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Interview with Penny Shepherd: UKSIF

Penny Shepherd has been Chief Executive of UKSIF, the UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association, since May 2005. Here we ask Penny about her job, how she'd persuade someone to invest ethically and what she likes to do on the weekend.

About Penny

As well as being Chief Executive, Penny is also a lay member of the Actuarial Profession’s Professional Regulation Executive Committee. She was the first Chief Executive of the London Sustainability Exchange (2001-2005) and has been a member of the Mayor of London's Sustainable Development Commission (2002-2007). More about Penny

What is the primary function of UKSIF?

Penny Shepherd, UKSIFUKSIF is the UK’s membership network for sustainable and responsible investment and financial services.

We promote and support responsible investment and other forms of finance that advance sustainable economic development, enhance quality of life and safeguard the environment.

We also aim to ensure that interested investors can reflect their values in their investments.

Among other activities, we run National Ethical Investment Week each autumn.

Please tell us about your role and responsibilities at UKSIF?

I work with our member organisations from all parts of the sustainable investment and finance industry, a board of great people drawn from those members, and a small staff team.

My job is to act as a spokesperson for sustainable investment and finance in the UK, and work with our members and others to increase understanding and interest among the public, the industry and in government. This includes lobbying for laws and regulation that enable responsible investment, like better corporate reporting requirements, or more effective environmental regulation. We also help our members to do their job better through our training and support.

How did you get involved in ethical and sustainable investing?

I got involved in green campaigning and ethical money in the 1980s as a personal interest while I was working with large banks and retailers as a computer consultant. When I left the computer industry, the combination of work and personal interests helped me to get a job in corporate responsibility supporting the Prince of Wales. Then I saw a job ad to be UKSIF’s first employee. That was 15 years ago.

It is very different now – most people who join UKSIF today have relevant masters degrees and work experience!

What does your typical day look like?

There is no typical day – it is very varied. I may be in the office on the computer, or speaking at a conference, or in a meeting with a government department, a campaigning organisation, or one of our members.

What is the biggest challenge you face at UKSIF?

Increasing understanding about sustainable and responsible investment. That includes countering the outdated myths and misperceptions that it is “products built around moral values”, “requires a financial trade-off”, “only for the deeply committed” and “all or nothing”.

Today, sustainable investment covers a wide range of techniques to integrate environmental and social factors into investment decision making. It is chosen by a wide range of people, many of whom also have other investments. They may want only to make money, or to make a difference in the world, or to achieve both at the same time.

After the financial crisis, there is a compelling argument that sustainable investment is actually a better way to do investment.

What would you say to someone who was nervous about ethical, or sustainable investing?

Dip a toe in the water. Consider some sustainable investments for up to 5% of your portfolio and see how that works for you. As with other investments, investment objectives and strategies and fund manager skills can be important factors to consider. Do take time to develop your understanding, or take good advice before investing.

Would you change anything about your working life if you started again?

I would probably have tried earlier to find a job that I was passionate about. It is great that there are a lot more opportunities to do this now than when I started my working life.

How do you spend the weekends?

I spent last weekend with a dozen other women on a great course about how to “age with attitude” but normally I just chill out in Folkestone where I live overlooking the sea.


Useful links:


National Ethical Investment Week


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