The Big Issue launches its own sustainable investment platform, Tesco and WWF pledge to transform UK supermarkets, Meghan Markle causes a stampede for “slave-free” jeans, as ESG investments hits a $1 trillion milestone. Lori Campbell rounds up the top sustainable stories of the week.
Big Issue teams up with fund managers on impact investing push
The Big Issue, the magazine sold by homeless people, has teamed up with Standard Life Aberdeen, Columbia Threadneedle and AllianceBernstein to create a blockchain-powered platform that offers impact funds to retail investors.
The fund supermarket, called the Big Exchange, is expected to launch within six months, offering 30 to 40 social and environmental impact funds.
Nigel Kershaw, chairman of the Big Exchange and the Big Issue Group said: “There is a growing desire to do something that has impact and a financial return. People could really have a say in what happens with their savings.”
The Big Issue Group is best known for its namesake magazine but it also has an investing arm, Big Issue Invest, which manages or advises on £190m in assets in funds that balance social and financial returns.
The Big Exchange believes it can attract about £3 billion of assets within five years and aims to make the minimum investment just £2.50 – the price of the weekly magazine.
Tesco and WWF pledge to halve environmental impact of UK groceries
It comes after research by the two organisations revealed nearly 80 per cent of shoppers want more sustainably-sourced food. The four-year partnership between the UK’s largest retailer and one of the world’s leading environmental charities aims to help drive the industry as a whole to eliminate waste from food and packaging. It also hopes to encourage customers to eat more sustainably.
Tesco has ruled out removing palm oil from its own-brand foods following a public debate on the issue sparked by rival Iceland, but has pledged to ensure that it comes from approved sources.
Rising investor interest pushes ESG funds past $1 trillion.
Mutual funds that invest based on environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors have passed the $1 trillion (£777,000) milestone.
According to data provider Morningstar, assets under management in ESG funds have risen 60 per cent in just six years, from $655 billion in 2012 to $1.05 trillion in October.
The figures are based on what Morningstar classifies as socially conscious funds, which make investments based on environmental responsibility, human rights or religious views.
Products that exclude so-called ‘sin stocks’ such as alcohol are included. Michelle Seitz, chief executive of £220 billion asset manager Russell Investments, said ESG investing was becoming more mainstream. She said: “It feels like ESG is at a tipping point.”
Meghan Markle’s “slave-free” jeans spark sales stampede for ethical goods
Meghan Markle sparked a sales stampede after she wore “slave-free” jeans on a royal tour of Australia, shining a spotlight on companies that make ethical vows.
With Social Enterprise Day – which celebrates companies aiming to make a profit while doing good – marked in 23 countries around the world on Thursday, entrepreneurs said this is the perfect time for ethical businesses to drive social change.
James Bartle, founder of Australia-based Outland Denim, that made the £150 jeans, said: “Right now is the perfect time to have this kind of business. There is awareness and people are prepared to spend on these kinds of products.”
Downing Crowd takes advantage of higher crowdfunding limit
Investment crowdfunding platform Downing Crowd has increased its most popular offering after the crowdfunding limit was raised to £7 million.
Effectively a European rule, the limit – which sets the highest point at which a prospectus must be offered – was previously £4.25 million. Downing Crowd says the capacity of its Downing Reserve Power Bond has already broken through the previous threshold and will now be extended to £7 million.
Downing Reserve Power makes loans secured against the assets of reserve power projects in the UK. Reserve power works by storing energy using either battery technology or gas-fired engines during times when demand is lower, which can then be used when demand increases.
The Midlands to host Europe’s first ‘smart-mobility’ centre
A new “smart-mobility” centre for self-drive and electric car research is to be built in Warwickshire, putting the UK at the forefront of the transport revolution.
The hub, to be based on the University of Warwick’s Wellesbourne campus, will support cities to cut down congestion, emissions and road traffic accidents. Jaguar Land Rover, the Warwickshire Manufacturing Group and the university will combine their research and expertise to engineer connected and driverless prototypes that will be tested in real-world conditions.
It comes as new research from the International Energy Agency revealed this week that oil demand for cars is already dramatically falling.
In its World Energy Outlook, which assesses future demand for fuels and electricity, it predicts that electric buses will displace 233,000 barrels of oil by the end of the year while electric cars will displace 279,000. In Europe, demand for diesel fell by nine per cent in the first half of this year.