Joel Benjamin has ten years professional experience in town and transport planning, public policy and environmental consultancy roles. This includes two years research and advocacy experience with Move Your Money UK – studying public sector, local authority and alternative finance.
Joel has experience in public policy, local planning and consultancy, coupled with recent financial campaigning, networking and research skills obtained through developing Local Authority guide on Banking for Social Good. The guide will streamline expansion of local authority finance work into divestment and re-investment options for municipalities to create alternatives that deliver economic and social value benefits for residents whilst expediting a transition to a jobs rich, low-carbon, local economy
What is Community Reinvest?
We are a not-for-profit Community Interest Company set up to link divestment and reinvestment and believe through this action it is possible to create flourishing low carbon, local economies. We exist to help public institutions demonstrate civic leadership by divesting from fossil fuels and reinvesting funds in the local economy, in a manner that has social, economic and environmental benefits.
What was the driver behind this?
In late 2014 when Co-Founder Jo Ram and I set up Community Reinvest – there was a lot of energy around the US & UK college fossil fuel divestment movement, but not a lot of joined-up thinking to link divestment with pathways for socially and environmentally just investment in the new economy for institutions and pension funds.
Its incredible to think that despite pension funds being members money, individual investors have next to no say in how their pension is actually invested.
Community Reinvest identified local authorities as a key player in the drive to the low carbon economy, because they are democratically accountable bodies, are in control of our local economies and account for £1 in every £4 of taxpayer funds spent.
We wanted to ensure the link between divestment from fossil fuels and investment in the renewables based low-carbon economy was made explicit and that such investments were both aligned with members and communities needs, and were environmentally sustainable.
Who does it primarily serve?
We’re here to help the divestment movement, local authority pension funds and community/ renewable energy groups work together and to signpost alternative, renewable investments and low carbon funds.
What difference does Community Reinvest want to make?
We need to radically decarbonise our economy, but we also need to democratise our entire energy system.
By divesting money from carbon intensive, centrally controlled corporate oil monopolies, and supporting a shift to democratised, locally owned and controlled renewable energy, we hope to distribute and anchor wealth within communities, creating jobs and local manufacturing opportunities while de-risking workers pension funds and improving the environment.
What are the barriers to making that difference?
The barriers are enormous. The first is transparency. Working with Friends of the Earth, Platform and 350, it took us 100 FOI requests and a year of data crunching just to work out how much local authority pension fund money was invested in fossil fuels – £14 billion. Around £3000 in coal, oil & gas for each LGPS fund member or £281 for each UK citizen.
Fossil fuels have been viewed as a safe bet for investors for more than a century, but recently a growing chorus of voices from Mark Carney to Naomi Klein and Bill McKibben are urging pension funds to review carbon investment risk and to pursue divestment. Culturally however, the pace of divestment and actual change within institutions has been slow.
UK Government policy has attacked renewables, singling out local authority pension funds to threaten them on engaging in boycotts, divestment and sanctions, whilst trying to strong arm the funds into white elephant PFI infrastructure projects like HS2 which Government refuses to fund itself.
Currently the 89 LGPS funds in England and Wales are being forced by Government to pool themselves into 6-8 large funds to reduce the impact of rip-off City fund managers fees on workers nest-eggs. This will make pensions further removed from fund members, and harder to engage with.
Who’s helping you overcome those barriers?
On the divestment campaigning side, 350, Platform and Friends of the Earth are doing an admirable job of building and supporting local groups to push the divestment message and to work with the trade union movement on the transition to low carbon energy.
Organisations like Share Action and Carbon Tracker are engaging with the fund manager sector to ram home the message of fiduciary duty and the need to act in members interests and manage carbon investment risk. The trade union movement is making the case for a low-carbon jobs transition and pressuring Government to ensure workers pensions are invested in the long-term interests of members and do not become a political football for the Westminster elite.
In the language of the City, public pension funds are labelled “the dumb money” while private equity, hedge funds and banks are labelled “the smart money.”
With carbon risk, it’s the complete reversal. Government’s, citizens and insurance firms like Aviva are in the lead – demanding the City and financial markets take action to decarbonise, while major financial institutions and the oil majors drag heels, because their cash flow and debt generation business is inherently linked to fossil fuel extraction and the continuation of the petro-dollar.
With fossil fuels, pension fund managers and advisors are blocking oil soaked investments from heading where they needs to head – the exit sign and quickly.
How can people – individuals and organisations – find out more about Community Reinvest?
People can visit our website at www.communityreinvest.org.uk follow us on twitter @Comm_Reinvest and take a read of our recent report “Reinvesting Pensions – From Fossil Fuel Divestment to Reinvestment in the New Economy”
How Going Green Can Save A Company Money
What is going green?
Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.
The first step in going green
There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.
Making needed changes within the company
After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.
Reducing the common paper waste
Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.
Make money by spreading the word
Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.
5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable
Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.
1. Weather stripping
If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.
Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.
Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.
2. Programmable thermostats
Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.
Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!
3. Low-flow water hardware
With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.
Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.
Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.
4. Energy efficient light bulbs
An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.
New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.
5. Installing solar panels
Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.
Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.
From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!
These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.
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