II am thinking about setting up British Ginger Money Week – a whole seven days when Her Majesty’s financial services industry can focus its attention on the financial planning needs of the country’s redheads, strawberry blonds, carrot-tops, auburnistas and African sunsets – but I’m not really sure how to go about it.
Is there a quango that organises these things and has it survived the Government’s austerity drive? One would hope so as there seems little doubt the country needs someone to help avoid scheduling clashes – can you imagine if BGMW10, as my event would be snappily known, overlapped with National Baldy Finance Week? Exactly, it doesn’t bear thinking about.
I have been inspired to think these important thoughts by the folk behind National Ethical Investment Week. As far as I can tell, the good people at the Ethical Investment Association have done what the organisers of no other finance-oriented week have ever achieved by flagging their event up far enough in advance that those who feel so moved can actually plan to take part.
Normally, you only find out about these things as they are happening and then all that can be usefully done is to aim to make a note in your diary to be well and truly ready for next year. Obviously you then forget to do so – and the whole cycle begins again. But not with the third annual NEIW10 – see how these abbreviations roll off the tongue? – which runs from 7 to 13 November, thereby allowing financial advisers time to rally to the EIA’s call to use it as a way of engaging with new and existing clients about green and ethical investment options.
The organisers are brimming with little ways advisers can get involved, including attending a NEIW event, mentioning the week in client newsletters – the sort of thing, incidentally, of which my day-job very much approves – and becoming supporters of the week by submitting their logo for use on the NEIW website at www.neiw.org.
Regular visitors to this space – should such a stoic breed exist – may be aware I am not always as convinced by ethical and socially responsible investing as I feel I ought and that stance was not changed dramatically by the process of writing a you know what on investing in you know where, which can still be bought at a 30 per cent discount from you know who.co.uk.
One danger of the exercise was typing an idea that, while sound from an investment perspective, did not read easily in human terms. By the same token, some experts quoted occasionally tied themselves in knots trying not to sound too callous – and it is not entirely coincidental this tended to be about China and democracy.
The uneasy relationship between ethics and investment is perhaps most starkly illustrated by the actions of foreign investors in China after the brutal suppression of the student-led pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
Foreign direct investment into China may have stuttered for a while but by 1992 it was $11bn (£6.85bn) and in the latter half of the 1990s stayed consistently between $40bn and $45bn a year. In the world of investment, to misquote the old saying, you makes your choice and you pays your money. Certainly increased consumption – one of the pivotal arguments in favour of investing in emerging markets on the back of continually improving living standards and the development of aspirational middle classes running into the hundreds of millions – does not sit too easily with the prevailing mood of austerity, environmentalism and sustainability in parts of the developed world.
Here, I am not especially ashamed to say, the book offered no view beyond saying it will be an interesting match-up between the environmental lobby and the millions of newly middle-class consumers in, for example, China and India being told they should not enjoy the white goods, the air travel and the all-round standard of living the developed nations have taken for granted for decades.
And the ethics of using ethical investment to discuss one’s own book? Let’s save that for Investing In Emerging Markets Week.
Julian Marr is editorial director of www.marketing-hub.co.uk and www thoughtleadershiplive.com