This years’ ethical survey went out to all 42 of our ‘Pro-Ethical’ client households. We received 29 responses back which represented a 69% response rate which is still excellent but is a slight fall on last year.
Reasons for the lower response rate (after chatting with some of our Pro-Ethical clients) are that our more established ethical clients now feel that their views have been well represented because of our regular quarterly communication and ethical news stories.
We also closed the survey slightly earlier this year to avoid a straggled response rate and hopefully to improve efficiencies next year.
We used Survey Monkey to start with our ‘negative screen’, asking our clients to prioritise the areas that they most want to collectively avoid when investing. Once again, we went for a ‘quick fire’ approach where clients were asked to score topics from 0-3 in terms of importance.
2020 Negative Screen Observations:
The ‘top two’ worries for our clients once again remain as ‘Poor Human Rights’ and ‘Animal Testing for Cosmetics’. These two areas have been most important to our clients every year since 2016. The really interesting point was the ‘third place’ concern which was broadly split this year between Tobacco, Pornography, Gambling and Non Sustainable Timber.
It was notable that Gambling and Non-Sustainable Timber have risen in our clients concerns.
We will be keeping an eye on the forestry requirement as there are house builders within ethical funds and the requirement to only use certified sustainable wood is very hard for them to meet. We shall be increasing the pressure on fund managers in this regard in 2020.
Alcohol was even less important to our clients this year. Interestingly, Nuclear Power seems to have dropped in importance. This may well be because of an increased concern about fossil fuel usage.
2020 Positive Screen Observations:
Every year we notice the impact that the media has upon our ethical clients’ views of the world and subsequent investment choices. Last year, our clients were most concerned by ocean plastics because of the successful ‘Blue Planet’ television series. This year, the increased coverage of climate change and the loss of trees to Australian bush fires appear to have led to greater concern about climate change and sustainable forestry.
The question of social housing also seems to be important to a fair share of our ethical clients.
2020 Ethical Response Summary:
The information that we received from this years’ survey will prove extremely valuable to us, not just in terms of actual fund selection but also in the news stories that we select and the approach that we take to meeting with fund managers and their representatives.
I believe that there were two clear messages that came out of this years’ 2020 survey.
Firstly, it is clear that our longer standing clients are comfortable to trust our view on what ‘ethical looks like’. This is a big burden of responsibility and we are determined not to be complacent in this regard.
Secondly, we were very reassured by the consistency of message that our clients are giving us. They still want to avoid the same things. This is critical in assessing the meeting of our clients’ needs and I fail to see how a sweeping ESG or woolly Impact Policy can realistically achieve this.
I can’t thank our Pro-Ethical clients enough for taking the time to complete these important surveys. We have put together a full response document which is available via email to all of our clients – just let us know if you would like a copy. We shall also be getting this response document off to our fund house partners as we believe we can make a real impact through focused information.
At Thomas and Thomas we don’t just ‘do a survey’. We look to do something with it. Our clients are everything to us and we are ever striving to make sure that we match up to their expectations. If you have any questions about ethical investing, please don’t hesitate to contact us. As always we are here for you 100% whether you are a mainstream or ethical investor.
My best wishes