Eco Hero: Penny Shepherd, Chief Executive of UKSIF
HJ Fantaskis | 19.10.12
As NEIW draws to a close after an eventful week, our Eco Hero is Penny Shepherd, Chief Executive of UK Sustainable Investment and Finance (UKSIF). It has been during Penny's tenure at UKSIF that NEIW was established and is now in its 5th year!
Her leadership in socially responsible investment was recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in June 2000 with an MBE for “services to sustainable economic development and socially responsible investment”. Penny is also a member of the Advisory Board of Ethical Corporation, a media company that provides business intelligence on sustainability.
Tell us, in 20 words or fewer, about UKSIF - what's your mission?
Advancing sustainable development through supporting and promoting sustainable and responsible investment and finance. For example, UKSIF co-ordinates National Ethical Investment Week.
What motivates you?
Helping people and organisations to use their savings and investments both to make money and make a difference in the world at the same time.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
Sustainable and responsible investment has moved from the margins to the mainstream, with explicit consideration of social and environmental factors now applied to over £900 billion of investments managed in the UK. I am proud to have been part of this growing world-wide movement and to have contributed to the UK being seen internationally as a leader in the field. Of course, there is still a long way to go.
What are the challenges you face?
Investment and finance can seem very complicated and remote compared with other ways to live a greener life, and there’s a real challenge to make it more accessible for everyone. There are also still lots of myths about green and ethical investing that are very out-of-date, and our aim is to bust these myths and help people to consider modern and practical options. We also support ways to encourage the investment system to take a longer term approach. This includes supporting the recommendations from the recent Kay Review of UK stock markets and the new UK Green Investment Bank.
What are you working on that's getting you fired up and excited?
This is the fifth year of National Ethical Investment Week and it is really taking off. It is exciting to see the range of activities now going on, particularly the way that churches are getting actively involved. I want National Ethical Investment Week to be as successful as Fairtrade Fortnight and the churches were a major driver of its early development.
Where do you want to take UKSIF next?
I hope we do more to support both the growing range of ways to invest in delivering social value to local communities and also the reform of global capital markets so they focus on the long-term investments needed to allow everyone to live well within environmental limits.
What can we, as individuals, do to make a difference?
Take action on how your savings and investments are used.
If you were Prime Minister for a day, what would be the first thing you'd do?
Can I be Chancellor of the Exchequer instead? I think a green Chancellor is actually more important that a green Prime Minister today.
Request granted! If you were Chancellor of the Exchequer for a day, what would be the first thing you'd do?
Oh, if we can change the rules, how about at least a year? Short-termism in government is one of the biggest barriers to developing a greener economy, you know. But if it is only one day then I'd start by appointing climate risk campaigner Dr Jeremy Leggett to the Bank of England's Financial Stability Committee. Then move on to the question of who should be the next Governor of the Bank of England while the civil servants dust off past reports on green taxation and gross national happiness...!
What's the coolest project or product you've come across, and inspired you?
Lots from UKSIF members – but I am particularly enthusiastic about Abundance Generation at present. They have just started enabling people to invest small amounts online in community renewable energy projects – but that’s not an investment recommendation, of course!
Can you recommend a life- or game-changing book for our readers?
Good books about modern sustainable and responsible investment include “Sustainable Investing: The Art of Long Term Performance” (2008) by Cary Krosinsky and Nick Robins and “The New Capitalists: How Citizen Investors Are Reshaping the Corporate Agenda” (2006) by Stephen Davis, Jon Lukomnik and David Pitt-Watson.
I’m also looking forward to reading Adam Kahane’s latest book “Transformative Scenario Planning: Working Together to Change the Future” (2012) as he and his colleagues have produced some influential books in the past about how to change complex systems.
What do you listen to when you're cooking dinner?
Blissful silence. I’m militant about unnecessary noise.
What's the best advice you've ever been given?
Work out what you really want and then let go of demanding exactly how it will be achieved.
Can you leave us with who'd be your Eco Hero?
I’ve a soft spot for John Gummer (now Lord Deben). He is widely regarded as the best Environment Secretary that the UK has ever had and he’s just become chair of the government’s Committee on Climate Change. He will play a critical role in ensuring that the UK meets its legal commitments to carbon targets - so the future of the British summer is, in many ways, in his hands.
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