This week, a range of organisations and interested individuals will be coming together up and down the country to examine what it means to be investing ethically. Started in 2008 and coordinated by the UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association, National Ethical Investment Week (NEIW) is now a welcome fixture in many ethically-minded organisations’ calendars.
The NEIW describes its aim as “to ensure everyone knows that they have green and ethical options when it comes to their financial decisions.” A range of events will demystify the subject, exploring its meaning, the positive impact it can have, and how to put it into practice. This year’s calendar includes a discussion with leading investment management firm CCLA tailored to charities that are ready to learn more about the subject, an examination of how charitable foundations can start to embed climate change awareness in their investment strategies, and a range of interactive workshops on various issues, including localised finance and tax justice. Alliance Trust Investments is even doing a whistlestop tour of over 25 UK locations, called Sense in Sustainability, speaking to financial advisors and wealth managers about the latest trends in sustainable investment.
Investing sustainably and ethically is increasingly becoming a key consideration for many organisations. For charitable trusts and foundations, whose mission is usually to generate public benefit in some way, understanding what impacts their investments are having is crucial to ensure money isn’t flowing into coffers contradictory to their core purposes.
Understanding investments’ destination has become a hot topic after the Church of England’s embarrassment when it discovered it had money in payday loans company, Wonga, just after the Archbishop of Canterbury initiated a public battle against them. It’s a concern for businesses too: they may not necessarily have the ethical values of a charity or faith investor, but brand management teams will be keen to ensure that investments meet companies’ public sustainability commitments and credentials. Identifying key ethical concerns and devising an ethical investment policy that asks investment managers to take those concerns into account when acting on an organisation’s behalf is a simple and effective first step.
And of course, it’s not just organisations that need to pay attention to this important issue. Ordinary consumers also have a vital role to play in steering funds towards a sustainable, low carbon future. Asking questions about where your pension is invested is a great starting point, enabling you to understand just what your savings are supporting.
It’s essential that more organisations and individuals begin questioning where investments and savings are going and what impact they have on society and the environment. Civil society pressure can be an effective tool at encouraging more sustainable, responsible business practices, but it is all too easily rebutted or ignored by companies. Hearing from the owners of capital – investors – can help sway debates around everything from highly polluting fossil fuel projects to human trafficking measures. The NEIW’s website provides a range of information and resources. Its national events will be informing new audiences about the meanings and practices surrounding ethical investment.
In a world facing an uncertain future, with resource scarcity, climate change and globalisation bringing new and unforeseen stresses to the planet and its people, it’s essential that we use the power of our investments to create the fairest and greenest future we can.
Emily Kenway works in the third sector promoting responsible practices by companies and investors. Prior to 2011, Emily was a professional opera singer before following her passion for sustainability into this new career. Her particular interests include the circular economy, environmental impacts, and the food industry.