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We will fight on the landfills

Torquil Clark Holdings chairman Don Clark sends out a Churchillian rallying cry for firms to cut back on waste.

In the spring of 1944, during the later planning stages of the greatest seaborne offensive ever undertaken – D-Day – Sir Winston Churchill and the War Cabinet became concerned about something strange that was going on.

Key code words had started to appear as answers in The Times crossword. These included Overlord (the code word for the D-Day operation) and the words for the British-sector invasion beaches – Gold, Juno and Sword.

The top brass ordered an urgent investigation and discussed abandoning D-Day if their top-secret plans could have been leaked.

The investigation found that some crosswords were submitted to The Times by a public schoolmaster, so agents were sent to the school to dig deeper. It was discovered that the master concerned would get the boys in his class to put together clues by scouring dictionaries and other books for words to submit as crossword answers. These bright lads would then think up a good question and, if their master liked it, it would go in the crosswords. A good mental exercise for the boys, no doubt.

After questioning everyone concerned, the agents returned to London to report that they had failed to find anything at the school to cause concern. A memo to Churchill concluded that the appearance of these key code words in The Times crosswords was not suspicious. The memo concluded that there was so much activity and planning going on that there was clearly “something in the ether”. The boys had perhaps picked it up, maybe through some sort of sixth sense.

What does this have to do with us? Well, there is something in the ether now and it could be rather big. It is usually referred to as global warming but its effects are not yet fully understood and will not be for many years.

It is not for me to argue with you over whether global warming is actually happening – that job is better done by Al Gore in his film An Inconvenient Truth. I will say, though, that the acceptance by the vast majority of us that climate change is happening means that you are in a shrinking minority if you do not believe it.

Global warming is most definitely in the ether. I am writing this article on the way back to Wolverhampton from a meeting to discuss fund management in the era of climate change. To prepare for the meeting, I began collecting what I call “media noise” on the issue. This mainly involved looking in my daily paper, The Times as it happens, to see how many articles related to climate change over a fortnight.

By this morning, I had collected 14 articles and two supplements – one on environmentally friendly products and another on careers in energy. I count the latter because most of the articles concerned careers in renewable energy rather than finite resources. So at least one mainstream piece appears in The Times each day.

Other signs are all around. Yesterday, I overheard people at my golf club talking about climate change. A friend brought up the subject on the way back from a meeting last night and now, as I sit on the train, the bloke opposite me is reading a book on ecologically friendly housebuilding. I already know two people who are building this type of house – one is made of straw bales.

Once you begin to notice, you see so many signs, not least of which is the warming of our own climate. Climate change is happening and it is becoming a mainstream issue. It is in the ether.

The point of my writing about this in Money Marketing is to ask you to consider two issues. First, please see what you can do to get your own firm, be it provider or intermediary, to undergo a waste audit. This will examine areas such as recycling paper, reusing paper and cutting down on its use generally, reducing car mileage, changing energy use and more. We came up with an initial 14 headings for the Torquil Clark audit.

Second, I am asking you to start to think about some of the economic effects of global climate change and their considerable significance for the fund management industry. I could write endlessly on this but there will be some very obvious winners and losers as the planet heats up. Obvious winners include renewable energy industries and new transport technologies but construction and water management companies will also benefit.

Losers could include companies linked with the combustion engine and finite energy industries but also areas like the holiday industry. Do not buy a ski lodge or a Spanish golf villa, whatever you do.

There are so many examples of investments which will be affected, in either a positive or negative way, by this great theme over the long term. Over the next 50 to 80 years, we will see periods of high and low interest rates and bull and bear markets in every asset class. But the world’s climate will continue to change and there will be massive economic effects, have no doubt.

I am discussing these issues with fund managers. If you would like to contribute, email me at don.clark@torquilclark.com.

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