The Sustainable Summer series gives investment professionals from the responsible investment space an opportunity share their habits and summer activities that are contributing to a more sustainable world.
For these light-hearted pieces, we ask about summer plans and holidays, and charitable work.
Here, Euan Ker, senior responsible investment associate at Aegon Asset Management (AM), discusses rewilding, creativity and Investment 20/20.
To view the full Sustainable Summer series click here.
How has your year been so far? Have you stuck to any sustainable New Year’s Resolutions?
It’s been a challenging but exciting year so far. Responsible investing is a busy place to be, there is a lot of regulation (rightly) incoming that is often disjointed and time-consuming to implement.
But on the positive sided, there’s an ever-increasing interest in sustainability, which means more and more people want to ensure their savings and pensions are helping to improve the future environment and society. This is encouraging.
Are you planning a holiday? How will you make it ESG-friendly?
‘Staycation‘ is the new holiday buzzword. I put myself forward as a loyal advocate of the staycation, never going further than the Isle of Arran for summer holidays. As I understand it, the nature of a staycation is lower carbon; there’s less travel to get there, you don’t need the car once you are there, and you shop local.
It’s great that more people are looking to our own shores for a holiday – just look at what the NC500 route has done for local businesses and tourism, in general, for Scotland.
Interestingly, my local golf course has been doing a lot of rewilding. It’s great for the wildlife and looks fantastic – the only downside is the number of balls I’ve lost in the tall grass!
What do you find are the benefits of spending more time in the great outdoors?
It’s just nice not to be sat at a desk for most of the day – I probably don’t need to tell anyone that! One thing I’ve really noticed since the pandemic, with increased time working from home, is that some creativity is lost when interactions are only through a screen. I miss the new ideas that come from those unscheduled conversations, face-to-face, although when I’m outdoors doing exercise, I find my mind starts being a bit more creative.
Are you taking part in any charity events or initiatives benefitting the climate or society?
As part of the Investment Association, the Investment 20/20 provides school leaver and graduate programmes to learn more about the investment industry. There is a focus on underprivileged students who would otherwise have limited opportunity to get exposure within our industry, which can seem daunting from the outside. A few colleagues and I have been involved in delivering educational sessions as part of this initiative.
Does your employer have any sustainable activities planned this summer? What does it do in the workplace to ensure it mitigates its impact on the environment?
Our global responsible investment team at Aegon AM convened in Kent for their first face-to-face meeting since merging in 2019. Kent was chosen as the area where most of the team could get to in the most environmentally friendly way possible: by train.
It was good being face-to-face and getting to know new colleagues; several of us had never met in person before. We discussed the responsible investing ambition roadmap for Aegon AM and underwent training in inclusivity and diversity.
We also took part in a day at an animal sanctuary, which was both fulfilling and tiring. It was rewarding for the animals (and the humans) there to have our team help do some of the jobs they had not had time or resources to complete themselves. And it was nice to be part of something that was an immediate force for good.
What would you like to see more of in the investment industry from a sustainability perspective?
What the ESG products consumers buy should actually do what they say on the tin.
We are seeing a lot more scrutiny of green/ESG-labelled funds. At Aegon AM, we welcome this scrutiny, which I hope will lead to a reduction in greenwashing.