Stockholm (NordSIP) – Following two decades at Jupiter Asset Management, including most recently as Head of Strategy, Environment and Sustainability, overseeing £800m of assets and the Jupiter Ecology Fund, Charlie Thomas was appointed as EdenTree’s new CIO. EdenTree is a responsible and sustainable investment manager, which launched one of the first ethical equity funds in the UK in 1988.
A Unique Opportunity
“Joining Edentree in this capacity is a unique opportunity to help lead a dedicated, long-standing and genuine responsible and sustainable investment firm and support the significant opportunities that offer both the company and the sector more broadly,” Thomas tells NordSIP.
“The growth in interest of sustainable investment of the last few years has been both long-awaited but also surprising by its pace. A unique feature of EdenTree which particularly attracted me with the alignment of purpose. Alignment not just to deliver investment performance to all our clients but to do so with principles. The very purpose of EdenTree is it’s fairly unique charitable focus, with profits of the group returned to wider society as charitable donations. This philosophy, in my mind, stands EdenTree out; genuine alignment of investment and principles” Thomas adds.
The Jovian Feedback
“The possibility to share my investment experience and views on responsible and sustainable investments both past and future is important. The combination of EdenTree’s experience supported with my own, alongside the new leadership of Andy Clark is exciting,” Thomas says with reference to EdenTree’s new CEO who took office in September of last year. “Some of the key principles I want to be able to contribute include focusing on fund performance and ensuring ever deeper integration of ESG into investment philosophy. But I also want to highlight how this can contribute, to generate long term positive impact to society more widely,” Thomas explains.
“We all recognise that investment is ever-changing and that we must look at innovative solutions to respond to the future demands of clients, both in the products we offer but also how we constantly improve those products we already have. I recognise that we don’t have all the answers today, but I do feel that investment, as we know it from the past, won’t be the same in the future,” Thomas says.
More Action, Less Narrative
According to Thomas, EdenTree’s history with sustainable investments means that the philosophical work of how and why responsible investment matters is in the rearview mirror. “Although one of my priorities together with the whole team will be to continue articulating how we define responsible and sustainable investing, several steps to clarify the strong sustainability focus of our funds, had already been taken before my arrival. For example, this included the name change of the EdenTree Responsible and Sustainable Global fund, formerly known as Amity International, available to investors in Sweden and Norway,” Thomas argues.
“I believe that EdenTree’s ‘genuine’ approach needs a stronger voice in a sector that is increasingly loud in narrative but shorter in action. Sustainable investments shouldn’t be just about marketing budgets but about delivery and action. This communication does take time but in the same way EdenTree was a genuine innovator 30 years ago, I would like EdenTree to remain an innovator in 30 years’ time. It does require EdenTree to be forward-looking and focus on the future direction of investment, engagement and action. Change is never simple or easy,” Thomas says.
A Multi-Decade Opportunity
Looking ahead to the challenges and opportunities facing sustainable investors, Thomas is optimistic, noting that the opportunities outweigh the challenges. “Globally, we increasingly recognise the unsustainable path society is following, be it climate change, water scarcity or ecosystem degradation. When I started out in 2000 there were only around 250 companies providing sustainability solutions. Since then, this figure has rise to close to 1,500. That in itself has created a huge change to investment opportunity,” Thomas explains.
However, EdenTree’s new CIO warns against the risks of confusion and greenwashing in this market segment. “This is just one example of how the sector has changed but exciting nonetheless. In terms of the challenges, I fully recognise the rapid growth of ESG and Responsible Investment over the last few years, but the sector has created an incredibly confusing taxonomy of terms and acronyms. Like many, I am concerned about greenwashing. I feel transparency is a crucial element. An investment fund objective must and should be reflected in the investments held,” Thomas concludes.
Image courtesy of EdenTree