The pandemic has seen a surge in trading on the stock market, with more young people than ever before turning to investment to generate savings. This new generation of investors is also driving ethical and sustainable investment trends across the globe. In Australasia, sustainable investing grew by 25% between 2018 and 2020 and a recent report from Responsible Investment Association Australasia (RIAA) found 69% of millennials consider social issues when investing.
Values-based investing takes many forms — socially responsible investing (SRI), environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing, ethical investing and impact investing. In addition to these investment strategies, there are simple steps you can take to ensure your money is having a positive impact, such as switching banks or energy providers.
Below, we outline five ways to align your finances and personal values.
Reconsider Where You Bank
This might seem basic but research shows many young Australians still use the same bank as their parents. A 2019 survey by Credit Union Australia found that 50% of Australians between 18 and 24 opt for the same bank as their mum and dad. This helps explain the continued dominance of the ‘big four’ banks — NAB, CommBank, Westpac and ANZ — which hold more than 80% of mortgage borrowers in Australia.
What is your bank doing with your money? It might seem simple but when considering the institution’s ethics you give your cash to, it should be the first question you ask. Lack of transparency can make it challenging to find an answer, but online resources show what industries banks invest in. A market analysis released in 2019 revealed that despite making public climate commitments, the big four Australian banks loaned $7 billion to 33 new or expansionary fossil fuel projects between 2016 and 2019.
You have a few options as a consumer in terms of how to approach this. Firstly, you could send a strong message to the big banks by taking your money elsewhere. Several Australian banks do not invest in destructive industries like fossil fuels and gambling. Some only invest in projects that have a positive environmental and social impact, such as Bank Australia.
Switch to an Ethical Super Fund
Another way to have a positive impact on your money is switching to an ethical super fund. Again, start by doing some research into your current fund’s investments and seeking out ethical alternatives. The Responsible Investment Association Australasia website has fact sheets and guides to help you learn the basics of responsible investing. They have also published a research paper on the Australian super funds engaging in this practice.
Once you’ve compiled a shortlist of super funds you’re interested in, head to their websites to read more about the specific projects they support. Look for a fund’s investment policy, charter or criteria to find detailed information about their screening process and the impacts of their investments.
Explore Impact Investing
While there are many types of ethical and sustainable investing, impact investment is perhaps most closely aligned with the principles of a circular economy. Impact investing goes beyond screening out negative investments to actively invest in projects with social and environmental benefits. This type of investment is part of a new regenerative finance paradigm that conceptualizes money as a force for positive systems change.
Impact investment supports projects that generate measurable social, environmental or cultural outcomes alongside financial returns, from renewable energy to social housing. Impact investing finances both biological and social regeneration projects, with the underlying aim of improving equity and well-being.
Use Sustainable Investment Platforms
Once you know enough about investing to give it a go, the next step is to determine what platforms to use. This will also require some research into the robo-advisor platforms and micro-investment apps offering ethical investment opportunities.
Robo-advisors are digital platforms that provide algorithm-generated investment services. A number of these platforms are dedicated to specific social or environmental causes, such as Ellevest which aims to improve gender equality or EarthFolio, which invests in funds with solid ESG (environment, social and governance) practices.
Many micro-investment apps also come with the option of building ethical or sustainable investment portfolios. These apps allow you to invest small amounts of money over time, with minimum investments starting at $1.
Use Your Purchasing Power for Good
Last but definitely not least is using your purchasing power for good. Every time you shop for food, clothes or other goods is an opportunity to support local, ethical and sustainable businesses. This might mean buying your fruit and veg from a local market — giving money directly to producers and avoiding all the carbon miles and packaging associated with supermarket veg — or buying from a small company that uses recycled materials to make its products. As consumers, we can vote with our dollars for the businesses working towards the kind of world we want to live in.
Let us know in the comments below if you plan on being socially responsible with your money.