'Green and Fair Recovery' Data Project

‘How can finance help us to ‘build back better’ and support a ‘green and fair recovery’ post-COVID’? The UK Sustainable Investment and Finance association (UKSIF) asked us to help them answer this question by producing a dataset looking at which financial products and providers are addressing issues within this broad theme.

Green and Fair Recovery Data Project Details and Reflections

Data request: UKSIF/Good Money Week requested data that would help inform consumers about which retail financial products and providers were best supporting and facilitating a ‘Green and Fair’ recovery post-COVID. UKSIF indicated that they would like to use the data we compiled to identify leadership and initiative within this broad theme. Some of the specific topics/issues of interest were: Supporting the low-carbon transition; alternatives investing; treatment of employees (in light of the pandemic); diversity and equal opportunities; Funds/lending that supports Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs); and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Summarised Process: We narrowed down the scope of retail financial products and providers to: pension funds, retail investment funds and their managers, and retail banks. In focussing on the concept of how these entities have responded to current issues around diversity and calls for ‘Building Back Better’ post-Covid as well as continuing to address climate change challenges, we concentrated on gathering data on the following broad topics:

  • COVID-specific responses
  • Black Lives Matter and Equality/Diversity acknowledgement and actions/commitments
  • Acting on Climate and the Sustainable Development Goals
  • Investing in a Better Future (Including SMEs and Low-Carbon/SDG focussed loans & investment)
  • Repurposing Finance / Responsible Business

We did this through researching publicly available data as well as through questionnaires and requests for clarification directly from the organisations.

Further details on our methodology.

At all times keeping in mind both the original request and that the end users of this data (albeit in a very summarised and simplified form) were not finance professionals, this process has highlighted a few things that we look forward to exploring further and attempting to address in line with our goal of helping individual investors drive the change to a more sustainable economy. In particular:

Finding this information is not easy. And even after gathering ostensibly useful data, to then try and compare this across products and providers is challenging due to the wide variety of reporting styles and depth of information.

Trying to navigate numerous company-provided data sources and reports was, particularly with regards to certain topics, challenging for our researchers who are experienced in this type of research. Individual consumers may have particular difficulty sifting through this information without prior knowledge of finance and/or ESG-related jargon.

The issue of ultimate accountability and responsibility is often not obvious. If one has questions regarding a pension fund for example, does this information come from the managers or consultants of that fund/from the Fund itself through its SIPP and other reports, or elsewhere? It is extremely unclear in some cases as to whether certain policies apply to a manager or to a specific fund.

Although in the minority, some product providers certainly seemed to expect that the onus was not on them to clearly explain where information on the topics we were researching was available and how company policy vs individual product policy should be considered.

Complex corporate structures and intertwined financial products providers make for a tangled web of players in an ever-growing industry. It is difficult for researchers well-versed in corporate researchers to sort through, making this likely nearly impossible for individuals without a finance or corporate background.

UKSIF have used our dataset in a Good Money Week guide for consumers:

‘Clean Slate Green Slate’ A Beginners Guide to Clean, Green and Kind Money

Many thanks go to the product providers who engaged with us and responded to our questionnaire and requests for clarifications in a very tight timeframe. Thanks also to SRI Services who assisted us in selecting our list of investment funds and asset managers to research. Their Fund EcoMarket Tool lists all onshore, regulated, retail, screened and themed SRI funds – plus a few carefully selected additional options.

Future plans for this project

The data we gathered and the questions and feedback which we received during the process have clearly indicated a need for this project to be extended and developed. We plan to work with UKSIF to explore this data further and potentially publish more detailed insights. We also have plans to develop our methodology and work with other stakeholders to use this data (and potentially further iterations of the data) in various useful ways.

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