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It’s hard to invest ethically

In my role leading on our responsible and ethical investment approaches at Quilter Cheviot, I often get questions about how we can incorporate people’s ethical concerns into portfolios. People are usually concerned that their ethics and investing won’t mix, and that investing will mean compromising their principles.

The key to dealing with these issues is to ensure we understand what people mean by ethical investing. As bespoke investment managers, we are well placed to invest in line with people’s ethical considerations, and have integrated the idea of responsible investment into our investment process for a number of years now.

What is ethical, responsible and sustainable investment?

Often, the best place to start with a potential client is to ask what they are looking to achieve. We typically break this down into three areas:

  1. I don’t want to invest in certain companies – ethical
  2. I want to invest responsibly and make my voice heard on environment, social and governance issues – responsible
  3. I want to invest my money in companies making an active difference to the world – sustainable

I don’t want to invest in certain companies

This typically applies when someone has a particular opinion or religious belief that prohibits them from investing in something. This is fairly easy to deal with through a negative screening approach, where you screen out areas you don’t want to invest in. For example, if you object to the tobacco industry, you will naturally filter out tobacco companies like British American Tobacco.

You do need to think about how widely you want to set your exclusion criteria though – will you also avoid companies that sell cigarettes? This will add significantly to the number of companies which you cannot invest in and may lead to unintended consequences.

I want to invest responsibly and act on environment, social and governance issues

Responsible investment is already part of our investment process at Quilter Cheviot. We regularly engage with companies on issues and vote against management teams where we feel that they have not taken on board environmental, social or governance issues. Over 2018, for example, we voted at 174 company meetings, including votes against excessive executive pay.

I want to invest my money in companies making an active difference to the world

There are people who want to go a step further, and use their investments to fund companies that positively impact the world. To help incorporate this, we have our Climate Assets Fund, which aims to invest in companies promoting solutions to issues like climate change, food supply and demand imbalances, and water scarcity.

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