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ETHICAL INVESTMENTS: Not tomorrow, today

18/10/2012 by Alan Cole in the UK

Interest in ethical investing is surging, how can it benefit charities? What can supporters do?

With Ethical Investment Week underway what is the future for charities seeking to develop green and ethical funds to support their causes?

New research suggests a growing interest in ethical investment portfolios, a desire from charity supporters to see their favoured charities invest ethically, a growing interest in ethical investing on the high street.

The growth in ethical investments is part of a wider movement that is building momentum and interested in partnerships working towards positive social change.

About half of investors want ethical funds to be part of their portfolio, reveals research released in conjunction with National Ethical Investment Week in the UK, a campaign that runs until Friday.

New data also reveals that ethical investing, investing in green and ethical funds is growing steadily with around £11 billion of UK cash currently invested in the UK green and ethical fund investment market.

The latest figures from EIRIS, the sustainable investment research specialists, has revealed a thrilling £11 billion number, that is more than double the amount of £4 billion ten years ago.

Investing in ethical portfolios, portfolios which focus on ventures doing good or at least avoiding harm, appears to be resurgent.

Many funds are showing magical returns, keeping up with mainstream funds, while others are even exceeding standard expectations. The Amity International Fund, a consistent outperformer managed by Ecclesiastical is an example.

The news also follows reports that ethical alternatives to mainstream high street banking, i.e. ethical banking specialists Triodos, the Co-op and Charity Bank have received a surge of interest of late, following the phase of mainstream banking scandals of recent years...

The figures for ethical financial investing may still be small compared to the size of the UK investment industry as a whole but that is not the point. There is an upward trend and it is along with increasing interest in other positive movements.

These include fair trade, cooperatives as well as increasingly a focus on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) from big companies and SMEs, with more and more major companies coming out in favour of ethical as well as profit returns.

And also an increasing interest in philanthropy from major donors with the emphasis on donors concentrating on giving today, rather than legacy donations.

As well as the growth of the social venture philanthropy and investment markets.

The news points to a cultural shift and an ongoing renaissance of public attitudes towards giving and generating positive social projects that appears to be building, and inspired by the economic downturn, rather than being beaten down by it.

This is all rather hopeful, good news.

Those interested in ethical investing and supporting good causes, including supporters of charities and those in the charity sector should take a great deal of interest from the news from the ethical investments markets that suggests the public likes and wants to be kept informed about green and ethical impact investing as a means of furthering the positive and progressive work, on the environment and poverty reduction, for instance, that is in alignment with charities' interests.

Mark Robertson, of EIRIS, says: "Over the last decade we've seen sustained growth in green and ethical finance, largely driven by consumer interest in issues like climate change, fair trade, human rights and more recently, executive pay".

"The credit crunch and on-going financial crisis, plus unethical behaviour at scandal-hit high street banks, is encouraging more people to switch to financial product providers that offer a more ethical, sustainable and long-term approach to finance," he says.

Further new data suggest the public like to see charities taking a lead on responsible investments and working with the private sector to advance positive causes.

New research from YouGov shows almost 59 per cent of investors want UK charities to take on leadership roles i.e. engaging with the companies they invest in and challenging them if they perform badly on issues such as environmental impact. Around £70 billion of assets are held by charities in the UK, so charities can clearly make a difference in this respect, as they already are.

Other findings included 46 per cent support for impact investments such as social enterprises, which create financial and social benefits, a substantial encouragement for charities to invest in the new wave of social enterprises, part business/part charity that are emerging across the UK.

Other new data from the UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association (UKSIF) reveals responsibly-managed assets in the UK have now passed €1 trillion for the first time and represent over 18 per cent of the total responsible investment market in Europe, positioning the UK as a leader in ethical investing.

Green and ethical investment options are expanding all the time with new charity/business ventures coming on the market for investors at an increasing rate that includes many young people seeking to 'do things their way'.

Other findings from the latest YouGov research show an increase in interest in green or ethical bank accounts, currently 24 per cent of adults, expressing interest in signing up, up 2 per cent from last year.

It’s part of a widening public acknowledgement of the need for businesses to be ethically responsible and work with partners or at least share the aims of partners in the non-profit sector.

What we are seeing is a quiet revolution in attitudes to business, charity and investing that is ongoing, with non-profit supporters and leaders, and ethical investors and donors wanting to see a change in the world’s fortunes today not tomorrow.

Charities can have huge impacts on the CSR work of businesses and companies can make a massive difference in the fortunes of charities, because surprisingly for some their interests often overlap and can even be the same.

Of course one of the best social investments anyone can make is to support a social cause direct with volunteering, campaigning, skills and knowledge or via funds.

Areas like healthcare research via research charities, developing lifesaving drugs and treatments; environmental change charities like Greenpeace, currently making enormous progress on their campaign to save the Arctic from oil drillers.

As well as charities working for hunger and poverty relief, child protection, education, disabiity rights, animal welfare and other great causes.

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Written and edited in London and Geneva All Xperedon news articles are original and are written by the Xperedon news team. The team is headed in the UK by Alan Cole, an experienced award-winning journalist and copywriter. Alan has previously worked in-house for UK publishers, Pearson Media (Financial Times) and Northcliffe Newspapers, among others, and is an accredited member of the National Union of Journalists, UK.

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