Tag Archives: pensions

You can make a difference

wind-turbines17On this day of all days, when the unthinkable is about to happen, it is easy to be overwhelmed. The complexities of leaving the EU, the absurdity of the notion ‘President Trump’ coming true, the enormity of global climate change with a climate change denier about to take office. How does an individual have influence in the world in this environment? Is there anything that I can do to make any sort of difference?

Small effort, big gain

Well, it occurs to me that there is one thing you can do which will have repercussions every day for the rest of your life. (Unless you move house, but you’ll be able to do it again with the same effect.) I can’t believe it took me so long to do it. And it was so easy!

What what what!? Stop teasing! What is this magical thing? (I suspect the picture gave it away!)

Change your energy provider. Change to a renewable energy provider. You could choose a green tariff, or better still, an energy company that produces its own green energy. Electricity from wind, solar or hydro and even (in some cases) green gas.

Once you’ve done it, every time you switch your lights on you know that you are spending money on a company that is investing in our future, not polluting it. You are no longer giving money to people who want to drill in the arctic and who will carry on burning fossil fuel until Bangladesh is under the sea.

And it really is easy. You can just choose a green energy company and go with them. You might want to do some price comparisons. You could investigate and compare tariffs on the internet by yourself, though that is a bit more hard work. Or, as I write, you can sign up as an individual to the Big Church Shift. A procurement company working on behalf of a group of charities including Tearfund and Christian Aid will find the best tariff for you, and facilitate the switch for you. And yesterday someone showed me another company, Big Clean Switch, who work with Ecotricity, Good Energy and Bulb and will do the comparison for you.

I went with the Big Shift. It was painless. I can’t understand why I didn’t do it before! Now Bulb is our energy provider and we’re paying less than before, although we are still in the early stages of settling down what our actual usage is.

Taking it further

And if you are attracted by the idea of taking your money away from fossil fuels and spending it on renewable technology, you can take the idea much further. It’s called divestment, and it can be applied to any company which invests money in other companies. Quite often it’s your money they are investing.

Ever thought about your pension? That money that you are saving up to provide for your future? Not much point in giving it to people who are damaging the earth and spoiling the future. So ask your pension provider whether they are investing in fossil fuels or clean energy. And if you can, ask them to invest for the future, not the dirty energy that belongs to the past.

Or your bank. High street banks are still investing in and giving loans to fossil fuel businesses in far greater measure than to green energy. Ask them to stop. There’s a really handy email campaign up and active here. Ask them to plan for the future and build a better world. We will all be glad they did when the fossil fuel business realises it cannot extract and burn all the oil it has in reserve and the market collapses. Much like it has already done in many countries for coal.

You could even move your money yourself. This one requires a bit more thought and effort. But you save in an ethical fund or with an ethical bank. Maybe the words ethical and bank could never go together, but you could start by looking at Triodos and see what you think.

So, on a day such as today, when it seems that the world is becoming a scarier place, it’s a good day to do a small thing which will go on making a difference every day, long after Trump has left the White House.

Investing in a greener future

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I’ve just come back from a great day in Leeds with Christian Aid, at a training event for campaigning, and I’m feeling inspired and energised. What was the hot topic that has got me so excited? Pensions! Yes, really!

So what is the connection between pensions and Christian Aid campaigning? Pensions are all about investing for the future. We put money aside now and hope to see a return that will provide for us in our old age. But in the meantime, our money is already hard at work. Through our pension funds, we are the shareholders of the companies on the stock exchange. It isn’t just any old money which makes the world go round, it is our money! If we add to this an ethical perspective, we might want to make some other choices about where we invest. For example, we might decide that we don’t want to invest in a company which sells weapons. It might also be rather nice if our money was working for good, perhaps for a pharmaceutical firm developing a cure for malaria.

But so far, this is going over old ground, exploring decisions lots of us have made if we’ve tried to find ethical investment funds. The real epiphany of the day was to consider how our pension is an investment in our future in more ways than the pay-out when we retire. If our money was used by that pharmaceutical company to find a cure for cancer or an effective treatment for dementia, that really would be an investment for our old age. There is almost £3trillion invested in UK pensions – this inconceivably large sum of money has huge potential, but the question is, what kind of future is it being used to build?

Climate change is the most significant challenge of our time. Humanity’s response to this challenge will determine what kind of future we and our children will face. So how can pension funds invest in and for the future? Clearly, I’d like my money to be used to fund renewable energy rather than fossil fuel. But I’d not considered the need for pensions to be invested in companies that will be resilient in the face of the degree of climate change likely to have happened by the time I retire. Also needed is investment in ways to prevent or at least adapt to climate change, like energy-efficient technology, green infrastructure, a low-carbon economy.

This is our money, and it has enormous potential for good or for ill. Today was all about unlocking that potential, and Christian Aid have teamed up with ShareAction to enable pension savers to have in say in where and how their money is invested. They have launched a new campaign called the Green Light campaign. Anyone with a pension invested in shares can follow the links on the website to email their pension fund to find out its carbon footprint. They have also prepared a reportresilient portfolios in an uncertain world” with research and recommendations for pension fund managers. The idea is to encourage funds to invest in greener businesses, but also to get funds to use their power as shareholders to direct businesses away from high-emissions activity, such as drilling for oil in the Arctic. We don’t have to be helpless bystanders in world dominated by corporate power.

I believe people have a God-given responsibility to care for this planet and its people, and not to just exploit its resources. I have bigger questions about money, power and capitalism, but I also think that sometimes we have to work with the system we’ve got. I think this could be a really effective tool in the campaigning toolkit and I’ll be contacting my pension provider. I’d encourage you to follow the link to the ShareAction campaign and contact yours! I’ll finish with words from p7 of the Green Light campaign report:

“This is a different kind of climate campaign. Its focus on pension funds will unlock the power of the trillions invested in them to fund a greener, fairer future. In doing so, we aim to protect our pensions and our planet. We hope you’ll join with us, as citizen saver or civil society organisation, as we push our pension funds to get climate-conscious.”