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Why I chose ethical investment: investing responsibly in my children’s future

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Jonathan Chilvers is an ethical investor. Through a child trust fund set up for his four-year-old daughter, his motivation is to ensure he’s doing his bit to guarantee a better quality of life for her in the future.

A Green Party campaigner, churchgoer and charity worker from Warwickshire, where he leads a project for homeless people, he’s married and now has two children after his wife gave birth to a second daughter just a month before our interview.

He was recently quoted in responsible investment campaign group FairPensions’ report into ethical funds, in which he called for greater transparency in terms of publishing holdings.

And speaking with Blue & Green Tomorrow, Jonathan explains more about his motivations for choosing more sustainable, robust and long-term financial options.

Why have you chosen to consider ethical investment?

When I came to set up my child’s trust fund four years ago when she was born, I wanted to invest ethically. They all say that you invest in your children’s future. If that’s the case and you’re investing in things that are going to cause her trouble in the future, whether it is arms companies or ones that are trashing the climate, that’s not really investing in her future. So I wanted to be able to look back and say to her that I did what I could to invest responsibly in things that are going to actually improve her quality of life.

I suppose I’ve got a long history of involvement in social justice and environmental issues. So when it came to having a choice, I looked at all the funds and I think there were three out of all the hundreds that claimed to invest ethically, and so to be honest I didn’t really have too much to go on because they didn’t really explain what ethical was. I just kind of stuck my thumb in one of the three and that’s how I made a decision.

You say you’ve been involved in social justice and environmental issues, so was there a specific turning point for you in terms of making the connection between what your money is doing and investing in a better future for your child?

Not really. When I came to make the decision, it was a no-brainer for me that I should try and find an ethical fund. I bank with The Co-operative, so without ever looking really hard, I’ve always gone for the most ethical option available, whatever that was, and not really paid too much attention to interest rates or rates or return.

If you were, for example, to invest again in the future in other funds, would there be any sectors that you would explicitly refuse to invest in?

I’m in an interesting position now, because I’ve literally just had my second child, so I’m in the same position again as I was four years ago, looking to make the most ethical decision in terms of setting up a fund. Really, I want the funds I invest in to be investing in companies that have environmental and social issues at the very heart of who they are, like renewable energy companies and so on. I think probably it’s not realistic to have a fund that is completely investing in those, so I suppose in terms of the other major companies, I want it to be investing in the least worst ones.

What I’d like to see is a well-established metric by which people can look at which companies have the worst corporate social responsibility record in each sector, because at the end of the day, petrol companies, for example, don’t have a great environmental record or a great record working with local communities in Africa or the developing world, but some are better than others. So if someone could lay out which are the worst at the moment; that would give them an incentive to improve.

Obviously I wouldn’t want to invest in arms companies or ones that promote pornography and gambling, but I want to invest in companies like Marks & Spencer, which rigorously checks its supply chain. So many corporate companies claim to be ethical, but actually don’t follow that through into their supply chains. That would be one of my big things. If a company could show me that it has audited its supply chain to ensure there were some minimum standards there, then I’d want to invest in it.

You mentioned that when you were looking for trust funds, the choice available wasn’t great. Is that something for a hindrance for ethical investment?

I guess I’m interested in quality not quantity. I only need one good fund to work. I don’t feel like I had much information about what an ethical fund was. The work that FairPensions did recently actually brought that out; in that even ethical funds don’t publish all their holdings, so how am I supposed to make a decision in terms of who I want to invest in when they’re not even making that information public?

There’s a higher expectation whenever the word ‘ethical’ is mentioned. Because people all have a different idea of what ‘ethical’ is, people need to make individual decisions. Somebody like me who’s not really interesting in managing a fund or having somebody taking a bigger commission to more closely manage a fund for me, I at least need some information about what the baseline and their approach is.

The thing is, I know that ethical funds will invest in companies like BP, Tesco and BSkyB, and I have some issues with all of those companies, but I’m a realist in saying that I know that it’s not realistic to avoid those companies entirely. So I’d like to see a detailed metric that explains how funds make judgements over what they invest in. I know that’s possible, because I was looking at one the other day that looked at supply chains for mineral extraction for electronics companies. It went through all the electronics companies and rated them out of 100, and that’s really helpful because none of them are perfect, but at least you can say that one company is less worse than another. I’m happy to support an oil company if it’s making efforts to diversify in what it does and being a leader in its area; that’s fine.

What would you say to encourage or inspire people to invest ethically, sustainably or responsibly?

I’d say that investing ethically can be a win-win. You can be using the money you have for positive purposes and to invest in companies that want to do things in the right way whilst still getting a return yourself.

What do you think of Blue & Green Tomorrow? Complete our short reader survey and be in with a chance to win an iPad mini or a Kindle Fire. Survey closes December 21.

Further reading:

Why we chose ethical investment: making money do active good

Poll maps growth of ethical investment understanding and demand

What kind of investor are you?

Drop in ethical fund sales part of a ‘general decline’

Sustainable investment flourishes amongst European high net-worth individuals

The Guide to Sustainable Investment (NEIW edition)

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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