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A Q&A with Simon Howard, Chief Executive of UKSIF



Simon Howard

Readers of Blue & Green Tomorrow (BGT) will, we hope, have been looking at the animation and tweets coming out of Good Money Week, the annual initiative co-ordinated by UKSIF to promote the idea that “you can make money and make a difference”. UKSIF is the UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association, a group of some 230 financial service firms with an interest in sustainability. The UKSIF team has been busy on GMW but Simon Howard found some time to answer six questions for us:

What has been the most interesting development in sustainable investment in 2016?

There is a great deal to consider – it has been a good year! I have written before for BGT on the excellent developments in fiduciary duty that we have seen from the Pensions Regulator (TPR), but I will flag it once more: TPR has told trustees of defined contribution pension funds that they SHOULD consider all material financial factors. To any sensible person this must have the effect of putting climate change on the agenda of everyone involved in providing pensions for others – whether that is in Defined Benefit (DB) or Defined Contribution (DC) form or in the context of giving advice.

Looking forward it means that a range of other factors such as the impact on the corporate reputation of aggressive corporate tax behaviour and the threat of anti-microbial resistance should begin to be discussed too. In fact I think TPR’s statements mean responsible investment will become the standard approach.

Beyond that I continue to note the monthly retail sales statistics from the Investment Association. They have a category called “ethical”. In terms of funds currently outstanding ethical accounts for about 1%, but the sales month-by-month in the past year or so have consistently been more than 3%. This is a really interesting gain in market share. Some UKSIF members have suggested it is sales in DC pension schemes showing up.

Also interesting have been some of the comments from the new Prime Minister. Her suggestion that employees and consumers be represented on company boards, and that annual pay votes be binding go further than many commentators were expecting. It all suggests that corporate responsibility may shoot up the political agenda.

Mrs May has also set up the Inclusive Economy Unit (IEU) under Rob Wilson MP. The mission of the IEU, enthusiastically espoused by Mr Wilson when he spoke at Good Money Talks on 24th October, is to encourage better use of private investment and support markets that deliver social impact as well as financial returns, to improve delivery of public services to increase social impact while bringing value for money in the commissioning of public services, and to encourage responsible business, from social enterprise startups to companies that aim at “profit with purpose”. If we start seeing developments in the social/impact space it will be extremely exciting.

And the most frustrating development?

I’m an idealist and like things to be simple. It’s extremely frustrating that the logical conclusions of COP21 and all the other work being done on responsible and sustainable investing are not being taken up more rapidly. There are successes and there is movement but it is too slow.

What is the biggest theme for sustainable investment in 2017?

UKSIF will continue to work on the fiduciary duty area. We want to translate the “should consider” guidance from TPR into more areas e.g. DB pensions and contract based DC, so we will be doing a lot of work with regulators. But with a lot of political change underway perhaps it’s fair to say that the big issue of 2017 may not yet have been identified. It’s possible for instance that the UK may see significant fiscal stimulus with a green tinge to it as part of the Brexit-economic mitigation plan. UKSIF is suggesting that!

Do you think we have reached, or are approaching, the tipping point in the take up of sustainable investment?

I don’t know about a tipping point but it certainly feels different to me. In the institutional space people know that COP21 meant something and so climate change is on the agenda. TPR opinion cited above and the retail sales figures also suggest change is coming. There is a long way to go and a recession or market collapse won’t help but I think things are going our way.

What impact do you think Brexit will have on sustainable investment?

I think sustainable investment is relatively Brexitimmune. At the bluntest level CO2 priced in sterling or euros is still CO2. But I don’t think a UK government could seriously retreat from existing EU-inspired regulation and if we get a Democrat president in the USA I don’t think the global drive will ebb. As I said above we may even see a fiscal package with a greenish tinge, certainly that is what we will be pushing for. People more expert than me tell me that the UK is already ahead of the EU in certain areas of climate regulation and I don’t expect that to change. Famous last words. I am worried about fracking, especially if it is proposed as anything other than a bridge technology, but I suspect the protests we will see as fracking comes in will tend to drive “our” issues up the political agenda and not down. Certainly Mrs May’s comments on corporate governance do not suggest she is an opponent of change and responsible attitudes. I may be wrong. I hope not. We should remember that the government has a very small majoritythey can’t be too radical in any area without a referendum behind them.

If you could make one change to benefit sustainable investment, what would it be?

That’s a very wide question isn’t it? I’m from a fund management background and so my answer will be pretty prosaic- no doubt your other contributors have the really big picture answer. At one level proper pricing of externalities would be a game changer. Combine that with more transparency throughout the financial services value chain and we may get somewhere quite fast. The practical answer for 2017 is as abovemore fiduciary duty in regulation.

Company Profile

The UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association (UKSIF) is the membership association for sustainable and responsible financial services. We promote responsible investment and other forms of finance that support sustainable economic development, enhance quality of life and safeguard the environment. We also seek to ensure that individual and institutional investors can reflect their values in their investments.

This article was first published in our latest Guide to Sustainable Investment


What Kitchen Suits Your Style? Modern, Classic or Shaker?




shaker kitchen designs

A kitchen is the centre of the home. Your kitchen ranges between where friends and family gather, talk about their day, cook meals, have drinks, to somewhere you can just enjoy each other’s company. The kitchen is the heart of the home. But, everyone’s lifestyle is different. Everyone’s taste is different. So, you need a kitchen that not only mirrors your lifestyle but matches your taste too. Whilst some prefer a more traditional design, others want a modern feel or flair – and it’s all down to personal taste.

When it comes to redesigning your kitchen, what style would you go for? It’s a difficult one isn’t it. With so many different styles to go for, how can you know exactly what you want until you’ve seen it in action? Leading kitchen designer, Roman Kitchens, based in Essex, have provided three examples of bespoke kitchens and styles they specialise in, accompanied with beautiful images. This design guide will get you one step closer to picking your dream kitchen for your home.

1. Modern

New home in the city centre? Or even a sleek new modern build? You want a trendy and modern kitchen to reflect your city lifestyle. In modern kitchen design, colours are bolder and fresher, with sleek design and utilities that are distinctive and vibrant.

modern kitchen designs

This modern kitchen is sleek and smooth with flawless design and beauty. Minimalism doesn’t stop this kitchen standing out. Featured walls of wood and vibrant mint green draw the eye, whilst the white surfaces reflect the light, illuminating every nook and cranny of this kitchen. This kitchen features products from Rotpunkt, innovators of modern kitchen design. Made with German engineering, a Rotpunkt Kitchen is the ultimate modern addition to your home. Rotpunkt Kitchens have timeless design and amazing functionality, they work for every purpose and are eco-friendly. Sourced from natural materials, a Rotpunkt kitchen uses 37% less timber, conserving natural forests and being more environmentally conscious.

2. Classic

Prefer a homely and traditional feel? Classic kitchens are warm, welcoming and filled with wood. Wood flooring, wood fixtures, wood furniture – you name it! You can bring a rustic feel to your urban home with a classic kitchen. Subtle colours and beautiful finishes, Classic kitchens are for taking it back to the basics with a definitive look and feel.

classic kitchen designs

With stated handles for cupboards, Classic kitchens are effortlessly timeless. They convey an elegant but relaxing nature. Giving off countryside vibes, natural elements convey a British countryside feel. The wood featured in a classic kitchen can range between oaks and walnut, creating a warmth and original feel to your home. Soft English heritage colours add a certain mood to your home, softening the light making it cosier.

3. Shaker

Any kitchen planner will tell you that the meeting point between traditional and modern design, is a Shaker kitchen. They have a distinctive style and innovative feel. Shakers are fresh, mixing different colour tones with stylish wood and vinyl. The most important feature of a Shaker kitchen is functionality – every feature needs to serve a purpose in the kitchen. Paired with stylish and unique furniture, a Shaker kitchen is an ideal addition to any home.

shaker kitchen designs

The ultimate marriage between Classic and Modern kitchens, this Shaker kitchen has deep colour tones with copper emphasis features. All the fittings and fixtures blur the line of modern and tradition, with a Classic look but modern colour vibe. Unique furniture and design make Shaker Kitchens perfect for the middle ground in kitchen design. Minimal but beautifully dressed. Traditional but bold and modern at the same time. Storage solutions are part of the functionality of Shaker kitchens, but don’t detour from conveying yours as a luxury kitchen.

Whatever you choose for your new kitchen, be it Modern, Classic or Shaker – pick whatever suits you. Taste is, and always will be, subjective – it’s down to you.

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Ways Green Preppers Are Trying to Protect their Privacy



Environmental activists are not given the admiration that they deserve. A recent poll by Gallup found that a whopping 32% of Americans still doubt the existence of global warming. The government’s attitude is even worse.

Many global warming activists and green preppers have raised the alarm bell on climate change over the past few years. Government officials have taken notice and begun tracking their activity online. Even former National Guard officers have admitted that green preppers and climate activists are being targeted for terrorist watchlists.

Of course, the extent of their surveillance depends on the context of activism. People that make benign claims about climate change are unlikely to end up on a watchlist, although it is possible if they make allusions to their disdain of the government. However, even the most pacifistic and well intentioned environmental activists may unwittingly trigger some algorithm and be on the wrong side of a criminal investigation.

How could something like this happen? Here are some possibilities:

  • They could share a post on social media from a climate extremist group or another individual on the climate watchlist.
  • They could overly politicize their social media content, such as being highly critical of the president.
  • They could use figures of speech that may be misinterpreted as threats.
  • They might praise the goals of a climate change extremist organization that as previously resorted to violence, even if they don’t condone the actual means.

Preppers and environmental activists must do everything in their power to protect their privacy. Failing to do so could cost them their reputation, future career opportunities or even their freedom. Here are some ways that they are contacting themselves.

Living Off the Grid and Only Venturing to Civilization for Online Use

The more digital footprints you leave behind, the greater attention you draw. People that hold controversial views on environmentalism or doomsday prepping must minimize their digital paper trail.

Living off the grid is probably the best way to protect your privacy. You can make occasional trips to town to use the Wi-Fi and stock up on supplies.

Know the Surveillance Policies of Public Wi-Fi Providers

Using Wi-Fi away from your home can be a good way to protect your privacy.However, choosing the right public Wi-Fi providers is going to be very important.

Keep in mind that some corporate coffee shops such a Starbucks can store tapes for up to 60 days. Mom and pop businesses don’t have the technology nor the interest to store them that long. They generally store tips for only 24 hours and delete them afterwards. This gives you a good window of opportunity to post your thoughts on climate change without being detected.

Always use a VPN with a No Logging Policy

Using a VPN is one of the best ways to protect your online privacy. However, some of these providers do a much better job than others. What is a VPN and what should you look for when choosing one? Here are some things to look for when making a selection:

  • Make sure they are based in a country that has strict laws on protecting user privacy. VPNs that are based out of Switzerland, Panama for the British Virgin Islands are always good bets.
  • Look for VPN that has a strict no logging policy. Some VPNs will actually track the websites that you visit, which almost entirely defeats the purpose. Most obviously much better than this, but many also track Your connections and logging data. You want to use a VPN that doesn’t keep any logs at all.
  • Try to choose a VPN that has an Internet kill switch. This means that all content will stop serving if your VPN connection drops, which prevents your personal data from leaking out of the VPN tunnel.

You will be much safer if you use a high-quality VPN consistently, especially if you have controversial views on climate related issues or doomsday prepping.

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