Guest Spot from Wesleyan: Mutuality: putting sustainability at the heart of the matter

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  • Author : Wesleyan
  • Date : 13 Dec 2021

Nick Henshaw from Wesleyan discusses how the mutual model puts environmental, social and governance (ESG) responsibilities centre stage.

Financial mutuals are owned by and built around their members. To some, it sounds like a quaint idea from a forgotten time – but the current movement towards measuring companies by the good they do, not just the profits they make, shows that mutuality is arguably more important now than it has ever been.

As members’ needs change and society sets out new ambitions to tackle social and environmental issues, mutuals are readily placed to respond by listening to their members and taking swift action, unencumbered by the short-term needs of shareholders. Today, this means not just focusing on customers and members, but on the world they live in too.

With the Climate Change Conference (COP26) having recently taken place in Glasgow, many firms are now taking a deeper look into how they can take more responsible steps to improve their own impact. For some this is a case of setting targets to reduce carbon emissions, for others, it is a shift towards more sustainable and environmentally friendly ways of working.

For financial services firms, the challenges can run deeper. Not only are there the operational factors of running a business to consider, but as investors of customers’ money, there is the responsibility to choose carefully which companies to put money into. New measurement frameworks are helping firms set clear targets about what difference is being made, from reduced carbon footprints to employee and community matters, making it easier for investors to see the steps firms are taking.

But investing money is about more than just avoiding harm, it’s about actively doing the right thing – from investing in companies that are actively combatting climate change to improving well-being through medical innovation or providing access to healthcare and education.

As a mutual, the investments we make have to meet our members financial aspirations and their environmental and social impact preferences too. That’s why all of the funds we directly manage now meet a strict sustainability criteria, ensuring we deliver competitive returns, but not at any cost. This includes the With Profits Fund that is now available on the Novia Financial platform.

We do so by focusing on three things with our investment approach: We seek to avoid harm, have a positive impact and drive positive change into the companies we invest in. And as a mutual, we can take it one step further by ensuring the profits from those investments are shared with our members and with-profits investors and used to build a stronger, more sustainable business that has the power to do more good on both a local and global scale.

Our focus on sustainability is broader than investments and carbon – it looks at communities and citizenship too.

As of this year, Wesleyan has awarded more than £3.5 million to good causes that matter to our members across the UK, helping more than 100,000 people through our charitable Foundation.

The mutual sector continues to serve millions of UK customers and as consumers increasingly look to financial service organisations to manage their money more responsibly and play a greater role in the world around them, the mutual model remains as relevant in 2021 as it ever has been.

‘WESLEYAN’ is a trading name of the Wesleyan Group of companies.

Wesleyan Assurance Society is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Incorporated in England and Wales by Private Act of Parliament (No. ZC145). Registered Office: Colmore Circus, Birmingham B4 6AR. Telephone: 0345 351 2352. Fax: 0121 200 2971. Calls may be recorded to help us provide, monitor and improve our services to you.

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