When Ethical Investors was set up in 1989, ethical investment was still in its infancy. The total value of funds invested according to ethical criteria was below £400 million. No other financial adviser at that time specialised in ethical investment advice; Ethical Investors was the first such organisation to do so.
Eighteen years later the total value of ethical funds is now in excess of £5 billion. Following our lead, several advisers now specialise in ethical investment, though none, sadly, have yet adopted our long standing policy of donating 50% of all commission and fees earned to charities nominated by our investors.
The company has grown steadily, organically, and the number of administrators and advisers has increased to accommodate the needs of our now sizeable client base. Importantly, our reputation has also grown over the years; fund management groups consult us on ethical values, journalists consult us on the ethical investment market when writing articles and Ethical Investors staff are regularly asked to speak at conferences, both here in the UK and overseas.
Ethical Investors has never been solely a financial adviser flogging policies. We have a deep and genuine commitment to socially responsible business practices. We are also committed to expanding the entire ethical investment market, even where this is of no advantage to us. In other words, we are not simply focused on advising and selling, like too many other advice firms. We have always tried to ensure that we act on behalf of clients, rather than the product providers. Over the years, this has meant fighting the corner for clients on ethical issues, against the fund managers who may have wanted to change the ethical values of funds. It would have been easier to let the changes go through, but that is not the way we work.
As part of our work on monitoring the ethical investment funds recommended to clients, we have endeavoured to analyse the funds in detail, rather than take the funds at face value. This meant a considerable amount of time and resources were allocated to company research so that we knew more about which companies were included in ethical funds. This allows us to ensure that the ethical criteria are being applied at all times. This is something that other advisers were either unable, or unwilling to allocate resources to.
Our own company research became of such value to other parties that in 1998 we established a sister company, Ethical Screening (www.ethicalscreening.com), to conduct research full time and to make this research available to other advisers and investment companies. Whilst Ethical Investors no longer conducts its own individual company research, we do have daily access to the data held by Ethical Screening, enabling us to offer a more comprehensive service to our clients, placing us heads and shoulders above other advisers in the UK.
(For further information on our business ethos, please see Our Ethical Proposition).
As pioneers in the ethical investment field, Ethical Investors can look back with satisfaction on the rapid growth of the market that it has helped to create. But after nearly 2 decades of helping individuals, charities and other organisations to invest according to their personal principles, it is time to take stock.
We have tried to create a web site that will help investors to incorporate social responsibility into their financial planning. We have been careful to avoid producing yet another marketing/selling web site designed solely to promote the sale of financial products to the public. There are quite enough of those already.
Throughout we have tried to dispel the confusion that investors often feel when confronted with the bewildering variety of ethical investment options available to them. This site also equips them with the information needed to assess the best ways to apply their principles to their money. If this web site makes visitors aware of links between money and ethics that they have not considered before, then it will have been worthwhile.
Above all, the purpose of the site is to open the eyes of investors to the impact that their investments can have on the world. Human rights, the environment and animal welfare, among other issues, can all benefit from greater awareness among investors of the impact of the investments. It is particularly gratifying for us to see the number of individuals, companies and groups applying social values to their investment strategies growing at such a phenomenal rate.
As you work through the Site, you will find information on a wide range of financial topics, including the history of socially responsible investment in the UK, what it is like to manage an ethical fund and how investment companies actually screen a company using social criteria. We want to help people at all levels of financial planning, from opening a new bank account to making a million-pound investment.