• 8 in 10 consumers call for greater transparency from banks and financial institutions as concerns about whether so-called green funds are truly ethical rise year-on-year
  • First-time investors driving demand for closely scrutinised, managed funds, with three-quarters checking full lists of the companies their funds invest in
  • Global climate talks motivating many to do more, as 4 in 10 say that COP26 is inspiring them to want to use their money in a more sustainable way

Scepticism surrounding ‘greenwash’ and the validity of ESG and ethical investments is on the rise, reveals new research from Triodos Bank UK.

The findings of the latest annual Triodos Impact Investing Survey, now in its fifth year, reveal that a quarter of consumers who would not currently invest in an ethical fund (26%) question whether many investments claiming to consider environmental and social impact are truly ethical – a figure that has risen from 17% in 2020.

While consumers are keenly interested in the potential power of their investments to drive positive change, many are cautious about a lack of clarity from banks and financial institutions about how their money is being used. Seven in 10 of those with investments (71%) want more knowledge and transparency about where their money is invested, up from 65% in 2020, while eight in 10 (79%) think all banks and financial providers should be more transparent about where people’s money goes.

What’s more, the majority (54%) of consumers now believe that providers aren’t helpful when it comes to revealing what their money is invested in, up from 49% in 2020.

First time investors actively managing investments to deliver positive impact

Demand for sustainable investments is being boosted by a new generation of younger, first-time investors – 4 in 10 (39%) of which are under 35  – that are specifically being drawn to investments that deliver positive impact. 65% of new investors – and 83% of investors aged 18-34 – consider at least some of their investments to be “sustainable”, compared to 50% for the average investor.

These first-time investors are choosing investing for a wide range of reasons, including to build greater financial stability, because of low interest rates and the impact of inflation, and having amassed more savings during the Covid lockdowns.

Three-quarters of new investors (73%) say they prefer to choose investments that support positive change for the planet and its people, higher than the average of 64% for all investors.

As well as primarily choosing sustainable investments, these new investors are paying closer attention to how funds are structured and managed in order to ensure they are responsible and sustainable. More than three-quarters (76%) of new investors want to see a full list of the companies involved in the funds they invest in, while 73% want to know what the end impact of their investments will be.

What’s more, nearly a quarter (23%) of new investors have specifically chosen active fund management because they want their investment manager to actively take sustainability or ESG factors into consideration.

Almost a fifth (19%), meanwhile, chose active funds specifically to make sure their investments are continually checked to avoid practices that would not be aligned to their values.

Consumers inspired by COP26 and green recovery

The increased scepticism comes at a time when many consumers are looking to use their money to invest in a more sustainable future. Six in 10 consumers with investments (58%) say choosing carefully where you invest your money is one of the best ways to protect the planet, while four in 10 (39%) say the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) is inspiring them to want to use their money in a more sustainable way.

The ongoing effects of the pandemic are also a major driver for many, with a third (32%) reporting that Covid-19 has motivated them to explore investing in an ethical fund, up from just 22% in 2020.

Over two-thirds, meanwhile, think individuals need to take personal responsibility for how financial institutions are using their money, with 67% believing that investors should consider if their investments are helping to contribute to positive change.

Gareth Griffiths, head of retail banking at Triodos Bank UK, said: “Putting your money into impact investments is one of the most powerful choices you can make. Your money can help drive real, measurable positive social and environmental change, while also delivering on competitive returns. But with many different investments labelled as ‘ethical’ or ‘sustainable’, it can be difficult to sift through the greenwash to find funds that actually deliver the impact investors are hoping for. Looking at independent websites and digging into which companies a fund invests in can really help you to understand how sustainable the product actually is and what aligns with your values.

“To overcome consumer scepticism fund managers also need to draw clear lines and boundaries on what is sustainable and what is not – for example on fossil fuels, arms or food and farming. In the absence of clear product labelling or guidelines they must be transparent on their approach and align investment choices to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Active engagement as part of fund management is also critical to actually show positive impact of the investment.”

-Ends-

Triodos Bank offers award-winning Impact Investment funds available through a Stocks & Shares ISA in the UK – the Triodos Pioneer Impact Fund, the Triodos Global Equities Impact Fund and the Triodos Sterling Bond Impact Fund.

For total transparency, Triodos Investment Management publishes a list of all companies in each fund's investment portfolio. All the investments in the funds have been hand-picked by impact investing experts using a themed approach, which ensures they have a positive impact on society and the environment.

Long term performance of the funds shows a five-year average return of 10.70% for the Triodos Global Equities Impact Fund and 12.65% return with the Triodos Pioneer Impact Fund*.  Note that past performance is not a guide to future returns.

Important information

Capital in any investment product is at risk. The value of an investment may go down as well as up and investors could lose some or all of their money. Currency fluctuations may also affect the value of a Triodos Stocks & Shares ISA. As with all ISAs, the tax benefits depend on individual circumstances, and tax rules may change. The total annual ISA allowance is £20,000, which can be split across different types of ISAs.

None of the information in this press release constitutes financial advice. If potential investors are unsure if these investments are right for them, they should contact an Independent Financial Adviser.

Media contacts 

For interview requests, case studies and photography, please contact Julia Bush, Greenhouse PR at julia.bush@greenhouse.agency.

About the research 

Research was conducted by Opinium Research on behalf of Triodos Bank. The sample polled 2,000 UK adults, weighted to be nationally representative, alongside an additional sample of 1,002 UK investors. Polling took place between 21st and 27th September 2021.

About Triodos Impact Investment Funds 

  • The Triodos Global Equities Impact Fund aims to generate positive impact and competitive returns from a concentrated portfolio of equities issued by large-cap companies offering sustainable solutions. It has generated an average return of 10.70% over the last 5 years*. 
  • The Triodos Pioneer Impact Fund aims to generate positive impact and competitive financial returns from a concentrated portfolio of small- and mid-cap companies pioneering the transition to a sustainable society. It has generated an average return of 12.65% over the last 5 years*.  
  • The Triodos Sterling Bond Impact Fund aims to generate positive impact and stable income from a concentrated portfolio of investment-grade, GBP denominated bonds issued by listed companies, semi-public institutions and UK gilts. The fund was launched in September 2020. 

*As of 30 September 2021.Note that past performance is not a guide to future returns.

About Triodos Investment Management 

Triodos Investment Management (Triodos IM) connects a broad range of investors who want to make their money work for lasting, positive change with innovative entrepreneurs and sustainable businesses doing just that. In doing so, it serves as a catalyst in sectors that are key in the transition to a world that is fairer, more sustainable and humane.

Triodos IM has built up in-depth knowledge throughout its 25 years of impact investing in sectors such as Energy & Climate, Inclusive Finance and Sustainable Food & Agriculture. It also invests in listed companies that materially contribute to the transition toward a sustainable society. Assets under management as per end of June 2021: EUR 6.1 billion.

Triodos IM is a globally active impact investor and a wholly owned subsidiary of Triodos Bank NV.

About Triodos Bank  

Founded in 1980, Triodos Bank has become a frontrunner in sustainable banking globally. As an independent bank that promotes responsible and transparent banking, it does not see any conflict between a focus on people and the planet and a good financial return. Instead it believes that they reinforce each other in the long-term. 

Triodos Bank has banking activities in the Netherlands, Belgium, the UK, Spain, and Germany as well as Investment Management activities based in the Netherlands but active globally. Triodos Bank co-founded the Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV), a network of 63 sustainable banks. Together these banks want to grow sustainable banking and its impact on the real economy substantially. 

Triodos Bank UK Ltd is a wholly owned subsidiary of Triodos Bank NV. Registered Office: Deanery Road, Bristol, BS1 5AS. Registered in England and Wales Company No. 11379025. Authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority under registration number 817008. VAT reg no 793493383.