Connect with us


Sustainable financial advice: shouting about sustainability with IFA Richard Essex



Richard Essex, financial adviser at Grayside Ltd in Surrey, gives advice to clients on sustainable, responsible and ethical investment.

He tells Blue & Green Tomorrow about the increasing trend of investors becoming interested in sustainability. He adds, however, that more needs to be done to spread awareness to the mainstream.

How did you get into sustainable, responsible and ethical financial advice as opposed to financial advice more generally?

Well, like a number of people, I started off providing general financial advice. My interest in sustainable and responsible investment (SRI) came through my concern for protecting our environment. In particular, I had been involved in setting up a recycling scheme for local businesses in our area. Then one day it clicked and I realised maybe there was a way of connecting this interest with the slightly drier world of financial advice.

Tell us about your firm, its history, team numbers and what you see as its expertise.

I am a consultant with Grayside Financial Services, which has been operating as independent financial advisers for the last 40 years. We have eight consultants offering advice mainly in the area of personal financial planning. Our core service is offering holistic financial planning to clients. Personally, I have introduced the idea of SRI being part of any individuals financial planning.

I have encouraged other colleagues to take this up, some with more success than others. I however remain very much the specialist within my firm.

Why do you think people should consider investing sustainably, responsibly and ethically?

Because ideally, as an economy, we should be investing this way. Enlightened economic thinking is now pleading that the sustainability of the world economy and planet has to be supported by the right investment right now!

From a practical point of view however, we are starting to see that investment decisions, which take into account environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors have a better chance of being financially sustainable. This is an attractive prospect for the individual investor, especially when you consider the rollercoaster they have been through.

Is there a compromise to be made between getting a return on investment and ‘doing the right thing’?

There may be in the short-term. For example, where a fund is strictly screened a more restricted universe could cost short-term gains.

You have to ask yourself however why certain funds are restricted. It will be because they are seen as having some form of negative effect on the health of our society or planet. I am an optimist and believe that over time, sentiment will move away from these negative stocks.

A good example is tobacco. Although this has always been seen as a good solid financial stock, public sentiment and the shadow of future legislation don’t paint such a great picture for this industry going forward.

Much of the SRI industry explicitly supports the view that ESG sustainability creates greater financial sustainability. I agree.

Are there any sustainable, responsible and ethical funds that people should be looking into and talking to you about?

To some extent it is a personal preference. I am finding that a number of people are showing more interest in funds that are promoting the sustainability idea and linking this with longer term financial return.

What, if anything, is stopping sustainable, responsible and ethical investment from taking off in the UK?

Awareness, awareness, awareness. From experience, once people know these funds are out there they are interested. The call to action however needs to be louder.

What trends have you noticed in sustainable, responsible and ethical investment in the past year?

More organisations are catching on to the idea of ESG. They are also asking the intermediary industry more directly how they can attract a bigger market.

If people do not invest sustainably, responsibly and ethically what is the biggest consequence for them?

Financially – over the longer term – I think there is a greater consequence of instability related to their funds. More importantly, this would only help the decline in the safety and health of the planet we live in.

If you were stuck on a desert island, which famous person would you like to be stuck with and why?

Someone like Bill Bryson because he has the influence, intelligence, and a deep understanding of the planet. I suspect he’s also practical enough to help us get off the island quickly.

What’s your prediction for the next 10 years of sustainable, responsible and ethical investment?

I believe there will be a steady growth of people within the financial services industry who start to see the light. I also think more retail fund groups will take on the idea of ESG sustainability as being important.

Having said that, there is still a huge amount of head-in-sand and ultimately it might need further shocks to the system before there is a more critical mass of acceptance.

Richard Essex is a financial adviser at Grayside Ltd. He is the author of the soon-to-be-published book, Invest, Feel Good, And Make a Difference.

Further reading:

The Guide to Sustainable Investment 2013

The Guide to Ethical & Sustainable Financial Advice 2013

The Guide to Sustainable Funds 2013


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.

Continue Reading


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.

Continue Reading