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 looks challenging.
Here, John Fleetwood, director of responsible and sustainable investing at Square Mile Investment Consulting and Research, shares his trip exploring nature and fauna across Northern Scotland.
Where are you holidaying this year and with whom? How will you travel there?
This year we spent two weeks in Northern Scotland as a family – my wife, son and his girlfriend. We stayed a week in a holiday cottage in a tiny coastal settlement called Rhiconich, almost on the North-Western tip of the UK. Given decent weather, it’s a fantastic part of our island with empty white-sand beaches, ancient craggy hills and an intricate coastline. We then travelled a short distance North and East to the hamlet of Tongue, staying in a hostel for a few nights, although it turned out to be a rather superior establishment, more like a guesthouse with a very nice room to ourselves. We finished our trip with two nights in a wonderful B&B just North of Inverness, located right next to a tree-lined loch. Public transport is exceptionally sparse in this corner of Britain, so we travelled by car.
How does this differ from your ‘usual’ holidays?
Not too much, although we often go earlier in the year to avoid the midges and summer rain. This year we were lucky with the noted absence of the wee beasties and the almost omnipresent sunny skies. I had originally intended to go to the Alps, but the Scottish Highlands are a pretty good replacement.
It has been a very tough year. How will this holiday help you reset and refresh?
I don’t tend to sit around on the beach and find a change as good as a rest. I spent pretty much every day charging up and down hills, so I’ve come home for a rest! It’s a different form of tiredness though – physical fatigue is much preferable to general computer-induced lethargy. Time away from the screen (I don’t take any electronic devices apart from my phone) gives the brain a much-needed break and spending all that time in raw nature has huge health benefits.
How will you ensure your holiday is environmentally friendly?
Although we used the car, it’s fairly fuel efficient and by filling it, the carbon impact per passenger is actually quite competitive with the train. I’m vegetarian and try to eat as much unprocessed and unpackaged food as possible. I’ve also moved away from dairy milk to oat milk which has a far lower carbon footprint. Whilst on holiday we don’t travel far and explore the local area.
Share some (sustainable) activities you have planned for your staycation?
The most notable thing for me was completing a new continuous mountain link-up of 60 miles. It was also a highlight, especially at 12:45 at night looking down on a cloud over the sea with a deep orange sun on the horizon, set against the silhouette of pyramidal mountains. It never really gets dark in this part of the world at Midsummer! Other than that, I explored the high crags of the area and made the most of the late sunsets over the sea. We also visited a few of the idyllic beaches and characterful cafes.
What’s your holiday reading?
I listened to a David Baldacchi crime book, which lasted me through the trip. I also read a book that has languished in my collection for some years, but which I finally dusted off and found very interesting. It’s called Hostile Habitats by Mark Wrightham and Nick Kempe – an informative overview of the fauna and flora of Scotland’s mountain environment.
What’s the verdict? Do you think you will be staycationing more in the future? Or are you looking forward to travelling abroad?
I am looking forward to an ambitious trip to the Himalayas in a year or two, but the Scottish Highlands will always remain close to my heart, and we will return regularly.
How do you think the Covid-19 pandemic will impact business travel long term?
I imagine it will have a profound impact, since online communication in place of physical meetings is now so routine. It won’t replace them, but it will make lots of physical meetings less important. This is a great bonus for me as I live in Cumbria.
What’s on your radar for the ESG investment industry for the rest of the year?
Lots! We will continue to develop our ratings of Responsible investment funds, new services for IFAs to help them choose Responsible investment funds and also look to enhance the metrics available.