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IFAs on Good Money Week

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Good Money Week is well underway, with events being held across the country to promote and celebrate sustainable and ethical finance opportunities. The annual awareness-raising event is truly for everyone – not just traditional investors and finance professionals but for all customers and users of financial products.  

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But to mark Good Money Week, we asked specialist Independent Financial Advisers – a select bunch that has forgotten more about sustainable and ethical investment than most of us will ever know – what they think of the campaign’s new look and which event has them the most excited this year. 

John Ditchfield, director and advisor at Barchester Green, co-chair of Ethical Investment Association (EIA) and board member of UKSIF

B&GT: What do you think of the rebranding of Good Money Week?

JD: We think this is a positive step because it allows us to broaden the discussion, and cover areas such as banking and new aspects of finance.

B&GT: Are there any events or aspects of this year’s campaign that you are particularly excited about? 

JD: We’re particularly excited about our event [a responsible investment Q&A webinar, attended by Guardian columnist Zoe Williams]. Historically National Ethical Investment Week events have struggled to attract a range of private investors. We think by running it as a webinar and bringing in some high profile participants we can broaden the appeal. 

B&GT: If people were to learn one thing from Good Money Week, what would you like it to be? 

JD: We think this year’s message should be one of empowerment, telling people that they can make proactive choices about how they utilise their money and have an impact on the overall economic system.

Tanya Pein, investment specialist for charities and private clients at In2 Consulting and co-chair of EIA

B&GT: What do you think of the rebranding of Good Money Week?

TP: It’s a bold decision, with an attractive new visual identity – and could open the way to broader appeal, right across society. 

B&GT: Are there any events or aspects of this year’s campaign that you are particularly excited about?

TP:  Yes, this new move from “Ethical Investment” to “Good Money” could mean that the millions of people with workplace pensions feel that the week applies to them too – and it does!

B&GT: If people were to learn one thing from Good Money Week, what would you like it to be?

TP: I hope that people start to say, “I didn’t realise that responsible investment was so huge, and now I’m joining all those other investors who are focusing on sustainability.” Here’s hoping for mass realisation of the power that millions of investors and pension members have to do good. 

Helen Tandy, director and financial adviser at Gaeia

B&GT: What do you think of the rebranding of Good Money Week?

HT: I think the old NEIW was a much longer name with an acronym which was useful, but wasn’t explanatory as to what it stood for. I also think the term ethical doesn’t sit with people today, clients think of themselves as supporting environmental and social investments rather than just ethical, so it become a restriction. Good Money Week is self-explanatory, it encompasses both investing and cash savings which I feel is also a very important change.

B&GT: Are there any events or aspects of this year’s campaign that you are particularly excited about? 

HT:We have historically arranged events during the week, usually in London and Manchester, focused at savers and investors. Our business has been involved in the purchase of Barchester Green in recent months, so we decided to take more of a back seat just for this year. 

B&GT: If people were to learn one thing from Good Money Week, what would you like it to be? 

HT: I hope more financial advisers engage with the week to find out more about ethical investing. We know from our experience that lot of the UK are interested in investing in a way that their money reflects their person values. Many financial advisers feel that they don’t have the experience and often put clients off.

Richard Essex, financial advisor at Grayside and author of the 2014 book, Invest, Feel Good and Make a Difference

B&GT: What do you think of the rebranding of Good Money Week?

RE: I quite like it. It’s a departure from the ethical tag, which I think has to be done because for me ‘ethical’ limits the scope of what I think the sustainable and responsible investment (SRI) industry should be doing.

B&GT: Are there any events or aspects of this year’s campaign that you are particularly excited about?

RE: I am speaking at an event in the Isle of Man hosted by a product provider, who has just launched a SRI product. This is exciting because I get a chance to speak in front of a professional audience who want to know more about why SRI makes financial sense. 

I am also attending an event the following night, when I will be promoting my book Invest Feelgood and Make a Difference. 

B&GT: If people were to learn one thing from Good Money Week, what would you like it to be? 

RE: I hope that people really start to see a link between social and environmental sustainability and financial sustainability, in layman’s terms –a healthier return.

Julian Parrott, partner at Ethical Futures  

B&GT: What do you think of the rebranding of Good Money Week?

JP: I’m okay with it and understand the rationale. It’s snappier and better from a marketing perspective. The name is also more inclusive, in that it engages with all forms of finance, like banking, rather than purely investment. It also places the positive message about managing your money for good rather than just avoiding ‘nasty’ things.

That said I’m a bit worried about dilution of the message because I understand that some companies had problems with the ‘ethical’ world and I feel that ‘responsible’ and ‘good’ have much more room for fudging the issues.

B&GT: Are there any events or aspects of this year’s campaign that you are particularly excited about?

JP: I was pleased to be involved in the Church of Scotland’s event in Glasgow in the run up to Good Money Week. Whilst individual investors have made personal faith based decisions about their money, it’s not often that we see a church clearly championing the cause.

Likewise, the forthcoming IFC Ethical Round Table in Edinburgh is fairly unique in that it brings together representatives from all aspects of ethical, responsible, third sector and faith based groups to discuss new developments in the ethical investment field.

B&GT: If people were to learn one thing from Good Money Week, what would you like it to be? 

JP: I don’t expect sudden changes – just incremental growth of awareness. I suppose that I would like people to realise that they can take some ownership of their money and how it’s invested. It can be incredibly liberating and engaging to know that your money can actually make a change in the world that we live in.

Scott Murray, managing director of Virtuo Wealth Management

B&GT: What do you think of the rebranding of Good Money Week?

SM: I reckon this new brand is easier to understand and engage with for people outside of the financial market and financial services. Without losing the sustainable and ethical integrity, you can bring professionals, clients, business and charities into this campaign, which I believe will be a big success.

B&GT: Are there any events or aspects of this year’s campaign that you are particularly excited about?

SM: I will be attending the roundtable event hosted by the Islamic Finance Council UK and Tods Murray LLP, which will focus on setting up the first ethical finance hub in Europe, which will be based in Scotland. The purpose of the hub will be to encourage debate, influence and change within the sector.

B&GT: If people were to learn one thing from Good Money Week, what would you like it to be? 

SM: Glasgow University recently became the first European university to divest from fossil fuels. Hopefully this hugely encouraging step will persuade other institutions such as universities, local government and charities to review their investment policies and take Glasgow’s lead by disinvesting from fossil fuels. 

I believe the new rebranding will help to have a more successful campaign than past ones, encouraging everyone to consider green and responsible investment and finance options.

Photo: 401(K) 2012 via Flickr

Further reading:

Good Money Week: ‘Finance affects everybody’

Introducing… Good Money Week

Good Money Week: Barchester Green names top five ethical funds

Eurosif: European sustainable investment market outperforming the mainstream

Financial services report recovery as sustainable investment message spreads

Economy

Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?

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self-driving cars for green environment
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/zapp2photo

Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?

But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?

The Big Picture

The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.

That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.

Driver Reduction?

One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.

As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.

Deadheading

Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.

Make and Model of Car

Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.

On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.

The Bottom Line

Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?

Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.

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Economy

New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035

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renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart / https://www.shutterstock.com/g/adrian825

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.

Sources: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-06/green-dream-risks-energy-security-as-kiwis-aim-for-zero-carbon

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-hydrocarbons/france-plans-to-end-oil-and-gas-production-by-2040-idUSKCN1BH1AQ

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