Ethical and Social Investment

Introduction

A growing activity of increasing interest to voluntary groups. Charities often feel constrained to pursue ethical investment (which here is taken to mean banking, pension schemes as well as trading in stocks and shares) by believing they have to maximise financial returns.

Firstly, ethical investments have had a good track record to date, where properly managed, although there are investment funds which specifically don’t try to achieve high financial results.

Secondly, it is legitimate to take other issues into account, such as:
– investing in companies where the charity’s objectives oppose its activities is clearly counter-productive to achieving those objectives.
– where investing in a company is likely to lose members, donations or public support, that too may not be in the best interests of the charity.
– some positive investments may be of help in achieving charity objectives, and slightly lower financial performance may therefore be justified.

Since this page was created, the Charity Commission (England and Wales) has updated its investment advice. At autumn 2014, this includes the statement:

Ethical investment You can choose to only make financial investments that reflect your charity’s values and ethos. You need to be able to explain why this approach is right for your charity, even if the financial returns are less. For example, investing ethically might prevent you from losing supporters or damaging your reputation.

Sources of information

These are gradually increasing in web presence.

  • Vigeo EIRIS (was Ethical Investment Research Service, a respected researcher of social and environmental performance by companies). Has a ‘Responsible NGO‘ evaluation framework.
  • CharitySRI web site (from EIRIS and UKSIF0 provides “clear comprehensive guidance on how charities can invest ethically” and align their investments with their mission (aka socially responsible investment).
  • Ethical Investments – How far may charity trustees go? £2, Ethical Investment – have the Church Commissioners got it right? 50p, both from Christian Ethical Investment Group. Miss P Raikes, CEIG Enquiries, 2a New High Street, Headington, Oxford, OX3 7AQ (Info may be out-of-date).
  • Ethical Investment Association (EIA) is a nationwide body of independent financial advisers (IFAs), which aims to facilitate the promotion of ethical investment by its members, and to set standards in the ethical investment industry.
  • Charities Responsible Investment Network, set up spring 2013 and managed by ShareAction. Initially for investors such as endowed trusts and foundations, to enable them to “fulfil their charitable purposes through shareholder engagement with companies”. A sister network for operational charities is expected in 2015.
  • Good Money Week (was National Ethical Investment Week) has some information and resources.
  • UK Social Investment Forum A grouping of financial advisors, fund managers, investors and others, which has the primary purpose ‘to promote and encourage the development and positive impact of Socially Responsible Investment throughout the UK’. Useful listings of members and affiliates, plus articles, newsletter items.

Investment Funds, Banks, Investment Vehicles

  • CAF (Charities Aid Foundation) has a variety of investment vehicles for charities, including socially responsible portfolios, plus ethical investment information.
  • The Ethical Partnership – independent financial advisers.
  • Ethical Property Company Invests in premises to let out to charities, community groups, social enterprises. Resource centres in London and elsewhere.
  • Co-operative and Community Finance Promote and carry out investment in the ‘social economy’. Head office: 01179 166750.
  • Shared Interest ‘Our funds come from our members, thousands of ordinary people who have pooled their savings to provide the finance that Third World Producers need’.
  • Social Investment Business.
  • Triodos Bank ‘One of Europe’s leading ethical banks, draw on 20 years experience financing social and environmental charities.’ Brunel House, 11 The Promenade, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 3NN, phone 0800 328 2181 or 0117 973 9339, email: mail@triodos.co.uk
  • Community Investment Trusts, or Community Development Finance Institutions, have sprung up around the country. (There are tax breaks for these.) See Community Development Finance Association.
  • Some local or regional trusts: Ulster Community Investment Trust. Impetus – Shropshire, Herefordshire, Worcestershire.
  • Pension providers are included on Banking, Investment page.


Credit Unions

Credit Unions are mutual financial (and democratic) organisations, particularly promoted by community, coop and trade union movements. Members are individuals, rather than organisations, but are part of the ‘social investment scene’.

  • Association of British Credit Unions. Holyoake House, Hanover Street, Manchester, M60 0AS, phone 0161 832 3694, email: info@abcul.org
  • SCVO is developing its own credit union for those involved with its member bodies. Phone 0131 556 3882, email: credit.union@scvo.org.uk
  • Unity Trust Bank offers a Credit Union Development Fund which helps fund a credit union grant programme as well as paying high interest.

Environmental and Social Impact

Reuse, energy use, sustainable development

If you are concerned about means as well as ends in achieving your objectives, you can get heavily bogged down in ‘minor’ issues. In our view, you need to be pragmatic – there is no way at present that you can have no negative impact as an organisation (there always will be some waste and imperfections) but you can try to minimize these while still being effective in your chosen cause.

General environmental links

Voluntary sector web resources on this have come and gone over the years, and this page needs a revamp. Meanwhile, a link or two:

  • WRAP, a government supported waste reduction body, can help with advice – see business support section.

Reduce, reuse, recycle

The watch words in terms of resource consumption. It is better to reduce demand (eliminate need for a new fax machine) than re-use (e.g. pass on old fax equipment), which is better than recycling it for scrap.

There are various Community Recycling Networks around the country, use them to find local recycling schemes for all sorts of materials. The national website at crn.org.uk appears to have gone – CRN Scotland, London are a couple of alternatives.

Waste Watch (now part of Keep Britain Tidy). Waste audits, support for new initiatives and recycling agencies, advice on recycled products. Visit the related Waste Online site for recycling ‘how to’ information sheets.

WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) has info on collecting, selling and buying recycled materials.

In Ireland, if you have waste materials try Wastechange, the commercial waste exchange.

Disposing of ICT

If you are upgrading old equipment, check out the following. Note that most put restrictions on what they will take – minimum quantities or specification. If you are looking to buy ‘pre-used’ kit, look at the Suppliers page.

The following list was compiled quite a while ago, and details may have changed, projects closed etc. You may be better off checking out specific directories which have been created, for example WasteWatch Online information directory of computer recyclers or Community Recycling Network – see above.

  • 3tc is based in Merseyside. Not sure if they still recycle computer equipment for the use in communities and charities in the region.
  • ComputerAid International Recycles old stuff to developing countries. Phone 020 7281 0091.
  • Lincolnshire Contact Neil King, North East Lincolnshire Community Business Resource Centre, Margaret Street, Immingham, DN40 1LE, phone 01469 572313, email neil@cert.demon.co.uk
  • Recycle-IT Manchester.
  • Redundant Technology Initiative is an arts group based in Sheffield. It exhibits trash technology art around the UK and across Europe, and campaigns to advocate low cost access to information technology. ‘RTI is still hungry for obsolete machines and runs an ongoing campaign that asks businesses and individuals to donate computers that they no longer use.’ Phone 0114 2495522, email: rti@lowtech.org
  • Track 2000 runs Reuse IT, collecting redundant computer equipment from organisations free, Cardiff area. Service, repair and safety check are done by disabled people or unemployed youth/adults on training courses run by the charity. The serviced equipment goes to schools, community/voluntary groups and small start up businesses for a donation. Track 2000 Community Resource Centre, Resource House, Penarth House, Penarth Road, Cardiff, CF1 7YS, phone 029 2033 2533, email: t.crocker@can-online.org.uk

Printer cartridges

  • There are now quite a number of recycling facilities for old toner cartridges and the like – Dudley Stationery for instance will pick up from their customers. Most give a small charity donation per item.
  • Office Green seems to have the most comprehensive charity arrangements and wide collection, including of old office equipment, phone 0800 833480.

Recycled Supplies

See general Suppliers page.



Energy issues

Try Energy Savings Trust.

Issues in Social and Ethical Impact

Also Monitoring page re Social Impact.

Social Auditing in voluntary organisations is the title of one-day training sessions run by New Economics Foundation. Phone 020 7407 7447. There is also a book with a similar title – not sure whether this is the same as Charitable Trust? – Social Auditing with Voluntary Organisations published with ACEVO, in 2000.

Community Business Scotland Network has run a social audit programme that develops the practice of social accounting and audit with clusters of community organisations in Scotland. There is a separate web site for Social Audit Network, where you can find social audit information sheets, reports and more details on their Social Accounting and Audit: Manual, Workbook and CD.

AccountAbility is a non-profit, membership organisation established to promote accountability innovations that advance responsible business practices, and the broader accountability of civil society and public organizations.

Sustainable Development

Aimed more at commercial companies but may be of wider interest, Sustainable Development in Action, from Association for Management Education and Development (AMED), a 50 page booklet published Dec 99 (£16 non-members). (NB may no longer be available, March ’07)

SustainAbility The consultancy run by John Elkington has various reports available.

The SIGMA project (Sustainability: Integrated Guidelines for Management), involving British Standards Institute and Forum for the Future as well as others on this page, is exploring Sustainability standards for business.

See also Areas of Concern page: Ethical investment and Sustainable business for other websites covering this issue, mainly from a commercial perspective.