In my post of 12 April 2020 (How long is this sustainable for?) I promised a series of mini-blogs to highlight stories about companies that see the link between the sustainability of their business and that of the planet. I’m giving myself free rein here to look at anything from what big, grown-up companies and organisations are doing to get with the programme, to young, earnest start-ups with ground-breaking ideas – and all that comes in between. Happy reading!
A sustainable story for today: On yer bike!
As I write, it is World Bicycle Day – as designated by the United Nations (no less) two years ago. Who knew? And what prescient timing as city leaders around the world are starting to think about how to get people moving around safely in a world where the close proximity to strangers demanded by public transport has become unconscionable.
From Bengaluru to Bogatá, the mantra of ‘two wheels good, four wheels bad’ is gathering pace. In our own backyard, Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan has announced a widespread ban of cars and vans from many of its streets and bridges. And across the Channel, Paris is preparing to spend a whopping €300m on cycle lanes while Milan will be transforming 22 miles of streets in a bid to keep people out of the virus-incubating tubes, trains and buses and into the natural ventilation system of the great outdoors.
We don’t want the bad old days back again…
Now, I don’t want to rain on anyone’s yellow jersey parade, but I am intrigued to know how this new world order will play out. Headlines tell us that a mere 9% want the post-Covid world to go back to the bad old days. But these stats sit incongruously alongside the images of packed car parks and litter-strewn actual parks that filled the front pages just hours after we were told we could stick a toe out from under the protective sun umbrella of Lockdown. We don’t want the skies to be criss-crossed with aeroplanes and we don’t want the roads to become endless snakes of toxin-spewing vehicles. We don’t want our air to blacken our nasal passages and we don’t want our homes to flood or our holiday destinations to burn.
…Or so we say
And yet. We cheer that we can now get a takeaway coffee in a plastic-lined cup, that we can drive our children and dogs to places beyond the reach of our mere legs and feet, that we can start dreaming of villas with pools and cities with exotic cuisines. We don’t want the old normal, except… we kind of do.
Time may be on our side
I wonder what it will take to get us to see (me included) that we can’t have it all. Part of the answer may well lie in governments and corporations taking the lead here – after all, it’s much more appealing to get ‘on yer bike’ when there is a safe and designated cycle lane for you. But another part of the answer might lie in the protracted nature of this global crisis. If this were all over tomorrow, I sense it might be too easy to go back to our old, polluting ways – in the name of economic recovery and all that. But the fact that this is not going away any time soon – a fact that is enforced by these quite dramatic measures being taken in our cities – might just give us all time to get used to the saddle sores and newly-bulging quadriceps to the point where we no longer feel like we are making sacrifices.
3 June 2020 firstname.lastname@example.org
All opinions are those of Carole Haswell and do not constitute financial advice
Talking Finances With Women
I’ve a feeling that there is going to be a whole lot of marketing aimed at women around sustainable investing. As ever, there will be a gulf between the promotions coming from on high and the position of non-investors on the ground with questions like: Is this for me, how does it work and why might I need it? This is where I think financial advisers, planners and commentators can all step up, but I also believe it will be stories like these that get us interested in the first place. If you are inspired to take this further, please see ‘A bit more understanding’ below.
A bit more understanding
These Sustainable Investment mini blogs are not about providing investment tips. The point is to flag to you the sort of projects that professionals who invest sustainably keep an eye on. Generally speaking, ordinary folk investing on their own behalf would not be encouraged to invest directly in companies, but to use funds made up of a number of different companies. This way, we can pool our resources and spread out our risk.
The professionals who manage these funds (imaginatively known as fund managers) have exams coming out of their ears and do tonnes of research into the companies they invest in so that you don’t have to. After all, you wouldn’t want to bet your house on a single company that is doing great things as its core business only to find out that it has a side hustle in selling pandas into slavery.
You can think of different kinds of funds like Russian dolls, starting with the ‘company’ at the centre:
- The company – an investment in a company could be shares that pay dividends and go up or down in value; or a bond where the company ‘borrows’ money for a set amount of time in return for a fixed amount of income
- A fund (aka collective investments such as a unit trust, OEIC or investment trust) – a fund manager chooses the companies they want in their fund. A sustainable investment fund manager would invest in companies that tick the right boxes on environmental, social and governance (ESG) matters
- Multi-manager fund – this is another layer of management that puts together a number of funds as a single fund. In a sustainable investment multi-manager fund, the funds chosen would be investing in companies that meet ESG principles
- Managed portfolio – a financial adviser or investment manager can put together a collection of funds to suit a particular level of risk and investment preferences (such as sustainable). Unlike the multi-manager funds, the client holds a number of funds, not just one – you would generally seek financial advice for this sort of investment. The manager would make changes to the portfolio (ie switch in or out of funds) either after consulting with the client (called ‘advised’) or at their discretion (called ‘discretionary’)
The funds and portfolios on offer within sustainable investing are growing. Advisers, planners and other financial professionals will be learning about the options available as we go along. If you are new to investing, a good place to start is https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/savings/investment-beginners/ or https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/categories/how-to-invest-money. Here you will find helpful guidance and suggested websites where you can do your own investing. More information on the sustainable options is also provided.
Alternatively, please feel free to talk to us about your circumstances at Talking Finances.
Talking Finances is a trading name of Talking Finances Ltd. Talking Finances Ltd is an appointed representative of Beaufort Financial Planning Limited, Kingsgate, 62 High Street, Redhill, Surrey, RH1 1SH, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, FCA Registration No. 583233