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Exclusive interview: Ted Franks, Partner and Fund Manager, WHEB Asset Management

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Edward ‘Ted’ Franks, Fund Manager of 3D 5-star rated WHEB Sustainability Fund, always looked for a way to deliver good things through finance and economics. He spent his early career getting together all the skills he could: he studied economics, philosophy and law, and qualified as an accountant and a chartered financial analyst. Then he moved into renewables, energy, and water investment banking, and built up his experience over “lots of long hours”. And then in 2009 he got the opportunity to put it all together with WHEB. Today he speaks to Blue & Green.

What triggered your initial interest in sustainability?

My father worked in water and development, and I grew up travelling the world with him and wondering how it was that such differences could exist between peoples’ situations. That sparked my interest in economics and sustainability, which to me are two sides of the same coin. Remember the Rio Declaration: development today must not threaten the needs of present and future generations. It sounds commonplace now but I do think it is very profound. So it’s the same question that still fascinates me to this day: how society allocates resources, but spread across time as well as regions and societies.


We see you have a degree in Philosophy and Economics – did a career in politics rather than finance not beckon?

To be honest I never really considered it. I guess I always thought that politics wasn’t as useful as being technical, and applying technical skills: it also seemed somehow dishonourable. But strangely, in a way, I’ve become less cynical as I’ve grown older and now I think that the scope for positive change by politicians is huge.

You’ve been with WHEB since the sustainability fund’s inception in 2009. What’s been the highlight of the last six years?

This will sound corny but it’s all been a highlight. That’s not to say there haven’t been lots of knockbacks: investing is a tough business and if you’re trying to do something a bit novel and innovative then it’s even harder. But, we’ve been involved in and contributing to the response to one of the greatest challenges the world has ever faced – up close to some of the real agents of change. It’s a huge privilege and I have loved nearly all of it.  And all of the people who have been involved at WHEB, they are a highlight in themselves.


What have been the biggest changes in the investment world over the last six years?

There have been some pretty big changes in the general investment world in that time. Two big obvious ones of questionable value are the new dominance of passive investing, and the rise of rules- (as opposed to principles-) based regulation. More positively, there is no question that investors of all types are more interested in the impact their money has than ever before. It’s amazing some of the conversations we have now, and who we have them with.

And what do you envisage the biggest changes will be over the next six years?

Well I think in the next six years I think the massive impact of climate change will become more apparent.  It’s very clear if you look for it already: for instance, in how weather patterns have impacted the Middle East over the last decade. But I think it will become clearer and clearer, and more and more resources will be invested to remedy it. I do also think that scrutiny of companies’ behaviour and impact will increase for the same reasons.

Any emerging sectors our readers should watch? (this does not constitute investment advice.)

Probably our best weapon against the havoc of climate change will be the power unleashed by digitisation. Intelligent and responsive systems are already emerging in all aspects of life, to save resources and improve performance. In plainer English that means things like sensors, intelligent design, software and analytics. The potential is staggering.  Spotting the digital disruptors in any given industry won’t be easy, but figuring out the knock-on effects will be even more interesting…

We’re right up against COP21, are you optimistic it will deliver a binding agreement that averts catastrophic climate change?

Sorry, this will be a very measured response. I am optimistic there will be an agreement, I don’t think it will be meaningfully binding (I honestly don’t know what ‘binding’ could mean in a global context) and I’m sure that it won’t be the key thing that averts catastrophic climate change. Technology has to do the heavy lifting there.

If we made you Prime Minister for the day with the mandate to make one change to government policy what would it be?

Ha. There are too many. Two environmental ones that I will never understand are the new nuclear deal and the tax breaks for fossil fuel production. For anyone who believes in the power of markets, and can do maths, those two are really hard to get your head around.  But since I need to pick just one, I’ll go for something less directly linked to sustainability but more profound: I would stop any interest payments from ever being tax-deductible. It’s only really by accident that they were ever made so, and sorting it out would put an end to our lethal debt habit.  This is such a huge issue that I don’t think people even realise we can do anything about it.

What is the one question we should have asked you and didn’t?

Well that’s a good one anyway. We’re getting a lot of good questions now about how we think about measuring and improving the impact of our investments. There should be some interesting answers in our next impact report which is due in the New Year.

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Green Weddings Trend: Why 70% of Newlyweds Are Going Green

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A couple of months ago, my best friend got married to her new husband. They are both very eco-conscious people, so they decided to have a unique twist on their wedding. They asked for the following:

  • They arranged a carpool with their friends.
  • They didn’t have any balloons. Instead they used umbrellas.
  • They used plant materials instead of plastic confetti.
  • My friend insisted her husband not purchase a diamond. In addition to being ecologically conscious, she didn’t like the idea of having a stone that was used in conflict zones.

My friends aren’t the only ones making these changes. In fact, nearly a quarter of all newlyweds are organizing green weddings.


Green Weddings Are Becoming the Norm

People are more concerned about green living than ever before. They are trying to incorporate environmental protectionist ideas into every facet of their lives, even the most intimate, such as marriage. A growing number of people are trying to have green weddings, which can make a big difference in reducing their carbon footprint.

How much of a difference can this make? Here are some statistics to bear in mind:

There are a number ofreasons that green weddings are becoming more important. Here are a few.

People Are More Worried About Environmental Preservation than Ever Before


Green living in general is becoming a greater concern for most people. Even younger conservatives are breaking from their older counterparts by insisting on fighting climate change. According to a poll from Pew Research earlier this year, 75% of Americans say that they are very concerned about protecting the environment. Having green weddings is a good way to act on this concern.

One of the biggest changes people are making is using recycled products for their green weddings. This is explained by the research from Pew:

“Overall, 32% of U.S. adults say they are bothered a lot by people throwing away things that could be recycled. Roughly six-in-ten Americans (61%) who say they always try to live in ways that protect the environment say it bothers them “a lot” when others throw away things that could be recycled. Among those who are less focused on environmental protection, only a quarter say it bothers them a lot when others don’t recycle. People who are environmentally conscious are also twice as likely as others to say that seeing someone incorrectly putting trash in recycling bins bothers them a lot (42% vs. 21%).”

Indifferent Politicians Are Driving them to Take More Initiative

Many politicians in power have been very hesitant to take action on climate change. Many of them have openly stated that it is a hoax. These politicians are forcing people to do what they can in their own lives to make a difference. Making small changes, such as hosting green weddings, is a great way to improve the environment without waiting for political momentum.

Cost and Simplicity

A couple of the biggest reasons that people want to host green weddings have nothing to do with their concern for the environment. Running green weddings is simply cheaper and simpler than having a massive, traditional one. One of the biggest changes is that they are buying green engagement rings from the best brands.

Green Weddings Are the Future

Green weddings have become very popular over the past few years. They will probably account for close to 90% of all marriages by 2025. People that are planning to get married should look into the benefits and plan accordingly.

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Green Tech Start-Ups: Are they the Future?

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Endless innovations are occurring in green companies, reinventing the industries they belong to. Gradually, they are beginning to amass more success and popularity. Consequently, these factors serve as a good indicator for green technology businesses, and their development must begin somewhere.

Green tech start-ups boast a wide array of opportunities for the economy and environment, while boosting recruitment openings with valuable services. While the technology industry is littered with high revenues and competition, the green tech start-ups are the clear sign of a cleaner future.


Fulfilling a Genuine Need

Many tech companies will market themselves as the ultimate tech giants to shift stock and make profit. As they all vie for attention through warped corporate rhetoric, there is only one ethical winner; the start-up green tech company.

Some argue that mainstream tech businesses have grown far too big, branching out into other industries and standing between the consumer and practically everything they do. However, green tech start-ups go beyond the shallow ambitions of a company, answering a call to sincerely help the customer and climate in any way they can. Of course, this is an attractive business model, putting customers at ease as they contribute to a humanitarian cause that is genuine through and through.

After all, empathy is a striking trait to have in business, and green tech start-ups maintain this composure by their very nature and purpose.

Creating Opportunities

Despite the pursuits for clean energy still needing more awareness, green tech is an area that is ripe for contribution and expansion. There’s no need to copy another company or be a business of cheap knockoffs; green tech start-ups can add a new voice to the economy by being fresh, fearless and entrepreneurial.


Technology is at its most useful when it breaks new ground, an awe that eco-friendly innovations have by default in their operations. Of course, green tech start-ups have the chance to build on this foundation and create harmony instead of climate crisis. Ultimately, the tech advancements are what revolutionise clean energy as more than an activist niche, putting theory into practice.

Despite the US gradually becoming more disengaged with green technology, others such as China and Canada recognise the potential in green technology for creating jobs and growth in their respective economies. The slack of others spurs them on, which creates a constant influx of prospects for the green tech sector. Put simply, their services are always required, able to thrive from country to country.

A Fundamental Foresight

Mainstream technology can seem repetitive and dull, tinkering with what has come before rather than turning tech on its head. Since 2011, technology has been accused of stagnation, something which the internet and petty app services seem to disguise in short reaching ideas of creativity.

However, green tech start-ups aren’t just winging it, and operate with a roadmap of climate change in the years ahead to strategize accordingly. In other words, they aren’t simply looking to make a quick profit by sticking to a trend, but have the long-term future in mind. Consequently, the green tech start-up will be there from the very start, building up from the foundational level to only grow as more and more people inevitably go green.

They can additionally forecast their finances too, with the ability to access online platforms despite the differing levels of experience, keeping them in the loop. Consequently, with an eye for the future, green tech startups are the ones who will eventually usher in the new era.

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