In December, thousands of world leaders gathered in Madrid to address what is arguably the most pressing issue of our time: the climate emergency. We are, as the United Nations secretary general said, nearing “the point of no return.”
Heads of state, business leaders, scientists, and activists at the COP25 conference urged drastic changes to our behavior on a global and a personal scale. For the world’s biggest economies, that means major reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. For individuals, it may mean everything from flying less to buying less.
Unquestionably, this is an epic uphill battle. Public support for political action is growing. But now, we have strong evidence for another realm in which most of us are eager for meaningful change, as well: Huge numbers of regular people are demanding a more sustainable approach to the way we invest our money.
In a landmark, nationally representative survey with more than 6,000 respondents, the U.K.’s Department for International Development discovered that 68% of U.K. savers would opt for more sustainable investments if given the choice. That’s more than two out of every three seeking better alignment between their investments and their values.
But the survey goes further—upending many assumptions about sustainable investing. Once and for all, the survey proves: It’s not just for the very rich; it’s not only for millennials; and it’s not a blank check. At the Global Impact Investing Network, we see these findings as hugely positive for impact investing—which is investing that allocates capital for both financial return and social and environmental benefit.
To tackle the biggest issues of our time, including the climate crisis and the world’s vast inequality, we need everyone on board with fundamental change in the way we invest.
It’s Not Just for the Very Rich
For years, a lingering myth has claimed that values-aligned investing is reserved only for the very wealthy. In fact, high net worth individuals do express extremely high levels of interest in sustainable investments. But those who perpetuate the exclusionary falsehood seem to believe that only the rich are able or inclined to make such investments.
In truth, interest is not limited to the wealthy alone. The survey shows that interest in sustainable investments is highest among those with investable assets over £25,000 ($32,500)—a much broader segment of households than many assume. Among the slice of survey respondents who said they are interested in putting money to work in sustainable investments right now, 51% earn between £30,000 and £99,999 ($39,000 – $128,000) in annual income.
This broad swath of incomes positions many regular wage-earners alongside the more affluent in their demand for sustainable and impactful investment options. Investing for a better future is attractive across the income spectrum.
It’s Not Only for Millennials
Another mistaken assumption is that investing for a more sustainable, inclusive world appeals only to the young. DFID’s research confirms that interest is especially high among millennials, defined in this survey as those between the ages of 18 and 39. Fully 74% of that cohort would choose sustainable investments if they could.