Staycation with Aviva Investors’ Ed Dixon: Wild camping, forestry and sustainable brands

The head of real assets ESG shares his wild camping trip in Dartmoor and why it's important to leave no trace

In this special summer series, members of the responsible investment industry share their staycations and sustainable holiday activities with ESG Clarity readers.

Following our popular Working from Home with… and A Sustainable Xmas with… series on the back of the Covid-19 pandemic, we wanted to find out how holiday plans have changed – and become more environmentally and socially friendly – in a year where travel abroad is looking challenging.

Here, Ed Dixon, head of real assets ESG at Aviva Investors, shares his trip to Dartmoor.

Where are you holidaying this year and with whom? How will you travel there?

My summer break this year is wild camping on Dartmoor with my partner Cat. We’re jumping on a train from Paddington with all the gear we need in our rucksacks.

How does this differ from your ‘usual’ holidays?

Pre-pandemic my usual holidays were a little more adventurous, my last two were an expedition to the summit of Mount Kenya and a survival course in the Arctic Circle.

It has been a very tough year. How will this holiday help you reset and refresh?

I count myself as incredibly fortunate. I have a job, food in the fridge and a roof over my head, so the pandemic has been a relatively smooth ride compared to the majority of the population. All that screen time does mean you need to escape every so often and Dartmoor is just the place. They say it’s the last real wilderness in England.

How will you ensure your holiday is environmentally friendly?

We’re jumping on the train with all of our gear so this will be a pretty low impact holiday. We’re packing the bare minimum and have chosen our gear carefully, buying either second hand or from independent outdoor brands where the fabrics are sustainably produced. Wild campers will know this but the idea is to leave no trace, pitch somewhere out of sight and leave your spot as you found it. Sadly, not everyone does this and some parts of Dartmoor were closed to campers last year to allow the landscape to recover.

Share some (sustainable) activities you have planned for your staycation?

We’ll be hiking each day but we may try to squeeze in a pub lunch if we can. Needing to carry all of your gear means that evenings are fairly low impact, I suspect it will be dried ready meals over a camping stove before a quick game of cards and lights out to see some stars before bed.

What’s your holiday reading?

I’m reading Value(s) by Mark Carney, I was lucky to receive a signed hardback copy from a friend as a birthday present. But at 600 pages it’s seriously weighty so I have also been reading This is Water by David Foster Wallace. I’m an avid reader of non-fiction and have a few short titles that I go back to which help you to reflect on what’s important.

What’s the verdict? Do you think you will be staycationing more in the future? Or are you looking forward to travelling abroad?

I’m definitely looking forward to getting back out there, but the UK has so much to offer and so many corners to explore. We’re heading to the Wye Valley for more hiking in August and will spend time with family in the Cotswolds and Yorkshire later in the year. We’ve got our eye on Mount Elbrus next year, it’s the highest mountain in Europe at 5,642 metres and is one of the famous Seven Summits.

How do you think the Covid-19 pandemic will impact business travel long term?

The last year has made a companies and individuals ask whether you really need to be there for every meeting. Sure, for some things you can’t beat in person meetings, but it’s far more cost and carbon efficient to engage virtually. In the future I suspect we’ll be operating in a much more carbon constrained world, and we’ll look back on business travel as a luxury we really couldn’t afford.

What’s on your radar for the ESG investment industry for the rest of the year?

Two words: Real Assets. So far the ESG landscape has been dominated by tracker funds and green bonds – for me direct investment into real estate and infrastructure is far more exciting. To achieve net zero we need to decarbonise the built environment we use every day, from your home to your office to the train you use to commute, investing in real assets in the right way can deliver this. And we need far more investment directly into nature based solutions like forestry which help to remove emissions from the atmosphere. I think 2021 will be the year private markets investors wake up to the sustainable investing opportunity.

You can view the full Staycation series by clicking here.


Natalie Kenway

Natalie is editor in chief at MA Financial covering ESG Clarity, Portfolio Adviser and International Adviser. She was previously global head of ESG insight for ESG Clarity and has been an investment journalist...