Ethical Finance

Issue 147

Last updated: March 2014


Ethical Finance 


Not everyone is lucky enough to have to be concerned about where to invest their savings. Recent figures suggest that only 35% of people in the UK are paying into a pension[1] and barely 50% have significant savings.[2]

In the Majority World, even these levels are well beyond reach. But for those that do have savings, it is now becoming widely accepted that simply looking for the best financial return and ignoring the consequences is no longer a defensible position.

This report is designed to help consumers navigate the increasingly complex world of ethical savings and investment.

It has five main Product Guides:

Woven into these guides are a range of external and internal contributions exploring both the trends and the choices available to consumers.

The complexity of the world of ethical finance is, to some degree, a consequence of its success. Although it has not achieved the mainstreaming that, say, Fairtrade tea and coffee have done, its continued growth means that all financial institutions are having to pay at least lip service to its arguments.[3]

There are two main trends that we have observed since our last review of ethical investment in 2008:

1) A growing focus on climate change

Retirement planning and longer-term saving tend to make people think of what the world will be like in, perhaps, 30 years time. With scientific consensus around the consequences of rising temperature now overwhelming, civil society initiatives in this area are increasingly focused on trying to fix the investment problem. Amongst these:


2) New technology creating new opportunities

In the world of ethical investments particularly, new technology has brought with it a raft of new websites to make the whole process easier. These include:

Paul Monaghan, a key thinker in this area, draws these two trends together, suggesting that crowdfunding may be a key part of the solution in financing the vast new infrastructure of renewables that a sustainable future requires. In also proposing a role for pension funds, he continues a discussion begun at Ethical Consumer’s AGM and conference in 2013 where it was suggested that the pensions problem (where to find good returns) and the climate problem (how to fund renewables) might somehow be able to fix each other.

Indeed the future almost looks bright when we can see that the amount invested globally in renewables in 2011 ($317.9 billion) was nearly as much as that invested in oil and gas ($440 billion).

Finally, we reflect on the backdrop of rising inequality and poverty wages in the UK which underlie the falling rate of saving in the UK. Brigid Benson, a stalwart of the ethical investment movement, reminds us of a recent past where ethical investments and pensions were still within the reach of ordinary working people. A reminder that, as always, there’s more than one front to the battle for a just and sustainable future.


Product Guides 

palm oil special report

Ethical Ratings of Current Accounts

Ethical ratings of banks, building societies, ethical investment funds and ethical pensions. 

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