National Ethical Investment Week (NEIW) is underway, and we’re publishing daily interviews, conducted by Greenhouse PR, with a different ethical investment pioneer each day until Friday.
Wednesday’s pioneer is John Ditchfield, director of financial advisory firm Barchester Green Investments and chair of the Ethical Investment Association (EIA) and a board member at UKSIF.
He follows UKSIF chief executive Simon Howard, Sebastian Parsons of Stockwood Community Benefit Society, Paul Ellis of Ecology Building Society, James Vaccaro of Triodos Bank and Claudia Quiroz of Quilter Cheviot.
Tell us, in 20 words or fewer, about Barchester Green Investment. What’s your mission?
To help people to ‘make an informed choice’. We promote the value of investing in companies making positive contributions to society and the environment.
What motivates you to do what you do?
I really enjoy what I do. The vast majority of people struggle to manage their finances efficiently and in line with their ethical values. And that’s exactly what we do – helping people to organise their money and invest responsibly. In practice, this means assisting with retirement planning, investment planning and working with trustees.
We also try to live our values in the way we run our own business. We actively campaign to promote best practice within ethical investment. We challenge funds labelled ‘ethical’ that we believe fall short of good practice in their screening approach. We help Barchester to raise awareness of the opportunity to invest ethically by sharing best practice in the media.
What are the biggest challenges in building momentum for ethical finance?
The investment industry is a fairly reactionary business, slow to adapt to new ideas and new ways for working. For this reason, many consumers – and even professional advisers – struggle to find a way of getting good information on ethical and responsible investment options.
What trends or developments are you most excited about in sustainable and ethical investment?
I also strongly support the development of high social impact businesses such as Ethex and the Social Stock Exchange. These organisations are promoting the growing number of enterprises which target a social return over financial returns.
What one thing could change the future of finance?
All employees should have the option to choose a really good ethical and sustainable investment within their workplace pension schemes.
Where do you want to take Barchester Green Investment next?
We want to grow in size to around £200m in asset under management within the next 10 years.
What can we, as individuals, do to make a difference?
Understand where you are investing and take control of your money.
If you were prime minister for a day, what would be the first thing you’d do?
I think we need a more entrepreneurial culture and this should be supported by the tax system, so I would expand the Enterprise Investment Scheme and Venture Capital Trust (VCT) rules to include responsible investments.
What’s the coolest project or product you’ve come across, and inspired you?
I find Triodos inspiring as an organisation because of its very high level of integrity. It really is 100% a responsible investment bank.
Can you recommend a life- or game-changing book for our readers?
The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene.
Can you leave us with who’d be your Ethical Investment Pioneer?
James Vaccaro of Triodos springs to mind.