GAEIA: 20 YEARS OF MAKING A DIFFERENCE

PRESS RELEASE   Manchester-based ethical and environmental investment company Gaeia is celebrating its 20th Anniversary.   Set up by pioneering financial advisor Brigid Benson in February 1993, Gaeia was one of the UK’s first companies to offer ethical and environmentally screened investments to individual investors.   Brigid, who is well known in Manchester for her personal commitment to fair trade and environmental issues, has built Gaeia’s reputation on solid foundations: hard work, close working relationships and sound ethical and environmental financial acumen.   “Many of Gaeia’s current clients have been with me from the outset. Twenty years ago, the idea of focusing on ethical investments was seen by many as well meaning, but a venture doomed to remain marginal.  I credit much of Gaeia’s success to the foresight of those early clients whose own beliefs matched mine.  Who would’ve thought that twenty years later it would be mainstream to be calling for individuals to switch banks, to hold board members to account and to criticise the ‘fat cats’ for their cavalier behaviour?” says Brigid.   There’s nothing wooly about Gaeia’s approach to financial management.   “We fully understand that people need a regular income or a decent return on their often hard-earned money.  We believe in a fair return on investments and want them to know exactly where their money is being invested.   “The best investments help build businesses that are beneficial to society, provide a living wage - not just a minimum wage - for employees, improve their environmental impact and prosper year on year.  Twenty years with Gaeia have shown me that it is possible to make money and make a difference,” added Brigid.   More and more people are buying an increasingly wide range of Fair-trade goods and services because they understand the benefits to producers.  Gaeia is optimistic that those same people will now stop to think about what impacts they can have with their pensions, savings and investments. Far from being a small elite band, Brigid believes they are far-sighted, just like the early Fair-trade adopters.     There are many different approaches to being green and ethical, from funds that exclude certain sectors - such as tobacco or arms - and those that invest in a certain theme - such as renewable energy - to a ‘mainstream’ fund that uses responsible ownership to try and improve the behaviour of companies. There are also many different types of green and ethical products and services on the market, for example ISAs, pensions, and mortgages. Ethical and environmental investments are now part of the mainstream, rather than being a particular set of products related to negative screens.   According to UKSIF (UK Sustainable Investment & Finance Association)*1, the amount of responsibly managed assets in the UK has now passed 1 trillion for the first time, reaching £1,235 billion.   In the retail market, i.e. those funds open to the general public, the green and ethical market is estimated to be around £21 billion*2and there are over 130 funds to choose from.   “A different approach is needed to investments. Environmental issues are right up there on the business agenda.  Finding long-term solutions for sustainable growth is key.  If people had believed what Friends of the Earth and the International Panel on Climate Change were reporting in 1993, I’m sure many more people would have jumped at the chance to have included ethical and environmental investments in their global portfolio” said Brigid.   Gaeia merged with the financial advisory arm of employee-owned group Castlefield Capital Limited in 2011 and is now based in Manchester City Centre.  Castlefield is known best for its thriving investment management business, Castlefield Investment Partners LLP and its focus on managing money for many local charities.  Both Gaeia and Castlefield are supporters of Manchester’s thriving arts scene, sponsoring Band on the Wall and the Manchester Literature Festival and the Manchester Camerata, respectively.   John Eckersley, MD of Castlefield said:   “Brigid has built up a strong team around her. They are committed to following in her footsteps and continue to be advocates for ethical and socially aware investments.  Castlefield, with its employee-ownership ethos, is firmly committed to a new way of doing business.  Gaeia’s specialist ethical investment skills complement our more traditional international investment offering and will be a sound addition to many of our clients’ existing portfolios.”   Gaeia will be hosting events throughout 2013 to celebrate the 20th anniversary. In the summer, Gaeia will help launch a new music Foundation to support disadvantaged young people and promote music making from diverse cultural communities living in Manchester and around the world.         Press contact:  Clare Walker 07597 873221; claremwalker@hotmail.co.uk     Notes to Editor   *1 UKSIF data 2012   *2Worldwise Investor

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