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Ethical investment still a priority amidst recession

03 June 2009 / by Rachael Stiles

Ethical investment has remained popular throughout the recession, suggesting that British investors are determined to make a profit without compromising their principles, research from Friends Provident has shown.

Friends Provident has researched people's opinions on ethical investment to mark the 25th anniversary of its ethical fund, Stewardship, and the last recession seen in the UK.

Nearly three quarters of Brits place importance in companies taking responsibility for social, ethical and environmental issues seriously, the study found.

More than half of respondents said that they see ethical investment as more important than it was when the UK was in the midst of the last recession, with 54 per cent saying it is now "far more important" than it was before.

Quarter of a century ago, the miners' strike was getting underway, and in 1984, Friends Provident became the first company to offer investors the opportunity to invest in a "fund with a conscience," which only put their money into socially responsible companies.

While the UK and its economy have changed in the last 25 years, the important that investor's place on ethical investment funds has remained constant, Friends Provident has found.

People are predominantly concerned with pollution of land, sea and air, with 35 per cent of respondents listing these as their prime concerns, followed by climate change and energy conservation, accounting for 33 per cent and 30 per cent respectively.

"Without a doubt ethical issues are on Brits' minds today more than ever," said Trevor Matthews, chief executive officer at Friends Provident. "Many people take an ethical approach to their finances by avoiding investing in companies that are not socially responsible," he continued.

Friends Provident said that they have seen a continuing trend towards investors choosing ethical investments, even if they have to choose ethics over profits.

But, "People are now investing with care, and realising that you don't have to compromise your principles to make a profit," Mr Matthews added.

Karina Litvack, head of governance and sustainable investment at F&C, which manages the Stewardship fund, said: "It is easy to forget how far-sighted the architects of Stewardship were back in 1984. Many observers were sceptical at the time and no-one could have predicted that this fund was going to end up being such a big influence on investors' behaviour in the years to follow.

"Over the last two decades, Stewardship and ethical investment in general have evolved into the idea that, as investors, we have leverage and the ability to drive behavioural change in companies. The new vision of ethical investment goes beyond the ethical screening of companies and into shareholder engagement and being part of positive change," she said.

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