Ethics poser for investors

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The Independent Online
A SURVEY by the Consumers' Association magazine Which? highlights the difficulties facing people seeking a unit trust that salves their consciences over issues such as animal welfare and the environment.

Seventeen ethical and environmental funds were assessed according to how well they deal with five areas of concern - arms, green issues, human rights, political donations and animal welfare.

Which? gave each fund a score, produced by the Ethical Investment Research Service (Eiris). One of 100 per cent meant no investments in companies involved in the problem area, while 50 per cent meant the fund had half as many investments in the area as would be represented in the FT All-Share index.

Clerical Medical's Evergreen Trust came out with scores of 100 per cent for animals, arms and political donations. Its green score was 77 per cent and its human rights score 98 per cent. It had the highest overall score of 475.

The lowest score on the Which? assessment was also a green fund, TSB's Environmental Investor Fund. It had the worst score for avoiding animal exploitation, 48, as it invests in Unilever which tests cosmetics on animals, said Which?.

A TSB spokesman said: 'The constituents of the fund fall clearly in the guidelines. If any investor wants to know about the guidelines they are free to ask us.'

This really is the best advice to anyone looking for a so-called ethical investment, because each fund has its own criteria, which will not suit every investor.

Co-operative Insurance Society's CIS Environ Trust was highlighted for investing in companies such as BOC, which has subsidiaries in countries condemned by Amnesty International for human rights abuses, and Siebe, which makes parts for nuclear submarines and has a subsidiary in South Africa.

Martin Clarke, marketing manager for CIS Unit Managers, said these investments fitted the fund's aims - of investing in companies protecting the environment and human health and safety. BOC supplied medicine and Siebe was involved in pollution control.

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