At Helm Godfrey, we believe that socially responsible investments are an important option to have. Ethical investments are also known as Socially Responsible Investment (SRI). As another option to impact investments, Helm Godfrey also looks at ethical investments to provide clients with options that contribute to the greater good.
What are Ethical Investments?
Ethical Investments are actively managed funds involved in benefiting the environment or society, such as: Specific environmental protection practices, pollution control, extensive involvement in conservation and recycling measures, ethical employment practices, such as recognising trade unions and treating workers fairly. As such, ethical funds suffer from the same performance issues as all other active funds.
It can be difficult to judge whether a particular company is operating ethically or not, which is why most ethical investments are held through managed funds. These operate in the same way as conventional funds but only include companies that have passed specific criteria to be included. Companies involved in activities such as: Weapons manufacturing, animal exploitation and testing, alcohol and tobacco promotion, environmentally damaging product practices would not be included in any ethical funds.
Ethical investment requires research and extensive due diligence. As your adviser, we will guide you through the ethical investment process defining your ethical approach and determining your personal ethical profile.
Approaches to Ethical Investing
There are a number of different approaches to ethical investment, of which the main ones are:
- Negative Screening
- This is where the fund sets a number of negative criteria and any company that fails these is excluded from their investable universe and therefore the portfolio. An involvement in the arms or tobacco businesses for example.
- Positive Screening or Selection
- Where a fund sets a number of positive criteria and companies that meet these can be included. For example companies with strong positive environmental impacts.
- Best of Sector
- Where a fund would invest in the company or companies that have the best track record on the combination of financial, social and environmental performance in a sector – as opposed to just the best financial performance
- Where attempts are made through dialogue, shareholder resolutions and voting rights to influence companies policies and to encourage positive change. Often relationships develop between companies and investment houses and fund managers where the former seek consultation on a range of corporate governance matters.
- Include funds that have a particular narrow focus e.g. healthcare or the environment and investments that have very positive social and or environmental impacts such as the ethical property company, fair traded goods companies and forestry. The latter tend to represent what most people have in mind when they think about investing ethically, that is being able to invest in companies and projects that are having some obvious very beneficial impact on the environment and/or socially, and that might not go ahead without investors. These would form part of the Alternative and Specialist Fund portion of a portfolio.
Most funds and providers of ethical investment services employ a combination of the first three approaches.
Is Ethical Investing Right for You?
Ethical investments are right for anyone that is looking for greater purpose in their investment allocations. For anyone that recognises that they can play a larger role by doing what they do anyway, just by selecting different funds.