Why ethical investment is here to stay

Christmas can be a time for reflection in so many ways, says Peter Sharkey. Picture: Getty Images

Christmas can be a time for reflection in so many ways, says Peter Sharkey. Picture: Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The festuve season is one for reflection, says financial expert Peter Sharkey.

Christmas carols, busy high streets, miserably dark afternoons and typically cold, damp weather remind us that the festive season is upon us.

For many, it offers a welcome opportunity to wind-down, indulge a little, reflect upon the year which is rapidly slipping away and sketch outline plans for the 12 months ahead.

Preparing this week's column, I reflected upon a variety of investment and economic themes that have been prominent throughout the year. The deliberation made me wonder whether 2019 has been the year when environmental concerns finally took their place alongside more established topics upon which people ruminate such as economic performance, crime and stable government.

Probably not. Unless economic performance remains robust, unemployment low and business investment impressively solid, we can forget tackling environmental matters because the money will not be available to address them with any hope of success.

Similarly, for the time being, there is a massive disparity between the level of commitment to environment matters countries such as the UK and several other (but by no means all) western nations are prepared to give and what the globe's delinquent polluters will consider.

Nevertheless, from an investment perspective, the year has been an extremely encouraging one for a number of specific environmental and ethical investments, the performance of which have outshone what might be called 'mainstream' investments.

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Proof arrived earlier this week in the form of a newsletter that dropped into my inbox. It concluded by imploring investors to widen their festive shopping horizons, suggesting that, "while you're filling your shopping baskets with Christmas gifts, consider ethical investments which could well be the gift that keeps on giving into the new year and beyond."

This assertion is grounded in hard fact.

The newsletter and accompanying research , prepared by TAM Asset Management, notes that the firm's ethical portfolios, which comprise a variety of ethical and environmental-friendly investments, " have risen…to deliver some of the strongest [longer-term] returns."

It adds that the company's "Ethical Balanced portfolio has returned in the region of 11% so far this year, while an Ethical Adventurous portfolio, with a higher allocation to [shares], has returned upwards of 17% over the same time period."

As savers know only too well, annual double-digit returns are an almost sepia-coloured characteristic of our financial lives, but as the chart below shows, 2019 has been a terrific one for TAM's ethical and environmentally-friendly funds. On average, they've returned 10.88%, significantly better than a savings account available at any high street bank.

These impressive figures suggest that increasingly - and certainly during 2019 - environmentally and ethically aware investors are no longer having to choose between robust investment performance and sustainability.

Delving deeper into these figures to examine whether they're being fairly compared with traditional investments, it was encouraging to discover that comparisons are made on a like-for-like basis. In other words, TAM manage and run their whole range of investment funds, traditional and ethical, on exactly the same basis. This makes the recent performance of their ethical portfolios even more impressive because there are fewer ethically-focused funds from which to select.

The newsletter acknowledges that "this year's market environment has very much suited ethical investing" and that "ethically-orientated investments can often be… fast growing companies [which take] advantage of new and innovative technologies."

Nevertheless, as is the case with all investment funds, ethical or otherwise, impressive performance is the result of astute stock selection, a thorough investment process and strong risk management. In this respect, ethical funds are no different from mainstream: there are good ones and bad ones.

Fortunately, being ethically minded is not necessarily to the detriment of investment return, an observation to be considered by investors indulging in some serious ruminating during the holidays. Merry Christmas.

TAM Asset Management Ltd offer savers the opportunity to invest in a variety of ethical portfolios via the firm's ISAs. The different funds pursue cautious, balanced or adventurous strategies. For further details, please visit the MoneyMapp website.

For more financial advice, check out Peter Sharkey's regular column, The Week In Numbers.