As part of our Green Your Money campaign we are sharing stories of individuals and congregations who are on the journey towards greening their finances, and how this relates to their faith. Green Christian and environmental campaigner and activist Eliza spoke to us about the steps she has been taking.
I first started to explore my personal pension when I became a self-employed publicity adviser and invested through one of the UK’s leading investment houses into managed funds (a mix of bonds, stocks, shares and cash) across a ‘balanced portfolio’ of industry sectors in the UK and overseas.
I did online research by looking at press articles on performance, fees and industry awards. I felt quite vulnerable as a single woman relying on myself as I recognised that ultimately there is no such thing as truly ‘independent’ or ‘whole of market’ advice. To begin with I did specify no ‘nasties’ like investing in arms companies or debt collection but I didn’t include green criteria at that point.
A leap of faith
After becoming a practising Christian environmental campaigner, I felt uncomfortable about my money being invested in companies that care little for people, wildlife or planet e.g. companies involved in fossil fuels, deforestation, plastics and other pollutants. So, I did more online research and shortlisted three specialists (two Christian-led) in ethical investments with good reputations, altruistic values and a good performance track record (so far!). I did feel uneasy about such a big change and it was literally a ‘leap of faith’.
Bearing in mind the industry is relatively young and there are limited stocks available, it also came down to which people I felt I trusted most. They all measured their portfolios against the Global Goals (also known as the Sustainable Development Goals).
Greening my investments
My actual investments are now a mix of:
a) established funds and stocks of companies already in the green, ethical space on everything from the actual products and production methods to how they treat their own and all people in their supply chain, and
b) ‘impact’ funds and stocks of established (around 15 years max) and newer companies with a positive social and/or environmental impact e.g. renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, forestry and farming, green banks, electric cars, organic food, sustainable building etc.
I’m particularly interested in the Global Goals that relate to affordable and clean energy, sustainable cities and communities, life below water, life below land, equalities and climate action, but they are ALL important. My portfolio is ‘balanced’ (different industries and global) scoring 8 out of 10 against all Global Goals criteria.
My faith and my finances
My interest in looking at how my pension was invested all started when I went up for prayer at my church three years ago. I am very creative, and when God gave me a powerful picture of a globe inside the Trinity triangle I had a heavy heart as God said to me, “I am crying because of what you are all doing to MY Earth.” Thankfully a lovely Christian lady became my green mentor. I wrote a magazine article on Christian climate care, joined Green Christian and a coastal Extinction Rebellion Art Group where I helped build a huge willow boat to help raise awareness of climate change. The rest is history!
A long-term investment
For others looking at how they invest, a word of caution – during market highs, the best returns have historically been from the least green companies. Also, many newer ‘impact’ companies do not initially pay out dividends to you as they reinvest the profits. This can impact on this part of the portfolio’s return, but some are outperforming the average stock market and I am hopeful they will do well as they are our future. So far, I am happy and can sleep at night. I look at this as a long-term investment.
As with all investments there is a risk that the stocks can go down as well as up. It is very important that professional advice (including tax implications) is taken and tailored to the age and circumstances of a person – ask for comparisons with non-green market performance. Reputable green investment specialists will likely also present you with reports on all the net-zero and Global Goals good work your portfolio is doing which is great, but financial performance has to be important too.
And a final word, pray to God and ask for guidance.
Information in this blog should not be considered investment or financial advice. If you wish to receive advice about your pension or other investments, please consult a qualified and independent financial advisor. See ECCR’s full disclaimer here.
- If Eliza’s story has prompted you to explore the steps you can take – whether that’s choosing a greener bank or taking a closer look at your pension – join our Green Your Money campaign and we’ll support you with a regular email full of ideas for action.
- Want to start a conversation about ethical finance in your church? Share this pensions article or investments article in your church newsletter.