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Sustainable Investment Bootcamp, Liverpool – review



Blue & Green Tomorrow hosted a Sustainable Investment Bootcamp for financial advisers on May 22 in Liverpool.

The second of six bootcamps this year attracted a number of interested advisers. Generously hosted by Quilter Cheviot at its 5 St Paul’s Square office in Liverpool, four leading funds presented in-depth knowledge and described a range of areas that sustainable investors are interested in.

Blue & Green Tomorrow founder and publisher Simon Leadbetter kicked off the event by giving a comprehensive overview of a number of social and environmental threats we face. He showed that the world is actually shaped by finance and that good investment decisions can contribute to a better future. Moving on to future trends, he said we need to be prepared for a more environmentally-conscious generation to enter the investment market. He concluded that sustainable investment provides the chance to increase client loyalty while improving the reputation of the business through transparent practices and satisfied investors.

George Latham, managing partner from the leading sustainable investment boutique WHEB, was the first of four speakers. He started his presentation with the question, “What is wrong with the fund management industry?” Latham explained how markets are too often beset by short-termism and that “terminology, pseudoscience and sales patteroften take too much space in an industry where the focus should be on long-term opportunities and more fundamental investment research. He showed that analysis which goes beyond a narrow financial focus can take account of vital information that makes for good investment decisions.

After him, Neville White, head of socially responsible investment (SRI) policy and research at Ecclesiastical Investment Management, took over and showed how to “accentuate the positive(s)”. Ecclesiastical, whose strategy is based on nine positive investment pillars and run by a charity, has pioneered in SRI since 1988. White explained how important it is to engage with people and how over-diversification can become an ethical problem. Ecclesiastical’s focus is on healthy, long-term investment which results in outstanding customer satisfaction and a relationship built on trust.

After a well-deserved coffee break, Mike Appleby, SRI analyst at Alliance Trust Investments, echoed the strong need for more interaction between investors and fund managers, highlighting how important it was for fund managers to be transparent on their ethical positions, as well as disclosing all the companies they hold. He kicked off with a number of interesting examples of bad attitudes in finance, which too often restrict good investment decisions, including the difficulty of factoring in slow, longer term trends – as many sustainability issues are. Appleby said that the cost of carbon will rise in an effort to cut carbon emissions. Also, the free services that nature provide such as water, air, nutrient cycles, pollination services and so on would too big to meaningfully contemplate for most mainstream investment bank economists, and yet they accept it is real and will affect asset prices. He concluded that in a world where nature is, in effect, our holding company, and society is there to be served, not exploited, we must not ignore environmental and social issues. It is for this reason that the Alliance Trust Sustainable Future funds invest solely in sustainable companies.

The host, Claudia Quiroz, investment director at Quilter Cheviot, completed the presentations. She explained how the convergence of three macroeconomic drivers – namely climate change, resource scarcity and population growth – will result in a new economy which will drive further innovation and efficiency. Quiroz gave a passionate introduction of why it is important to move towards more sustainable investment. She said it is irrelevant, from an investment perspective, to argue whether climate change is real or not – there are well-established companies offering the solutions to the environmental problems that we face to deliver more with fewer resources and within a carbon constrained environment.

The advisers in the room were then shown data from Blue & Green Tomorrow’s latest Voice of the Adviser survey. The report surveyed around 400 financial advisers about a range of issues –from their opinions on sustainable investment and the economy to Scottish independence and the timely debate over whether the UK should remain in the EU.

Following this, the audience was divided into two work groups with two funds in each session, which allowed delegates to quiz the investment houses as well as share their own thoughts on sustainable, responsible and ethical investment.

Blue & Green Tomorrow’s Liverpool event was the second out of six bootcamps taking place all over the country in 2014 – and it followed on from previous events in London and Leeds in being a resounding success.

On June 26, the bootcamp moves to Edinburgh. For more details on attending one of the five future events, see here.

Further reading:

The Guide to Sustainable Investment 2014

The Guide to Sustainable Funds 2013

The Guide to Ethical & Sustainable Financial Advice 2013


Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?



self-driving cars for green environment
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By 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 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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New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035



renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart /

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.


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