01.07.21

Best practice just got far better: Winners at the Mindful Money Ethical and Impact Investment awards

By Barry Coates

The inaugural Ethical and Impact Investment awards were held on 29th June at Generator in Wynyard Quarter in an event with over 200 participants. COVID restrictions meant the participants from Wellington and Australia joined online.

Mindful Money Founder and CEO, Barry Coates congratulated entrants, finalists and winners on huge step up in practice on all aspects of ethical investment. The awards show that standards are rising. As several of the judging panels commented, the standard of entries is far higher than it would have been even two years ago. The bar for good practice is being raised, and quickly.

The night’s biggest winner was Pathfinder Asset Management, winner of the Most Ethical KiwiSaver provider and Best New Ethical fund, and highly commended in the Best Ethical Retail Investment category.

The judges commented that Pathfinder has raised the bar with its KiwiSaver funds, providing the public with opportunities to invest in sustainable themes such as renewable energy and access to water, and to invest in impact companies that create social and environmental benefits. Pathfinder is a certified B Corp and the principals, John Berry and Paul Brownsey, have shown public leadership on ethical investment.

Harbour Asset Management was the winner of the Most Ethical Retail Investment provider. The judges were particularly impressed by Harbour’s strong research capability and analysis of Australian and New Zealand companies. They have demonstrated in-depth engagement with companies, with examples of how they have helped to improve social, environmental and governance performance.

A major part of the story of these awards was the rise of impact investment. The Impact Enterprise Fund has been a pioneer in building New Zealand’s first impact investment fund, and they received the highly commended award. The judges complimented the Impact Enterprise Fund for putting in place robust systems for finding prospective investments, working with them to help them become investible, and doing due diligence. They have put in the hard work to create a pipeline of prospects and are now building a strong portfolio.

Community Finance was the worthy winner of the Best Impact Investment award. The judges recognised they have made a breakthrough in attracting mainstream finance. The Salvation Army Community Bond was an innovative offering to finance 128 houses and apartments in Auckland, including mainstream financing from Generate KiwiSaver. This provided a model for the launch of the Aotearoa Pledge aiming to raise $100 million for social housing.

Investment for the transition to zero carbon economy is a huge investment challenge, as outlined in the conference part of the event by keynote speakers Adrian Orr (Governor of RBNZ) and Hon. James Shaw (Minister for Climate Change). A high level panel outlined the ways that finance could switch from funding the climate crisis to financing the climate solutions. The panel comprised Dr. Rod Carr (Chair, Climate Change Commission), Bridget Coates (co-Chair, Sustainable Finance Forum), Erica Finnie (Executive Director, 350 Aotearoa) and Rod Oram (business journalist).

The judges commended two new initiatives for breaking new ground in funding climate solutions and hoped for a huge rise in entries in this urgently needed category by next year.

A highly commended award was given to the Climate Venture Capital Fund, a start-up fund that aims to accelerate the hugely important role of investment for climate solutions.  The judges complimented Lance Wiggs, Rohan McMahon and the team for a well-designed fund, strong impact measures and exciting investment prospects.

A second highly commended award went to New Zealand Green Investment Finance. The NZ GIF has a clear purpose and well-developed measures to assess the impact of investments. The judges commented that they look forward to seeing the fund become a catalyst for other investors as well as investing directly. The government has recently provided a vote of confidence by a fourfold increase in their capital.

The Best Ethical Financial Adviser award was hotly contested. The judges had a difficult task in separating out a strong field of entrants. However, the Money Matters entry stood out for the strong research and thought leadership by Dr. Rodger Spiller over many years. His approach is flexible and thorough to meet clients’ needs and aspirations.

Finally, there were strong entries in the category of media reporting on ethical investment. The Deleted documentary by Stuff Circuit was highly commended for its investigative journalism, highlighting New Zealand investment links to human rights abuses against Uyghur people in China. The documentary-makers were innovative in their multi-media treatment and their follow up on the role of New Zealand funds and companies.

The winner was Rob Stock at Stuff, recognising his long commitment to excellence in reporting on ethical investment. The judges considered that Rob Stock has consistently provided excellent articles on ethical and responsible investment issues over many years. He has undertaken new research and provided fresh perspectives to enable readers to take informed decisions about matching their investments with their ethics.

Barry Coates concluded: “Congratulations to the winners and runners-up in these awards. They provide the inspiration for others and exemplify the standards that should be applied across the sector.”

“These inaugural awards have generated a huge level of attention. We have been thrilled at the quality of the entries, the expertise of the judges and the support from our sponsors. We are looking forward to an even bigger and better awards event next year.”