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Comic Relief has ‘nothing to hide’ ahead of BBC unethical investment investigation

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Comic Relief has said it has “nothing to hide”, after the BBC confirmed it would be screening a controversial Panorama investigation into charity investment policies.

The documentary was shelved in October, over fears that its airing might affect fundraising for Children in Need in November, but director of news James Harding and director-general Tony Hall reportedly intervened to give the screening the go-ahead.

Comic Relief, which is one of a number of charities under the spotlight, is alleged to have been investing in funds that support tobacco and arms firms. Both industries are seen as contrary to its core aims as a development body.

However, a spokesperson for the charity said, “Comic Relief takes the business of making grants and managing the money so generously donated by the public extremely seriously.

We’re satisfied that our approach is wholly appropriate and meets all regulatory and legal requirements. We have nothing to hide and publish a full explanation on our website.”

A longer statement on its website, updated on December 3, says that in order to comply with guidelines set by the Charity Commission, the charity has to “invest [its money] and seek the best return”, based on advice from a voluntary committee of experts.

In July, the Church of England was criticised after it was found to have been investing indirectly in the payday lender Wonga, despite the archbishop of Canterbury criticising the industry.

Whereas the church was caught out by investing in pooled funds – which allow investors to invest alongside others – Comic Relief puts its money into blue chip managed funds – large funds that deliver reliable returns. In theory, these kind of investment vehicles could include companies like Wonga, as well as tobacco and arms firms.

The charity’s website adds, “The relatively poorer performance of ethical funds has meant that our trustees have been unable to invest in them at the same time as meeting their statutory duties. Investing in the way we do ensures that we can deliver more support to our beneficiaries at home and around the world.”

Simon Howard, chief executive of the UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association (UKSIF), refuted Comic Relief’s point on the underperformance of ethical funds.

The numbers are out there telling us otherwise”, he told Blue & Green Tomorrow.

An August investigation by Moneyfacts showed that ethical and sustainable investment funds have generally performed better over 12 and 36 monthsResearch also shows that companies that are rated highly for their commitment to ESG factors outperform others and offer low risk returns to investors.”

Howard added that Comic Relief’s comment on its statutory duties was “puzzling”, pointing towards the Charity Commission’s 2011 guidance which said, “The law permits the following reasons [for investing ethically, even if lower returns are anticipated]: a particular investment conflicts with the aims of the charity; or the charity might lose supporters or beneficiaries if it does not invest ethically; or there is no significant financial detriment.”

In response to Howard and UKSIF, the Comic Relief spokesperson said, “Our investment approach has consistently delivered very strong returns that have helped Comic Relief cover its running costs, without having to use any of the money donated directly by the public. This means Comic Relief can promise that every pound donated by the public has gone towards making grants of more than £800m, to make real change to the lives of poor and vulnerable people.

If we had invested £50m across the FTSE4Good indices, as opposed to the equivalent FTSE indices, we would have lost around £10m over the last 10 years. Of course, this is a complex area, with many important considerations, and we keep it under constant review.”

During National Ethical Investment Week 2012, the Charity Finance Group released the results of a survey that found just over half of its members had an ethical investment policy.

Helen Wildsmith, head of ethical and responsible investment at CCLA, which manages billions of pounds of assets belonging to churches, charities and local authorities, told Blue & Green Tomorrow in July that values-driven organisations risked damaging their reputations by potentially investing unethically.

The Charity Commission guidance makes it much easier for trustees of charities to avoid things that conflict with their mission than other trustees”, she said in The Guide to Philanthropy & Giving 2013.

They can also avoid things that would make it difficult for the charity to continue to operate. Reputationally damaging mistakes are usually unwittingly made.”

Comic Relief, which received donations worth over £100m in 2013 overall, is most famously associated with Red Nose Day – the biennial fundraising event that is accompanied by a variety show, screened by the BBC.

The Panorama programme into charities will air on Tuesday December 10.

Further reading:

We need to put ethics at the core financial heart of charities

Transparent investment policies can boost charity donations

Charities move to defend ‘disproportionate salaries’ for bosses

Comic Relief accused of unethical investment in tobacco and weapons

The Guide to Philanthropy & Giving 2013

Invest

What Sustainable Real Estate Investors Look For In Properties They Buy

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sustainable real-estate investors
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Monster Ztudio | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/chaiyawat%20sripimonwan

Investors choose the homes they buy, sell, or flip based on a variety of factors. The most crucial factor is the potential for profit, but there are additional factors that contribute equal weight to the final decision. One of those factors has to do with sustainability.

An article from Green Residential discusses several green construction methods, citing the fact that 56% of CO2 emissions in the US come from new building construction. Noting that 39% of CO2 emissions come from existing buildings, the article makes a good point, “This is the highest volume of emissions for any sector, and could be drastically reduced if builders and occupants updated their properties and had better practices.”

The updates and “better practices” center on sustainable construction. Even though a building has already been constructed, it’s never too late to incorporate aspects of sustainability. This applies to individual construction, as well as sustainable communities.

Sustainability is about more than materials

A sustainable building can be constructed with eco-friendly materials sourced locally. This eliminates the need to transport materials over long distances using excessive amounts of gasoline and other fuels. Sustainability is also about retaining the efficiency of the building’s heating and cooling systems.

Sustainable construction methods cost more upfront, but save money over time.

Renters – commercial and private – want energy efficiency

If an investor can own multiple energy efficient buildings, whether commercial or residential, they’ll have an easier time generating a stream of income from those sources.

People want to save money on their energy bills, especially when they have a large space to keep warm. It makes no difference if they use electric, propane, solar, or geothermal energy to heat their home – if the building isn’t built to be efficient, both cold and hot air will escape. This means they’ll have to run their heater or air conditioner continuously, which creates more wear and tear.

Sometimes the issue with an inefficient building isn’t money, but the wasted energy itself. Being off the grid doesn’t cost more money to heat and cool your space. However, no matter what energy source you use, it’s difficult to keep a drafty home warm.

If you’re using solar panels or a geothermal coil buried in your backyard, you still need to generate the energy to power your home. That energy can take time to generate. If your building is drafty, you can end up overtaxing your energy system trying to keep it warm. If you use appliances that hog energy, it doesn’t matter what type of energy you use, it’s going to be wasted.

What investors look for in a sustainable building

Investors interested in sustainable buildings look for the following prior to buying:

  • Location of the building. A building with windows facing opposite that of the rising and setting sun is ideal. The sun sets west and rises in the east, so a building that faces north to south will generally be less exposed to the sun. In the summer, this will prevent the need to run the air conditioning constantly, which saves on energy and, of course, money.
  • Energy efficient appliances. The appliances that are already installed in a residential building may not be a deal breaker, but they’re a big influence. It’s not always a big deal for an investor to switch out appliances, but it is an expense.
  • Insulation. Proper insulation can’t be stressed enough as one of the most important factors that contribute to a sustainable investor’s decision to buy a property. The purpose of insulation (in the walls) is to trap both hot and cold air to maintain the temperature inside the building.Ideally, inside of an energy efficient building you can run the heater or air conditioner for a period of time, and expect the temperature to remain the same for a while. It’s normal for the temperature to gradually change, but in a poorly insulated home, it will get cold or hot rapidly.
  • Insulated and sturdy window construction. Windows are not cheap to replace and can cost up to $1,000 each. Custom windows – those with unique shapes and sizes that aren’t standard – are especially expensive.

An investor wants windows that are sturdy enough to provide security in the event of a break-in, because that’s a great selling point to renters (or buyers if they’re flipping). However, more importantly, windows open a building up to enormous drafts. It’s the drafts from poorly insulated windows that often cause exorbitant heating and cooling costs.

To make a building energy-efficient and therefore sustainable, an investor might be willing to make certain improvements to the construction of the home, if they can recover their costs over time. However, efficient elements are best when implemented from the beginning, as more people are starting to realize. It’s the consumer demand for sustainability that’s driving greener construction methods, and soon, we can expect sustainable construction to be in the majority.

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Economy

How Going Green Can Save A Company Money

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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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