Helping individuals drive the change to a more sustainable economy

Reflections from the EIRIS Foundation roundtable

Organisations represented: The EIRIS Foundation; The Big Exchange; Business and Human Rights Resource Centre; Make My Money Matter; ShareAction; Good With Money; Ethex; Tribe Impact Capital and; ECCR 

On the 28th of January the EIRIS Foundation convened a group of organisations active in the retail ethical investment space. The objective of the meeting was to facilitate discussion around what various projects and initiatives are doing but also to try and identify the most impactful ways in which individuals can help drive the change to a more sustainable economy. 

What can individuals do? 

Individual retail savers and investors can help shape and influence the financial system in a number of ways. These generally fit into the following categories: 

Choice – Individuals can choose what to do with their own money. I.e which financial providers and products do they choose when it comes to their pension, their bank account, their ISAs and other investments? 

Influence – Individuals can have an influence over the organisations they work for or support and potentially over their current financial providers. I.e. they can ask their employers about their workplace pension options, they can ask questions of their existing providers about what their money is funding, they can ask the faith or charity organisations they support what their responsible investment policies are or if they have considered ethical banking options.  

Spreading the word – Individuals can help spread awareness and educate others about investing and saving ethically/sustainably. Word-of-mouth is a powerful part of conscious consumerism. Those who have either made an ethical or sustainable choice or used their influence in some way, can quite easily amplify their impact by talking about it and educating others.  

What will have the biggest impact? 

The biggest impacts stem from the choices that most people have (or will have in future): organising their pension and their bank account ethically/sustainably (and ISA funds if they have them).  

There is a lot that goes with that choice however: education and awareness about investment; small steps that build confidence; normalising these choices; how ethical are the ethical options; supporting people through what are actually quite emotional decisions. Individuals can also choose where possible to make some direct investment in ventures where they fully understand the impact and the project/s. This can help trigger a huge mental shift and creates connectivity with the impact they are trying to make.  

Just asking questions of an existing provider is a useful thing to do and working with others to increase impact on individuals’ employers’ pension and service providers should be encouraged.  Advocacy with these and with regulators needs to be a coordinated part of the picture. 

What next? 

It remains the case that it’s not easy for people to find the information and the suggested actions they need at the points when they are most likely to want to make these choices. There is also potentially more work to be done in relating the actions that individual initiatives are persuading people to take and the macro level impacts that people want to be part of.  

Attendees of the roundtable found the dialogue useful and a number of initiatives are already in good communication with each other. Follow up sessions for those with a shared interest in increasing alignment, reducing unnecessary overlap or increasing impact in some part of this field could be useful going forward if the specific topic had sufficient traction.  

We at the EIRIS Foundation are looking forward to taking this discussion forward and helping to sign-post the great work being done in this area and educating people about how they can be part of the change we want to see. We plan to help reinforce and build on the comms work and audience building that people have been engaged in these last few years.  

If you would like to be involved in/kept informed of our work in this area please email [email protected].