Ethical finance

I love my insurance company.

I bet you don’t know many people who say that.

I’ve always used Naturesave Insurance for building and home contents insurance, so I’m chuffed to hear today that they’ve been awarded the Queens Award For Enterprise in the Sustainable Development category for 2011.

Naturesave puts sustainability and ethics at the core of its operations. Amongst other policies:

  • It gives preferential treatment to charities and not-for-profits;
  • Its staff use public transport for business journeys;
  • It incentivises staff to avoid air travel for holidays;
  • It puts ten per cent of all household, and some commercial, premiums into its charitable trust fund, which gives grants to UK-based environmental, conservation and community renewable energy projects.

It’s great to know that money I give them each year is being used to do good, not harm.

And the cherry on top is that, whenever I’ve phoned them with a query, they’ve been friendly and helpful, providing the sort of customer service that only seems to exist in black & white films.

I’ve made ethical choices for other financial products too, such as pensions and mortgages, using a financial adviser with a commitment to ethical investing and banking with The Co-operative Bank.

I confess I don’t go into the nitty-gritty of the industries into which my policies invest and I suspect, if I did, I might find myself having to make some tricky choices, and educate myself further around some of the issues. One peron’s ethical is another’s unethical (or irrelevant). As a relatively simple example, some ethical investors would avoid investing in businesses involved in alcohol. Since I’ve been known to enjoy the odd tipple (!), I don’t insist on that. Where do I stand on gambling though? Up to the individual, isn’t it? Though some people get ‘addicted’ which can lead to serious problems. And I’m opposed to horse-racing, which is tied in with the gambling industry. Hmm…See what I mean?

Personally, I’m most concerned about environmental stewardship, though I also wouldn’t want my money used to support a company with a poor record on human rights or social justice.

A big question, of course, is whether I’ve traded value for money against a clear(er) conscience. And the truth is I don’t know. I’m not savvy enough with financial markets and financial products to make a judgement on that (and anyway, it’d be impossible to know for sure). I’m happy with what I pay for the products I have and the returns I’ve got so far though, and wouldn’t feel right investing any other way.

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