How can our pension play a role in preventing a climate catastrophe?
The world is reaching a "total natural catastrophe", said Greta Thurnberg speaking in June to a Glastonbury Festival crowd enraptured by the 19-year-old climate activist.
Illustrating a bleak apocalyptic vision of the crisis, she then, to the cheers of the ironically sun-soaked crowd, called for society to generate hope: "Hope is not something given to you. It is something you have to earn, to create".
So, what can we do - on an everyday basis - to invigorate that hope? Some would suggest eating less meat, or to try flying less. And whilst these things are proven to reduce our impact on the environment, we're forgetting the obvious: our pensions.
Yep, you read that right.
By investing our pension into more responsible companies and assets, we could reduce our carbon footprint 21 times more effectively than by flying or going veggie.
That's according to research by Make My Money Matter, who campaign to strip the pollution from pensions.
And it could make sense for the performance of your pension's portfolio. Responsible investing has come a long way from its introduction in the late 1970s. In fact, it's so viable from a financial standpoint that 83% of UK investors are interested in general sustainability, with 70% stating that they would invest responsibly. And it's not just the UK: across Europe, sustainable investments doubled in 2020.
This backs up the fact that this isn't just a movement with an exclusively music festival membership (though the Glastonbury fields are a traditional haven - if not a birthplace - of climate consciousness). It's a global initiative, spearheaded by a surge in popularity following David Attenborough's cornerstone documentary Blue Planet. Now, 81% of people of all ages believe that every company should be as environmentally conscious as possible.
But what responsible investing actually mean, we hear you ask?
Ever heard of the term ESG? It's one of those phrases we really can't stand at Pension Awareness, because it comes from the jargon-juiced world of money that we feel turns people away.
ESG stands for Environmental, Social and Governance.
It's basically the factors, the parameters, the criteria - call it what you like - used to judge how ethical and responsible companies are, so that you're better informed with where to put your money.
Environmental factors are what it says on the tin: what is a company's approach to the environment? They'll be judged on energy efficiency, water usage, pollution, waste management, and more. Much more.
Social factors are just as important. What does a company do to ensure its employees are treated fairly? What about its human rights record, or policy on modern slavery? This category also includes product safety and usage data.
And lastly, you have governance. This is about how a company is run, including the diversity of the board, corruption or bribery records, and shareholder rights.
You'll see ESG investment options when you're opening a new savings account, or when you're managing your pension.
It's certainly worth considering - because by investing in companies who champion the environment - you're also withholding support for the performance of those who don't.
So, in Greta's words, "[hope] cannot be gained passively from standing by and waiting for someone else to do something... It is taking action. It is stepping outside your comfort zone. And if a bunch of school kids were able to get millions of people on the streets and start changing their lives, just imagine what we could all do together if we try".
Check out the Make My Money Matter campaign here to see if your pension provider could be doing more to help the planet.