Rachel Rickard Straus: Vegan burgers and ethical funds make it easier than ever to live by our values

22 January 2020

“Pinch me,” exclaimed my vegan friend as we passed by a KFC with an advert for their new Vegan Burger in the window. “I think I’m dreaming.”

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My friend has been vegan for years. Until recently she has put up with slim pickings at fast food restaurants and elsewhere.

But this January alone, Greggs launched a Vegan Steak Bake, McDonald’s Veggie Dippers and Burger King a plant-based Whopper.

As increasing numbers of people choose to eat less meat, food outlets and producers have started to step up and innovate to meet demand. The more people who do it, the more options there are.

All of us are making big and small changes in our lives to help create the world we want to live in and as we do so, it gets easier.

Most coffee shops now incentivise us to bring our own mugs and so we’re more likely to.

While many of us may have wanted to use fewer single-use plastic bags, it took being stung with a 10p charge for one a few times before we remembered to bring reusable ones. Now for most of us, it’s automatic.

There are other changes that are still tough to make. While many people may want to cut their carbon footprint caused by flying, at the moment the primary option is simply to fly less. For anyone with wanderlust or friends and family in far-flung places, this is still a real sacrifice.

There is one change that we can make that can involve little sacrifice, but can have a great impact: investing to align with our values.

As the interest in ethical or ESG (ethical, social, governance) investing grows, so do the options available.

There are funds that screen out sectors that many people may not want to invest in, such as gambling, arms, or tobacco.

There are others that actively seek out solutions to the environmental issues we face.

There are others still that try to influence the companies they invest in to improve their practices.

Choosing to invest in this way takes some work, first to decide what your values are and then to find the investments that align with them.

However, there is a rising number of research tools to help you find the funds that suit you.

For example, Moneywise’s parent company interactive investor has recently launched a longlist of ethical funds, the UK’s first rated list of ethical investments, called the ACE 30, and a model ethical portfolio. Other investment platforms are also highlighting the ethical options available.

The Investment Association, which represents the UK funds industry, has been working to come up with a common language around ethical investing.

While investing in this way requires a bit of work, there is little evidence to suggest that investing for good means sacrificing returns.

I would argue that investing in companies that seek not to harm, or even to improve, the world we live in are inherently better future-proofed than their counterparts that do not.

Of course, ethical investing is imperfect. As we each have our own values and ethics, it is not easy to find funds that fit them perfectly.

But this is not a reason not to give it a whirl. You may also want to do it by degrees.

In the same way that we may choose to eat a little less meat or fly a little less, so we can start to shape our investments one step at a time into something that reflects what we believe in.  

 

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