Encouraging others to join the investment industry!

Last year I was introduced to Girls are INvestors, “GAIN”. GAIN is a fantastic charity with the aim to increase the female application rate in the UK investment industry to 50% within ten years. The founders and volunteers are passionate about raising awareness of the exciting and purposeful careers which exist in the investment industry. After giving a talk to female A Level students at a local school I was inspired to write a blog post to share information with young people who wish to learn more about careers in Responsible Investment.

My letter to a younger self embarking on a careers self is below:

Do you consider how much plastic packaging you and your family use; whether there are micro beads in your face wash; the possibility of slave labour in the supply chain of your favourite jeans; or the lack of diverse role models in government and big businesses?

Are these topics of discussion at home or at school?

Environmental and social and governance issues are also an increasingly important input into investment decision making. From a standing start in 2006 there are now over 3’000 signatories to the Principles for Responsible Investment representing over $100 trillion assets under management. These signatories commit to integrate environmental, social and governance issues into their investment analysis and decision making and to be active owners.

Responsible Investment is an area of the investment industry where teams are growing rapidly as asset managers and ancillary businesses invest in understanding both the risks and opportunities inherent in long term environmental and social trends. This type of information can be used to help fund managers design strategies that are a ‘win-win’ and will have both competitive financial returns alongside positive environmental and social outcomes, as well as strategies that are more philanthropic in nature and address societal challenges rather than generating a competitive financial return.

If you are considering a career in Responsible Investment your first task should be to understand the different investment strategies which exist and define some of the key terminology. I have always found the ‘Spectrum of Capital’ by Bridges Fund Management a very helpful tool.

Spectrum of Capital

You can find a copy of the Spectrum of Capital on the UK National Advisory Board on Impact Investing website which provides a number of additional helpful resources.

The second task is to consider which part of the investment community you would like to work in. A list of a few areas is below (you will find more in your research):

  • Dedicated responsible investment team member at an investment manager
  • A generalist investment analyst at a firm which is committed to investing responsibly
  • A researcher at a specialist data provider eg MSCI, Sustainalytics
  • A consultant to investors or asset managers eg Mercer

Finally, if you decide to pursue a career in this area it’s important to a) keep up to date and b) consider how you can learn by taking action with your own investments.

Some of my recommended sources of information:

Newsletters

News sites

  • ESG Clarity – a platform for asset manager content and some journalist articles
  • Responsible Investor – an online magazine dedicated to responsible investment (behind a paywall, free trials available)

Podcasts

Industry bodies

Finally, keep an eye out for Good Money Week in October. They organise events that you can attend to find out about the industry but also how to manage your own money in a socially and environmentally responsible way. Their website also has some great resources year-round.

Step 1: Eat the frog.

My CISL Personal Sustainability Challenge.

For about a year I’ve been thinking that the Investment Consulting industry should be working together more collaboratively to progress the Responsible Investment agenda.

If we continue to work in silos we risk coming up with multiple processes to achieve the same ends. This will create inefficiencies and slow down the adoption of Responsible Investment as everyone scrambles to decide which approach is best.

For example every fund manager research team is creating long due diligence lists for asset managers asking detailed questions about their ESG integration: our competitive advantage is in how we analyse the answers to these questions rather than writing the questions themselves so wouldn’t it be better to agree on a standardised core questionnaire?

Collectively we have a much better chance of moving the dial on Responsible Investment.

Despite the fact that it feels like a) common sense and b) peers have agreed that this would be valuable, I’ve procrastinated, and prioritised more urgent work over this project. I mentioned my lack of action recently to a mentor – his advice was to ‘Eat the Frog’.

Image result for mark twain eat frog quote

The concept of ‘Eating the Frog’ was first coined by Mark Twain and subsequently picked up by the author Brian Tracy in his time management book ‘Eat that Frog!‘.

Brian Tracy has a series of tips based around the idea of the ‘frog’ as your biggest, most important task and the one you are most likely to procrastinate on. To be productive, Tracy advocates tackling your major task first thing every morning and without thinking too much about it.

Two other tips stood out for me as blocks I’ve experienced in this particular project – avoid vague goals & the fact that the hardest part of the project is to start.

So – as my CISL personal sustainability challenge I have decided to ‘Eat the Frog’ and get the ball rolling on my vision of an Investment Consulting industry that works together to progress the Responsible Investment agenda.

First up on my list of specific actions is to email my peers at Investment Consulting firms and invite them to a meet up to discuss the concept.

I’m excited to start the conversation – watch this space for the next update!

Shining a spotlight on the mundane

In this blog I’ll be sharing the successful communications campaign of a Australia-based start-up. The company I’ve chosen unashamedly challenges us to think more deeply about the sustainability credentials of an everyday and unremarkable product: toilet paper.

The average American uses 130 rolls of toilet paper per year

While most people in the developed world use toilet paper multiple times every day, how often do you stop to think about the impact you are having on the environment?

Statistics website The World Counts emphasise that this is a product we use a lot of: the amount of toilet paper we use could travel to the sun and back every ten days.

Shifting from new to recycled paper would have a pretty large impact globally: it’s estimated by the WWF that only 50% of the fibres used to make toilet roll currently come from recycled sources.

The company I’ve picked out for this blog, Who Gives a Crap, is a mission driven organisation producing 100% recycled toilet paper. Their communication strategy is based around their sustainability credentials.

Who Gives a Crap was launched in 2012 with a crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo

The company has three stated aims, the first two of which are explicitly linked to sustainable development:

  1. Good for the world: all products made with 100% recycled paper;
  2. Good for people: 50% profits donated to charity (initially WaterAid but the roster of charities has expanded to 5);
  3. Good for your body: the product does not use any inks, dyes or scents.

The socially conscious toilet paper brand crowdfunded their first mass order of 100% recycled toilet paper with a communications strategy entitled “Help Get Simon off the Loo”. The campaign was run predominantly on social media and revolved around the CEO Simon Griffith’s live streaming video of himself sitting on a toilet constantly until he met his fund-raising target.

CEO Simon Griffith’s pitch to raise $50’000

The campaign was successful: the full target of $50’000 in donations was received in 50 hours. The campaign has also been recognised with industry awards.

The current communications strategy also uses bloggers to promote their product – for example this feature blog by Kathryn Kellogg on her site Going Zero Waste and this sponsored post by Kate Arnell on her site Eco Boost. Both sponsored blogs were posted in December 2017 and focus on three core areas:

  • sustainability credentials of the product;
  • quality/usability of the product;
  • value for money vs traditional brands.

The blogs claim that Who Gives a Crap’s toilet paper checks out on all three criteria.

As well as a catchy name a key part of this social media-based communications strategy is the product packing. The product is packaged in a way that makes it both a discussion point and attractive to a social media audience – see this photograph from another sponsored blog – this time from the lifestyle website Reading my Tealeaves in May 2018:

https://readingmytealeaves.com/2018/05/recycled-toilet-paper-from-who-gives-a-crap.html

So far the company has donated £1m to charity. Proving their concept and supported by a very successful communications strategy based around the sustainability credentials of their product.

Read their impact report to find out more.