Charlene Cranny - Communications and Campaigns Director - UKSIF
Tell us about yourself and your role at UKSIF
I’m the Communications and Campaigns Director at UKSIF and its my mission to help grow the UK market for sustainable investment and finance. I do this by delivering campaigns and producing communications that inform and inspire people to demand or deliver sustainable finance. Target audiences range from policymakers to pension fund trustees, fund managers, intermediaries, all the way to the mainstream consumers
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a new suite of educational materials for financial advisers that aren’t yet offering sustainable investment advice to clients and I’m also looking at how to scale the Who Fund The World ? initiative to encourage more women to invest because when they do, they often choose options that have a positive impact. We also recently launched our report Oil Gauge which was a survey of fund managers and their attitudes to climate risk and investment in fossil fuel companies, including engagement strategies. The report led us to speak on Sky and BBC News as well as feature across the national press. Climate action is hugely topical right now in the UK what with Extinction Rebellion and the climate emergency declarations. I suspect media attention will die down a bit soon but it will surge again and each time new, important actors join the movement as it quickly mainstreams.
How has the sector changed since you started?
In the relatively short 6 years I’ve worked in sustainable finance so much has changed. It used to be entirely mistaken as an ‘ethical’ conversation and batted away for not being financial enough. The values side is important – there is a moral duty to defend the planet if we agree that life and living is a good thing worth protecting – but to influence the mainstream finance industry I believe we had to speak its language and appeal to its deeply embedded financial rewards system. ESG is now almost entirely accepted as a financial value add across the industry and within government who have recently updated pensions law. The law clarifies a requirement for trust-based pensions schemes to consider, and prove they have considered, financially material ESG factors including climate change. The next significant evolution might be mainstream acceptance of the need for all businesses to have a measurable, positive, social impact in order to have a social license to operate at all.
Tell us more about UKSIF’s plans for Good Money Week later this year
This year we will encourage working people to ask their employers where their workplace pensions are invested. Minimum contributions have risen from 5 to 8% so we want to use the opportunity to get workers asking where that money is going. Our campaign is usually covered across mainstream consumer news and lifestyle magazines so keep an eye on our social media channels for more info soon. @goodmoneyweek
Last month you wrote about pension schemes fiduciary duty and sustainable investing – can you tell us more?
Many pension scheme trustees still see sustainability as a kind of ‘do-gooder’, costly, add on rather than a legally required, financially material consideration.
Pension funds must protect their customers’ long-term savings by making sure they are invested in companies that have long-term resilience. Future availability of resources, changing attitudes, new regulation … all of these will have an impact on companies’ future ability to perform. The research and expertise exists to help trustees identify what specific factors are financially material to them. It is a breach of fiduciary duty not to consider them.
Thankfully, The Law Commission, The Pensions Regulator, and UK Government have made an effort to ensure this legal duty is crystal clear with the FCA not too far behind.
Regulation vs innovation: which is more important right now?
There are opportunities on both sides but as I write investors are calling for better communication of, and access to, better products. This is right across institutional and retail.
As a retail investor with money to invest in sustainable products where do you start ? Most robo-advisers don’t care where my money goes, most financial advisers don’t know enough about SI, and general online education is not easy to find unless you know where to look. I think it is getting better, but the whole market needs to evolve to better meet the needs of the sustainable investor from start to end of their investment journey.