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Sustainable investment funds in focus: Alliance Trust Sustainable Future Managed



This week’s featured fund is the Alliance Trust Sustainable Future Managed fund.

Peter Michaelis, head of sustainable and responsible investment (SRI) at Alliance Trust, tells us more.

Tell us about what makes your fund unique.

The Sustainable Future Managed fund aims to provide a combination of capital growth and income through exposure to more sustainable businesses. It invests in predominantly global equities and fixed income, with an additional allocation to cash. The fund has an upper limit of 85% in equities and a lower limit of 45%.

It has separate specialist managers in each of these asset classes and the asset allocation overlay allows the fund to benefit from opportunities both within and across these asset classes, in order to take advantage of tactical and strategic opportunities. Also, the fund provides good diversification and the returns from the separate asset classes will offset each other.

How do you select which companies to invest in?

We choose the best equities and credit to invest in. We invest in more sustainable companies because we believe they offer better growth prospects and have better quality management. We construct three portfolios: UK equities; world ex-UK equities; and fixed income, and run each against conventional benchmarks. On the equity side, we seek to outperform these benchmarks by 2-4%.

Are there any companies you’d pick out as star performers or particular interesting?

First, Kingspan. The best way to reduce greenhouse gas, nitrogen oxide, sulphur oxide emissions and particulate pollution is through energy efficiency. Kingspan produces building products to improve thermal insulation and we forecast strong and consistent growth as regulation drives higher standards in energy efficiency

Acuity Brands is another energy efficiency play. This time on lighting: replacing incandescent and fluorescent with LEDs. Reduces energy use by two-thirds and maintenance and replacement costs.

We target healthcare companies meeting unmet medical needs, so Roche Pharmaceuticals is another. Roche has built a very strong franchise in cancer, diabetes and arthritis treatments. These medicines, when correctly prescribed, make a huge difference in quality of life for sufferers. As the global middle class expands, we will see continued growth in demand.

Finally, GW Pharma. Another healthcare company that we have held in the funds for nearly a decade. They have finally had success in bringing their cannabinoid MS and cancer pain treatments through regulatory hurdles. Although a small company now, it could lead to the opening up of a whole new class of treatments.

Why would the fund be attractive to sustainable investors?

If you want a fund that is invested in sustainable development themes; that has a low-carbon intensity; that avoids companies doing harm to society and the environment; and that aims to give strong capital returns and some income from exposure to global equities and fixed income, then the Alliance Trust Sustainable Future Managed fund is for you!

How would you respond to claims that sustainable investment funds underperform?

It is a common and unfortunate misconception that investment in sustainable funds or businesses has to be a trade-off with investment return. This is evidenced by the stellar performance of our range of Sustainable Future funds, with all of our funds ahead of their mainstream benchmarks or peer groups over three years.

For us, sustainable investing is about selecting companies that are successful because, rather than in spite of their focus on acting responsibly and contributing to a sustainable future. We believe that there are more and more people who are coming round to this view and who want to invest, or want people to invest on their behalf, in a way that mirrors their values

From a personal perspective, why should people consider sustainable investment more generally?

The case for sustainable and responsible investment (SRI) is a strong one. From an ethical perspective, the benefits are obvious; as such, a strategy allows investors to invest for their financial futures in a manner aligned with their own beliefs and values.

Increasingly though, SRI strategies make sense from a more pragmatic perspective, too. Why? Because a company operating in a sustainable manner is more likely to be a better long-term investment than one that isn’t.

Key facts

Type: OEIC
Fund size: £412.9m as of December 31 2013
Launch date: February 19 2001

Further reading:

In the business of ‘investing for generations’

Alliance Trust takes to the road to dispel myths around sustainable investment

Sustainable and ethical investors honoured at Investment Week Awards

Sustainable investment in the age of technology

The Guide to Sustainable Funds 2013


How to Build An Eco-Friendly Home Pool



eco-friendly pool for home owners
Licensed Image from Shutterstock - By alexandre zveiger

Swimming pools are undoubtedly one of the most luxurious features that any home can have. But environmentally-conscious homeowners who are interested in having a pool installed may feel that the potential issues surrounding wasted water, chemical use and energy utilized in heating the water makes having a home swimming pool difficult to justify.

But there is good news, because modern technologies are helping to make pools far less environmentally harmful than ever before. If you are interested in having a pool built but you want to make sure that it is as eco-friendly as possible, you can follow the advice below. From natural pools to solar panel heating systems, there are many steps that you can take.

Choose a natural pool to go chemical free

For those homeowners interested in an eco-friendly pool, the first thing to consider is a natural pool. Natural swimming pools utilise reed bed technology or moss-filtration to naturally filter out dirt from the water. These can be combined with eco-pumps to allow you to have a pool that is completely free from chemicals.

Not only are traditional pool chemicals potentially harmful to the skin, they also mean that you can contaminate the area around the pool if chemical-filled water leaks or is splashed around. This can be bad for your garden and the environment general.

It will be necessary to work with an expert pool builder to ensure that you have the expertise to get your natural pool installed properly. But the results with definitely be worth the effort and planning that you have to put in.

Avoid concrete if possible

The vast majority of home pools are built using concrete but this is far from ideal in terms of an eco-friendly pool for a large number of reasons. Concrete pools are typically built and then lined to stop keep out any bacteria. This is theoretically fine, except that concrete is porous and the lining can be liable to erode or break which can allow bacteria to enter the pool.

It is much better to use a non-porous material such as fibreglass or carbon ceramic composite for your pool. Typically, these swimming pools are supplied in a one-piece shell rather than having to be built from scratch, ensuring a bacteria-free environment. These non-porous materials make it impossible for the water to become contaminated through bacteria seeping into the pool by osmosis.

The further problem that can arise from having a concrete pool is that once this bacteria begins to get into the pool it can be more difficult for a natural filtration system to be effective. This can lead to you having to resort to using chemicals to get the pool clean.

Add solar panels

It is surprising how many will go to extreme lengths to ensure that their pool is as eco-friendly as possible in terms of building and maintaining it but then fall down on something extremely obvious. No matter what steps you take with the rest of your pool, it won’t really be worth the hassle if you are going to be conventionally heating your pool up, using serious amounts of energy to do so.

Thankfully there are plenty of steps you can take to ensure that your pool is heated to a pleasant temperature while causing minimal damage to the environment. Firstly, gathering energy using solar panels has become a very popular way to reduce consumption of electricity as well as decreasing utility bills. Many businesses offer solar panels specifically for swimming pools.

Additionally, installing an energy efficient heat pump or boiler to work in conjunction with your solar panels can be hugely beneficial.

Cover it!

Finally, it is worth remembering that there are many benefits to investing in a pool cover. When you cover your pool you increase its heat retention which stops you from having to power a pump or boiler to keep it warm. This works in conjunction with the solar panels and eco-friendly heating system that you have already had installed.

Additionally, you cover helps to keep out dirt and other detritus that can enter the pool, bringing in bacteria. Anything that you can do to keep bacteria out will be helpful in terms of keeping it clean.

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4 Ways To Get a Green House in 2018




green house and homes
Featured Image From Shutterstock - By

Demand for green houses is surging. In 2020, almost 20% of all homes on the market will be green.

If you would like to buy a green home, this is a great time to look into it. Prices are still pretty low and there are a lot more financing options available than there were right after the recession.

If you’re thinking about buying a house, now could be a very good time to make the move! A number of factors in the housing market right now mean that you might be able to afford your dream home. Although in many parts of the country house prices are still rising, if you do your research and plan wisely, there are lots of good schemes to help you get your foot on the property ladder, or trade up to the house you’ve always wanted.

Interest Rates and Stamp Duty

Although the Bank of England raised interest rates by 0.25% recently, they remain very low, which is good news if you’re thinking of taking out a mortgage. However, rates may not stay low and it’s predicted that there’ll be a further rate rise during 2018, so don’t wait too long. Another factor that’s going to help first time buyers in particular is the Chancellor’s decision to abolish stamp duty for first timers purchasing properties for under £300,000.

Different options

For many people looking to buy a green home, raising a deposit of between 5% and 20% may not be a realistic option, in which case there are a growing number of schemes to help. Increasingly popular are shared ownership schemes, through which the buyer pays a percentage of the full value of the property (typically between 25% and 75%) and the local council or a housing association pays the rest, and takes part ownership. This is suitable for buyers who may struggle to meet the up-front costs of buying outright. There will often be a service charge or management fees to pay in addition to the mortgage. The Government’s Help To Buy scheme is a good place to start looking if you’re interested in this option. This scheme is now available to people looking to buy green homes too.

ISA Options

If you’re still saving for a deposit, another scheme is the Help to Buy ISA. You can get a 25% boost to your savings on amounts up to £200 per month with this scheme. It’s only open to first time buyers and you can claim a maximum of £3000.

Other costs

Green home buyers are going to run into a number of other ancillary costs, most of which are common to other homebuyers.

When calculating how much you can afford, it’s vitally important to remember that buying a house comes with a whole host of other costs. Depending on the cost of the property that you’re buying, you may have to pay stamp duty of anywhere between 1% and 5%. There’ll be estate agents fee if you’re also selling a property, although there are a wide range of online estate agents operating such as Purple Bricks or Right Move that have lower fees than traditional high street companies. Conveyancing costs to a solicitor can add another £1000-£3000 and you may need to take out life insurance and hire a moving firm.

There are other initial costs such as, fixing parts of the home that aren’t upto your taste. Getting new furniture to fill up all the new-found space in your new home. If you are moving away from the city, you need to consider the cost of transportation as well, as it can take up quite a lot over time. Take your time, do your homework and shop around and soon you could be getting the keys to your perfect home.

I hope this article was useful for you to learn more about the basics that you need to be aware of before you start the process of buying your first home. If you have any doubts with regards to this, let us know through the comments and we will be glad to help you out. If you have any suggestions regarding how we can improve the article, let us know them through the comments as well for us to improve.

Do you have any other reservations against buying your first home? Do you see your house as an asset or a liability? Do you think it is important for everyone to get themselves a new home? Let us know through the comments.

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