Britons putting planet before profit

The UK public is prepared to put the future of the planet above returns when it comes to their personal savings, but they expect more action from suppliers such as pension funds and banks.

In a new Opinium survey commissioned by environmental lawyers ClientEarth, over two-thirds of the British public (70 per cent) believe the climate emergency demands a more urgent response and almost as many say it is now the biggest issue facing humankind (63 per cent).

Perhaps most significantly, the survey reveals that Britons want financial institutions, companies and government to do more and are willing to put planet before profits in their personal savings, looking for financial institutions that actively support the transition to a sustainable economy (68 per cent) and consider the climate change impacts of the companies they invest in (64 per cent). Fewer than half (42 per cent) are interested in funds that only consider maximising financial returns.

Three in five people believe that financial institutions and banks should no longer invest in fossil fuels (59 per cent) and that they should be legally accountable if they choose to do so (60 per cent). Nearly half (47 per cent) would support rules requiring all companies traded on the London Stock Exchange to have business plans that are compatible with the Paris Agreement or face delisting.

ClientEarth finance lawyer Joanne Etherton said: “People are desperately worried about intensifying climate change and what they don’t know is that their everyday financial products are in many cases heavily contributing to the issue. Too many banks, pension funds and insurers are propping up fossil fuel giants.”

The findings come as new research reveals that the world’s largest asset managers, BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street are now the world’s largest investors in fossil fuel companies with a combined shareholding worth $286.7bn.

However, nearly two thirds of British citizens (62 per cent) are unaware that banks, pension funds and other financial institutions use ordinary customers’ investments to help fund fossil fuel projects and there is strong demand (71 per cent) for pension funds and financial institutions to be more transparent about the companies they invest in.

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