Nikky Wilson and Steve Connelly are ethical investors. They have specifically tried to invest in areas that make a positive difference to the world – as well as avoiding some of the most damaging industries. This is a belief that stems from their early careers.
The pair both started their working lives overseas in development projects, and met when they were studying forestry, before going on to work in Sudan, Sri Lanka and Eritrea. By their own admission, this experience had a “huge impact” on their outlook on life.
They came back to the UK in 1996, and both have gone on to have careers with environmental and social focuses; Nikky works in community development, providing food for people in crisis, and Steve is a university lecturer, teaching environmental policy and researching public involvement in local government.
For the past three years their lives have been filled with an exciting local community project, called Portland Works, to buy and sustainably manage an old cutlery works in Sheffield, which was the first place in the world to make stainless steel cutlery.
Over 400 people have bought shares in the project’s community benefit society, with the ultimate aim being to protect and develop the industries by buying the building and running it as a social enterprise.
Blue & Green Tomorrow posed a few questions to Nikky and Steve via email about their ethical investment journey – which Sheffield based advisers PHFS Wealth Management guides them on. This is what they had to say.
Why have you chosen to consider ethical investment?
On the positive side, because we think other people and projects should be able to make use of money that we currently don’t need, to do something useful for society or the environment.
On the other hand we don’t want our savings being invested in businesses with the opposite effects. We’ve seen a lot of poverty and injustice in the world and our investments are one way we try to be more than just bystanders.
More generally, we believe that as individuals one of the ways we can ‘make a difference’ is by being careful and thoughtful about where the money we are lucky enough to have is spent or invested. We believe that where one chooses to spend or invest ones money is a political act; not merely a transaction.
Did you invest in conventional funds beforehand?
Yes, we did. The turning point was discovering that there were ethical ways of investing, rather than simply regretting that our savings were potentially being misused by the big banks.
Are there any sectors that you would refuse to invest in?
The obvious ones: arms, tobacco, porn – all extremely damaging socially. Ideally we would be more selective about our investment in the energy sector, and avoid nuclear power.
Are there any sectors that you specifically look to invest in?
In mainstream investments, primarily renewable energy as a positive investment, or others chosen by our funds. We also invest directly in more social initiatives, mainly mutuals and community benefit societies – the Ethical Building Society, Shared Interest, Portland Works, Fordhall Farm, Sheffield Renewables and so on.
What would you say to encourage or inspire other individuals to invest ethically, sustainably or responsibly?
People need to recognise that if they don’t think about where they invest their money, it may get used for things that they find morally unacceptable. There is an alternative – by investing ethically everyone can do a little bit to challenge what is a very unjust world, largely funded by ordinary people’s money.
Blue & Green Tomorrow has interviewed a number of specialist ethical financial advisers in the past, and they’re located all across the country. Have a look here to find the one nearest to you.
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