishwasher, make sure they have “Energy Star” label on, as it means they are energy-efficient.

energy efficient

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By My Life Graphic

Regarding the production of energy, you can power your home with renewable energy. The most common way is to install rooftop solar panels. They can be used for producing electricity, as well as heat for the house. If powering the whole home is a big step for you, try with solar oven then – they trap the sunlight in order to heat food! Solar air conditioning is another interesting thing to try out – instead of providing you with heat, it cools your house!

2. Don’t be just another tourist

Think about the environment, as well your own enjoyment – try not to travel too far, as most forms of transport contribute to the climate change. Choose the most environmentally friendly means of transport that you can, as well as environmentally friendly accommodation. If you can go to a destination that is being recommended as an eco-travel destination – even better! Interesting countries such as Zambia, Vietnam or Nicaragua are among these destinations that are famous for its sustainability efforts.

3. Let your beauty be also eco-friendly

eco-friendly

Shutterstock / By Khakimullin Aleksandr

We all want to look beautiful. Unfortunately, sometimes (or very often) it comes with a price. Cruelty-free cosmetics are making its way on the world market but be careful with the labels – just because it says a product hasn’t been tested on animals, it doesn’t  mean that some of the product’s ingredients haven’t been tested on some poor animal.

To be sure which companies definitely stay away from the cruel testing on animals, check PETA Bunny list of cosmetic companies just to make sure which ones are truly and completely cruelty-free.

It’s also important if a brand uses toxic ingredients. Brands such as Tata Harper Skincare or Dr Bronner’s use only organic ingredients and biodegradable packaging, as well as being cruelty-free. Of course, this list is longer, so you’ll have to do some online research.

4. Know thy recycling

People often make mistakes while wanting to do something good for the environment. For example, plastic grocery bags, take-out containers, paper coffee cups and shredded paper cannot be recycled in your curb for many reasons, so don’t throw them into recycling bins. The same applies to pizza boxes, household glass, ceramics, and pottery – whether they are contaminated by grease or difficult to recycle, they just can’t go through the usual recycling process.

People usually forget to do is to rinse plastic and metal containers – they always have some residue, so be thorough. Also, bottle caps are allowed, too, so don’t separate them from the bottles. However, yard waste isn’t recyclable, so any yard waste or junk you are unsure of – just contact rubbish removal services instead of piling it up in public containers or in your own yard.

5. Fashion can be both eco-friendly and cool

Believe it or not, there are actually places where you can buy clothes that are eco-friendly, sustainable, as well as ethical. And they look cool, too! Companies like Everlane are very transparent about where their clothes are manufactured and how the price is set. PACT is another great company that uses non-GMO, organic cotton and non-toxic dyes for their clothing, while simultaneously using renewable energy factories. Soko is a company that uses natural and recycled materials in making their clothes and jewelry.

All in all

The truth is – being eco-responsible can be done in many ways. There are tons of small things we could change when it comes to our habits that would make a positive influence on the environment. The point is to start doing research on things that can be done by every person and it can start with the only thing that person has the control of – their own household.

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Energy

Top 5 Changes You can Make in Your Life to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

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Saving money and reducing your carbon footprint? What isn’t to love? - Image from Shutterstock - https://www.shutterstock.com/g/thodonal88

In a world, where war rages and global warming threatens our very existence, the inhabitants of earth need to be extra vigilant in their efforts to go green. This includes reducing your carbon footprint on the earth and leading a more sustainable life.

Many homeowners feel perplexed by all of the options available to reduce their carbon footprint. They may even feel (falsely) that making their household more green will fail to make that much of a difference in the fight to save our planet.

Even a single home going green has a massive impact on the environment. We can win this battle on home at a time. If you’re interested in accepting the challenge of making your household a green home, read on below for a few of the top changes you can make in your life to reduce your carbon footprint. We all stand to benefit from making the earth safer for future generations – and your wallet won’t complain when you start to see the savings in annual energy costs.

Switch From Dirty Energy to Clean Solar

The ION Solar reviews tell it all–solar is the best way to go. Whether your goal is to slash your energy bills, or to reduce your carbon footprint, the sun is a fantastic source of renewable energy.

It’s important to get past the hype from solar installers. Instead, listen to the plethora of impartial customer reviews that mention everything from a $20 energy bill, to the incredible feeling of knowing that you are doing your part by going green and minimizing harmful emissions in to our atmosphere.

The average investment is $15,000 to $30,000 for installation and purchase of solar panels. Optional battery power packs can help provide consistent power during both night and day. And many government agencies provide federal, state or local grants to help offset upfront investments in clean energy.

Depending on which installed you choose, your household may qualify for low-interest or zero interest loans to cover the up-front cost of your installation. And the loan payments are usually less than your current monthly power bill.

It really is a win-win, as home buyers are looking for homes that feature this technology – meaning solar power installation improves the resale value of your property.

Home Modifications

And there are a number of additional home modifications that can help improve the energy efficiency of your home. A programmable thermostat can better manage energy consumption from home cooling and heating systems while you’re away from home. And weather stripping your doors can help keep cool air in during the summer, and warm air in during the winter.

Of course, energy conservation starts at home. And this includes setting a powerful example for your kids. Teach your children how to close windows, strategically keep doors open or closed based on airflow, and encourage them to leave the thermostat alone – opting for adding or removing layers of clothing instead.

Unplug Appliances and Shut Off Electronics

Unplugging your appliances when they aren’t in use, such as the toaster and the coffee maker, has more of an impact than you might think. Set your TVs and stereos on sleep timers, instead of letting them run around the clock. The cumulative impact of wasteful electronic device usage is horrible for our environment – putting unnecessary strain on our electrical grid.

Recycle

One of the simplest and easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint is by recycling. You are already throwing this stuff away anyway, right? It doesn’t take much more effort to just put recyclables in a separate container to be recycled, now does it?

Oh, and did I mention that you can earn money for recycling? Yes! Many cities and towns have recycling centers that will purchase your clean plastic and glass bottles for reuse.

Minimize Your Water Usage

Water is one of the easiest things to forget about when it comes to reducing your carbon footprint. Preserve water by turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth. Shorten your shower by a few minutes and turn down the heat on that water heater. You’ll be surprised at how much lower your water bill and your energy bill will be.

Saving money and reducing your carbon footprint? What isn’t to love?

These are just a few of the top ways that you can reduce your carbon footprint and start living a greener lifestyle. And we aren’t factoring in all of the advantages that we’ll reap from public investments in a smarter energy grid.

From decreasing your water usage, to switching to solar for your home’s energy needs, you will feel good at the end of the day knowing you are doing your part to save the future of this planet for generations to come!

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