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Ethical investing: Where does your moral compass lie?


Laine Gordon

By Laine Gordon

3 min read

There's a lot to think about when planning for your future. Should I invest in property? How will I reduce my credit card spending? Are investment funds for me or is there another way to grow my wealth?

If you're weighing up your investment fund options, you'll no doubt consider risks and benefits. But what about whether you're investing in an ethical fund?

Australian National University ditches stocks

Earlier this month, the Australian National University Council elected to divest stocks held in seven companies after an independent review revealed the environmentally and socially unethical investments within their portfolio.

A university-commission review suggested this action, as part of a commitment to socially responsible investment. The stocks make up approximately one percent of its overall investment holdings and 5.1 percent of its equity holdings.

Could everyday Australians take a leaf out of the university's book and reconsider their investment strategies

A focus on the positive

"Whilst it's increasingly true that you can do good and do well financially, what is evident now is that in order to do well, you must be doing some good. That applies especially to investment," said Paul Smith, Australian Ethical Head of Marketing.

Australian Ethical is an investment and superannuation fund manager that has two key goals in its activities: Give individuals financial security and offer "positive, sustainable change for society and the environment".

The organisation invests clients' money towards medical and technological breakthroughs, low-carbon innovations and energy-efficient projects and products. If an investment option would cause unnecessary harm to animals, the environment, people or society, it's a no-go by Australian Ethical's standards.

Ethics: A global issue

Australian Ethical isn't the only organisation focussing on making positive change for clients' investment and superannuation funds.

The phenomenon of ethical investment has spread worldwide. There's even a research organisation, EIRIS, which offers environmental, governance and social research to investors across the world.

EIRIS promotes responsible investments by providing asset managers, governments, stock brokers and more with relevant information.

Clearly, those in the investment industry have plenty of resources to pursue ethical options. Will Aussies follow suit?

Why approach investment ethically?

Everyday Australians might like the idea of investing ethically, but may wonder whether the financial outcomes will still be worth it.

Fortunately, wealth creation and ethics don't have to be mutually exclusive.

"Ethical funds are now consistently outperforming their 'mainstream' peers in the short term as well as, importantly, the long term," Smith said.

"This is something that all Australians who care about their future and the future of society and the environment should be aware of. It's now easier than ever to align your money with your values."

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