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The right investment choice for the right reasons

John Morgan of Skandia Investment Group and Simon Gottelier of Impax Asset Management speak with Alex Blackburne about the huge opportunities of investing in undervalued sustainable sectors.

By 2019, it is predicted that the global economy will be double what it was at the turn of the millennium. By 2059, it will be ten times that figure. Something needs to change.

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John Morgan of Skandia Investment Group and Simon Gottelier of Impax Asset Management speak with Alex Blackburne about the huge opportunities of investing in undervalued sustainable sectors.

By 2019, it is predicted that the global economy will be double what it was at the turn of the millennium. By 2059, it will be ten times that figure. Something needs to change.

The current rate of global economic growth is unsustainable”, says Simon Gottelier, portfolio manager at sub-adviser firm Impax Asset Management.

“Furthermore, population pressures within the emerging markets, higher living standards creating high levels of consumption, weak infrastructure, resource scarcity and extremely high oil pricing, particularly volatile commodity pricing, global water shortages and high levels of pollution all create a very substantial and interesting investment opportunity.

“We invest in companies that are responding to those challenges in a positive way, by delivering a service or technology to deal with those challenges, and those are the key positive criteria that we employ when investing the fund.”

In fact, Gottelier manages the Skandia Ethical Fund. Unlike the ethical and sustainable funds that Blue & Green Tomorrow has previously profiled, Skandia does not directly employ the manager. Instead, it uses a sub-adviser to oversee the investment decisions made within the fund.

“We look for the best managers that we can find”, explains John Morgan, head of public relations at Skandia Investment Group.

“In the case of the Ethical Fund, our researchers went out and looked across the world market and came up with Impax.

“The advantage that this approach brings is that if we wanted to hire or fire a manager, it’s relatively straightforward to do.

“It’s our fund and the sub-adviser, in this case, is Impax.”

And the fund has been revolutionised since Impax’s installation as managers of the product.

“One of the big differentiators is that what was previously a global equity fund with a conventional negative screen on it, is now very much a positive thematic product”, Gottelier adds.

“The Impax approach is to look at high-growth, environmental sectors with long term secular growth drivers, and this has replaced that generalist equity approach.

“We believe fundamentally that the sectors in which we invest are growing at a higher rate than the broader conventional economy.

“We think that it is a large attractive sector; we’re talking about aggregate revenues of about £500 billion, with sector earnings growth across our investable universe of around 10 to 20% per annum.”

A third party, called Ethical Screening, is also involved. Although Impax uses a positive screening process to highlight ethical and sustainable sectors, Ethical Screening delves deeper, seeking and subsequently discarding companies that deal in negative practices, such as human rights abuses, manufacture of armaments, gambling, pornography, alcohol and tobacco.

The screening process for the Skandia Ethical Fund has brought up investment opportunities in several emerging global sectors. Some of the fund’s larger positions include stakes in Johnson Controls, a US company involved in buildings energy efficiency hardware and software, and whose founder, Warren S. Johnson, invented the thermostat in 1883. Another large position is in LKQ Corporation, a company that recycles end-of-life vehicles.

Sound Global, an Asian water treatment specialist, crops up as an investment opportunity for the second time in Blue & Green Tomorrow’s profiling of ethical and sustainable funds, having been selected by Clare Brook, manager of the IM WHEB Sustainability Fund last year.

“The company manufactures water treatment facilities to cope with the mass population movements that we’re seeing in the Chinese market”, Gottelier says, highlighting the importance of investment in the company.

“I believe somewhere in the region of 400m people are due to move from rural to urban areas in China in the next 20 years – a number of people greater than the entire population of the US.

“The Chinese Government has allocated approximately $780 billion to water sanitation and water infrastructure investment, and Sound Global is one of the principal beneficiaries of that initiative.”

With the fund currently worth $140m, or just over £88m, and rising, choosing the Skandia Ethical Fund will not only benefit your money, but also important sectors that need vital backing.

More generally, Gottelier describes why ethical investment should always be considered when looking to get a foot onto the stock market ladder:

“There is increasingly compelling, empirical evidence that, particularly at board level, well-implemented governmental programmes and the way businesses are managed, have a very direct bearing on company performance”, he says.

“That goes to the core of what this fund is trying to offer, while eschewing traditionally controversial activities in favour of high-growth environmental exposures.

“We would set out our stall of suggesting that in its very core, the negative [screening] criteria within this fund will take you away from a set of specific activities that are material negatives, whilst offering a very attractive set of positive themes that a lot of people can hang their hat on if they want to have exposure to businesses that are doing the right things for the right reasons.”

That’s the main point; the sooner the wider population recognises the excellent work and high degrees of innovation that some of these companies can achieve with investment right places, the sooner they can be propelled into the mainstream agenda.

If you’re not sure where your money is being invested or want to make a difference, let us help you. Fill in our online form and we’ll connect you with a specialist ethical adviser. Or if you’ve been inspired by Skandia’s story, get in touch with them directly.

Environment

How to Build An Eco-Friendly Home Pool

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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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Features

4 Ways To Get a Green House in 2018

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green house and homes
Featured Image From Shutterstock - By Photographee.eu

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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