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‘Think differently about the world that we live in’

Helen Tandy, a director at Manchester-based financial advisers, Gaeia, tells Charlotte Reid about how she got into ethical investment, and how having a family made her think differently about the future of the planet.

It is good to get recognition for your work. For Helen Tandy, it came as a welcome surprise when she found out that she had been nominated for a PEA Business Award.  She was put up for a Banking and Finance Award by My Green Directory and says “it was nice to have been nominated and put through to the finalists when we had no control really about what was said”.

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Helen Tandy, a director at Manchester-based financial advisers, Gaeia, tells Charlotte Reid about how she got into ethical investment, and how having a family made her think differently about the future of the planet.

It is good to get recognition for your work. For Helen Tandy, it came as a welcome surprise when she found out that she had been nominated for a PEA Business Award.  She was put up for a Banking and Finance Award by My Green Directory and says “it was nice to have been nominated and put through to the finalists when we had no control really about what was said”.

Although she did not win, Tandy still enjoyed the evening.

Some fantastic businesses have won awards”, she said, “and I think it definitely seems like an event that we will keep an eye on and potentially nominate ourselves for next year”.

Gaeia was founded by Brigid Benson who had an interest in human rights activism, and became interested in financial advice but “wanted to ensure that money was going in an ethical direction”, says Tandy.

She [Benson] really built the business from then onwards. It became its current form of Gaeia in 1993 and it has always had the premise of looking to invest clients’ money and support ethical and environmental issues”.

Tandy herself worked for Nationwide for 18 years, before moving on to work at The Co-operative Independent Financial Advisers.

I believed in the co-operative style movement in comparison to working in a bank network, I became more interested in investing in an ethical way whilst working with the Co-op”, she says. But ethical investment was quite limited at the Co-op and “came across Gaeia by accident”.

Gaeia gave me that opportunity to widen the range of investments and also allowed me to provide ethical advice to the majority of clients, which is what I am doing now”.

‘Think differently about the world that we live in’

Tandy says she behaved in an environmentally friendly way because it was something her sister told her she should do, but it wasn’t until her son was born that she realised why caring about the environment was important, too.

I think having a family made me think about what is the future for the planet with global warming for my children and my children’s children.

I did as I was told previously, but I had never really thought about why I was taking my paper to the recycling bank.

I started to think more about the reasons she asked me to do it, rather than just doing as I was told.

I think having a family made me think differently about the world that we live in.

I later became more involved with supporting and talking about environmental issues through Friends of the Earth in Chester where I am still treasurer“.

And even Tandy’s desert island celebrity has an environmental theme – she would choose green MP Caroline Lucas. “I have followed Caroline on Twitter for some time so it would be great to meet the person behind the tweets”, she says.

She would like to pass the time by discussing “topics such as being a female politician and the first green party MP, amongst other conversations around climate change and various charity and campaigns she has supported”.

Merged with Castlefield

Recently Gaeia has merged with Castlefield, a Manchester-based Investment Management business. The merger will enable Gaeia founder, Brigid Benson, to devote more time to spreading the word about the environmental and ethical investment options available to individuals, businesses and charities.

Tandy says that when the two businesses met, “it just seemed like a really good fit”, as Castlefield have been looking to increase the financial advice side of their business for a number of years.

Gaeia were also encouraged by Castlefield’s approach to supporting employee ownership and “know that our future was secure and that we weren’t going to be taking over by a much larger financial services business going forward”.

‘Who am I supporting with my investment?’

As other have said before to Blue & Green Tomorrow about the return on ethical investments, Tandy says, “Research has shown that long term you don’t have to be disadvantaged to invest ethically”.

However, she points out that many of Gaeia’s clients are already interested in environmental issues so “the returns are not paramount.

Yes, we have lots of clients for whom return is important, and I think we can prove in the years we have been in this industry that we don’t have to lose out in that respect, but we do also have lots of clients for whom return isn’t the first thought.

The first decision is ‘Where is my money going?’ and ‘Who am I supporting with my investment?’”.

But Gaeia, which work on a fee basis, does not have one fund that it recommends above others “we work on a basis of spreading the client’s money around”, Tandy says.

We run some model portfolios which means we spread our investments over a range of 14 funds and we don’t really pull one fund out over another in that portfolio.

Our aim is not about putting one ethical fund above another but making sure that our clients invest in a range of funds across the UK, overseas, corporate bonds, water.

It is much easier now to find the range of ethical funds needed than when Benson started the company in 1993.

We desperately hope the recent press from Henderson’s and Aviva relating to SRI funds will not put a dent in the range of funds available for future clients“.

‘Not many of us’

There are a number of reasons why ethical investing is still a small sector says Tandy.

I think a lot of it is about understanding”, she says.

There are not many of us that specialise in this field in the UK and we can only reach so much of the population.

I think the clients we work with are the clients that have very strong ethical principles in the way they run their lives.

I don’t think people understand that they have a choice and that they can make those sorts of decisions with their investments and their pensions.

We try to reach out as much as we can but there is a limit to how any individual small ethical business can get out there and educate the general population”.

This is where Blue & Green Tomorrow plays a role. We let you know more about ethical investment and the opportunities that are available to through the work that businesses like Gaeia do.

To find out more about what Gaeia can offer you visit its website. Alternatively you can fill in our online form and we will put you in touch with an ethical adviser near you.

About where she’s based

The industrial revolution and the part the city played in the textile industry boom caused Manchester to grow. When the number of cotton mills in the city started to decline, it saw a rise in the financial services sector.

Manchester also has a great political history, playing an important part for the Labour Party and the suffragette movement. The city also has importance in the history of Marxism as it was used as the subject of Friedrich Engels’ The Condition of the Working Class, and even Karl Marx would visit the city.

The city is noted for its culture and music; both the Gallagher brothers from Oasis come from Manchester, as do Johnny Marr and Morrissey from The Smiths, to name but a few musical talents.

The city is also known for its media links, with the BBC recently moving some of their London offices over to Salford.

It is also known for its sport. The city is home to both Manchester United and Manchester City, has played host to the Commonwealth Games back in 2002, and the World Lacrosse Championships in 2010.

In November 2011, Manchester City Council was placed in the top five per cent of organisations across the country that has taken action to monitor and reduce their amount of carbon emissions.

This has been shown in the figures as in 2009, Manchester’s total carbon emissions were 2,877 kt C02, which was a drop from 2008’s total figure of 3,223 kt C02.

Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

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

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

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.

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Energy

5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable

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sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

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

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

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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