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Sustainable investment funds in focus: Ecclesiastical Amity UK

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This week’s featured fund is the Ecclesiastical Amity UK fund.

Managed by sustainable investment pioneer Sue Round, director of group investments at Ecclesiastical, it is one of the longest established sustainable funds in the UK. The award-winning investment firm tells us more.

Tell us about what makes your fund unique

The Amity UK fund launched in 1988 and was one of the first ethical OEICs in the UK. Sue Round has managed the fund since its launch. The fund is particularly unique as it is based on a broad and deep ethical approach featuring negative and positive screens. It aims to achieve long-term capital appreciation, alongside a reasonable level of income by investing primarily in UK companies.

How do you select which companies to invest in? 

Companies are screened against both positive and negative criteria before an investment is made. The fund seeks companies that have a strong business model, are market leaders and show good management. It also selects companies with a solid financial background, including a robust business sheet, strong cash flow generation and a focus on delivering long-term sustainable returns to its shareholders. Primarily, the Amity UK fund has a bias towards mid and small-cap companies.

Are there any companies you’d pick out as star performers or particularly interesting? 

Halma, a health and safety sensor technology group, is a particularly interesting company because it scores positively across seven of Ecclesiastical Investment Management’s nine ethical screening criteria (particularly healthcare and environmental performance & management) and it has retained record profit growth through the economic cycle with return on sales averaging 16% for 25 years+.

Oxford Instruments, a producer of instrumentation equipment used in scientific research, chemical analysis, semi-conductor processing and diagnostic imaging is also a star performer. As is Porvair, a specialist filtration and environmental technology group. These three firms are good examples of companies where the ethical positives and the investment proposition go hand-in-hand.

Why would the fund be attractive to sustainable investors? 

The Amity UK fund is a retail investment fund with a difference. Not only does it seek to deliver profit over the medium to long-term, but it does so with principles by investing in socially responsible enterprises. This is the Ecclesiastical Investment Management ‘profit with principles’ approach. In particular, it looks to avoid investment in certain areas, such as companies which have material involvement in alcohol, tobacco and weapon production, gambling and publication of violent of explicit materials, which can be a key consideration for the sustainable investor.

The robust investment process is backed up by an award-winning socially responsible investment team, including fund manager Sue Round, who has been recognised by Trustnet as one of its Alpha Fund Managers 2014 and is AAA* rated by Citywire (as of 31/01/14). The fund was one of the UK’s first socially responsible investment (SRI) retail funds and has been managed by Sue for 26 years since it was launched in 1988. It is now an established SRI Fund.

How would you respond to claims that sustainable investment funds underperform?

Performance and sustainability are not mutually exclusive. In fact, sustainable funds have won numerous awards against so called mainstream funds. Additionally, research by Moneyfacts.co.uk in August 2013 found that ethical funds posted average gains of 36% over three years, compared with 31% growth from the average non-ethical fund. This demonstrates that it is possible to have a sustainable framework and achieve strong performance simultaneously. Ecclesiastical Investment Management believes that companies which manage financial and non-financial risk holistically will be better long-term performers.

From a personal perspective, why should people consider sustainable investment more generally?

More than 100 UK ethical and responsible products now provide a rich diversity of investment for the retail client. Investing with a profits for principles approach is becoming a mainstream choice for many investors and the choice of products has never been broader. A survey by YouGov in 2012 found that 45% of UK adults with investments said that they now want at least some of their investments to take green and ethical considerations into account.

Furthermore, Ecclesiastical Investment Management believes that stock selection based upon financial and non-financial drivers will drive better risk management and better performance over time. There is no intrinsic reason why performance needs to be sacrificed in order to invest responsibly.

Key facts

Type: OEIC
Fund size: £123.2m as of February 28 2014
Launch date: March 1 1988

An online summary of the fund can be found here. 

Further reading:

Ecclesiastical, Aberdeen and Kames top fund choices for specialist ethical financial advisers

Friends Provident, Ecclesiastical and Aberdeen top ethical choices for advisers

Sustainable company of the week: Halma

2013 sustainable fund manager of the year: Ecclesiastical Investment Management

Ecclesiastical scoops ethical investment gong for fifth consecutive year

Environment

4 Common Items That Can be Reused Again and Again

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reuse reduce recycle plastic bottles etc
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Vanatchanan | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/vanatchanan%20buahom

As a society we are getting much better at taking our obligations to the world and environment around us more seriously. This is undoubtedly a good thing! The effects of climate change are beginning to manifest across the world, and this is turning the issue from an abstract threat into a very real danger. Trying to introduce some greener, more eco-friendly practices into your life isn’t just a great way of doing something beneficial for society and the world around you. It is a wonderful way of engaging positively with the world and carries with it numerous psychological benefits.

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Being a greener, more ecologically friendly person doesn’t require any dramatic life changes. Breaking or making a few small habits is all it takes to make your life a greener one. In this article we look at one of the easiest, yet most effective green practices to get into: reusing everyday items.

Jars and Containers

Glass and metal are widely recycled, and recycling is a good thing! However, consider whether any containers you buy, whether it’s a tub of ice cream or a jar of coffee, can be washed out and reused for something else. Mason jars, for example, can be used to store homemade pasta sauce and can be washed for future use. Once you start thinking about it, you will find endless opportunities to reuse your old containers.

Soda Bottles

An ice-cold soda is a wonderful treat on a hot day, but buying soda can get expensive, and the manufacturing and distribution of the drinks themselves isn’t great for the environment. However, by holding on to your old soda bottles and repurposing them as water bottles, you can save money on drinks, or use them to measure out water for your garden.

Plastic Bags

Most of the time groceries come in paper bags, which are better for the environment than the plastic alternatives, but they are less durable and thus harder to reuse. Whenever the store places your items in a plastic bag, hang onto it so you can reuse the bags again. If you want to take it one step further, consider looking into buying some personalized recycled bags. These bags are designed to last for a long time and are made of recycled materials. They look striking and unique, they’ll turn heads, and maybe even attitudes!

Seeds

If you’re a keen gardener, then you will already probably know how to reseed your plants in order to ensure a fresh crop after each plant’s lifecycle. If you have space in your garden, or haven’t yet tried your hand at gardening, then consider planting a small vegetable plot. Growing your own veggies means that you’ll be helping to cut back on the emissions generated by their transport and production. The best part about growing your own food in this way is that, by harvesting properly and saving the seeds, you can be set up with fresh vegetables for life!

Reusing and recycling common household items is an easy way to make your world a little bit greener. Once you start looking for these opportunities you’ll realize that they’re everywhere!

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Environment

These 5 Green Office Mistakes Are Costing You Money

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eco-friendly green offices
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Stokkete | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/cyano

The sudden interest in green business is very encouraging. According to recent reports, 42% of all companies have rated sustainability as an important element of their business. Unfortunately, the focus on sustainability will only last if companies can find ways to use it to boost their ROI.

Many businesses get so caught up in being socially conscious that they hope the financial aspect of it takes care of itself. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to go green and boost your net income at the same time.

Here are some important mistakes that you will want to avoid.

Only implementing sustainability on micro-scale

The biggest reason that brands are going green is to improve their optics with their customers. Too many businesses are making very minor changes, such as processing paperwork online and calling themselves green.

Customers have become wary of these types of companies. If you want to earn their business, you are going to need to go all the way. Bring in a green business consultant and make every feasible change to demonstrate that you are a green organization from top to bottom.

Not prioritizing investments by long-term ROI

It isn’t realistic to build an entirely green organization overnight. You will need to allocate your capital wisely.

Before investing in any green assets or services, you should always conduct a long-term cost benefit analysis. The initial investment for some green services may be over $20,000. If they don’t shave your cost by at least $3,000 a year, they probably aren’t worth the investment.

Determine which green investments will have the best pay off over the next 10 years. Make these investments before anything else. Then compare your options within each of those categories.

Implementing green changes without a plan

Effective, long-term planning is the key to business success. This principle needs to be applied to green organizations as well.

Before implementing a green strategy, you must answer the following questions:

  • How will I communicate my green business philosophy to my customers?
  • How will running a green business affect my revenue stream?
  • How will adopting green business strategies change my monthly expenses? Will they increase or decrease them?
  • How will my company finance green upgrades and other investments?

The biggest mistake that too many green businesses make is being overly optimistic with these forecasts. Take the time to collect objective data and make your decisions accordingly. This will help you run a much more profitable green business.

Not considering the benefits of green printing

Too many companies believe that going paperless is the only way to run a green organization. Unfortunately, going 100% paperless it’s not feasible for most companies.

Rather than aim for an unrealistic goal, consider the option of using a more environmentally friendly printer. It won’t be perfect, but it will be better than the alternative.

According to experts from Doranix, environmental printers have several benefits:

  • They can process paper that has been completely recycled.
  • They consume less energy than traditional printers.
  • They use ink that is more environmentally friendly.

You want to take a look at different green printers and compare them. You’ll find that some will meet your needs as a green business.

Poorly communicating your green business strategy to customers

Brand positioning doesn’t happen on its own. If you want to run a successful green business, you must communicate your message to customers as clearly as possible. You must also avoid the appearance that you are patronizing them.

The best approach is to be clear when you were first making the change. I’ll make an announcement about your company‘s commitment to sustainability.

You also want to reinforce this message overtime by using green labels on all of your products. You don’t have to be blatant with your messaging at this stage. Simply provide a small, daily reminder on your products and invoices.

Finally, it is a good idea to participate in green business seminars and other events. If your community has a local Green Chamber of Commerce, you should consider joining as well.

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