National Ethical Investment Week (NEIW) – the event that brings together investors, financial advisers, fund managers, charities, faith groups and more, with the aim of raising the profile of ethical, responsible and sustainable investment – is back for another year in just four months’ time (October 13-19).
National Ethical Investment Week is an umbrella event and vital focal point for socially responsible, impact, green, best-in-class and sustainable investment. The sector is as concerned with positively selecting the fastest-growing, most innovative industries of the future – in cleantech, biotech, healthcare, sustainable transport, forestry and agriculture – as it is with screening out ‘unethical’ offenders.
The 2012 event was a success, involving more than 400 financial advisers and gaining the support of over 100 additional organisations.
On top of this, supporters from charities, faith groups and the financial services industry organised nearly 40 events across 18 towns and cities across the UK – all with the aim of spreading the word about investment strategies that consider environmental and social externalities, and aren’t simply on a reckless search for profit at any cost.
But there are high hopes that the 2013 event will make even greater steps.
“NEIW 2013 will look to be bigger and bolder than ever before”, said Raj Singh, programme director at the UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association (UKSIF) which co-ordinates the event.
“We’re excited to work with UKSIF members and other partners to spread the word amongst investors about ethical investment.
“The options open to investors who want to invest ethically are growing year by year. We all embed ethics into other spheres of our lives, there’s no good reason for our financial or investment decisions to be exempt from that.”
During NEIW 2012, UKISF targeted financial advisers, and urged them to view the event as an opportunity to explore green and ethical funds with their clients. Clients who invest sustainably are more loyal to their adviser and funds.
As we have said before, the best financial advice includes the ethical investment option. It must be part of the know-your-client process, as Barchester Green financial adviser John Ditchfield said in an interview with Blue & Green Tomorrow during last year’s event.
Speaking to B> again, he said, “NEIW 2012 was a huge success for Barchester Green and really raised the profile of responsible investing in the UK.
“We managed to attract considerable press attention with events and press releases focusing on the strong performance of many ethical and responsible funds.
Ditchfield, who is also co-chair of the Ethical Investment Association, added, “We are looking forward to making NEIW 2013 another strong year for the responsible investment market and this year we are looking to focus on the growing market for high social impact investments, social bonds and other forms of finance for organisations with a clearly defined social purpose.”
At the beginning of NEIW 2012, EIRIS – the responsible investment research firm – released statistics that identified £11 billion of assets invested in UK green and ethical retail funds. Whilst this figure was 3.4% less than the total invested in June 2011, it marks a £7 billion growth in the sector over the last 10 years.
Stephen Hine, EIRIS head of responsible investment development, said, “This is EIRIS’ 30th year of empowering responsible investment and as-ever we will be supporting NEIW, which is now in its sixth year.
“We are planning further activity to follow on from last year’s webinar ‘Beyond the ethical fund‘ which was targeted at marketing professionals from financial product providers and focused on how sustainable investment credentials can help with branding in a time of low consumer trust and poor reputations.
“In 2013, we’ve seen an ever-increasing take-up of defined contribution pension schemes in the workplace and so a discussion on the need for ethical investment options around these would seem very relevant. We also plan to release our latest estimate of size of UK ethical retail market statistics.
Hine added, “As always, our consumer website www.YourEthicalMoney.org signposts to information on how people’s money is invested, green and ethical financial products, and how consumers can help make finance more sustainable. Watch this space as our plans progress.”
One of the funds at the forefront of the sustainable investment market is WHEB’s Sustainability Fund. Having recruited Henderson Global Investors’ sustainable and responsible investment (SRI) team in May 2012 (and recently celebrating its one year anniversary), it has gone from strength to strength – becoming one of the most innovative products on offer.
Clare Brook, founding partner at WHEB, spoke to Blue & Green Tomorrow about what NEIW needs to do to build on the success of previous years.
“In order to engage the broader public, it’s important that NEIW makes it clear that the sort of investment we’re talking about here is not so much about avoiding alcohol, armaments, tobacco or pornography – those old-style ethical issues”, she said.
“It’s about asking where your money is invested. If it’s invested in something reasonably long-term like a pension that you’re drawing on in 20 years’ time, what is the world going to look like then? What are the key challenges facing us – and therefore how should your money be invested in a way that aligns your investments with what most concerns you?
“And if what most concerns you are things like resource scarcity, climate change, pollution and demographics, then surely your money should be invested in companies providing solutions to these challenges, rather than perpetuating them.
“It’s not just about ethics – in the slightly puritanical sense – it’s about safeguarding your future by ensuring it’s invested in companies that are going to be growing in future, not those that are potentially going to be at risk because governments are going to decide that, for example, we simply can’t burn anymore carbon dioxide.”
“What would be good would be to make sure that a lot of the NEIW events were focused on looking into the future and essentially future-proofing investment, rather than nit-picking what we mean by ‘ethics’. I think that gets boring and it misses the point.
“Meanwhile, we’re facing a potentially enormous crisis in the form of climate change. So if I had a wish for NEIW, it’s let’s not dwell on the detail and niceties; let’s get thinking about how we as investors can better invest in a future-proofed economy.”
In the same way that Fairtrade Fortnight and Move Your Money Month have helped spread the word about the ethical consumerism and responsible banking respectively, NEIW serves as an important marker for a type of investment that Blue & Green Tomorrow likes to call enlightened. It is not, as one personal finance journalist commented to us, an “arbitrary promotional event”.
We encourage investors, financial advisers, charities, faith groups, NGOs and communities to get behind ethical investment this October and beyond.
For more information, and ways to get involved, visit www.neiw.org.