Environmental campaigners are always ready to offer advice regarding ways to make a positive difference in reducing damage to our planet but much of this advice comes in the form of attempts to influence Government policies or helping people to choose an eco-friendly lifestyle and the business world has remained largely detached from this whole process and, for most businesses, the only health considerations of any consequence are the need for a healthy bottom line.
However, businesses rely on capital investment and an increasing number of investors are now choosing to invest only in companies with a proven track record of ethical practices and many investors are now also looking at supporting eco-friendly goods and services. Of course many of us may not have bulging wallets or vast amounts of cash lying idle in some bank vault but we are all able to participate to some extent and it is certainly a real indication of sincerity and intent to follow our principles.
For many there is the problem of knowing just where to start and the prospect of dealing in stocks and shares is certainly not for all. Returns can be unpredictable and risks great but there are many simpler alternatives such as:
(1)Energy Production:- The idea of producing energy on a domestic scale from natural sources such as the sun, wind or water is one that appeals to many people and such installations have a positive effect on the overall production of greenhouse gasses. Most schemes should result in some savings, or return on capital investment, but this is often much less than claimed by companies offering such installations. Another thing to be aware of is that energy company financed “Feed-in Tariffs” have now been drastically cut so the sale of excess power back to the National Grid is now much less attractive. Rather than offering grants to finance such installations, the Government has now replaced these with loans under the so-called “Green-Deal” which are charged against the property potentially blighting its resale value.
(2)Energy Conservation:- Energy conservation is one of the most cost-effective ways of reducing fuel usage and consequently greenhouse gas emissions. Simply improving the thermal insulation of a house may even be possible free of charge by taking advantage of the “Energy Company Obligation” scheme.
(3)Green Technology:- The Government is committed to increasing electricity production from renewable sources and, as a result, there is a great deal of work being carried out with wind farms and other large-scale schemes. Investing in such technologies currently provides good returns and certainly ticks all the right environmental boxes. The only real concern with these types of investments is that they are investment-heavy with immense start-up costs. They are only financially viable because of huge Government incentives. Future returns on these schemes should be fairly reliable but would rely on future Government subsidies and, although we hope that such green commitments will continue, past experience has shown that Governments seldom feel bound to honour agreements made by their predecessors.
(4)Grow Your Own:- This type of investment may only involve the purchase of a few packets of seeds. In recent years there has been a huge increase in the numbers of people growing their own food and even in an urban environment it is remarkable just how much can be produced. Home grown fruit and vegetables not only taste better but can be free from pesticides and preservatives and there is no environmental impact from packaging or transportation. Many people go one step further and take an allotment. The addition of a greenhouse can further extend the possibilities and while few people would try to become completely self-sufficient in vegetables, mealtimes can become much more enjoyable.
(5)Buy a Forest:- For a serious investor looking for a long-term eco-friendly investment, there is probably no better way than buying into nature. Woodlands represent a unique way of supporting wildlife, reducing greenhouse gases and, when properly managed, providing a steady revenue stream while continuing to grow in both size and value as only trees can. Plenty of expert advice is available from organisations such as the Forestry Commission and Tilhill, with the right advice a woodland investment really can be for life… and beyond. The main downsides to this are that woodlands do not come cheap and in the early years return on investment, particularly in terms of revenue, may be slight but most woodlands offer scope for improvements and increase in profitability. There are also financial incentives such as grants for tree planting and exemptions from Capital Gains Tax and Inheritance Tax.
So anyone who supports the idea of living in an eco-friendly manner should seriously consider making a few investments to support the cause or, to put it another way, isn’t it time to put your money where your mouth is?