Cover of book: The Ethical Investor

Nicole Haddow
The Ethical Investor

Once I had a fiction that comforted me in these apocalyptic times: regular people are mostly goodies while the baddies are the corporations that are killing the planet. As an Australian with superannuation and a bank account, it turns out I am invested in all sorts of businesses – some good, others not. How confronting to discover that the baddies are me.

In The Ethical Investor, Nicole Haddow – author of Smashed Avocado, a book on property investing – takes a hard look at her money and what it is doing on her behalf. She has sold her house and is now flush, ready for her money to tip the scales in the goodies’ favour.

Haddow takes us through superannuation, micro-investing, neobanks, regular banks, property and the sharemarket. Once a writer for The Australian Financial Review, she knows of what she speaks. Her journey begins with first principles – she explains what shares are – and we’re happy to ride shotgun with a driver who is curious, articulate and has a solid moral core.

We don’t ride alone. We meet a wide cast, unabashed by their pursuit of wealth but trying not to be crooked about it – the vegan stock investor, the podcaster, the influencer–investor, the hemp entrepreneur and the actor anxious about her international jetsetting. In this brave new world, tech is disrupting those stuffy financial products to open up investing to fresh consumers.

What unfurls is that stickiest of questions: What is good? Haddow freely admits that “her good” is not necessarily “our good”. Each person we meet has their own moral code and their lines may be blurred or deeply etched. Some are happy to not do evil, while others want their money to improve this damaged world. We all have our blind spots: Haddow is impeccable on gender equality and climate action but registers no irony in buying shares in a Banksy painting.

The Ethical Investor is not definitive: no book on investing could hope to be. The market moves too rapidly for print. Environmental, social and governance indices (ESG) are en vogue and the old centres of power will do anything to appear hip and progressive. Just check out their websites: greenwashing shows their infinite capacity for adaptation. Investing ethically, as the author admits, consists mostly of deep, critical research. What this book does give you is a sense that money, while it makes the world go round, does not have to be the root of all evil.

Kurt Johnson

Black Inc, 240pp, $29.99

Black Inc is a Schwartz company 

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on February 26, 2022 as "The Ethical Investor, Nicole Haddow ".

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Kurt Johnson is an environmental journalist who works in international aid in the Asia-Pacific.

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