"Our members dont just want to invest with clear consciences but actually to put their money to work making the world a better place."
The Bury-headquartered provider of savings and investments, Healthy Investment, has relaunched its flagship Ethical With-Profits Fund and Ethical Child Trust Fund after overhauling the criteria by which these funds make investment decisions. The changes align the funds’ investments with members’ stated environmental and social values.
The mutually owned ethical investments pioneer made the move following consultation with customers who, as “members”, own the historic friendly society. As a result it has extended the range of business activities it excludes and set out the types of socially positive activities it will actively support.
This move also follows Healthy Investment’s recent acceptance as a signatory to the UN-backed Principles of Responsible Investment. It was only the second UK friendly society to join this initiative, which is widely recognised as the industry gold standard.
Healthy Investment was founded in 1835 and has its roots in the temperance movement that developed during the Industrial Revolution. Its investment funds have, for many years, avoided investing in companies directly involved in the alcohol, tobacco, pornography, gambling or arms trades.
Following its consultation with members in 2020, it has added several additional business activities to the list of sectors to avoid. These include a range of environmental exclusions, such as highly carbon-intensive industries, fossil fuel extraction or production, harmful chemical industries, companies involved in the agricultural use of genetically modified organisms and businesses whose activities contribute significantly to deforestation.
Other new exclusions include companies that manufacture or sell fur products, that manufacture products or ingredients that have been tested on animals, or that have significant exposure to factory farming. Companies with unethical business or employment practices are also now systematically excluded.
In addition to boosting its screening criteria, Healthy Investment’s new ethical mandate means it will actively seek out opportunities to invest in companies and activities that provide a social or environmental benefit – known as “impact investing”. As well as investing in renewable energy, this means backing companies that have strong environmental policies and processes, those with a demonstrable commitment to strong labour practices and employee welfare, and businesses that uphold the highest international standards of human rights and business ethics while operating in countries where these might not be the norm.
Peter Green, chief executive of Healthy Investment, said, “We are enormously proud to have been at the forefront of ethical investment since long before it received mainstream attention. However, the world doesn’t stand still and it is important that we remain true not only to our founders’ values but also those of our current membership.
“Last year we surveyed our members and discovered they wanted us to be stricter in terms of the range of sectors and activities we excluded from our portfolios and, in tandem, to take a more positive approach to seeking out investments that make a difference. They don’t just want to invest with clear consciences but actually to put their money to work making the world a better place.”
Healthy Investment has appointed a new fund manager, Aberdeen Standard Investments (also now known as “Abrdn”), to implement its ethical mandate.