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The outcome of unethical investment is a diminished, less ethical United Kingdom

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The United Kingdom has the seventh largest economy in the world measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP), down from fifth in 1979. Despite our slow overall decline, London’s square mile, the City, is ranked as the first or second financial centre globally. Where the City leads, the world will follow. It is time we used our historic ethical instincts as well as our current financial muscle.

It might not always feel like we live in the seventh largest economy in the world out of 192. Our tiny (80th in total area), wind-swept and rain-battered island remains a good democratic and economic role model and we should not forget it.

The UK has been a significant developer and exporter of human rights, the rule of law, democracy and a common language over the last three centuries. Despite the many, many well-documented ills and often grievous sins of our Imperial past, the world is a far better place than it could otherwise have been due to the position a few of our leading rebels and mavericks (at the time) have taken on freedom, the rule of law and parliamentary democracy.

Had it not been for the UK’s island position and dogged resistance, creating a protracted war and second front, Europe may well have succumbed to fascist hegemony. People easily forget today how close we came to losing that world war. Moral relativists may not like any of this, but it remains true nevertheless.

We have also been a great exporter of innovation and free trade; from the agricultural, through the industrial and into the information revolutions. It is philosophers, explorers, scientists, innovators and entrepreneurs from the UK who have, to a greater extent, mapped and shaped the world we live in today.

Now we stand at a fork in the road. A fork created by the economic crash of 2007.

One path is to press on with business as usual, applying neo-liberal economic theory, where the unfettered market is everything and profit maximisation the clearest route to economic nirvana. This theory has catastrophically and demonstrably failed economically, socially and environmentally, and is failing us still.

The other path is categorically not some misty-eyed vision of a socialist utopia, based on out-dated 19th century thinking and theories, or about stepping back into an idealised agrarian past, which never actually existed. Nor is it a return to the consensus Keynesian policies of 1945 to 1979.

The other path is actually far more difficult and one that takes the same courage and hard-headedness as those who first adopted the new agricultural, industrial and digital technologies.

First-movers usually secure an advantage over competitors. The UK’s current, relatively secure place in the world was obtained by our first-mover predecessors in the last three centuries taking advantage of emerging technology and investing in it before anyone else did.

This path means embracing the new and rejecting the old, often over the howls of indignation from incumbents. It means choosing to hardwire into our thinking and economy the need for profit that delivers prosperity, but also minimises the negative impact that profit has on our planet and its people.

Our current approaches to farming, fishing, forestry, mining, energy, travel, trade and consumption have all reached their natural limits.

Once thriving ecosystems are in terminal decline; ever-increasing global demands for energy-intensive industry, transportation and goods are literally poisoning us with air pollutants and toxic chemicals entering the food chain; resources that feed this rapacious demand are rapidly running out; the ice caps are melting and our forests and fish stocks are a fraction of their previous scale.

Our island may have protected us from invaders in the past, but it cannot protect us from increasing pollution, resource scarcity and climate change.

It also cannot protect us from economies that are growing faster due to their lack of democratic oversight and ability to undercut every right and freedom we have fought for over the centuries. It’s very easy to be a low-cost economy if you exploit workers with no rights, child labour and prisoners. We got over those particular social evils in the 19th century. Allowing our investments to fund the dirty work for us simply isn’t good enough for a country that once sent ships to hunt down slave traders.

The new path means embracing and massively investing in clean energy sources and technology, more high-speed mass transportation and legislating for more sustainable approaches to farming, fishing and forestry.  We are surrounded by wind, waves and tides; we pretty much invented the train and the agricultural revolution started here. In each of these areas, we have natural advantages, which our political and business leaders have squandered.

It means making the companies that pollute and waste resources, and their shareholders, pay the full costs of their activity rather than gently fining them or allowing them to pass the burden on to society as a whole and the taxpayer.

It means relentlessly pursuing aggressive corporate tax avoiders and closing loopholes so that those with the broadest shoulders, who have profited most from the current system, pay the most.

It means breaking banks up into those parts that serve a valuable role in society through taking deposits and lend or invest, which we should underwrite to an extent, and those that simply speculate, which we should allow to fail.

We certainly have the financial resources and the intellectual capital to do this but we currently lack the imagination and will. Dithering and tinkering are massive failures of political leadership and will exacerbate future economic and ecological disasters.

If we diverted our incredible strengths to this great task, the world would watch in amazement and then follow.

National Ethical Investment Week runs until Saturday, October 20. Join the movement on Twitter using the hashtag #NEIW12.

If you would like to know more about the sector and receive copies of our most recent reports, you can sign up to our weekly newsletter here.

Further reading:

Ethical investors are not tree huggers, but air breathers (and responsible global citizens)

Sniping at ethical investment is an odd sport during National Ethical Investment Week

Investors look to ethical options after banking instability

Simon Leadbetter is the founder and publisher of Blue & Green Tomorrow. He has held senior roles at Northcliffe, The Daily Telegraph, Santander, Barclaycard, AXA, Prudential and Fidelity. In 2004, he founded a marketing agency that worked amongst others with The Guardian, Vodafone, E.On and Liverpool Victoria. He sold this agency in 2006 and as Chief Marketing Officer for two VC-backed start-ups launched the online platform Cleantech Intelligence (which underpinned the The Guardian’s Cleantech 100) and StrategyEye Cleantech. Most recently, he was Marketing Director of Emap, the UK’s largest B2B publisher, and the founder of Blue & Green Communications Limited.

Features

Ways Green Preppers Are Trying to Protect their Privacy

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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.

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Features

How Going Green Can Save Your Business Thousands

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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.

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