With six days to go until our crowdfunding campaign ends, we’re exploring tenuous numerical links to the number of days left. This one isn’t overly tenuous, as there are six core untouchables in the ethical investment universe. Simon Leadbetter looks into the sordid, slaughtering end of investment.
Some see ethical investment as the preserve of a strange, well-meaning, simple folk. These naïve investors reject all forms of enjoyment such as alcohol, smoking, gambling, pornography but also the world of arms production and trade and nuclear power. The ‘sextet of sin’ has all sorts of religious and pious overtones that cloud the debate about why people choose to exclude these industries.
Each of these sections has further reading so you can get more information. Alternatively, donate to our crowdfunding campaign and we’ll do all the background reading and summarise it for you:
Alcohol kills an awful lot of people
Alcohol is not only responsible for 2.5 million deaths a year, which would place it roughly third in the most murderous wars in human history on a deaths per year basis, but it reduces the quality of life of those addicted, as well as the tens of millions of families and thousands of innocent bystanders that are affected by drink driving or drink-related violence.
Very few ethical investors object to responsible drinking, but the drinks industry actively markets its products to the underage and countries with little public health. Walk through any town centre on a Saturday night and see what the healthy returns you’re getting on your portfolio is creating on a high street.
Further reading: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs349/en/index.html
Smoking kills an awful lot more people
Killing 6 million people a year is a pretty impressive haul for the tobacco industry, placing it 2nd in the most murderous wars in human history, snugly between the first and second world wars. And those dead consumers need to be replaced.
What is most appalling about the tobacco industry is that, as public awareness of health issues has grown in the developed world, the companies have actively targeted countries with little or no public health education. Tragically, these countries also do not have the public health system to cope with the health issue smoking creates.
If you invest in tobacco, you’re investing in, and benefitting from, the worst type of free market colonialism.
Further reading: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs339/en/ and http://www.tobaccoatlas.org/
Freedom and choice or brainwashing and exploitation
While we respect the arguments about individual freedom and choice that are so often used to defend the first two sectors, we cannot ignore the hundreds of millions spent on advertising these products to young people (if it didn’t work, why would they do it?) and, more despicably, in countries that cannot resist the onslaught of alcohol- and tobacco-related deaths.
On an annual basis these two sectors alone represent more lives lost than the annual deaths during the second world war (6.7 million), more than the extermination camps of the whole war (3.1 million) and more than any natural disaster the world has yet seen.
Heads the gambling industry wins, tails you lose
Gambling can be an enjoyable pastime down at the races or the dogs. Many people (73% of the adult population) enjoy a flutter on the outcome of a race or event.
Once again, to think of gambling as harmless is to ignore its historical links with crime or the insidious techniques that are used to hook people to what can often prove to be a life-destroying habit.
Gambling addiction affects between 250,000 and 507,000 people in the UK, predominantly in lower socio-economic groups, many of whom will have spouses and children.
Sex sells, so sell sex
Ethical investors are not prudes, but they do recognise a causal link between the current free-for-all in pornography and human trafficking, sexualisation of children, objectification of women and organised crime.
There is nothing fundamentally wrong with filming or watching sex between two or more genuinely consenting adults, unless you hold religious or strict moral beliefs. That said, the links between pornography and organised crime and abuse of women and children are strong.
A UN report from 2009 estimated that 79% of all human trafficking is for sexual exploitation, whereas a UK SOCA report placed the figure at 31%.
When you’re watching pornography, how can you be sure that the people in the film have not been drugged, abused or trafficked or are over the age of consent and are freely consenting? Investing in adult entertainment legitimises the more dubious and violent side of this industry. When does the watcher or investor become the accomplice?
Further reading: http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/human-trafficking/global-report-on-trafficking-in-persons.html and http://journalistsresource.org/studies/government/criminal-justice/sex-trafficking-trends-international-law
Profits of war
Ever since human’s earliest predecessors picked up something long and hard and clubbed someone over the head with it, there’s been profit in conflict. Not a year has gone by since 1945 that there hasn’t been an armed conflict somewhere in the world. And armed conflicts need arms. Apologists for the arms industry use either the ‘economic benefit’ argument or the ‘weapon doesn’t kill someone, the person does’ argument.
The arms industry does create lots of skilled jobs and is a valuable export industry. The problem is that many of those exports go to regimes that kill, torture or maim their own citizens, engage in wars of aggression or commit acts of genocide. Sometimes they even use the weapons to kill our own soldiers; after all, we have the receipts. Weapons do kill people.
As the technology become more advanced, it becomes easier to kill lots of people remotely. Once you remove direct personal involvement from killing and reduce war to a remote control arcade game, sometimes supported by artificial intelligence, the weapon itself becomes the decision-maker rather than the tool.
Around 526,000 people die violently every year with 55,000 of them losing their lives in conflict. While we live in relatively peaceful times on a global scale, producing more weapons and selling to more countries means violence will rise.
Nuclear power is an explosive issue
At one time, nuclear power was seen as a panacea to inexorably rising energy demands. Capturing the power of the atom would free us from fossil fuel dependency. A recurring vision of a nuclear age ended at Three Mile Island (1979), Chernobyl (1986) and most recently, Fukushima (2011).
While emerging technologies, such as thorium, all make nuclear power look more affordable and safe, there are two inherent risks that no amount of scientific progress will solve.
Nuclear waste lasts forever in human terms, roughly 100,000 years. We need to find storage solutions that will last longer than any other man-made structure and that’s an enormous ask.
The second risk is proliferation. Once you accept civilian nuclear use in one country, it is hard to deny its use in another such as Iran or North Korea. Once a civilian programme is in place, there’s an admittedly huge and complex step to military use, but it’s only a step. And you don’t need weapons-grade radioactive material to create a dirty bomb.
Put simply, why would we pursue a source of power that has such inherent risks from an environmental and geopolitical perspective, when we have a limitless and clean alternative?
Further reading: proliferation http://2001-2009.state.gov/documents/organization/105587.pdf and waste http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2011/apr/24/nuclear-waste-storage
All’s well that ends well
So, there’s the sextet of sin.
Ethical investors aren’t naïve or unsophisticated. In many ways, they are the most enlightened and engaged investors. They simply do not want to profit from other people’s suffering or more global uncertainty.
Read our latest Guide to Sustainable Investment and please support us at http://www.sponsume.com/project/blue-green-tomorrow.
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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