I have a confession to make. I have lost friends and some of my family will not speak to me anymore. My heinous crime? I do not own my own reusable collapsible aluminium straw. Not that I want all the turtles to die with bellies full of plastics, I just find it easy to drink straight from the glass. The second point is how green or ethical these products really are in their production. Where are they manufactured? Does the company have a safe labour policy that pays fairly? How are the chemicals used in production disposed of? I am sure that someone in the know will be able to answer those questions, but unless someone needs to use one, a straw of any kind is just something standing in the way of me getting alcohol into my bloodstream.
One question that clients should always be asked is are there any companies or areas of business that you do not want to be invested in? It used to be just stick some money in a green fund and forget about it.
The market has changed though. It’s those darned millennials again keeping us to a better standard. Some funds now have an environmental, social and governance (ESG) screen. These offer portfolios on global stocks, but kick out companies that are in the ammunitions or gambling sectors for example. They sound good however you need to think is their level of ESG at the same level as yours. The iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Socially Responsible Investing UCITS ETF (now breath) could be something you may think of investing in. It sounds like it has all the boxes ticked. Break it down though and you will find it contains four different oil stocks in its holdings. That is where your ESG screen may not be aligned with theirs.
This is where socially responsible investing (SRI) comes in. Instead of taking out the fossil fuel and the arms dealers, the companies who have had pay scandals or companies that have harvested and sold your data, they only funnel money to companies who are actively enacting change, possibly through renewable energy or clean water initiatives. These have a problem though. At the moment, they are not a great long term investment for the vast majority of people. They just aren’t there yet.
If you still want to invest in the ESG way. Look for an individual themed fund that aligns with your interest, whether it be wind farms or responsible farming. Or go about it the other way. Allow your investments to be ran normally with no exclusions. Every year though, if there are any gains, take out a proportion of the gains and give it to a charity of your choice. That way you will still get the warm glowing feeling of doing something good, but also something you can brag about to your friends about over a strawberry daiquiri sans straw.
Paul McLardie is a partner at Total Wealth Management. Contact him at Paul.firstname.lastname@example.org