Fossil-free Funds

Ethical buying guide to fossil-free investment funds, from Ethical Consumer

Ethical buying guide to fossil-free investment funds, from Ethical Consumer

This is a product guide from Ethical Consumer, the UK's leading alternative consumer organisation. Since 1989 we've been researching and recording the social and environmental records of companies, and making the results available to you in a simple format.

Our guide to carbon-divested funds for an ethical investor. 

This guide includes: 

  • Ethical and environmental ratings for 13 funds. 
  • Best buy recommendations
  • Carbon-divested companies
  • Funds investing in renewable energy


This product guide is part of the special report: Ethical Money

Customise your scorecard ratings

How important to you?
Click the + icon to expand categories

To save your personal score settings and use them elsewhere around the site, please  Log In.



Score Ratings

Our ratings are live updated scores from our primary research database. They are based on primary and secondary research across 23 categories - 17 negative categories and 6 positive ones (Company Ethos and Product Sustainability). Find out more about our ethical ratings


Score table

The score table shows simple numerical ratings out of 20 for each product. The higher the score, the more ethical the company.

Move the sliders to customise these scores. 

Click on a product name to see the stories behind the score (subscribers only). 


Full Scorecard

The Full Scorecard shows the 'black marks' for each product, by each of the 17 negative categories. The bigger the mark, the worse the score. So for example a big black circle under 'Worker Rights' shows that the company making this product has been severely criticised for worker abuses.

Scores start at 14.  A small circle means that half a mark is deducted, a large circle means that a full mark is deducted.

Marks are added in the positive categories of Company Ethos and the five Product Sustainability columns (O,F,E,S,A).  A small circle  means that half a mark is added, a large circle means that a full mark is added.

The Full Scorecard is only available to subscribers. Click on the More Detail link at the top of the score table to access it.


Customising Rating Scores

Move the sliders to change the weighting given to each category. You can open up each of the 5 main categories by clicking on the + sign. This way you can compare products according to what's ethically important to YOU.  


Saving Your Customised Weightings

You must be signed-in to save your customisations. The weightings you have given to each category will be saved premanently (subscribers) or only for this visit to the site (registered users).  Once set, they will be used to calculate the scores in all the buyers' guides that you view. 


Stories and Data behind the scores

To see all the stories and research data behind the ratings you'll need to be a subscriber.

You must be signed-in to save your customisations. The weightings you have given to each category will be saved premanently (subscribers) or only for this visit to the site (registered users).  Once set, they will be used to calculate the scores in all the buyers' guides that you view. 


Stories and Data behind the scores

To see all the stories and research data behind the ratings you'll need to be a subscriber.

How the Sliders work
Move the sliders to see how different issues affect the score table
Refine each category by clicking the + icons
Save your settings (you need to be signed in first)
Key to expanded Score table

Best Buys

as of July/August 2016

As our ratings are constantly updated, it is possible that company ratings on the score table may have changed since this report was written.


FP WHEB Sustainability is our overall Best Buy. It invests specifically in environmental technologies such as renewable energy, and we could find very few investments worthy of criticism.

Alliance Trust Sustainable Future European Growth is our best buy out of the fully carbon divested funds. It discloses its full list of investments, and the company avoided being marked down for many of the things which afflicted the others.

Last updated: July 2016



Fossil-free Ethical Funds


There is about £15 billion invested in green and ethical funds in the UK.[1] However, this is only about 1.2% of the amount invested in ‘mutual funds’ as a whole, a figure that hasn’t budged for a decade. [2]

Image: Investment in ethical shopping guide

This lack of take-up is sad, especially considering the number of studies that have now been done comparing the financial performance of ethical and non-ethical funds. Because overall, the evidence suggests that ethical funds don’t do any worse financially.[3]

Carbon-divested funds are much newer and so it is harder to know how they are likely to do. And yet an analysis of the five years prior to 2015 suggested that investors who dumped holdings in fossil fuel companies actually outperformed those that did not.[4]



Our research


To create this guide we used an American website called, which allows anyone to easily access information on investment funds’ fossil fuel holdings.

The website awards 5 fossil free ‘badges’. They are:

  • Free of the Filthy 15 (a US-focused list of the top 15 carbon-emitting US coal companies)
  • Free of the Carbon Underground 200 (a list of the top 100 global coal companies and the top 100 oil and gas companies, ranked by the potential carbon emissions content of their reported reserves. The list is maintained by Fossil Free Indexes)
  • Free of all Coal Industry
  • Free of all Oil/Gas Industry
  • Free of Fossil-Fired utilities.



Carbon divestment lists six UK investment funds that are both socially responsible and fully fossil free, thus being awarded all 5 divestment ‘badges’. They are:

  • Henderson Global Care Growth
  • Royal London Sustainable World
  • Old Mutual Ethical
  • Sarasin EquiSar Socially Responsible
  • 7IM Sustainable Balance
  • Alliance Trust Sustainable Future European Growth


  • In addition the AXA Ethical Distribution Fund is now also fossil free but as of June 2016 was yet to be listed as such on the Fossil Free Funds website.


The other funds we rated on the table are not 100% fossil free. We included them in the list, however, as they are pretty close and have other positive features such as investing strongly in renewable energy, being rated by Castlefield as an ethically strong fund, or being in ShareAction’s list of most ethically engaged providers (see our guide to Ethical Funds). The investments of the funds that are not 100% carbon divested, taken from on 9th May 2016, are listed on the table below.

Table: Mainly fossil-free funds


The ConBrio B.E.S.T. Income Fund had the highest level of fossil fuel investment out of those we looked at. However, the company told us that it tries to combine negative and positive approaches, and that it invests in SSE plc despite its involvement in fossil fuels because of its significance in the wind power industry and transitioning the UK towards renewable energy.



Renewable energy


The ‘positive’ action of investing in renewable energy is, arguably, as important as the ‘negative’ action of divestment. While all the funds we are looking at have many other kinds of positive investments, the following four funds focus all their positive investments on environmental technologies and renewable energy:

  • FP WHEB Sustainability
  • Impax Environmental Markets
  • Quilter Cheviot Climate Assets
  • Jupiter Ecology


See our ethical investment directory for more advice on investing in renewable energy. 


Tax avoidance rankings


Only four companies avoided being marked down for likely use of tax avoidance strategies: WHEB, Impax, Alliance Trust and Elcot. Two companies received our middle ranking on this: Royal London and Bank of Montreal. All the others received the worst.

All the companies apart from WHEB, Impax and J Safra Sarasin were also marked down in the Anti-Social Finance category for paying obscene sums of money to their senior staff. However, while WHEB and Impax do pay less, Sarasin got off on this score just because we could not obtain the information. Being a Swiss bank, it is not obliged to disclose its directors’ pay.




Company behind the brand


Impax is a specialist environmental investment company. Impax Environmental Markets Investment Trust was the first UK listed equity fund to demonstrate a net positive carbon impact.[5]

Impax lost some marks as its Food and Agriculture Fund has investments in Unilever and Bunge, which have collected criticisms for many things including their use of animal products and the poor conditions in their supply chains.

Impax is also 25% owned by BNP Paribas, the third largest bank in the world. BNP Paribas invests in nuclear weapons, as well as many other unpalatable sectors. In 2015 it was fined $8.9 billion in the US after it was convicted of violating US sanctions.[6]


 Want to know more?

If you want to find out detailed information about a company and more about its ethical rating, then click on a brand name in the Score table. 

This information is reserved for subscribers only. Don't miss out, become a subscriber today.




1 ERIS, 2016, 

2 Scott, 2015, Why are investors shunning ethical funds? Money Marketing, 

3 Eg.Rob Bauer, Kees Koedijk & Roger Otten, 2002,  International Evidence On Ethical Mutual Fund Performance And Investment Style, Financial Economics 

4 Patrick Collinson, The Guardian 10 April 2015 

5 Castlefield, 2015, Winners and Spinners 

6 Reuters, 1/5/2015 BNP Paribas sentenced in $8.9 billion accord over sanctions violations



This product guide is part of the special report into ethical money. See what else is in the report.






Ethical made easy

Detailed ethical ratings for over 40,000 companies, brands and products, plus Ethical Consumer magazine.

30 day trial subscription - find out more

Navigate To:



Issue 162