What’s your money doing? Is it just sitting there, minding it’s own business, or is it being lent by your bank to build an oil pipeline in Nigeria, ‘frack’ Sussex, or drill in the Arctic?
Well, if you’ve got a current account with one of the large UK banks, the chances are it’s being used for this, and worse.
Short of keeping your money under a mattress (which we don’t recommend), there are other places you can put it where it will do less harm, or even some good; the organisation Move Your Money is the place to go to find out where, and for help in moving it!
The good news is that it should now be possible to switch to/from many bank accounts in a matter of days, ‘quickly and hassle free’, through Simpler World, a scheme backed by the banks. It’s not got everybody you might want to switch to in it, but it is easier than falling off a (fossilised) log.
If you’ve got a sum of money to invest, another great resource is Ethex, a not-for-profit ethical investment advice company, which has impartial financial advisors to help you find positive, ethical ways to invest. Their report into ethical investment in the UK “Making money do good” is worth a read.
If you’ve ever worked for a medium or large company, the chances are you’ll have started a pension with them, and from November 2013, employees without a pension will have to be automatically enrolled for one by law. For many people this is the largest amount of money they’ll ever invest, and as pension funds in the UK hold £2 trillion of assets, it has a huge effect: it doesn’t just sit their waiting for you to collect your golden watch, it’s out there doing stuff, and not all of it good.
Many pension schemes these days allow you to allot certain proportions of your pension to various schemes, with different ‘risks’ attached to them. But as 350.org explains, whether you ticked the ‘low risk’ box or the ‘put it all on black-7’ box, the pensions industry is heavily invested in fossil fuels: fuels which must stay in the ground if we are to avoid the worst possible outcomes for the climate; this means that either we’re going to have to wreak the planet, or all those investments are going to tank, big time, and probably some time before you retire!
So it’s now time to ask the question of your employer, and your pension provider, “what is my money doing?”, and see if they can find some less damaging investments to make, which will hopefully still be worth something when you retire!
If you’re lucky enough, you may be able to just tick the ‘ethical plan’ box (although you may want to check their exact definition of the word ‘ethical’), otherwise, maybe you could start asking why there isn’t an ethical investment choice, or look to see if you can opt-out of various industry sectors? Your Ethical Money and FairPensions are good starting points, whether you are on a company scheme or manage your own pension.
There’s also ShareAction’s Greenlight campaign, which will help you to email your pension provider, putting pressure on them to divest from fossil fuels and ‘green-up’ their investments. Follow @ShareAction on Twitter for updates.
OK, so pensions are a potential yawn-fest, but choosing where that money goes is one of the most powerful long-term gestures you can make.
Switch to green
Around 40% of UK CO2 emissions are from electrical energy supply (DECC, 2012), and every time you switch on a light/TV/iPad you are producing CO2 and other pollutants via the energy grid.
You don’t have to have the money and space to put a Solar PV array on your roof (although if you can, why not?), and you certainly should try to save electricity by switching off things you are not using, and using energy efficient appliances, but in addition, you can also easily switch supplier to a company that produces energy in less environmentally damaging ways.
All UK suppliers are bound by the law to produce a certain percentage of their energy from renewable resources (20.6% FY 2013), or otherwise buy in the equivalent (ROCS) however, few are achieving anything like this in terms of their own generation, relying on buying in the credits, rather than changing their energy mix. I’ve certainly been called by salesmen working on the behalf of the big energy suppliers and lied to about their ‘green tariffs’, so it’s useful to know the facts.
In 2013, the UK electrical energy source mix was 52.3% coal, 30.7% gas, 4.7% nuclear, and 8.3% renewables, with 4% other fuels.
Most worrying is that coal figure, because coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel, and produces over twice as much CO2 per MW than gas, and also black-carbon soot, which, as well as being harmful to our health, can fall many miles away on Arctic ice, so that it reflects less sunlight back into space, accelerating warming. Coal also emits more radiation than the nuclear industry, mercury, and sulphur dioxide which produces acid rain. I won’t even go into ‘fracking’ for gas, or nuclear power here: there are complicated arguments for and against both, but neither is sustainable.
If you want to opt out of all this, two UK energy suppliers guarantee to supply 100% of their energy from renewables: one is Good Energy and the other is Ecotricity. Both energy companies generate some of their electricity from their own wind and solar parks, and buy in the rest with REGOs, which guarantee that the energy was produced from renewables somewhere (somewhat like an A.O.C. for energy!). This encourages renewable generation, and the building of new renewable energy facilities. Both companies are either price-competitive or actually cheaper than the ‘Big Six’ suppliers, which may be reason enough to switch in itself, now other suppliers tariffs have received their regular winter price-hike. They also supply ‘Green Gas’ which is gas from bio-digesters, and thus offer a dual-fuel deal.
Have you any other good ideas for Divesting? Why not let us know about them!
Ealing Transition has become a partner of Good Energy, which means if you sign-up with the link below, we’ll also benefit to the tune of £25 too, so you’ll be helping us do our work too: http://www.goodenergy.co.uk/affiliates/ealing-transition