Green investments need time to flourish

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The Independent Online
Is it possible to hold strong beliefs on environmental and social issues and yet ignore those principles when deciding how to invest money?

At one level, yes. Thousands of shareholders packed this week's British Gas annual general meeting to protest at the bumper pay rise for Cedric Brown, the company's chief executive. Yet they are unlikely to dispose of their shares simply because they lost the vote.

On the other hand, their presence in London's Docklands Arena points to a new phenomenon - that of the ethical investors whose concerns go beyond a company's bottom line.

Ethical investment funds offer the opportunity for savers to take those concerns one stage further. Not only can the investor decide what areas to avoid - such as the arms trade - he or she can also take an active stance, placing money in companies that have more enlightened social policies.

"Research shows that between 30 and 40 per cent of all investors would be prepared to invest their funds ethically if they are given the choice,'' said Amanda Davidson, a partner at Holden Meehan, one of the leading independent financial advisers on ethical investments.

"A typical investor is slightly more likely to be female, younger rather than older,'' Ms Davidson said. "They will often be in a caring profession themselves or be involved in charities or similar vocations, either full- time or on a voluntary basis.'' Others simply have ethical preferences when it comes to choosing where their money goes.

There are now more than 20 unit and investment trusts catering for those prepared to put their money where their consciences are. A further range of life and pension funds with the same ethical agenda means that it is now possible for investors to structure every aspect of their financial affairs according to their beliefs.

The companies range from Co-operative Insurance Services, which offers an environmental unit trust, to Framlington's health fund. Jupiter Tyndall has one of the best-known ecology funds, while NPI offers its own Global Care income fund.

For pensions, Clerical Medical, Eagle Star, Laurential Life, Friends Provident and Equitable Life all have specific funds available.

Despite the seeming attractions of ethical investments, however, and their rapid growth over the past few years, money has not been flowing their way on a mass scale.

Only pounds 900m is invested in the entire range of available funds. The two largest are the Friends Provident Stewardship and Fidelity's UK Growth funds, with a combined pounds 400m under management.

This compares with companies such as M&G and Allied Dunbar, which both have individual funds much larger than this amount.

Part of the reason for this is ignorance. A recent Friends Provident survey showed that only 16 per cent of investors had even heard of the term "ethical investment".

One of the reasons is that savers are rarely given the option to choose. Industry sources suggest that only 1 per cent of financial advisers offer ethical investments as an option to their clients. This may be because a lot of advisers are of a generation that takes a more traditional view of investments.

A popular misconception among both advisers and potential investors is that by going down the ethical route choices of where the money is placed will be greatly limited.

This may be true about certain areas of the world's economy, such as the Far East. But Friends Provident's Stewardship fund, for example, chooses from 40 per cent of the UK market. Clerical Medical's Evergreen fund has a choice of 100 stocks worldwide.

However, the key concern to investors is the potential trade-off in fund performance that they might suffer as a price for their principles.

A survey this month by Money Management, a specialist financial magazine, shows that in the past two years many ethical funds have performed well below their sector averages.

Ms Davidson said: "Part of the reason is that by their nature many ethical funds will invest in smaller companies. Obviously, the recession has not been good for them."

But over longer periods, such as five years, there is not much difference between ethical funds and their sector counterparts.

Money Management's survey shows that in the UK equity growth sector, nearly all ethical funds either outperformed or came close to beating the average of all 152 funds in their field over five years, with Fidelity's fund showing growth twice the average in the same period.

Clearly, the same investment rules apply with ethical funds as with any investment - savers should think longer-term and accept the possibility of short-term volatility of their funds.

Possibly the most important aspect for someone committed to making an ethical investment is whether fund managers really mean what they say in their brochures.

Ms Davidson believes that there are two points to bear in mind. The first is that all companies will have their own negative and positive investment strategies. There is also a vast amount of independent research that goes into investment decisions.

But it is also up to clients to tell their adviser exactly what it is what they want to achieve, what they want to avoid and, ideally, where they want their money to go.

"The choices are endless. It is up to investors to make them," Ms Davidson said.

BEST DEPOSIT RATES

INSTANT ACCESS Telephone Account Notice Deposit Rate Interest

or term % interval

Yorkshire BS 0800 378836 1st Class Access Postal pounds 1,000 6.20 Year

Skipton BS 01756 700511 3 High Street Instant pounds 2,000 6.25 Year

Northern Rock BS 0500 505000 Go Direct Postal pounds 20,000 6.70 Year

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NOTICE ACCOUNTS

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Scarborough BS 01723 368155 Scarborough 50 50 day (P) pounds 1,000 6.60 Year

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Northern Rock BS 0500 505000 Postal 90 90 day (P) pounds 10,000 7.30 Year

TERM ACCOUNTS

Portman BS 01202 292444 Fixed Interest Bond 1 year pounds 500 7.00 fixed Year

Newcastle BS 0191 232 6676 Nova Star 1 year pounds 1,000 7.10 Year

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Halifax BS 01422 333333 Guaranteed Reserve 3 year pounds 10,000 7.90 fixed Year

MONTHLY INTEREST

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Britannia BS 01538 392808 Capital Trust Postal pounds 2,000 5.84 Month

pounds 10,000 6.17 Month

pounds 25,000 6.41 Month

TESSAS (tax-exempt special savings accounts)

Sun Banking Corp 01438 744500 5 year pounds 8,300 8.50 fixed Year

Market Harborough BS 01858 463244 5 year pounds 9,000 7.75 Year

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Barclays Bank 0800 400100 5 year pounds 1,000 7.50 Year

HIGH-INTEREST CHEQUE ACCOUNTS

Woolwich BS 0800 400900 Current Instant pounds 500 3.70 Year

Halifax BS 01422 333333 Asset Reserve Instant pounds 5,000 5.00 3 Mths

Chelsea BS 0800 717515 Classic Postal Instant pounds 2,500 6.00 Year

pounds 25,000 6.50 Year

OFFSHORE (gross)

Portman Channel Islands 01481 822747 Instant Gold Instant pounds 5,000 6.20 Year

Derbyshire IOM 01624 663432 Instant Access Instant pounds 25,000 6.65 Year

Newcastle GIB 00 350 76168 Nova 90 Offshore 90 day pounds 50,000 7.25 Year

Halifax JSY 01534 59840 Fixed Rate Intl 3 year pounds 50,000 7.80 fixed Year

NATIONAL SAVINGS

Accounts & bonds (gross) Notice or term Deposit Rate % Interest interval

INVESTMENT ACCOUNTS 1 Month pounds 20 5.25 Year

pounds 500 5.75 Year

pounds 25,000 6.00 Year

INCOME BONDS 3 Month pounds 2,000 6.50 Month

pounds 25,000 6.75 Month

CAPITAL BONDS (Series I) 5 Year pounds 100 7.75 fixed Maturity

FIRST OPTION BONDS 12 Month pounds 1,000 6.40 fixed Year

pounds 20,000 6.80 fixed Year

PENSIONER'S GUARANTEED INCOME BOND (Series 2)

5 Year pounds 500 7.50 fixed Month

NS Certificates (tax-free)

42nd ISSUE 5 Year pounds 100 5.85 fixed Maturity

8th INDEX-LINKED 5 Year pounds 100 3.00+RPI Maturity

CHILDREN'S BOND (Issue G) 5 Year pounds 25 7.85 fixed Maturity

P= by post only. *=6th issue. =fixed for first 18 months. All rates are shown gross and are subject to change without notice.

Source: Chase de Vere Investments plc - 0800 526091. Compiled on 1 June 1995

BEST BORROWING RATES

MORTGAGES

Fixed rates Telephone Rate/period Max Fee Incentive

% advance % pounds

Yorkshire BS 0800 378836 1.9 to 1/4/96 95 pounds 250 -

Hinckley & Rugby BS 0800 774499 5.24 to 1/6/97 70 pounds 250 -

Lambeth BS 0171 737 2925 6.65 to 1/5/98 80 pounds 250 0.50% cashback

Northern Rock BS 0800 591500 6.99 to 1/8/98 95 pounds 250 -

Woolwich BS 01225 463185 7.99 to 1/1/00 80 pounds 295 pounds 500 cashback, remort only

Principality BS 0117 929 7804 8.35 to 31/5/00 95 pounds 150 -

Variable rates

Nottingham Imperial BS 0500 340566 2.00 for 12 mths 90 - -

Staffordshire BS 01902 772611 3.59 to 1/1/97 50 - -

Greenwich BS 0181 858 6781 4.95 for 2 yrs 95 - pounds 500 cashback - FTB only

Principality BS 0117 929 7804 6.10 to 1/8/98 75 - Free valuation

PERSONAL LOANS

Unsecured Telephone APR Fixed monthly payments on pounds 3,000 for 3 years

% With insurance Without insurance

Midland Bank Local branch 15.40 pounds 116.54 pounds 103.14

National & Provincial BS 0800 808080 15.50 pounds 118.22 pounds 103.29

Yorkshire Bank 0113 231 5324 15.50 pounds 119.34 pounds 103.34

Secured Max advance % Max term

Royal Bank of Scotland 0800 161616 10.90 70 3 years to retirement

Midland Bank Local branch 11.40 80 5 to 30 years

First Direct 0800 242424 10.30 80 Up to 40 years

TYPICAL OVERDRAFTS

Telephone Authorised Unauthorised

EAR % EAR %

Barclays Bank Local Branch 19.20 29.80

Lloyds Bank Local Branch 19.40 26.80

National Westminster Bank Local Branch 18. 90 33.25

BEST OVERDRAFTS

Telephone Authorised Unauthorised

EAR % EAR %

Woolwich BS 0800 400900 9.50 29.50

Alliance & Leicester BS 0500 959595 9.50 29.80

Abbey National 0800 555100 9.90 29.50

CREDIT CARDS

Telephone Card name Minimum Rate APR Annual

income pm % % fee

Standard

Robert Fleming (S&P) 0800 282101 MasterCard/Visa - 1.00 14.60 pounds 12

Royal Bank of Scotland 0800 161616 MasterCard - 1.14 14.50 -

TSB Local branch MasterCard/Visa - 1.38 17.90 -

Gold cards

Lloyds Bank Local branch MasterCard pounds 20,000 1.15 16.50 pounds 40

Midland Bank Local branch Visa pounds 20,000 1.30 18.10 pounds 35

MBNA International 0800 062620 MasterCard/Visa pounds 20,000 1.45 18.90 -

STORE CARDS

Payment by direct debit Other methods

Telephone pm APR pm APR

John Lewis Local store - - 1.39 18.00

Marks and Spencer 01244 681681 1.90 25.30 2.00 26.80

Burtons Local store 1.97 26.30 2.21 29.90

APR=Annualised percentage rate. EAR=effective annual rate.

All rates are subject to change without notice.Source: London & Country. Freephone 0800 373300 Compiled on 1 June 1995

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