HOW GREEN IS YOUR MONEY?

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By Bernadette Thomas

If I were to ask you where your money was invested, you’re likely to answer “the bank”, shares, property, superannuation etc., or any combination of these (you might also answer, “What money!”). But if I asked you what environmental impact your financial investments are having, would your answer be so readily available?

For many of us, managing our finances is stressful. If you add another layer of complexity by wanting your investments to have a positive impact – such as a positive environmental impact – then where would you start?

The first thing you can do, especially if, like me, you’re not terribly financially literate (or interested), is to consult an ethical investment advisor. They can talk you through how and where to invest in line with your environmental (and social and ethical) values. The Responsible Investment Association Australia (responsibleinvestment.org) has a list of ethical investment advisors to choose from.

If you’d prefer to do it yourself, then you might like to start by breaking your investments into groups – banking, superannuation, shares/managed funds, property. Then work through what you prefer to invest in (such as renewable energy and corporate recycling – positive investing), and what you would like to avoid (such as fossil fuels and logging old growth forest – negative investing).

You’ll then need to understand where your money is currently invested. There’s more information available than ever before about fossil fuel investment, thanks to the increasing impacts of climate change(!). 350.org.au, gofossilfree.org.au and marketforces.org.au provide information about divestment (getting rid of an investment) from fossil fuels – by banks and superannuation.

For property investments, you might like to contact an ethical property investor (combining social, environmental and financial returns), check out ‘green bonds’, green star commercial properties (gbca.org.au), or the various collective approaches to sustainable building design, such as those designed and built by Breathe Architecture (breathe.com.au) and others. (If social investing is more your thing, then look up Launch Housing, which has developed a range of innovative long and short term residential property investments (Home Ground – homeground.com.au – is Australia’s first not for profit real estate agent, providing real financial and social returns for tenants and investors).

And finally to superannuation which, since we can all choose our super account is a little simpler. A quick google search will result in a couple of options – Australian Ethical Super, or the relative newcomer, FutureSuper. But if changing your super seems like too much hard work, you should also check with your current super fund and ask what environmental investments they have available.

It’s important, that, once you’ve done all the hard work, working out what you’d like to invest in and finding out where your money is being invested, you do something about it – contact your institution to ask them to divest, and if they don’t, switch to somewhere where your values and investments are in sync.

Once you switch, it’s important to let your old institution know why.

Disclaimer Bernadette Thomas is not affiliated in any way with the organisations mentioned in this article, does not receive any financial remuneration from these organisations. This article does not (definitely not!) constitute financial advice.

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