Ethical investing needs less spin

Peter Rowan

We have all seen the headlines of sustainability within funds being adopted across the board; the need to bring in better environmental or social benefits of a fund or product.

But are these very same practices being adopted or are they just ‘green-washing’?

A lot of the people employed as corporate social responsibility (CSR) or socially responsible investment (SRI) managers are just marketing managers and the projects they are involved in are just very clever marketing ploys.

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One only has to look at the job postings for CSR/SRI vacancies, which stress the importance of communication or marketing skills. It all suggests there is a large element of spin going on in the new push to CSR and SRI investing.

Nonetheless, all is not lost. I have met some very competent SRI/CSR managers who do know their sectors and aren’t from marketing/communication backgrounds.

But the problem is, there aren’t enough of them to make a difference. So what can be done?

Greater transparency within the funds could be the answer. It doesn’t seem much to ask for. Can the investment industry come clean on CSR/SRI instead of just trying to pull the wool over our eyes?

Peter Rowan is an adviser on socially responsible investment and ethical investments