Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies (Environmentally Sustainable Investment) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:21 am on 11th September 2020.

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Photo of Andrew Lewer Andrew Lewer Conservative, Northampton South 10:21 am, 11th September 2020

I think that business models that are rooted in their communities and have the wellbeing of those communities at their heart, while enabling individuals to be enterprising within them, are very beneficial, particularly in having the value of local knowledge of what will be a success, rather than simply a balance-sheet approach.

Investment in emerging green markets and technologies, in line with Government green investment strategies, can be beneficial and should be encouraged, but they are not without their own risks, and that is one of my worries. Investors must be aware that there are risks associated with green shares, as there are with any shares. My worry—and that, I believe, of some of my colleagues—is that the well-intentioned ethical ambitions attached to this instrument may expose them to risks that they may not have foreseen. I am concerned that the Bill exposes the co-operative sector to the unintended risks of being exploited as investment vehicles, rather than purpose-driven organisations. There is a balance to be struck there.

As with many of these societies and co-operatives, people have saved up for years to invest their savings in capital, and I want to ensure that they do not underestimate the associated risks of green shares proposed by the Bill. Just because it has the word “green” attached to it does not mean that it is a guaranteed way of making money or is a sensible investment. Although it is probably a slightly politically incorrect cross-reference in the context of this debate, I am reminded of the car industry. People often muse, “If only I’d invested massively in the car industry in 1900, I’d have made a fortune.” Actually, nearly all the car companies that were founded in 1900 led to a loss for their founders, because only a few of them prevailed. Although the overall concept of investing in the automotive industry in 1900 was good, it actually led to a lot of people losing a lot of money.