‘I’m secure in the knowledge the investments I’ve made are a force for good.’

Julian Macqueen is a very active investor. Not only does he want to know exactly what impact his money is having in the world, he even plans to visit the projects funded by his investments at some stage. Macqueen, who lives in London with his wife and daughter, first invested in the Triodos Global Equities Impact Fund, then decided to put some money into a community solar power project via the bank. Renewable energy is of particular interest to him, and when Triodos launched its crowdfunding service, Macqueen took the chance to support a community wind power scheme as well as a maritime technology firm.

“I want to get a return on my investment like any other investor,” he says. “But I don’t want to find out that my return has come from projects that can hurt people or harm the planet. To make sure that doesn’t happen I invest ethically. I think the Triodos approach to banking shows how the sector can develop in the future.”

Macqueen is happy with the rates of return his investments offer and is also prepared to be tied in for the longer term. “Triodos’s crowdfunding service is easy to use and hosts a range of ethical projects from housing initiatives to green electricity production,” he says. “With this type of investing, rates of return stack up well against a high street savings account, but these investments are for the long term and tend to be illiquid. So, once you’re in, you’re likely to stay in. But the thing that’s most important of all is that I’m secure in the knowledge the investments I’ve made are a force for good.”

‘Consumers have power to make a difference’

Nathanael Inkson at home in Oxford with his wife Zoe and their son Arlen

Nathanael Inkson, a physicist from Oxford, started to think about how high street banks were investing customers’ money when he saw a Greenpeace campaign several years ago highlighting big banks’ investments in oil and coal.

“I immediately changed my accounts to more ethical banks and moved my savings to a Triodos Ethical Stocks and Shares Isa,” he says. “I feel investing in unethical practices means condoning the behaviour of these companies. Our planet is steadily being polluted by chemical products, there are needless wars for profit and money takes precedence over the environment. I don’t want any part of it.”

Though Inkson was motivated by concerns about the world he was leaving behind for his six-year-old son Arlen, the move has not just been driven by conscience. The financial results have proved rewarding, too. “I’m happy with the growth on the Isa and feel it was a good financial decision as well as an ethical one. I’ve since expanded into investing in green companies, including Tesla. Consumers have power to make a difference through their choice of bank, what utility company they use and what car they drive. We all have a duty to reduce our carbon footprint and become better custodians of the world on which we depend for survival.”

‘People may not know they’re investing in fossil fuels’

Hannah Mackintosh lives in Bristol

Hannah Mackintosh is training as a chartered accountant and hopes to work in sustainable finance when she qualifies. The 27-year-old from Bristol first realised the power an ethical approach to investing could have when she was an undergraduate. “I had friends who got involved in the movement, lobbying the university to divest from fossil fuel companies,” she says. “Some of the oil companies flew in consultants to talk to the university to reassure those making decisions about how funds were invested. It was evident the students’ actions had put real fear into the industry. For me, it was a clear demonstration of how money talks. I started to think that if everyone divested from oil companies and invested instead in, say, green energy, we might find solutions more quickly to pressing environmental problems.”

Two years ago, Mackintosh found herself with some money to invest and decided to opt for the Triodos Global Equities Impact Fund. “Money is such a powerful tool and I wanted to invest in companies that were ethically sound,” she says.

“I’m so glad a bank like Triodos exists because banks can be a force for good if they aim to support and invest in companies having a positive social and environmental impact. It was very easy to set up, and my investment has grown reliably since, so it’s not just for altruistic reasons. But it’s all too easy to be removed from the consequences of what you invest in and many people may not know they’re investing in fossil fuels simply by the name of the fund they use. I knew I didn’t want to support those industries, so sought out a way to put my money into companies that were aiming to make a positive difference to the planet.”

‘Investors are driving the change, not the industry’

Dirk Hoozemans, fund manager for the Pioneer Impact Fund at Triodos Investment Management, believes clients are starting to invest sustainably. “We can see a significant trend towards sustainable investing from investors. They are driving this change, not the industry,” he says.

“More people are saying they want sustainable investments and products. The danger from their perspective is to see the difference between the different shades of ‘green’ in investments. Many funds in the market say they’re ‘sustainable’ or ‘ethical’ but they aren’t all they appear. Some clients don’t realise they still need to do their own due diligence, to look at what’s really happening to their money when it’s invested. Consider whether the investment provider has integrity and is trustworthy. Can they articulate clearly the impact the investment will make? Triodos’s investments are dark green in that we only invest in companies that benefit people and the environment, working towards a healthy and responsible financial future.”

Discover impact investing with Triodos Bank

Triodos Bank does not offer financial advice, so you shouldn’t interpret any information in this article as financial advice. If you are unsure about whether to invest you should seek a personal recommendation from an independent financial adviser.

Triodos Impact Investment Funds are long-term investments intended to be held for at least five years as their value can go down as well as up, so you may not get back the amount you originally invested. As the Triodos funds are bought and sold in foreign currencies, currency exchange rates may affect the value of a Triodos Impact Investment.

Find out more about the Triodos Impact Investments funds.

This article is non-independent content produced as part of a commercial sponsorship with Guardian Labs.