Be the change you want to see…

Earlier last month, I met with a new financial planning client, who stipulated her preference for ethical investing. I explained that although ethical funds are a terrific idea, they are subject to several significant limitations. They included the difficult task of matching a client’s moral preferences to an ethical investment fund, how higher management costs negatively affect client returns from day 1, and how investments included “on balance” illustrate the difficulty in finding indisputably ethical businesses to invest.

There is also another evolutionary factor that is causing them to lose their relevance within the industry.

Increasingly, Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) behaviours and policies, are becoming a fundamental component of how Portfolio Managers select their investments. The high rate of ESG adoption across the funds management sector and their popularity with clients is forcing executives to focus on improving their ESG record or lose significant institutional investment.

That is a terrific development within the industry and for the community at large, But…

This client conversation prompted me to revisit an idea that I had planned to initially incorporate into the development of Surf Coast Wealth Management. In addition to being a financial services firm offering advice on a fee-for-service basis, I wanted to cultivate better environmental outcomes from an operations perspective. I have always believed a straightforward way to drive change was through disclosure, competition and consumer choice.

It has been easy to scrutinise governments and corporation on their ESG or environmental policies from the periphery. But what has been more confronting, is to search for those answers in yourself. What am I doing about these issues in my business? What direction do I want to take my company regarding these critical challenges? As a small, agile, business, when is a good time to start?

Well, they say the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago, the second-best time is now…

Here are three questions I will ask of my existing Business relationships that will factor in how our relationships evolve.

  • What are your company’s environmental policies?
  • What’s being done to offset the environmental impact of supplying us with your goods or services?
  • What steps are planned to improve your ESG policies?

These are some of the same questions you could be asking me. Well, almost subconsciously, I  have minimised the environmental impact of running Surf Coast Wealth Management by…

  • Having the office powered by solar panels and green energy.
  • Conducting the majority of client meetings virtually, cutting down our travel emissions.
  • Being a paperless office. Our client signatures are predominately collected via specialist software, and documentation (SOA’s PDS’s etc.) is provided in soft copy unless otherwise requested.

Is there more I can be doing? Absolutely!

  • We will find an easy way of communicating our environmental impact to clients and the community
  • We will introduce a policy where ESG concerns become fundamental to forming new business relationships.

It’s not perfect, but it is a step in the right direction.

One thing I think we can agree is, If we wait for somebody else to do something, we will never get anything done.

You can read part two here!

Daniel Twentyman B.Bus.(Eco) Dip.F.S.(FP) Financial Planner – Authorised Representative