I had an interesting conversation with my brother recently about investment, and in particular so-called ethical investment. “Was there such a thing?” I asked him. Bearing in mind that he is a financial management consultant with one of the larger investment houses, his reply was certainly worth listening to.
“the problem with ‘ethical investment’ or ‘ethical wealth management.’ He answered me with a thoughtful look. “Is that it depends on what your idea of ‘ethical’ is! The Mormon church for instance frowns on gambling and the consumption of alcohol, and yet they will happily invest in hotels and gambling casino’s with no qualms about it what-so-ever.”
“But surely if it’s against their policy, they would not encourage this kind of investment?” I asked rather naively, hoping for a positive answer. All I got in return was an upturned eyebrow, and a kind of patronising ‘don’t be so bloody silly’ stare.
“Listen, when it comes to hard cash, whether it’s independent mortgage advice in Edinburgh or investing in ethical funds – it’s amazing how ethics or morals, even religious views are trampled underfoot. Most major religions – including the Church of England – have been caught out and embarrassed by their investing procedures policies. It’s nothing new – remember the case of the Pope’s banker?”
“What, the one that hung himself from Blackfriars bridge in London?”
“The very same, not only that but his secretary also threw herself from a fourth floor window the day before – that got very little publicity!”
“Well all that’s very interesting, but what does it have to do with ethical investing? Or more to the point, my local Edinburgh wealth management company?”
He shook his head theatrically at me. “All I’m saying is that ethics and morals have been, and are being regularly sacrificed on the altar of financial gain – I personally don’t think there is any such thing as ethical investment – in Edinburgh or anywhere else!”
Eventually we had to agree to disagree; green investing or at least saving in such a way as to cause the least harm to the environment, is all part of the move towards a low-carbon lifestyle – a lifestyle that I am still naïve enough to believe is at least possible, albeit not at all easy apparently!