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Women in Sustainable Finance

Did you know that women between the age of 36 and 55+ have 60-74% direct control of household spending? And that 40% of total global wealth is now held by women?

Women play an enormously powerful role when it comes to transforming our economy towards more sustainability.

I have recently been on a quest to find out what we as women can (immediately) do to contribute to a greener and more sustainable future, and I was happy to discover that I am not the only one asking this question.

Last week (20 October 2020), I took part in the event “The Power of Money in a Sustainable World”, organized by the Women in Sustainability Network Hub in Oxford, UK. More than 30 women turned up at the online event and were eager to discuss how we can make use of our money to finance a more sustainable world.

The two-hour event was well-organized by Thalia Carr, the Oxford Hub Coordinator and professional coach and the speakers, Julia Rebholz and Joanna Coull, two experts in sustainable business and investments.

We started with a small exercise in which all participants were invited to think about a moment in life in which we felt truly happy. Then, we had to collect all emotions and thoughts that were attached to this moment. Afterwards, we did the same exercise by thinking about money. The exercise, as the organizers told us, has been repeated many times around the world, with the result being almost everywhere the same.

Money, compared to moments of happiness, trigger negative feelings in us such as fear, anxiety, pressure, worry or unease. But this perception and emotional reaction is most of the time unfounded.

In fact, we have learned throughout this event that there are various ways in which we can make use of our money that can empower us women to transform our financial system towards more sustainability – and feel good about it!

More specifically, we spoke about 5 major actions:

  1. Rethink your daily purchase decisions: As I stated above, we as women are the main drivers of doing purchase decisions for households. Hence, when going to the supermarket next time, buying clothes, cosmetics or anything else, try to buy regional, organic or sustainable products.

  2. Reconsider with whom you bank: In one of my first blog posts, I already touched upon the importance of choosing an ethical/green bank if you want to maintain a sustainable lifestyle. If you want to find out whether your bank, pension or energy provider is causing harm, check out Switchit!

  3. Find out what your savings are used for: If you save money on your account without investing it on the stock market, check out the possibilities at your bank that can enable you to transition this money to sustainable projects which are urgently in need of liquidity (e.g., GLS Sparbrief). Here, even small amounts can pave the way for better education, health and social infrastructures, healthy nutrition, renewable energy or a sustainable economy around the globe.

  4. Check your investments: If you have already invested your money in a fund, ETF or similar financial vehicles, ask your financial advisor to what extent your money can be shifted towards financing sustainable businesses and industries. In fact, the offer of ESG funds has grown tremendously in the past months. But be aware! In some of the seemingly “green” funds you will find conventional and traditional stocks, such as Apple, Microsoft or Unilever. So, it’s up to you to decide how strict the ESG criteria should be taken into account when selecting the companies, you want to invest in.

  5. Be critical about your pension fund: Pension funds invest a huge amount of money on the financial markets to make sure that our monthly contribution to our pension plans (public or private) will pay off, once we retire. Imagine – preliminary data for 2019 show that $32.3 trillion are held by pension funds in the OECD area. This is more than a third of total assets under management globally ($89 trillion), as recently reported by BCG. So, get up and ask your employer, your union or your government how your pension money is invested! Or alternatively, join one of the pension movements nearby you, such as Make My Money Matter in the UK.

These are just 5 simple actions that can collectively be (possibly) more powerful when being enacted by women than by men. You don’t have to undertake them all at once. But by taking one step at a time, we women can become the real drivers for a sustainable world!

In fact, many women in the event from last week were already highly engaged and active in the field of sustainability more generally, and sustainable investing and green banking more specifically. But I assume that many women also took this event and these five actions as a start to rethink their financials and to reflect upon how they can contribute to a greener future by means of their money and investments.

So how do we get more women from all backgrounds, cultures, and countries engaged on this matter?

Please share this blog post and send it to (at least) one of your girlfriends!

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