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.
Ways Green Preppers Are Trying to Protect their Privacy
Environmental activists are not given the admiration that they deserve. A recent poll by Gallup found that a whopping 32% of Americans still doubt the existence of global warming. The government’s attitude is even worse.
Many global warming activists and green preppers have raised the alarm bell on climate change over the past few years. Government officials have taken notice and begun tracking their activity online. Even former National Guard officers have admitted that green preppers and climate activists are being targeted for terrorist watchlists.
Of course, the extent of their surveillance depends on the context of activism. People that make benign claims about climate change are unlikely to end up on a watchlist, although it is possible if they make allusions to their disdain of the government. However, even the most pacifistic and well intentioned environmental activists may unwittingly trigger some algorithm and be on the wrong side of a criminal investigation.
How could something like this happen? Here are some possibilities:
- They could share a post on social media from a climate extremist group or another individual on the climate watchlist.
- They could overly politicize their social media content, such as being highly critical of the president.
- They could use figures of speech that may be misinterpreted as threats.
- They might praise the goals of a climate change extremist organization that as previously resorted to violence, even if they don’t condone the actual means.
Preppers and environmental activists must do everything in their power to protect their privacy. Failing to do so could cost them their reputation, future career opportunities or even their freedom. Here are some ways that they are contacting themselves.
Living Off the Grid and Only Venturing to Civilization for Online Use
The more digital footprints you leave behind, the greater attention you draw. People that hold controversial views on environmentalism or doomsday prepping must minimize their digital paper trail.
Living off the grid is probably the best way to protect your privacy. You can make occasional trips to town to use the Wi-Fi and stock up on supplies.
Know the Surveillance Policies of Public Wi-Fi Providers
Using Wi-Fi away from your home can be a good way to protect your privacy.However, choosing the right public Wi-Fi providers is going to be very important.
Keep in mind that some corporate coffee shops such a Starbucks can store tapes for up to 60 days. Mom and pop businesses don’t have the technology nor the interest to store them that long. They generally store tips for only 24 hours and delete them afterwards. This gives you a good window of opportunity to post your thoughts on climate change without being detected.
Always use a VPN with a No Logging Policy
Using a VPN is one of the best ways to protect your online privacy. However, some of these providers do a much better job than others. What is a VPN and what should you look for when choosing one? Here are some things to look for when making a selection:
- Make sure they are based in a country that has strict laws on protecting user privacy. VPNs that are based out of Switzerland, Panama for the British Virgin Islands are always good bets.
- Look for VPN that has a strict no logging policy. Some VPNs will actually track the websites that you visit, which almost entirely defeats the purpose. Most obviously much better than this, but many also track Your connections and logging data. You want to use a VPN that doesn’t keep any logs at all.
- Try to choose a VPN that has an Internet kill switch. This means that all content will stop serving if your VPN connection drops, which prevents your personal data from leaking out of the VPN tunnel.
You will be much safer if you use a high-quality VPN consistently, especially if you have controversial views on climate related issues or doomsday prepping.
How Going Green Can Save Your Business Thousands
Running a company isn’t easy. From reporting wages in an efficient way to meeting deadlines and targets, there’s always something to think about – with green business ideas giving entrepreneurs something extra to ponder. While environmental issues may not be at the forefront of your mind right now, it could save your business thousands, so let’s delve deeper into this issue.
Small waste adds up over time
A computer left on overnight might not seem like the end of the world, right? Sure, it’s a rather minor issue compared to losing a client or being refused a loan – but small waste adds up over time. Conserving energy is an effective money saver, so to hold onto that hard-earned cash, try to:
- Turn all electrical gadgets off at the socket rather than leaving them on standby as the latter can crank up your energy bill without you even realizing.
- Switch all lights off when you exit a room and try switching to halogen incandescent light bulbs, compact fluorescent lamps or light emitting diodes as these can use up to 80 per cent less energy than traditional incandescent and are therefore more efficient.
- Replace outdated appliances with their greener counterparts. Energy Star appliances have labels which help you to understand their energy requirements over time.
- Draught-proof your premises as sealing up leaks could slash your energy bills by 30 per cent.
Going electronic has significant benefits
If you don’t want to be buried under a mountain of paperwork, why not opt for digital documents instead of printing everything out? Not only will this save a lot of money on paper and ink but it will also conserve energy and help protect the planet. You may even be entitled to one of the many tax breaks and grants issued to organizations committed to achieving their environmental goals. This is particularly good news for start-ups with limited funds as the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) is keen to support companies opening up their company in a green manner.
Of course, if you’re used to handing out brochures and leaflets at every company meeting or printing out newsletters whenever you get the chance, going electronic may be a challenge – but here are some things you can try:
- Using PowerPoint presentations not printouts
- Communicating via instant messenger apps or email
- Using financial software to manage your books
- Downloading accounting software to keep track of figures
- Arranging digital feedback and review forms
- Making the most of Google Docs
Going green can help you to make money too
Going green and environmental stability is big news at the moment with many companies doing their bit for the environment. While implementing eco-friendly strategies will certainly save you money, reducing your carbon footprint could also make you a few bucks too. How? Well, consumers care about what brands are doing more than ever before, with many deliberately siding with those who are implementing green policies. Essentially, doing your bit for the environment is a PR dream as it allows you to talk about what everyone wants to hear.
Going green can certainly save your money but it should also improve your reputation too and give you a platform to promote your business.