Sunday, 19 Sep 2021

Diana Clement: Save cash and the planet at the same time

OPINION:

Don’t just hang up your ethical KiwiSaver and think you’re sorted on sustainability. You can find many more ways to be mindful with your finances if you care for the planet and people.

We can as individuals make a collective difference by spending (or not spending) and investing our money wisely beyond Kiwisaver.

I agree with this line from the Sustainable Finance Forum which says: “The potential for tomorrow exists in what we do today.” We need to consume less, commute/travel smarter, eat more sustainably, and commit to improve. Done mindfully, the bonus is it can give you extra breathing space in your budget.

Pathfinder Asset Management’s John Berry runs a number of ethical funds and thinks long and hard about sustainability. He sees three ways that each of us can have a positive impact on the world with our money.

• How we spend our time, such as volunteering and mentoring young people. Time is money, as the old saying goes.

• How we spend our money. We can use public transport and pick options with less packaging, for example.

• How we invest our money. We can choose ethical investments and, within that, ones that actively seek to invest in good outcomes, not just avoid the bad.

We can all incorporate sustainability in our financial lives with everyday decisions, which often benefit our wallet as well.

Some of our mindful changes as individuals are never going to outweigh the huge damage caused by many large organisations. But we can do our bit to keep companies and organisations honest. They listen to public criticism and respond to demand. Repeatedly calling them out on social media can help.

These organisations also watch trends. A small example I was mulling over recently was that Colgate, maker of billions of plastic toothbrushes, is now selling more sustainable bamboo-and-charcoal ones. I have no doubt it was a commercial decision after the company saw it was losing out to small sustainable start-ups such as Grin.

The less of the next generation’s resources we consume for short-term gain the better. They shouldn’t have to pick up the tab.

Large organisations aren’t just getting their houses in order to sell their products and services. Many of them are doing it because it’s the right thing to do, as MinterEllisonRuddWatts partner Lloyd Kavanagh said to me recently when explaining how came to be a champion of sustainability at his firm.

Everyday decisions add up. On a micro level I broke an electrical item at home recently and stopped myself replacing it because I had another appliance that could do the same job. I do often wish we had better ways of sharing all the tools and devices every household owns. But we’re a bit reticent at asking to borrow things in this country.

Reducing your rubbish is another target. Don’t do a Todd Muller and set social media on fire by complaining that your rubbish bin isn’t big enough. Buy less and you have less to dispose of.

Too often, says Barry Coates, founder of Mindful Money, people take their bags to the supermarket, do their recycling, reduce rubbish, but don’t equate that with what they do with their money. Only 8 per cent of New Zealanders have actively chosen a KiwiSaver.

If you haven’t, then take a trip to Mindfulmoney.nz, where you can compare Kiwisaver and other investment funds’ sustainability credentials without being greenwashed by the marketing where every provider claims to be the best.

We can also all consider sustainability when choosing our bank, lawyer, and other financial provider. There aren’t yet comparison sites that rank banks on sustainability. I’m sure that will come.

The banks are jostling for position on sustainability, says Coates. Some are offering sustainable business loans. An example of sustainability finding its way into consumer lending is better deals offered by ASB and ANZ to people buying Homestar-certified sustainable homes.

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