The Uphill Battle Behind Ethiquette

Bringing Ethiquette to you has been a labor of love. We had the idea to create this platform back in early 2012. At that time, we didn’t want to have the industry funding the project at all. The Quebec securities commission (AMF) has a fund that grants to educational project, and we thought we fit perfectly within their criteria. We first submitted our application for funding from the Education and Good Governance Fund (EGGF) in September 2012, but we were refused funding. We’d also submitted our project to the Investor Education Fund of the Ontario Securities Commission, but our application there was also rejected.

On the morning after the two rejection letters, my two-year old son, who was learning to do his business in the toilet, congratulated me for using the toilet! It struck me how quickly we forget the early day struggles once something becomes a habit… I hoped this was a prophecy!

We integrated the EGG Fund comments into the platform proposal, including finding industry partners, and we resubmitted an application to the Fund in September 2013. But, alas, we were rejected once again.

We had become so convinced as to the importance of this platform that we decided to go ahead regardless of only having commitments for only about 35% of the budget we’d deemed necessary to deliver it. We are very grateful to our financial partners for their early support, and their trust in us. We are also fortunate that everyone involved in the project really believes in its value, as many of us have toiled for months with little or no compensation to make it happen.

The process has been extremely stimulating. We held focus groups with citizens, and organized a day of collaborative design bringing together various stakeholders (investors, advisors, fund creators, NGOs, financial institutions, corporate social and environmental research providers, analysts, government, etc) to imagine a web platform that would address all the issues individual investors experience related to RI. — Read the full report of the collaborative design process (in French only) here [hyperlink pdf].

We performed the first fully independent study of Quebecers and SRI looking at the public awareness and knowledge of responsible investment, public attitudes towards RI and finance in general. We looked at barriers to action and levers to behavioral change… Read a summary of the findings on Ethiquette or read the full report [in French only] here.

We tried to raise the money to do a similar study on a representative sample of Canadians for the rest of the country, but with only one funder, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), we didn’t have the budget to go ahead with that study. We put that study on hold in order to focus on creating Ethiquette itself, as we wanted to launch the site during the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment Conference in Montreal in September 2014.

Working with our documentary/storytelling film-maker, Raoul, has also been enlightening. Those of us who have been steeped in responsible investing for years forget what it’s like the first time that we’re exposed to these concepts. Raoul brought all of that back with his deep questioning of each of us on our involvement in this project as well as our personal relationships with RI and with the world around us.

Now, we have a functioning site. It isn’t perfect, but it’s a very good start. We have heaps of great ideas going forward including the following:

  • A blog series on social & environmental issues that concern you, and what (or if) responsible investors are doing about it;
  • A directory of investment advisors that are knowledgeable on RI;
  • A directory of impact investment offerings available in Canada to individual investors;
  • A section on responsible investment and RRSPs, RESPs etc.,;
  • A section on RI and public pension funds;
  • A section on employer-sponsored RI pension plans;
  • RI investment decision support software;
  • A space to share your stories and experience with RI;
  • Multiple mechanisms to influence the types of RI products that are available for individual investors;
  • And, we hope to become the principle center of study on consumer interests and behavior with respect to RI.

We’ll endeavor to report back to you on the evolution of these elements as the year progresses. We also hope to receive your ideas on how to make Ethiquette better, and if you have any brilliant ideas on how to keep it afloat financially, please send them along too!

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