Blog

Image: Why Ethical Investing Matters

30/11/2018

This time in our blog, Quintin Rayer, head of research with an ethical finance company, reflects on the importance of engaging our values and using our consumer power for the greater good, even if it is a lonely field to burrow at times.


Ethical investment may seem ‘nice-to-have’ but non-essential, although actually, it is crucial. It permits people and organisations with savings to contribute to the betterment of society or to help with environmental issues including global warming.

Unsustainable human activities have generated threats including climate change (associated with rising sea levels, extreme weather and flooding, for example) with damage, loss of life, and disruption to food and fresh water supplies. A growing world population will demand improved living standards as less developed countries modernise. Many believe that behaving unsustainably will cease to be an option. 

Values Matter
In the charity and faith-based sectors, dedicated individuals work to address many such challenges directly. Trustees and others may be pleased to hear that even while not being expended to achieve objectives, investments can be supporting worthwhile goals pending future use.

Personally, much of my motivation originates from a Doctorate in the Department of Atmospheric Physics at Oxford, giving an understanding of climate change, and its consequences.

As a practising wealth manager committed to ethical investing, I was delighted by the refreshing perspective of the October Edinburgh Ethical Finance conference.  Even as an experienced financial practitioner I found it reassuring to meet many, who, like me, believe values really matter.  At times, when dealing with city fund managers (including managers of some ‘ethical’ funds), I can feel like an outsider, as I work to get topics like carbon-neutrality (not just reduction), zero-hours contracts or plastics pollution considered more seriously.

At P1 Investment Management, we are determined to make a difference by doing ethical investing as well as possible given real-world constraints.  Our three-pronged approach involves actively selecting funds with superior ethical processes (avoiding ‘green-washers’), an external ethical oversight committee and shaping the debate with fund providers.  Our oversight committee includes a climate scientist, an authority on social issues and a professor with expertise in corporate governance. We also engage with fund managers and publish articles both to educate and raise broader issues.   
 

Why this is Important
Individuals appreciate the importance of moral issues and extend their values into ever-increasing aspects of their lives. Beyond retail consumer decisions, more people are using ethical considerations to guide their investments as well. In August 2018, according to the Investment Association, £17.0 billion was invested in the UK ethical funds sector, an annual increase of £2.5 billion.

Ethical investors select companies that help tackle the challenges of environmental, social and other problems while avoiding companies that engage in unsustainable or harmful behaviours. They use the influence of financial markets to reward positively-behaving companies while reducing capital available to those participating in unacceptable activities.

Many individuals, trustees and others, want to support their aims better by making the monies they have invested work in support of their beliefs. This can be in addition to on-going daily commitments, making ethical investing a meaningful way to influence society for the better. 
 
 
Dr Quintin Rayer
DPhil, Chartered FCSI, Chartered Wealth Manager, SIPC
Head of Research, P1 Investment Management Ltd


Image:  ALTERnativity

23/11/2018

This week in our blog, Val Brown of Christian Aid, reflects on the 'frenzy' of Christmas and how ALTERnativity offer a different approach.


I’m sure that, like me, you’ve realised that we are now facing the pre Christmas frenzy.

But of course, there should be much more to Christmas than ‘frenzy’, and I’ve been thinking very seriously about something that was said at the Christian Aid AGM this year by a bishop from Uganda. He suggested that instead of focusing on making poverty history, we should instead concern ourselves with making greed history. It is greed, he argued, that supports the status quo, ensuring that it is enormously difficult to attempt to challenge and change structures which keep people poor.

I think Christmas is a great time to raise the topic of greed, as it is a time when even the best intentioned of us indulge, over-buy, cave into the pressure of finding the perfect gift, and generate as much waste in a week as we normally do in a couple of months.

This year the Christmas build up begins as climate scientists around the world have hit the panic button – indicating that unless there is a fundamental shift in our behaviours, politics and economics, then we are on course for even more erratic and extreme weather. Weather that is already depriving people of their homes and livelihoods and driving displacement.

So what can we do about it?  ALTERnativity exists to support individuals and Churches to take a step back from the hustle and bustle of Advent and Christmas and reflect on the Christmas story, and specifically Mary’s concern for the poor.

Over the years, our conversations have let us hear people share frustrations that Christmas is incredibly busy, very stressful, gifts are given and received without much thought and the pressure to overspend and take on debt is enormous.

Christmas, for all the perfect marketing, can be a very lonely and stressful time for people. ALTERnativity asks people to recognise the poverty of that first Christmas and encourages people to think critically about how we celebrate the coming of the Christ child in a world where more than half of our sisters and brothers are starving. In responding to this, our new resource is aimed at getting people talking - sharing the joys and stresses of Christmas; reflecting on what gifts are most appreciated; and challenging ourselves to cut back on the waste that is generated in our celebrations.

This complements our advent family box that enables families to take a little time each day of advent to reflect on one aspect of the Christmas story. With a reflection for children and another for adults, this is a wonderful gift for Sunday schools, Messy Church and youth organisations.

Thanks to the support of ACTS, we are delighted to be able to offer our new resource for free, and we are now giving away the family box for free as well – only charging postage if people are unable to collect from either the Church of Scotland Office in Edinburgh or the Christian Aid office in Glasgow.  If you would like to receive our resources, please e-mail info@alternativity.org.uk or find us on Facebook ( https://www.facebook.com/JustGodSimplyChristmas/ )
 



Image: Prisoners Week

16/11/2018
18th - 25th November 2018

To mark Prisoners week, Hugh Foy writes our latest blog reflecting on his missionary work inside Scottish Prisons.


Pope Francis, from very early in his pontificate, identified an important witness in his travels: wherever he goes and whenever he can he visits a prison. He describes the importance of prison ministry as a fundamental aspect of Christian witness in today’s world.

He has criticized prison systems that work only to punish and humiliate prisoners, and has denounced life prison terms and isolation as forms of torture. He believes that the contribution we can continue to make as Christians is to advocate for justice reform and hold fast to a commitment to rehabilitation as a counter to simplistic notions of punishment and, even worse, societal revenge.

He clearly reiterates the best of Catholic Social Teaching by reminding us that those sentenced to prison are meant to lose their freedom not their dignity, whilst they make amends to their victims and the wider society for their crimes.

It is now Prisoner’s Week. As a community of priests and lay missionaries, the Xaverians work inside Scottish prisons, working collaboratively with Catholic prison chaplains, and in ecumenical collaboration with our brothers and sisters from the Reformed traditions. We deliver spirituality programmes and retreats for prisoners and pilot training for Catholic lay volunteers.

It is a profoundly humbling experience. Beyond the joy of working with the unsung sheroes and heroes who make up prison chaplaincy teams, we have encountered men and women prisoners desperately seeking to put their lives ‘back in order’.

The vast majority of prisoners - or perhaps we should refer to them as ‘recovering citizens’ whom we encounter in jail - have lived with mental health issues, addiction, and extreme poverty: more often than not all three. Naming their reality is not to condone their behaviour. In fact, in our experience these men and women are the first to admit their crimes and sins. Often the challenge is to help them to journey back to a relationship with God that allows them to be healed, and through God’s mercy to reach a place in which they can reclaim their dignity as a child of God.

I believe the Church could in many ways nurture prisoner, victim, and the common good. Many prisoners would like the opportunity to make amends to their victims, but the opportunities for this inside the current criminal justice system are minimal.

This is a complex process to facilitate, and where the victim agrees and can be kept safe, international evidence indicates it is a deeply powerful experience of healing for all involved. This process also contributes effectively to reducing levels of recidivism.

I also believe restorative justice is rooted in the best tradition of Gospel Non-Violence, offering a return to a more humane and just solution to the pains and scars caused by crime and sin for victims, perpetrators of crime and the wider community. It is a Gospel inspired process that as a Church we should support, advocate and create the space to serve in, as part of the wider healing ministry of the Church moving forward.

This Prisoners Week in 2018, please pray for victims, men and women in jail, and all those who minister and work in the criminal justice system, as we remember the words of the holy father Pope Francis “Christ comes to save us from the lie that no one can change”.

Hugh Foy is Director of Programmes and Partnerships for the UK Province of the Xaverian Missionaries he can be contacted at hugh@confortiinstitute.org and on twitter at @hughfoy




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