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There is such a thing as an unethical investment



The Telegraph’s Questor column leapt onto the Wonga bandwagon on Friday, boldly and unsubstantiatedly declaring, “There is no such thing as an ethical investment.” There is certainly such a thing as an unethical investment.

The debate around ethical investment is often framed in terms of the poor performance of ethical funds (a myth); that they are a ‘marketing trick’ (nonsense); or that unsavoury companies that can appear in an ethical fund.

The founding principles of negative screening that constituted ethical investment, screening out or limiting investment in pornography, gambling, tobacco, alcohol, arms and nuclear, have meant that companies with dubious human rights records – oil, gas and mining companies, for example – are allowed in. This is a recognised issue for the industry.

Click here to read The Guide to Sustainable Investment 2013

While this is obviously questionable, the arguments around what is ethical have evolved. The narrow argument on ethical funds fails to recognise the emergence of sustainable, SRI, responsible and impact funds that use positive selection to actively seek out companies involved in sustainability.

The classic line, “To ignore firms with potentially ethical concerns may mean your investments would not grow substantially”, will be familiar to our readers. The same defence was used to support the slave trade. To ignore firms that invest in slaves meant that 19th century abolitionists’ investments would not grow substantially as those that did.

But the statement that there is no such thing as an ethical investment misses the point. It is more accurate to say that there is such a thing as an unethical investment.

In the movie Aliens, profiteer and company man Burke decides to smuggle the alien embryos back to Earth inside Ripley and the orphan Newt. They will be valuable to the bioweapons division of the company. To succeed, he needs to sabotage the surviving marines’ life support. When this plot is uncovered, Ripley says to Burke, “I don’t know which species is worse [alien or human]. You don’t see [aliens] fucking each other over for a god damn percentage.”

I think we can all agree that Burke was unethical. Doubtless his actions would be applauded in the Questor column, had he pulled it off and delivered a healthy return to the company’s investors.

Because that is what the vast majority of funds are doing: fucking over the environment and our children for a god damn percentage.

It is manifestly unethical to knowingly profit from other people’s misery and suffering – especially that of children. It is unethical to profit from degrading the life of future generations. It is unethical to consume and waste finite resources unsustainably.

– Investing in and profiting from drinks companies that know their advertising appeals (and is designed to appeal) to underage drinkers is unethical

– Investing in and profiting from tobacco firms that market their products in countries with no public health education or adequate health system is unethical

– Investing in and profiting from gambling firms that target areas of high deprivation (and desperation) – ditto high interest rate lending firms – is unethical

– Investing in and profiting from adult entertainment where the age and consent of the individuals involved isn’t known is unethical

– Investing in and profiting from arms companies that sell weapons to oppressive regimes and aggressor states is unethical (we thought we knew Iraq had weapons of mass destruction because we had the receipts)

– Investing in and profiting from oil, gas and mining companies that behave recklessly towards the environment and people is unethical

– Investing in and profiting from nuclear divides opinions – but civilian nuclear power creates the risks of proliferation and the challenges of radioactive waste disposal

– Investing in and profiting from pharmaceutical companies that hide unfavourable test results is unethical

– Investing in and profiting from media companies that hack the phones of murdered school children, families of killed war heroes and victims of terrorism is unethical

– Investing in and profiting from any company that knowingly harms the planet and its people, secretly lobbies government to protect its interests and sponsors disinformation campaigns is unethical

So while it is time consuming to find an ethical fund, a simple step in the right direction is to avoid the most unethical ones.

There is a group think at play in investment, and the archbishop of Canterbury has succumbed to its charms. Ethical and sustainable is hard to do. It means making hard choices and forgoing an easy profit. It means transforming investment and changing the mindset and culture of investors. It means taking on powerful vested interests in business, finance, politics and the media.

It means accepting there is such a thing as an unethical investment – they are the ones that fuck us all over, for a god damn percentage. Pretending it’s all just a little bit complicated, so we need not act, is as ignorant and lazy as it is unethical.

Further reading:

For a church, fiduciary responsibility should not trump social responsibility

Is a little sin tolerable? Ethical investment and searching for the good

Wonga, the archbishop and the Ethical Investment Advisory Group: interview

Archbishop ‘embarrassed’ at Church of England investment in Wonga backer

The Guide to Sustainable Investment 2013

Simon Leadbetter is the founder and publisher of Blue & Green Tomorrow. He has held senior roles at Northcliffe, The Daily Telegraph, Santander, Barclaycard, AXA, Prudential and Fidelity. In 2004, he founded a marketing agency that worked amongst others with The Guardian, Vodafone, E.On and Liverpool Victoria. He sold this agency in 2006 and as Chief Marketing Officer for two VC-backed start-ups launched the online platform Cleantech Intelligence (which underpinned the The Guardian’s Cleantech 100) and StrategyEye Cleantech. Most recently, he was Marketing Director of Emap, the UK’s largest B2B publisher, and the founder of Blue & Green Communications Limited.


How Going Green Can Save A Company Money



going green can save company money
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By GOLFX

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

paper waste

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Yury Zap

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.

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5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable




sustainable homes
Shutterstock Licensed Photot - By Diyana Dimitrova

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

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By Olivier Le Moal

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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