Ethical Investing  

IFAs needs to stop prioritising ‘growth at all costs’

On the whole, Kowalski has had a positive response from the industry so far. 

“For me it’s not about making money, it’s purely to try and make a difference within the industry and try and make a personal impact on where I think financial services can go in the general campaign to try and do something about environmental damage and climate change.”

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Many of the firms Overstory work with want help with investments and how they should position themselves.

“A lot want help around how to discuss this with clients - how to explain it, how to deal with tricky questions," she said. "And how to not make it sound like what they did before was wrong or substandard.

"Some firms have been brilliant, they've already done quite a lot of work and they just want another opinion on it. Maybe to sit on the investment committee, or just review some of their policies and processes that they've designed."

Other firms have now moved beyond an initial point of engagement with sustainable investing and now use Overstory for support with client communications and messaging.

Despite receiving a generally positive response from the industry so far, Kowalski acknowledged that not all firms want to engage with her publicly.

“I get a lot of behind the scenes support," she explained. "It's difficult for a lot of people who are working for larger companies, they maybe have to follow a company line a bit more. But the best thing for me about Overstory is being independent and having a completely unfettered voice.

“I've really enjoyed the fact that I've been given a voice, that is important to me. I've been writing a lot of articles, speaking at conferences and I think that makes a difference. The more conversations about these issues, the more it makes them approachable and accessible,” Kowalski said.

'Messy period'

In Kowalski’s view, the industry could do a lot more to mitigate and adapt to the impact of the climate crisis.

“I think we're in a very messy period at the moment,” she said and highlighted the momentum that was there for sustainable investing during lockdown when people had more time to think about new projects.

“It didn't do any harm, that these funds were skyrocketing up the charts, but then, it all fell back.

“I don't think that was a bad thing - it was bad that people’s investments went down in value, you didn't want to see that - but I think we needed to have that reset and make people realise that you can't push this just on performance,” Kowalski said.