People are becoming increasingly mindful of the footprint they are leaving behind. They are looking to make changes and influence the issues that matter to them by for example adjusting their consumption and lifestyle choices.
Some decide to skip the long flight for the summer holidays and thus cut down on carbon emissions, and eat less meat to protect animal welfare and the climate. Some may even stop listening to music if the artists’ actions are not aligned with their own principles.
Most people, however, tend to overlook an area where we can potentially have the biggest impact – our investments. Our savings give us a strong voice and a unique opportunity to influence and deliver real impact in the world that we live in.
Today, global banks and pension funds continue to generate significant profits each year making investment decisions on behalf of their customers. To put the sector into context – at the end of 2017, sustainable investing represented around $12 trillion in US assets, a minuscule fraction compared the total $263 trillion invested in the global public markets and accounting for approximately 4.5 per cent.
It is likely that just a handful of individuals have investments that actually reflect their beliefs and values. It is a shame, and it is time to change this.
A research report has demonstrated that the climate impact is 27 times higher if a person invests his or her savings and pensions in sustainable investments, compared to switching to eating meat once per week or saving on an international flight once a year.
Put your money where your mouth is
A recent report by Deloitte showed that only a few people are aware of the enormous power they have to “vote with their savings”. Deloitte points to several possible causes which include excessive complexity and lack of transparency when investing.
The financial sector has a responsibility to enable investors to seize the opportunity to influence and change the world using their savings and pensions.
It is a key task for the financial sector to change the perception towards savings and investments by providing customers with better investment tools, competitive pricing and more relevant information and services.
When you invest in companies through equities and bonds, you provide these individual companies with capital to carry out their operations and development. As an investor, you are therefore contributing to how they promote their overall vision and strategy going forward.
For example, a share in a company that works with renewable energy is more than just an opportunity to achieve a return on your investments, it is an opportunity to influence their business objectives and (in the case of renewable energy) helps combat climate change.
The same dynamics apply if you buy a mutual fund or an ETF that invests in a number of different companies based on certain rules and principles. These can be thematic funds focusing on companies that promote women in leadership, education, clean drinking water or less plastic consumption.
Investing starts with access, transparency and lower costs
It is of course important to not only invest in accordance with your personal beliefs, but also in line with your risk appetite, investment goals and time horizons.
Studies have shown that sustainable and responsible investments can deliver solid returns over time. Indeed, sustainable funds, for example, are not only philanthropic or impact-driven they can be real drivers of profits.
With the right tools, good education and low prices, it does not have to be unnecessarily time consuming for investors to calibrate their savings to match their own values – and this also includes where the bank has preselected investments for you.
With today’s technology, it is easier and cheaper for investors to align their savings with the values they want to promote. And it is the industry’s responsibility to enable a much wider audience to make a real difference using their investments.
Kim Fournais is the CEO and founder of Saxo Bank