Opposition to Euro Still on the Increase

Sunday Business (London, England), February 24, 2002 | Go to article overview

Opposition to Euro Still on the Increase


HOW green are you? Tree-hugging recycled vegans might not want to be invested in food companies that sell baby milk to African nations, or in media owners that air pornography. Those who buy the odd Body Shop soap or organic banana may draw the line at investing in animal-testing companies; it is horses for courses.

Since June 2000, you have the right to ask the trustees of your pension fund to what extent, if at all, they take into account social, ethical and environmental considerations when overseeing the investment of your money - and, perhaps more importantly, they are legally obliged to tell you.

But it isn't just pensions. The guidelines have brought socially responsible fund management to the attention of savers and investors, too. In an age when awareness of the damage we do to our environment (and to some of the people that inhabit it) has never been higher, so the ability to avoid backing those companies whose policies we disagree with has never been more widespread.

But what investors have to work out is how right-on they want to be - and while those who watch their eating habits stretch from fruitarians to those trying to cut back their intake of foie gras, so there are all shades of green investor.

Dark green means that even some apparently harmless stocks are off the agenda. One of the telecom companies was taken off the "buy" lists of socially responsible investors two years ago because they had a stake in a cable company which carried, as one of its dozens of offerings, a porn channel. The percentage of revenues contributed by this business was minuscule - but dark green is dark green.

On the "light green" side, fund managers will include some companies whose records are not exactly squeaky-clean but are involved in activities that many would tolerate - selling alcohol, for example.

According to data prepared by the Co-operative Insurance Society Unit Trust Managers, more than pound sterling2bn is now invested in SRI unit trusts. There are about 31 unit trusts that take ethical and social screens into account for sale in the UK.

Just like risk and reward in traditional asset investing, in general there is a play-off between the shade of green you choose and the returns you can expect. If you take a very hard line with the companies you want to expel from your portfolio, you are left with a significant lack of the biggest sectors, particularly in UK equities. …

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