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Invest, spend and vote sustainably: why National Ethical Investment Week matters



The order of these words matters. Invest, spend, vote. We get to vote in a general election once every five years. We tend to spend only during waking hours (apart from automated bidding). But our investments work around the clock, around the world, 24/7 and eclipse global GDP $26 to $1.

Front pages of national newspapers before, during and after conference season are dominated by the set piece speeches of leading politicians, controversial and controversy-seeking mavericks, people who have books to sell and the final call to arms of the party leader. Platitudinous slogans which an idiot could write emblazon every wall, and the general public simply turn off.

But does any of the razzmatazz matter? Rousing music with soundbite speeches and slavishly thunderous, predicable ovations do not constitute political leadership. Rather they convey the partisan nature, media savviness and emptiness of modern politics where ‘none of the above’ seems to be a leading contender for the most popular electoral choice. Blue & Green Tomorrow blames the system, not the voters.

Real political (relating to the government or the public affairs of a country) leadership is being undertaken by local communities (localism is key), city mayors (we live in an increasingly urban world), sustainable companies (this is bottom line stuff) and their smartest investors (sustainable innovation equals rapid sustainable growth).

It is a frequent mantra of B&GT that financial trade outstrips real world domestic product 26:1. Financial trade eclipses the much griped about international aid budget of all governments globally 13,000:1. It is in finance and investment that real world change can take place. A 0.007% tax (7p in every £1,000) on financial trades would cover all current global international aid.

To invest unsustainably is to embrace higher risk.

Population growth, resource scarcity pollution, biodiversity loss and environmental degradation create unsustainable opportunities (profiteering from commodity scarcity) and sustainable ones (clean energy, resource efficiency, recycling, water processing, sustainable food, and avoiding stocks that undermine your values or faith).

The sector is growing and there is increasing interest from governments, institutions, NGOs, intermediaries and individual investors. A new generation of environmentally conscious, digitally connected investors is just beginning to invest significant sums. To them, environmental protection and human rights are the norm.

At a click of a mouse, they can see what is going on in far flung places and identify who are the culprits for environmental and social harm. Sustainable investment was a niche to previous generations of investors. It will be the norm for future investors. This is where smart investment and sensible capital is going.

To increase your margin of profit by a tiny amount from someone’s misery today, or to diminish your own child’s prospects tomorrow, is nothing short of immoral, reckless, unethical, unsustainable, irresponsible and evil. We cannot mince our words. Investment should not mince people’s lives and our planet’s future.

In just over a week’s time, the entire sustainable investment community will rally for National Ethical Investment Week 2013, created by UKSIF and sponsored by Ecclesiastical and the CCLA. Sustainable and ethical investment is not for a week but for a lifetime for these pioneers, and we applaud them all for their dedication and persistence.

Unsustainable investment was the future once, sustainable investment is the future now.

Invest sustainably, then spend sustainably and then vote sustainably. Your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren will not thank you if you do otherwise.

National Ethical Investment Week 2013 runs from October 13-19.

Further reading:

National Ethical Investment Week 2013: bigger, bolder, broader, better

Not over the long-term? Unsustainable investment’s ‘black swan’ moment

Ethical investment: better a diamond with a flaw, than a pebble without

There is such a thing as an unethical investment

The Guide to Sustainable Investment 2013

Simon Leadbetter is the founder and publisher of Blue & Green Tomorrow. He has held senior roles at Northcliffe, The Daily Telegraph, Santander, Barclaycard, AXA, Prudential and Fidelity. In 2004, he founded a marketing agency that worked amongst others with The Guardian, Vodafone, E.On and Liverpool Victoria. He sold this agency in 2006 and as Chief Marketing Officer for two VC-backed start-ups launched the online platform Cleantech Intelligence (which underpinned the The Guardian’s Cleantech 100) and StrategyEye Cleantech. Most recently, he was Marketing Director of Emap, the UK’s largest B2B publisher, and the founder of Blue & Green Communications Limited.