Bill Weil, chief investment officer of Ludgate Environmental, whose fund invests in innovative cleantech companies, spoke to Alex Blackburne about the criticality of investing sustainably.
Shamefully, the responsible investment sector has its doubters. Despite all the positives that can be drawn from your money making a difference, there are some people who see the keywords – green, sustainable, eco, to name but three – and immediately make connections with namby-pamby environmentalism.
Initially, this was very much the case for Bill Weil, chief investment officer of the Ludgate Environmental Fund.
“When I first started in the environmental space, people thought I was crazy”, he says.
“I was leaving business school in the ‘90s and saying that I was going to go work in environmental things, and people were saying, ‘Why don’t you go to Wall Street or the city? Are you kidding? What is this climate change nonsense?’”
Sadly, this attitude epitomises the uneducated consensus amongst the majority of sceptics.
But now, slowly but surely, this view is changing.
“The acknowledgement of the impact we are having on our planet, and the impact that socially responsible or ethically responsible investments can have on the world of finance, cannot be understated”, claims Weil.
“Something like more than one in eight pounds [is invested sustainably]. It has reached a level of significance where now, conventional investment groups are really starting to pay attention.
“Influencing the corporate giants is another incredibly important job. And saying to the Walmarts and the BPs of the world, ‘Please do not behave in this way’, is incredibly important.”
The so-called corporate giants are the ones that are necessarily, by their sheer size, doing the most damage to the planet, whilst also possessing the most influence.
The Ludgate Environmental Fund, which launched in 2007, is one of just over 90 green or ethical funds in the UK.
It invests solely in innovative, growth stage clean technology companies, thus cutting out potentially harmful ones.
“We wouldn’t look at any [investment opportunities] that didn’t have an environmental benefit, so right away, our definition of cleantech, environment, sustainability or resource-efficiency, which is probably the most accurate summary of what we look at, is the first screen”, Weil explains.
“Then within that, we’re looking for best performers.”
The largest position the Ludgate Environmental Fund holds is with UK-based RAP, or Rapid Action Packaging. The company makes the sandwich wedges found in Pret a Manger, Boots and other high street retailers, but with one important difference.
Instead of the plastic triangles that are historically most common, it makes cardboard ones – a wholesale, eco-friendly move that has been principally driven by RAP.
Another investment is with Terra Nova – a French company that recycles electronic waste.
“It takes the electronic circuit boards and all the inside bits of telephones, televisions, BlackBerrys – any electronic equipment – and recycles them”, says Weil.
“We backed the building of its first plant and are now in the process of potentially backing it to grow and expand production further.
“Open pits of alchemy from the middle ages. The cancer rates, water emissions, and air emissions are at disastrous levels, and this company helps to avoid most of that, so from an ethical standpoint, it’s absolutely fantastic.”
A third investment example lies with ECO Plastics – a recycler of plastic bottles in the UK.
The company takes the dirty plastic waste and reprocesses it to food-grade quality, avoiding landfills and the use of fossil fuels.
Ludgate Environmental Fund invested alongside Coca-Cola Enterprises, who last year announced a plastic bottle recycling pledge ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
“Simply because of its scale, Coca-Cola Enterprises is a huge polluter and a huge resource user, and I think it’s taken a pretty aggressive stance on environmental issues, including making this investment with us”, Weil states.
The Ludgate Environmental chief investment officer claims the global drinks manufacturer isn’t just trying to pull the green wool over our eyes either.
“There is a sense of scale around it that is difficult for individuals to consider, myself included, when you think about the level of everything that Coca-Cola Enterprises does. It out-impacts many others.
“Its level of consumption of water, sugar, plastics and energy demand in terms of fuel, as well its impact on refrigeration: any of these things are then multiplied by a billion because it’s just a global, massive company.
“So when it does the right thing the effect is multiplied by a billion, which is a great outcome for the world.”
Despite having profiled just four UK green, ethical or sustainable funds to date on Blue & Green Tomorrow, it’s clear that there is an investment opportunity for everyone, whatever your criteria.
So why would an individual choose the Ludgate Environmental Fund?
“One is the track record we’ve achieved so far to date”, answers Weil.
“Among our main investments we have had one full exit at a very solid return and another in the portfolio which has returned more than two-and-a-half times its value through dividend.
“Secondly, the portfolio as it stands is solid, and has what I think is a very conservative valuation put on it, which is where the share price derives from.
“And then I think the third point would be if you’re looking as an investor at where to put your money, you can look at ethical funds, but if you want exposure to a different asset class, the Ludgate Environmental Fund allows investors to access the private equity space in a way that most others don’t.
“Most of the private equity funds are only accessible to ultra-high net worths or institutional money.”
Despite the differences in criteria between the available ethical funds, there is at least one widespread consensus: responsible investments are for long term gain.
“Invest for the long term and don’t look at the daily movements”, Weil advises.
“Day-trading is a losing game, in my opinion. People always love to talk about when they win but less so when they lose.
“I think that would be my message. Think long term.”
The fact that this is the case, though, ties in nicely with the inherent nature of ethical funds. The reason for investing your money in sustainable companies is for the long term benefit of the Earth.
As always, patience is the key. Rewards will come, and not just financial ones.
If you would like to find out more about the Ludgate Environmental Fund, visit its website. Alternatively, fill in our online form and we’ll connect you to a specialist ethical financial adviser who will be able to help.
How Going Green Can Save A Company Money
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
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.
5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable
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 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.
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