It has been an astonishing year, one that none of us could ever have predicted and the remainder doesn’t look much more appealing with the festive season with our extended family and friends in jeopardy.
To lighten the mood, we wanted to find out from ESG investment professionals the achievements and lessons learned in 2020. We also asked how they will be making their festivities sustainable and their New Year’s resolutions to protect the planet and society.
In this article, we speak to James Clark, senior fund analyst at Hawksmoor Investment Management.
What are your biggest personal and professional achievements this year?
Personally, moving house during a pandemic. Our house went on the market just before the first lockdown in March, so it was very slow going at first but we got there in the end and moved in early October. The stamp duty holiday was a nice bonus.
Professionally, I’d say just surviving the onslaught of the February/March sell-off, doing loads of update calls with fund managers to check that everything’s ship-shape. It has been a super-busy year.
In ESG, what has had the biggest impact this year?
It’s difficult to put a finger on exactly but broader acceptance of sustainable investing is itself the biggest impact this year. Inflows remain very strong and every week we see articles quoting statistics on how strong investors’ interest in sustainability is and how people are planning to allocate a greater proportion of portfolios to this area. This is a bigger impact than any one fund launch, manager move or share price move.
What is a major positive change your business has introduced permanently as a result of the pandemic?
We’ve had mindfulness sessions and access to a really broad employee assistance programme. Other changes haven’t been introduced permanently but we’re likely to see more flexible working arrangements in future with a significant aggregate cut in travel.
How will you be having a sustainable festive period?
Well, travelling beyond our local area is now out of the question! We won’t eat a great deal of meat, there’ll be no plastic tat filling up stockings or Christmas crackers, and there’ll be a shedload of recycling to take care of come the New Year.
What is your go-to winter holiday routine and what’s your back-up plan for this year?
We normally try to visit three or four households among mine and my wife’s families, so the latest government announcements have been a real spanner in the works. At least I should have time for a fair bit of cycling (on a turbo trainer set up in the garage), training for events in 2021 (hopefully) including a big one I’ve signed up for in the Dolomites in July.
What’s your sustainability New Year’s resolution?
I need to sort out a gas and electricity supply deal for our new house, backed by 100% renewable generation of course. I’d also like to get a nice bean-to-cup coffee machine, to cut out the use of coffee pods (although we do use compostable ones).
What’s your big prediction for next year in the ESG space?
It’s not a big prediction as such but there’ll be more launches of (and more promotion of existing) regional sustainable equity funds, and more thematic funds, alongside the top-quality cohort of global sustainable equity funds. We’ve deliberately gone down the global rather than regional route within our sustainable world services given the quality of the global funds, but this needn’t always be the case.
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