Want to learn about ethical investing? Sarah Bengtsson joins us on the show today to teach you everything you need to know to get started investing ethically. Sarah is an expert in ESG Investing and the founder of Money Meets Soul where she teaches millennials to build wealth that is sustainable, both for themselves and the planet.
In this episode you will learn:
- What is ethical investing
- How to get started investing ethically
- What does ESG stand for and how you can use it to help you choose your investments
- What Sarah invests in and how to access her top 20 ESG ETFs investment recommendations
- Sarah’s book recommendations for ethical investing
You can listen to the episode above or read the unedited transcript below.
Ethical Investing with Sarah Bengtsson
Meaghan Smith 00:20
Hello beautiful people. And welcome to another episode of the money mindful Podcast. I am your host, Meaghan Jean Smith. I'm a money mindset and life coach for women. I help women up level their self worth their confidence and money mindset so they can live the extraordinary life they want to live on purpose. So as you know, this podcast is primarily primarily about money mindset. But I'm also totally pro educating you in all things money, because it's the tool of trade, right that we use in modern society. So financial literacy is important. Why? Because it puts you in the driver's seat, ladies, you don't have to rely on someone else to do it for you. No one knows better than you. Truly, no one really does know better than you. So let's get educated. Ethical investing is a topic that has come up a bit in my community, and I want to provide the information about it for you. So I am delighted to have Sarah Bengtsson. On to join us on the show today. Sarah is an expert in ESG. Investing. If you've got no idea what I'm talking about, don't worry because she's going to explain all that. And the founder of money meets soul where she teaches millennials to build wealth that is sustainable, both for themselves and the planet. She has previously worked in wealth management in both Switzerland and Sweden and is known for her uniquely holistic approach to money and investing. Doing well by doing good. So, Sarah, welcome to the show.
Sarah Bengtsson 02:03
Thank you. I'm so excited to be here.
Meaghan Smith 02:06
Thank you for getting up early to join us. Sarah is joining us from Sweden. And she's graced us in the early morning, the early am for this podcast. So thank you.
Sarah Bengtsson 02:23
Yeah, I think we Scandinavians are actually quite known for being up and about early in the mornings. I'm not one of those, but we can pretend that I am.
Meaghan Smith 02:33
Alright, Sarah, how about we start by Can you introduce yourself to my audience, let them know a little bit about you and what you do.
Sarah Bengtsson 02:44
So I specialise in sustainable investing. And the reason for that is very simple. We need more money in the hands of good people, because that is what will save this world. And we cannot save our way to wealth, right? We have to invest. And I've been working with financial industry for quite some time. And I've seen sustainable investing go from being this very hippie niche thing that no one wanted to talk about or touch to now, especially last year when the concept definitely went mainstream. And I think it's going to dominate going forward as well. So and that's why I created this platform that I have today. Money Meets Soul because I believe education is key. And the more we know, the more the public knows about the financial industry. Let's face it, there's a lot of gatekeeping when it comes to all things money and investing. And that's why we need this bridge between the two. That's what I'm trying to make.
Meaghan Smith 03:44
So tell me who works with you who comes and works with you in money, meets soul?
Sarah Bengtsson 03:51
Well, I typically work when I say soulful women, the people who want to connect their money to their, to their soul, because we need to fundamentally change the way we we talk and think about money, right? We tend to become so grumpy and greedy and competitive as soon as we talk about money, but we really disconnect ourselves and all of the other beautiful things we have in the other aspects of life, like compassion and relationships and values and worth. And that's really what we have to do. So what I what I do is both because, you know, one of the biggest things that are keeping you from being wealthy are also keeping the planet from being healthy, and that's overconsumption. So they're everything goes hand in hand. But sustainable investing is where I come from. So obviously, I do a lot of work when it comes to just green money to say and how how to build a portfolio that is doing well by doing good.
Meaghan Smith 04:54
So good. Yeah, I love that overconsumption is massive. It's everywhere. more is better. That's the that's the motto. Right? Don't just buy one t shirt. Buy five in every different colour. Yeah, it's it's our it's ingrained. It's like a Yeah, a way of being that I think it takes purpose, purposeful action to shift out of it.
Sarah Bengtsson 05:23
Definitely. And I will say that the consumption that is a problem is not the conscious, oh, sorry. Because the consumption that comes from, you know, what you really love and what you really want is the one that you don't really care about. And the one you know, where if you just buy something, when you target red Walmart's and then that are the thing, or those are the things that are get put into landfills within six months. Those are the ones we have to cut. And by cutting those, you're also putting yourself in a trajectory to building wealth. So everything kind of goes hand in hand.
Meaghan Smith 06:00
Okay, so Sarah, what my intention for this podcast episode is I really want the listener to be able to walk away today, understanding what ethical investing is what it all means, like, what does ESG stand for? How do you get started, just all all the details, but from the very start and breaking it down. So anybody who is listening who's never invested, and I think this is actually an obstacle for some people that they want to invest, but they don't know how to do it in a way that is aligned with their values and how they want to live their life. So let's start from the beginning. What is ethical investing? What does that even mean?
Sarah Bengtsson 06:47
Yeah, I mean, let's start with the alphabet soup. There's a lot of different terms we use, we use ethical, sustainable, green, clean, ESG, SRI, all of these things, essentially means the same thing. I have no idea why they making it so complicated. But that's just the way it is. And that is when we as investors, we add a third factor to our investment process. So what we typically look at is risk and reward, you know, how much money are we willing to lose for the potential gain in the future? We add the third factor that's called an impact. So what impact does this investment have on the ecosystem around us, so on all the stakeholders, which includes you know, employees, and customers, suppliers, the planet or environment, but also the shareholders, obviously, and the words ESG are the kind of the term that the financial industry had decided to put on, on this impact factor in order to quantify it. So it stands for environmental, social, and governance. Environmental is essentially everything that has to do with the planet. So how much emissions or deforestation plastic pollution that a company is, is doing, or if they're doing really good things as well. And that's terrible goals or net negative as an example, the social part is more about the people. So about employees, how are they treating their employees, human rights violations, and everything society and community. And the governance is more about, you know, the executive management for the company. So transparency, corruption, also, something that's really high on topic right now is definitely executive pay, like after a year, like 2020, where companies had to cut like 30% of their employees, and they still give their CEOs and executive management's like millions of dollars in bonuses, that that makes sense. And that's kind of what we look at them and look at impact. And now we quantify this as a scale from zero to 100, to get an ESG score, and I wish that I was able to say that, oh, everyone does the same thing. So if you have one ESG score, everyone has the same use the scores, no, all the institutions, all the banks, all the investment managers, they're using different ways to quantify this. And that's one of the biggest misconceptions about, you know, investing in general, is that there's one objective way to invest is there is a right way and there's a wrong way. And that's not true. It's very subjective. So you kind of have to decide also, what do you value more? Would you rather want to support and fund a company who has a really great idea to solve climate change? If they treat their employees really poorly? That's up to you.
Meaghan Smith 09:47
Right, so I love this so much like this. It's really like, yeah, we're just pulling it all apart. But, Sarah, how do we know How do we know if a company is ethical or not? And what how do we find out their their ESG score? And what does the general public do to identify companies or funds that they can invest in that meet their values?
Sarah Bengtsson 10:21
Yeah, so obviously, there's two ways that you can go about this as a private individual. One is to pick the companies yourselves. So you choose the ones that you trust and believe in. And obviously, you have to be kind of honoured you can look at ESG scores, but like a company like Tesla scores very low, they're only, you might think that that's one of the, you know, most progressive companies in the world because they make electric vehicles, but they score 15 out of 100, on an typical ESG score, because, you know, the production of the cars is very, not environmentally friendly. In a in a nice way. And so you get, you get to decide what you value. However, the easiest way is, of course, to pick a font that will do this election for you. And that is when we look especially that's important to look in the name for the letters ESG. Is that will give you an indication that these are all companies or fund managers, they're taking this impact factor into account when they're making investments.
Meaghan Smith 11:28
Yeah, well, that's what I wanted to ask you about. Because I'm very pro index funds, I invest in an index fund. I mean, I don't presume, to my personal opinion, and this is totally my personal opinion is that if you're going to be investing in individual companies, you want to be really educated in what you're investing in. And I'm just one not that interested in investigating every single company that I want to invest in and to I want something that's really low cost and simple to do. That is a no brainer, right? I don't have to go and get a financial degree to understand how to invest. So I love index funds. But one of the things that I don't love about index funds is that if you're investing across the whole market, right? And what I want to know is, and I started looking this up, I had a little look, before we were we were going to have the interview is, are there index funds that you can get that have an ESG rating, so they're low costs, so you're not having to pay a fund manager? Basically, you know, a huge percentage of your profit margin, and you can actually invest yourself in a low cost fund. But that is ethical.
Sarah Bengtsson 12:57
I mean, yes, there is, I think, especially during the past few years, we have seen an uprising in index investing. And it makes a lot of sense. And people say, you know, you get a little bit of everything, and that's good. But they kind of forget to tell you that you get a little bit of everything. So you invest in fossil fuels you invest in, you know, the companies that are actively jeopardising the future that you are saving towards, as well as you know, military weapons and nuclear and no human rights violations, indigenous rights violations, all of those companies are still included. But we have these index funds that are screening, so what they do is that they keep the index or they have an index, and then they add these ESg screens on top of it and see what comes out on the other side. Now, normally, I would say there's, when you look at funds, there are three levels that I work with. And depending on how much risk you want to take and how much no stake you want to put. So the first one the low level, the low risk way is to pick a fund that doesn't stray too far from the index. And if the index, for example, then have 100 companies, how these companies have these funds typically work is that they just take away the bottom barrel. So the bottom 25%, the worst guys, those are the ones that they take out. And that's a really good way to start. Because obviously, you will still get, you know, some mediocre ones, but you will definitely not have to deal with the worst of the worst. There's a good way to get started. And then we have the second level. Also these are ETFs that you can get, which is best in class, so they do the opposite. So instead of taking your bottom ones, they only focus on the top ones. So these are the ones that are typically called ESG select or ESG aware. And so but there's a little bit of a higher risk because it can be tilted towards one industry more than another. And then the third one is of course if you want to choose to go completely all in clean tech or All electric vehicles or something like that, that's higher risk. But there's obviously a lot of these climate change solutions are technology driven. And that is very specific when within one sector.
Meaghan Smith 15:14
And how does somebody find these funds? Sarah, because I mean, I'm like, I love Vanguard for just pure end, guys. This is not I'm not recommending anything to you. I'm just saying like, my personal things that I like, because of the nature of the simplicity of it, and the low costs, because I'm, you know, I see the math, like in the when you start paying fund managers, and they're taking out two 3% of your fees. Like I don't, I don't want to get into a whole conversation about that. But that's another episode. But I'm very, very pro low cost for a reason, because it affects your profit margin. So how do we find these low cost index funds? Like, do you have funds that you recommend or that companies who are doing this? Or how does the, how does the listener who's listening now go out and find one of these these funds?
Sarah Bengtsson 16:16
I would say probably all the big fund management houses have ESG index funds as well. So if you, if you want to look at Vanguard, they have their normal, I don't remember exactly the name, but you know, the vanguard, US stock ETF, or whatever it's called. And they also have a Vanguard ESG, US stock ETF, so they have both. So it's very simple to change if you want to. But I think that one of the things we have to think about is, you know, just the institution behind it. So who is giving out this, this fund that you're willing to invest in? And do you trust them as an organisation. So obviously, we have a lot of the big banks, for example, they claiming to be environmentally friendly, and on the trajectory to be green leaders within the industry, but they're still investing billions of dollars in fossil fuels. So you just have to kind of be aware of that. And Vanguard is a very good example, because they're founded on the very principle that, you know, every time Vanguard makes a profit, they invest that profit into lowering the cost for the members or for the customers. So they are valued, very value driven as an organisation, that might give you an idea that, okay, this is an institution that probably has a very good idea about, you know, value driven investing as well.
Meaghan Smith 17:40
Yeah, well, I guess I'm thinking of the people that I speak to who have never invested before. And there's, there's already that level of fear around investing, because that that's the unknown, right? They're not educated in that area. So it feels like something that's scary. And then on top of that, they want to invest, they have to go to the next level of finding a particular type of fund. And sometimes that's enough to just stop somebody on in their tracks because it's like, oh, this is too hard. I'm curious, what would you say to someone like that? And how can we help them because I know there's people listening who are right now thinking, What do I do? How do I do this?
Sarah Bengtsson 18:32
is a really good question. I mean, I have put together a document where I've listed my top 20 ESG ETFs out there because I know that it's tricky to find the ones that are the best. So I have one list that is for the US and one for Europe. I don't have one Australia based but I think that you can probably pick between those two as well. So I have done the heavy lifting for you and it's obviously for free so you can just go and download that and then build your portfolio from there.
Meaghan Smith 19:02
Sarah, what is that? Do you have a website we'll put all your details at the end on the in the show notes but tell tell the listeners where can they find that?
Sarah Bengtsson 19:11
Well, I'm money meets all everywhere. So if it's Instagram or my website is also money need so tik tok, I'm starting lately, Twitter. I'm everywhere when it comes to social media. Yes, money meets soul.
Meaghan Smith 19:25
Okay, all right. So now what was I going to ask you? Oh, yeah, well, what's your what's your top? What's your fund? What do you invest in?
Sarah Bengtsson 19:36
Well, the thing is, I don't know I'd say this in a really easy way. But obviously, I think it's important to have when you take higher risks. That's a reward for having done the heavy lifting of having a well diversified long term portfolio in the beginning. I just have to say that first of all, so obviously I do have one of those and we can Talk about how to build one portfolio like that in a good way if you want. But I also have to impact portfolio. So I have one, which is investing in renewable energy small companies, because there's something that I find super interesting and I'm very passionate about, then I have an impact portfolio, which is about only getting access to the inner circle of the fossil fuels companies. Because that's one of the beauties of investing. If you invest in companies, you get access to their general meetings, so you can push for change from within. So if you are a person who care deeply cares about, you know, pushing the movement for change, and that's something that you can do as well. Or you can join, I know there's two share action groups, one in the UK called share action, and one in the US called As You Sow where do you go together, you pull your money together in a change from within within these companies, which is pretty cool. And that's one of the things I'm doing as well.
Meaghan Smith 21:01
What was the second one? You said? You said share action and asked you so
Sarah Bengtsson 21:08
as you sow okay. So after that, and yeah, like sewing for a garden? I guess? That's kind of right.
Meaghan Smith 21:17
Ah, no, no, not at all. It's all good. It's so good. We love it. Well, I'm curious, what questions could somebody ask themselves? Because I thought that was. Okay. Let me start again, I thought that was a really good point, what you said about what's important to you, as in the investor, when when you mentioned, Tesla, how they don't actually have a high rating, because even even though what they're doing that the electric cars, that's great, but then there's an aspect where the production of the cars is not environmentally friendly, I find that so interesting, because that's kind of a bit of a Oh, no. So do I invest or don't invest? Right? And I'm thinking, do you have questions that you ask yourself to identify? How do we identify what is important to us when we go about choosing what to invest in? In the ethical realm?
Sarah Bengtsson 22:24
Yeah, I mean, one thing that we are very good at as millennials today is actually to work for companies that we believe in. So if you look at statistics, I think that at least 73% of millennials would change or work for a company and even take a pay cut, if they their values aligned with the company values. And that is exactly the same kind of mindset we need to take when it comes to the investment part. So one of the questions to ask yourself is okay, would I be willing to work for this company? So I, you know, do I know the company, obviously, would I be willing to work for it? That will give you a good idea. But also, of course, do I understand how they make money? And the follow up question to that is, do I agree with how they make money? So look like a company like Amazon, I understand how they make money, because it's an ecommerce store. But I don't agree that they making the money to underpaying their employees. So that's how they would fall out of this steam, for example. And, whoa, well, I'm
Meaghan Smith 23:28
interested a company like that, where would they rate on the S? What is it the ESG? score? ESG.
Sarah Bengtsson 23:37
So one of the things to think about is that Amazon scores pretty high on the environmental score and governance, but pretty low on social. So I would say they score in the middle range of these 100 points. Now, there are many oil companies, for example, that score really high on especially social and governance. So even though you might think that Oh, I'm not investing in fossil fuels, if I'm investing in ESG, fund, you might still do that. So because BP, for example, score super high on governance, I would say, that's something to keep in mind that is not not all black and white. If you're looking to just divest everything from fossil fuels, you should look for something that says that. So they might call themselves low carbon, or no. They're clean or green, that's typically the word for not investing in fossil fuels at all. But you also have to ask yourself, maybe you want to be part of their transition. Because now when we see all of the big oil companies, they're changing towards renewable energy. They have a lot of financial muscle to make the change. So that could be something that you would want to be a part of because you want to influence them in going green. So Well, that's up to you if you want to just take a stance against it altogether, or if you want to be a part of the change.
Meaghan Smith 25:06
Ah, so interesting. Is this what you help your clients with, like this kind of conversation in terms of education? Or is it actually helping them choose investment products?
Sarah Bengtsson 25:20
It's not about choosing investment products, or sorry, investment products, per se, but it's about this coaching part of, you know, what do I value? What do I want? What do I prioritise over other things? And I definitely help help with that. Yes.
Meaghan Smith 25:38
I feel like, you've certainly got me thinking because I love this. It's just Well, I mean, I love it. And I don't love it because my brain just goes. But when you start thinking like that, like, Yeah, do you want to be part of the change? In terms of big companies like oil companies changing over to renewable energy? Or do you want to be no part of that at all? And that's, that's a really interesting question to ask. And I think that what was I going to say? It's when you when you invest in a fund, they have the companies listed, right, that they're investing in, so you can actually make those decisions for yourself. If you've asked yourself those questions in the beginning, like, Yes, I am okay about investing with oil companies. But no, I don't want to invest in I don't know, military stuff, for instance. I mean, we have that option, I'm assuming that there's that's available in the funds in different funds.
Sarah Bengtsson 26:45
Definitely. And if you do it for yourself, then then it's very easy to look at the website, look at the top 10 holdings. This is make I think there's only the top 10 holdings in there. They have to they're required by law to to provide to us, or ask your financial advisor if that's the route you want to take instead. Because they definitely know a lot about this as well, or they should.
Meaghan Smith 27:08
Okay, so are there common mistakes that people make Sarah when going down the path of ethical investing, like common mistakes that people make?
Sarah Bengtsson 27:20
Well, the common mistakes when it comes to investing in general is to starting, you should do not start, that's you, you get so caught up in doing the right thing that you end up not doing anything at all, that's the that's the biggest danger of it all. So and the thing is that we don't need every single person in the world doing ethical investing or sustainable investing perfectly. We guess that would only be a, you know, a few people, we need a lot of people doing it in perfectly. So that is the whole point, just do the bare minimum. And one of the reasons I talk a lot about this is because if you were one of the people who are concerned with climate change, and you should be and you're thinking about altering your entire lifestyle, in order to accommodate for this, maybe you want to, you know, take less flights of showers, eat less meat, all of these things, or travel more by public transport, just moving your pension away from fossil fuels, investment to low carbon funds, would have, you know, 20 times as much of an effect on your carbon footprint than all of the other things combined. So if there's only one thing you're doing for the environment, it should be to move your money to fossil fuel free investments.
Meaghan Smith 28:40
Oh my gosh, I just Alright, I'm so glad that I have you on and we're having this conversation, because I think there's so many factors in here that you've brought up that. Yeah, we're not thinking about on a day to day. aspect, like we think Yeah, I'm gonna put my bottles in the recycle bin. Yes, that's a good thing. And but I love that you're saying just just get started? Just to just do something is better than nothing?
Sarah Bengtsson 29:11
Absolutely. And the first step is definitely, first of all, you can google your own bank, Google, you know, the bank that you have, whatever it might be and fossil fuel investment to see, you know, how much money are they putting into the industry, as they are many of them are doing that. And you might want to consider moving things like your emergency fund away from that because even the money that are sitting on your bank account are being used to lend. The bank lends out those those money to the fossil fuel industry as well. That's how they make money. And the second step is definitely to take control of your pension. Look at the pension provider. You see, is there any ethical choice out there? Maybe no look at for the words ESG SRI since we're socially responsible investment or ethical. If it's not, then write an email to your pension provider and ask for it. Because that's how that's how ESG investment in sustainable investment has gotten as big as it has, because we put pressure on us, let's face the financial industry, they don't want to make any changes, they're doing just fine. The reason they're changing is because we as people, especially millennial and Gen Z, that's coming, they're even more aware and socially, you know, activists than we are. So this is we are the ones who are changing the trajectory of this entire financial industry by just asking for it.
Meaghan Smith 30:37
Love it, I love it so much. All right, so so I usually ask my guests, if they have a tip or a habit or something they do around money, yourself that you're willing to share that my listeners might benefit from.
Sarah Bengtsson 30:57
I always say that the most sustainable investing is the one you make in building a life that you're proud of. So making the change of deciding what is what's important to you. And that's one of the good things that I did. After being working in the industry for a very long time. I mean, I kind of had a mini freakout and went to live in India for a little bit just to reevaluate, reevaluate my entire value system and come back and work and with what I'm working with today, you might want you might need to do that otherwise, to just take a moment, decide what matters that will change your life. And the way you treat them think about money as well, because it's taught to get you there.
Meaghan Smith 31:38
Yes, I love that. It's like being in alignment with what's important to you in all areas of your life, and then creating a financial situation that matches up with that, you know, that's what I do with my clients as well. When we talk about money and money mindset. It's like, what do you actually stand for in the other areas of your life like with your health and your family and your community? And your personal relationships with your significant others? And, and then from that place, then what do you want to create with money? You know, so it's like, the money matches the life that you want? Yeah, so
Sarah Bengtsson 32:20
yeah, and you know, people say that more money is more problems, but it's, it's more money more you like more expression of who you are. So the more you decide what you want, and what's important to you, the more you can channel your money towards that. And that is not just something that's good for the planet, that will also help you to live a more fulfilling life.
Meaghan Smith 32:42
100% No, more money is great. Like women do amazing things with money. You know what I did today, I got an email from the Australian Conservation Society. No Foundation, they're called, beg my pardon, I better get that right. And they're just doing a 24 hour thing where they're raising money, but in this 24 hours, if you donate, and by the way, when this podcast comes out, this is this is gonna be passed. But if you donate their major sponsors will match your donation. And, you know, I run a business, I make money, and I got that email today. And it was very easy for me, I was like, great, I'm going to donate $50, boom, just like that. And then I know that's going to be matched. And so that's $100 that's going towards a organisation that I feel passionate about. And, you know, this is what women with money do. Right? We do things with money, like take care of our family and our community. And I just think, no, no, no, no, money is a good thing. Like make more money. Nobody benefits from not having more money. If I had less money, I wouldn't have made that donation today when I got that email, but I have money. So I see that email and I can just do it in an instant because that's where I do want to spend my money. I do want to put my money towards things like that. So yeah, it drives me crazy. Sarah, when I hear people talking about it like that money is bad or greedy or whatever. It's like no, get over yourself. It's not we do good things with money. So you know, make more of it. Now, one thing I want to ask you before we let you go, that was a bit of a rave, they got me a bit fired up. Do you recommend any books or resources that are specific to ethical investing? if somebody wanted to really dive into this and get all nerdy all over it? Is there anything that you recommend? Um,
Sarah Bengtsson 34:54
there is one book that's called investing to save the planet which is pretty good that came out last year. But to really get an idea of, you know, what are the structural changes that has to happen in our society through the monetary system, I really recommend a book called accountable the rise of the citizen capitalism, because it talks a lot about, you know, how, how we have gotten to the place we have today, where we value money more than everything else in the world. And how, and gives concrete examples how we can change that. So we talk about ESG, investing, but also about, you know, how we as voters as Savers, as consumers, what else do we have well as employees, how we can affect the changes that we want to see in the world. So that's a book I really recommend.
Meaghan Smith 35:48
Alright, I'll make sure we get that in the show notes. Because I think, well, there's no secret that I'm a total book nerds. So funny to get my hands on those. Sarah, thank you so much for being on the show today. I feel like we've just probably touched the iceberg. But I think this is going to be a really good a really good platform for people to take off from who are interested in ethical investing, because I know a lot of my listeners are, it's right up their alley. So thank you so much for taking the time to be here today. No, it's been so fun. Chatting with Meaghan. So good. All right, guys. So now you have the info for one way to manage your money ethically. Let's get your mind managed as well. If you want to up level your self worth confidence and money mindset. I run a six month in depth one to one coaching programme with everything you need to up level your self worth your confidence and money mindset. If this is something that you want, go to my website book consult. And let's get started. Until next time, have an amazing week. Bye Bye.
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