The fifth annual National Ethical Investment Week was, by all accounts, a roaring success. As was France’s version of the event – La Semaine de l’Investissement Socialement Responsable. Mark Robertson, head of communications at EIRIS, reflects on both.
The diversity of organisations and individuals participating in recent National Ethical Investment Weeks in the UK and France demonstrates how far green and ethical investment and finance has evolved.
Speaking at the parliamentary reception to celebrate the fifth UK National Ethical Investment Week (NEIW) last week, Laura Sandys MP highlighted the unique role which green and ethical investment is playing in driving more responsible behaviour amongst financial institutions and spoke of the need for long-term, sustainable business values to become the new normal.
Evidence suggests that a large chunk of UK investors would agree. A YouGov poll for NEIW 2012 found that 55% of adults in Great Britain with investments want their bank or financial adviser to tell them more about ‘impact investments’, i.e., investments that produce both a financial and a social or environmental benefit.
In 2011, EIRIS’ Ipsos MORI consumer poll found that 82% of the British public think that it is important for financial product providers to pay more attention to environmental, social and governance risks when deciding which companies to invest in or lend money to, as part of ensuring good financial return.
The good news is that momentum is shifting things in the right direction. Latest stats from EIRIS show that there’s currently around £11 billion invested in around 100 green and ethical funds, up from £4 billion 10 years ago. This summer, ethical banks attracted more than 100,000 new customers at a time when many high street banks were hit by a series of scandals including Libor fixing at Barclays, and HSBC and Standard Chartered falling foul of American regulators.
The third French Socially Responsible Investment Week which ran earlier this month had over 60 events organised throughout the country, each with the aim of promoting socially responsible investment (SRI) to retail investors. Students were particularly engaged in the week with over a dozen graduate business schools and universities hosting conferences around SRI.
A 2012 Ipsos MORI national consumer survey run for EIRIS and the French Social Investment Forum (FIR) found that 52% of French retail investors attach importance to environmental, social and ethical criteria in their savings decision. The survey also suggested that SRI may hold the key to helping to rebuild public trust in financial institutions with 53% of respondents saying that confidence in their financial institution would increase if it adopted an SRI approach.
Mainstreaming green and ethical investment is about ensuring a good range of green and ethical financial products are available to all consumers across all aspects of ethical finance. But it’s also about ensuring that retail fund managers embed sustainable investment principles across all funds under management, not just in the green and ethical funds they offer.
This might mean engaging with investee companies to improve their performance on key issues like climate change, environment, biodiversity and human rights. Or integrating environmental, social and governance factors into investment decisions to reduce risk and identify investment opportunities. It can also mean making a commitment to join relevant sustainable initiatives such as the Equator Principles or the Principles for Responsible Investment.
Applying an overarching approach to sustainable investment offers multiple marketing and branding benefits, many of which we discussed at our recent webinar, called Beyond the ethical fund – How to apply top-level sustainable investment approach to enhance brand value across your institution. You can listen again to a recording of the webinar here.
Given the credit crunch and financial crisis, plus unethical behaviour at scandal-hit banks, it’s not surprising that consumers in the UK, France and elsewhere are interested in financial product providers that offer a more ethical, sustainable and long-term approach to finance. Looking ahead, we need a greater range of financial products that enable investors to invest in line with their ethics and to provide access to the many exciting new types of sustainable investment themes and opportunities which exist.
For green and ethical investment to be really effective we also need mainstream fund managers to report back to their customers on how they are adopting longer-term sustainable investment principles across all their investments.
The scale and scope of activity around this year’s ethical investment weeks in the UK and France underlines the appetite for green and ethical finance. Both weeks have done a great job in helping more investors to understand about how their savings and investments have an impact on the world and in engaging a broad range of stakeholders in promoting ethical finance. We urge churches, charities, students, social investment forums and the media in other markets around the world to follow their example.
Mark Robertson is head of communications at EIRIS and editor of YourEthicalMoney.org.
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.