About Ethiquette®

1. Why the name 'Ethiquette'?

The name Ethiquette derives from a cross between ‘ethics’ and ‘etiquette’ and is intended to draw attention to the fundamental role that ethics must play in shaping the behaviour and lifestyle habits of individuals and society. Through purposeful action, Ethiquette believes that it is possible to invest successfully in a more responsible, more sustainable future.

Between 2005 and 2011, Ethiquette.ca operated as a responsible consumer network, helping individual Québecers and Canadians locate eco-responsible goods and services.

The Ethiquette trademark is owned by Ethisolutions Inc. and is used under licence.

2. Is Ethiquette an independent Web platform?

Ethiquette® is an independent Web platform managed by the Responsible Consumption Observatory (RCO) of the School of Management Science at Université du Québec à Montréal (ESG UQAM) and Ellio.

University-based, Ethiquette® guarantees independence of thought, information and advice.

The Ethiquette trademark is owned by Ethisolutions Inc. and is used under licence.

Ethiquette was made possible through the generous support of donors and partners of choice committed to educating and raising awareness of responsible investment.


3. Who are Ethiquette's financial partners? Have they any say in online content?


Ethiquette strives to achieve complete transparency with respect to the information made available to the public and the nature of the content published. Accordingly, the logos of our financial partners appear at the bottom of the homepage in a manner designed to reflect the extent of their involvement (Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze, Copper). In the Partners and contributors section, you will find all the organizations having contributed to Ethiquette from the standpoint of content. Notwithstanding their much needed support in setting up the platform and the debt of gratitude owed them, partners and contributors exercise no decision- making powers over site content. Choice of content and site design remain the full and entire responsibility of Ethiquette.

4. What differentiates Ethiquette from other dedicated responsible investment sites?

Although a majority of Québecers and Canadians indicate an interest in the concept of responsible investment and would like to help champion the adoption of more responsible business practices, they enjoy precious little access to quality information to guide them in their quest. Information currently available on the Web: 1) Is oftentime too academic, too theoretical, inaccessible or inapplicable to the majority of investors; 2) Tends to be limited in scope, promotional in nature or lacking in credibility. In contrast to other dedicated RI sites, Ethiquette strives first and foremost to educate and raise individual investor awareness (as opposed to institutional or professional investors) of responsible investment, while providing the tools necessary for consciously shaping their decisions. Additionally, the Ethiquette site is independent and covers the full breadth of the RI offering, including impact investment. Ethiquette is a Québec-based initiative aimed primarily at individual Québecer and Canadian investors. Accordingly, full site content appears in both official languages.

5. Does the Ethiquette platform offer responsible investment products?

Ethiquette is a non-profit, educational platform and therefore offers no investment products whatsoever. As indicated on the website, Ethiquette seeks to ‘facilitate interaction among responsible investment stakeholders with a view to spurring dialogue, prompting action and generating long term social, environmental and economic results. If you are interested in investing and currently seeking out RI products, you will find all requisite information in the Types of products section.

6. Does the Ethiquette platform promote the responsible investment products presented on the site?

To consciously shape or reshape their decisions in the matter of responsible investment, investors must enjoy access to all manner of information about the different RI products available to them. True to the organization’s mission, Ethiquette has developed a repertory of Québec and Canadian RI products often little known to individual investors. Products appearing on the Ethiquette site are rigorously and independently selected based on the most current information available to the team. The site repertory has been developed for information purposes and in no instance is intended to promote a specific RI product or the institution offering the product in question.

7. Does the Ethiquette platform provide training for financial advisers?

Brenda Plant, cofounder and chief editor of Ethiquette offers training for financial advisers through her consulting group, Ellio.

About responsible investment

1. What is responsible investment?

For the individual investor, responsible investment entails making investment choices, through a fund manager or on one’s own. designed to promote adoption by business of social and environmental best practices. Over the years, a number of strategies have been developed to help achieve these goals.

Certain investors believe that the espousal of responsible practices by business (i.e. more astute management of environmental risks) results in enhanced control over financial risks. Others yet are motivated by the prospect of being able to contribute to economic, social and environmental development.

In both instances, whether one speaks in terms of responsible, sustainable, ethical, green or impact investment13, the central thrust is to make a difference while growing one’s money.

2. Is responsible investment a recent concept?

Although the concept remains little known to the general public, the origins of responsible investment date back considerably in time. Over the years, the concept has been shaped gradually by a diversity of influences, from social justice movements and religious convictions to environmental demands and strategies designed to attenuate financial risk. For a more in- depth view of the history of responsible investment, we direct you to the section entitled Definition and history.

3. Are there any tangible examples of social impact directly linked to responsible investment strategies?

RI has already significantly impacted the practices of many organizations (e.g. Home Depot, JP Morgan Chase, Nike and McDonald’s) and will continue to do so going forward. (Please see the section on Impact) Responsible investment is, first and foremost, a process which focuses on the longer term. Tangible social and environmental impact (e.g. enhanced water quality and working conditions), albeit real, is not easily measured and takes a certain time before it can be perceived. According to the Oekom Research rating agency, even businesses which figure as leaders in terms of sustainable development have considerable work to do before they can proclaim having adopted genuinely sustainable management practices14. At present, the most significant impact can be seen in business accounting and reporting practices15, with the disclosure of information formerly concealed from the general public and the authorities. Although absolutely essential, enhanced transparency alone is not sufficient to alter traditional corporate practices. Rather, efforts in this area must be accompanied by an increase in awareness and spawn tangible action aimed at maximizing positive impact for the company or companies involved and the environments in which they operate. Lastly, according to information gleaned from corporate executives, engagement and best-in-class strategies are those which most significantly impact management practices, more than exclusion (since businesses are not necessarily directly aware that they have been excluded)16. With the exception of impact investment17, the extent of the actual impact of these strategies remains difficult to measure.

In short, individuals who choose the responsible investment route should not invest with the hope of ‘changing the world’ in a few short years, but rather monitor and expect that action, initiatives and the means necessary to provide for change are set in motion.

4. Are Québecers/Canadians interested in responsible investment?

Currently, there exists a certain paradox between marked Québecer interest in environmental, social and governance (ESG) matters on the one hand, and little consideration of ESG criteria when selecting financial products on the other. As Fabien Durif, professor with the Department of Marketing at UQÀM’s School of Management Sciences (ESG UQAM) and director of RCO explains: ‘92.1% of Québecers are highly concerned about pollution; 89.1% about human rights; and, 88.9% about corruption! However, when the times comes to invest, only a third concern themselves with ESG criteria which are nonetheless deemed the basic levers of change.’ In addition, although responsible investment remains a little known concept, Québecers indicate a readiness to adopt more responsible savings practices. At least, such are the findings of the latest study by the Responsible Consumption Observatory (RCO), entitled Québecers and Socially Responsible Investment: Portrait for 2014. Indeed, of the some 53% of respondents concerned about their retirement, 36% declared a willingness to consider RI for upcoming investments.

To learn more, please consult the section entitled Recent RI studies in Québec.

 

Investors

1. Are the returns on so-called 'responsible' investments generally lesser than for more conventional investments?

In the past ten years, any number of studies have broached and debated this issue. For the most part, findings tend to indicate that responsible investment does not mean reduced returns. In fact, quite the contrary! This having been said, finance is not an exact science and all investments are subject fluctuations. In short, returns depend on an array of factors more than on specific RI or non-RI choices. For further details in this regard, check out the section on Returns.

2. In selecting responsible investment products, can I be certain that my money will not be invested in a controversial organization or business operating in a controversial sector?

Short of handpicking one’s investment portfolio based on exhaustive ESG analyses, or painstakingly selecting certain impact investment products, individual investors cannot be totally certain that their money will not be invested in so-called ‘controversial’ organizations. What is more, not everyone has the same idea of what constitutes or does not constitute a ‘controversial organizationʼ. Whereas some individuals frown upon businesses operating in the petroleum sector, others more readily denounce monopolies in the fast food, pharmaceutical and textile sectors. Since it is therefore not easy to establish criteria designed to distinguish accurately between ‘responsible’ and ‘non-responsible, organizations, and since financial performance remains a selection factor of primary importance, responsible investment products do sometimes include one or more so-called ‘controversial’ components. Some funds apply an exclusion strategy which generally targets specific sectors such as tobacco, arms and nuclear energy. Shareholder engagement strategies are also employed with organizations to encoourage them to espouse more responsible practices. In short, before choosing a responsible investment product, do not hesitate to ask your financial adviser for the list of organizations in which your money will be invested, as well as a description of the RI strategies employed by fund managers, as the case may be. Lastly, remain on the lookout periodic reports detailing the various engagement activities conducted during the year with respect to your investments.

3. Is one responsible investment strategy better than another?

Each strategy has its strengths and weaknesses. Clearly, the best option would be one which combines a number of different strategies, and one which resonates with your own individual values, principles and expectations. For example, one might elect to earmark a certain percentage of one’s portfolio in impact investments (let’s say between 1% and 10%) with the remainder in funds which employ a mix of exclusion, best-in-class and engagement strategies. For further information on the advantages and disadvantages of each of the various types of RI strategies, go to the section on Strategies.

4. I would like to give responsible investment a try but I have no investments, no financial adviser and no in-depth knowledge of RI. Where do I start?

If you have found answers to some of your questions or are already knowledgeable about RI and wish to take the next step, you must first define your needs, contact a financial adviser, make certain that he or she is poised to meet your needs, determine your values and investment profile, and then select appropriate responsible investment products. For a detailed explanation of each of the different steps, go to the section entitled TAKING ACTION.

5.My financial adviser does not recommend the responsible investment route. What do I do?

Your financial adviser may appear reticent to recommend RI products for a number of different reasons. Depending on what he or she has to say in this regard, you may request that he or she hone his or her knowledge of responsible investment (beginning with the Ethiquette site), contact your financial institution or simply decide to switch advisers. For a more detailed explanation of the various options or scenarios available to you, go to My financal adviser does not recommend the responsible investment route.


13 Albeit the concept of impact investment is slightly different, we deem the term ‘responsible Investment’ (RI) sufficiently broad to allow for inclusion of this particular facet of RI. Further details appear in the ‘Strategies’ and ‘Products’ sections.
14 Oekom Research (2013). ‘The Impact of SRI’, p. 20, [online] http://www.oekom-research.com/homepage/english/oekom_Impact-Study_EN.pdf
15 Oekom Research (2013). ‘The impact of […]’, p. 4.
16 Oekom Research (2013). ‘The impact of […]’, p. 36
17 See how impact investment differs from other responsible investment strategies in the FAQ section.