Clare Brook, fund manager at WHEB Asset Management, speaks to Alex Blackburne about their fund that aims to make the world a more sustainable place.
In a world in which the dangers and consequences of climate change are drummed into us often with little or no effect, a selection of financial management organisations have acknowledged that it’s where your money is invested that makes the most difference, as we attempt to alleviate the problem.
One such company, WHEB Asset Management (WHEB AM), set up a fund in 2009 under the objective of achieving long term capital growth by investing in companies that are designed to make the world more sustainable, both environmentally and demographically.
Back in April, Blue & Green Tomorrow interviewed the company’s co-founder, Ben Goldsmith, who, through his philanthropic investment habits, said he was striving to convert the world round to his way of thinking.
The IM WHEB Sustainability Fund is an Open-Ended Investment Company, otherwise known as an OEIC (pronounced ‘oik’). This type of fund means that each time you invest money, it gets bigger, in contrast to an investment trust, where you’re just buying shares in a closed-ended fund.
The fund is based around three key sustainability themes: climate change and the energy challenge, global water resource shortages, and demographic shifts, in particular the move towards an ageing population.
“Any company we invest in has to have at least 30% of its revenue coming from at least one of those three themes“, explains Clare Brook, WHEB AM’s fund manager.
“In practice, though, most of our investments in pure-play companies have far larger than 30% of their revenue coming from one of those themes.
“The reason we took it down to 30% was that we wanted to capture some of the large, multinational companies that are basically changing their strategies to become far more sustainable in terms of their product offering, but at the moment they’ve still got some latent businesses.”
The fund, which only invests in companies making a positive difference to society, was launched in June 2009 and is currently worth £29m.
Since take-off, it has increased its revenue by 2.9%, with an average monthly return of 0.2% (Bloomberg, Oct 2011), and it also performs admirably against its composite benchmark.
One of the three themes WHEB AM use to determine whether or not they invest in a company is to do with global water resource shortages.
“The challenge there is that at the moment there is ever-growing demand for water on the planet because of increased population and increased usage per capita”, Brook says.
“Obviously the amount of water remains finite, and if anything, water supplies are becoming ever-more threatened, not only by over usage and over extraction, but also by climate change.”
The WHEB AM fund manager went on to give three examples of water-related companies they have investments in – some of which are at the forefront of the sector.
“We’re interested in companies that have ways of preserving existing water supplies, and that could be through a range of different technologies, for example encouraging people to monitor the water thatthey’re using to use less, so water metering companies.
“We have a company called Elster, that actually also does gas metering as well, so they’re essentially monitoring both use of energy and water.
“Then we’re interested in companies that are providing water for people who don’t currently have access to clean drinking water, for example in China, there is a company called Sound Global.
“They’re rolling out a number of water treatment facilities across China, and providing people with both clean drinking water, and sewage facilities.
“Then, in the developed world, you’ve got a problem where the existing water infrastructure is moving into a phase of dilapidation, and so we’re very interested in companies that can repair existing pipes and water facilities, so an example from our fund is a company called Aegion.”
Some of the top companies that the IM WHEB Sustainability Fund invest in – there are 40 overall, split fairly evenly across the three themes – include Siemens, Horiba, Danaher, Pennon Group and Flowserve.
“The three challenges of climate change and the energy crisis, water shortages and an ageing population, are three of the most serious issues as a human race this century”, Brook states.
“We believe that companies that meet those challenges are not only helping the world to overcome its most serious issues, and therefore are doing the right thing, but they will also grow faster than the economy as a whole, because there is such a necessity for what they’re doing.
“By investing in these sort of funds, that are in turn investing in companies that are meeting these challenges head on, you stand a good chance over time of making good returns on your investment, and you’re also helping the world move onto a more sustainable footing.”
She concluded by emphasising the fact that individuals must take the long term view – usually three to five years – in order to reap the best possible rewards from equities.
“The weird thing about equity markets is when equities fall in price, investors tend to shun them, whereas when equities have had a really good run, investors get very keen on them, and so what investors need to do is take a deep breath, exercise some reverse psychology and think that now is an interesting time because everyone in the world is nervous about equities, and that’s why markets have fallen so sharply.
“There may be some extremely good reasons why people are worried, and clearly the global economy is facing huge challenges, but if you take a longer term view, generally, the world manages to get through these challenges and you then get into a purple patch when equity markets do extremely well.”
Brook’s message is clear: be patient and you will be financially rewarded. One thing you simply cannot be patient about is when you choose to invest in ethical and sustainable funds.
This must be done sooner rather than later, or else the overwhelming effects of climate change will be irreversible. At least if you act now, you, yourself, have a chance of saving the world.
If you would like to know more about WHEB AM’s Sustainability Fund, visit their website. Otherwise, if you would like more information about investing ethically more generally, ask your financial adviser, if you have one, or complete our online form and we’ll connect you with a specialist ethical adviser.
2017 Was the Most Expensive Year Ever for U.S. Natural Disaster Damage
Devastating natural disasters dominated last year’s headlines and made many wonder how the affected areas could ever recover. According to data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the storms and other weather events that caused the destruction were extremely costly.
Specifically, the natural disasters recorded last year caused so much damage that the associated losses made 2017 the most expensive year on record in the 38-year history of keeping such data. The following are several reasons that 2017 made headlines for this notorious distinction.
Over a Dozen Events With Losses Totalling More Than $1 Billion Each
The NOAA reports that in total, the recorded losses equaled $306 billion, which is $90 billion more than the amount associated with 2005, the previous record holder. One of the primary reasons the dollar amount climbed so high last year is that 16 individual events cost more than $1 billion each.
Global Warming Contributed to Hurricane Harvey
Hurricane Harvey, one of two Category-4 hurricanes that made landfall in 2017, was a particularly expensive natural disaster. Nearly 800,000 people needed assistance after the storm. Hurricane Harvey alone cost $125 billion, with some estimates even higher than that. So far, the only hurricane more expensive than Harvey was Katrina.
Before Hurricane Harvey hit, scientists speculated climate change could make it worse. They discussed how rising ocean temperatures make hurricanes more intense, and warmer atmospheres have higher amounts of water vapor, causing larger rainfall totals.
Since then, a new study published in “Environmental Research Letters” confirmed climate change was indeed a factor that gave Hurricane Harvey more power. It found environmental conditions associated with global warming made the storm more severe and increase the likelihood of similar events.
That same study also compared today’s storms with ones from 1900. It found that compared to those earlier weather phenomena, Hurricane Harvey’s rainfall was 15 percent more intense and three times as likely to happen now versus in 1900.
Warming oceans are one of the contributing factors. Specifically, the ocean’s surface temperature associated with the region where Hurricane Harvey quickly transformed from a tropical storm into a Category 4 hurricane has become about 1 degree Fahrenheit warmer over the past few decades.
Michael Mann, a climatologist from Penn State University, believes that due to a relationship known as the Clausius-Clapeyron equation, there was about 3-5 percent more moisture in the air, which caused more rain. To complicate matters even more, global warming made sea levels rise by more than 6 inches in the Houston area over the past few decades. Mann also believes global warming caused the stationery summer weather patterns that made Hurricane Harvey stop moving and saturate the area with rain. Mann clarifies although global warming didn’t cause Hurricane Harvey as a whole, it exacerbated several factors of the storm.
Also, statistics collected by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from 1901-2015 found the precipitation levels in the contiguous 48 states had gone up by 0.17 inches per decade. The EPA notes the increase is expected because rainfall totals tend to go up as the Earth’s surface temperatures rise and additional evaporation occurs.
The EPA’s measurements about surface temperature indicate for the same timespan mentioned above for precipitation, the temperatures have gotten 0.14 Fahrenheit hotter per decade. Also, although the global surface temperature went up by 0.15 Fahrenheit during the same period, the temperature rise has been faster in the United States compared to the rest of the world since the 1970s.
Severe Storms Cause a Loss of Productivity
Many people don’t immediately think of one important factor when discussing the aftermath of natural disasters: the adverse impact on productivity. Businesses and members of the workforce in Houston, Miami and other cities hit by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma suffered losses that may total between $150-200 billion when both damage and sacrificed productivity are accounted for, according to estimates from Moody’s Analytics.
Some workers who decide to leave their homes before storms arrive delay returning after the immediate danger has passed. As a result of their absences, a labor-force shortage may occur. News sources posted stories highlighting that the Houston area might not have enough construction workers to handle necessary rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Harvey.
It’s not hard to imagine the impact heavy storms could have on business operations. However, companies that offer goods to help people prepare for hurricanes and similar disasters often find the market wants what they provide. While watching the paths of current storms, people tend to recall storms that took place years ago and see them as reminders to get prepared for what could happen.
Longer and More Disastrous Wildfires Require More Resources to Fight
The wildfires that ripped through millions of acres in the western region of the United States this year also made substantial contributions to the 2017 disaster-related expenses. The U.S. Forest Service, which is within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, reported 2017 as its costliest year ever and saw total expenditures exceeding $2 billion.
The agency anticipates the costs will grow, especially when they take past data into account. In 1995, the U.S. Forest Service spent 16 percent of its annual budget for wildfire-fighting costs, but in 2015, the amount ballooned to 52 percent. The sheer number of wildfires last year didn’t help matters either. Between January 1 and November 24 last year, 54,858 fires broke out.
2017: Among the Three Hottest Years Recorded
People cause the majority of wildfires, but climate change acts as another notable contributor. In addition to affecting hurricane intensity, rising temperatures help fires spread and make them harder to extinguish.
Data collected by the National Interagency Fire Center and published by the EPA highlighted a correlation between the largest wildfires and the warmest years on record. The extent of damage caused by wildfires has gotten worse since the 1980s, but became particularly severe starting in 2000 during a period characterized by some of the warmest years the U.S. ever recorded.
Things haven’t changed for the better, either. In mid-December of 2017, the World Meteorological Organization released a statement announcing the year would likely end as one of the three warmest years ever recorded. A notable finding since the group looks at global land and ocean temperature, not just statistics associated with the United States.
Not all the most financially impactful weather events in 2017 were hurricanes and wildfires. Some of the other issues that cost over $1 billion included a hailstorm in Colorado, tornados in several regions of the U.S. and substantial flooding throughout Missouri and Arkansas.
Although numerous factors gave these natural disasters momentum, scientists know climate change was a defining force — a reality that should worry just about everyone.
How to be More eco-Responsible in 2018
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.
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
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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