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Richard Curtis backs The Big Exchange and urges people to make their money matter

Comedy writer, director and activist Richard Curtis on why we all have the power to create a better world, and how The Big Exchange is helping to lead the change.

Richard Curtis
Photo: Curtis / Getty Images

It’s as much of a surprise to me as it may be to many of you that the man responsible for Mr Bean and Blackadder is involved in a campaign about finance, about making our money matter. 

But in fact it’s pretty logical. In the other half of my life I’ve spent 30 years trying to find ways to fight the great inequalities and injustices of the world. My first step was through Red Nose Day – but in 2005, like so many before me, I expanded my focus to talking to and putting pressure on governments to do all they can to Make Poverty History. In the last few years, I learned about the power of our money, the potential of the trillions invested globally to do good, and I’ve increasingly pivoted towards the role the private sector can and must play in changing the world. 

The world is changing, and financial institutions must keep pace. This has been an extraordinary few years, not only because of Covid, but also because of the rise of transformative movements around the world.

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From Black Lives Matter to Fridays for the Future to the #MeToo movement, people are demanding a better, more equitable and just social contract. They are asking ‘What can I do in my own life to make a difference?’ And they’re finding that answer in unexpected places. They’re finding it in the clothes they wear, the food they eat and how they travel. 

They’re also finding it in the places they put their money. Unknown to most of us, our pensions and savings have often made us accidental investors in causes we fight against. This was brought to life for me when I listened to a brilliant TED talk by an Australian cancer doctor, Bronwyn King, who found that through her pensions she’d been investing in tobacco companies – funding the very cigarettes causing the cancers she spent her life treating.

It was at that moment that I asked myself, what’s my pension doing? I’m not sure I even knew that my pension WAS invested, let alone that it could be undermining all the things I do and work for. And the more I looked into it, the more exciting a line of action it seemed – here’s the biggest chunk of money that many of us have, trillions globally, that if directed well could be tackling some of our biggest challenges, from climate change to affordable housing to medical research. 

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I’ve heard both [former Bank of England governor] Mark Carney and the CEO of BlackRock, Larry Fink, describe sustainability as the biggest investment opportunity since the industrial revolution. So it doesn’t have to be a trade-off between value and values. That’s why we set up Make My Money Matter. We wanted to help give the public more voice and choice over where their money is invested, and ultimately make sure the trillions invested on our behalf help build a better world. 

We have first focused on pensions and the campaign is working. We’ve proved we can secure real commitments from a traditionally conservative industry. Since we launched, 85 per cent more people understand the links between their money and climate change, over half the UK public have expressed an interest in green pensions, and more than 40 leading pension providers have committed to robust net-zero targets.

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And this movement will only grow; from pensions to bank accounts to personal savings. That’s why I have been so impressed with and excited by the creation of an Individual Savings Account – an ISA – that can be invested in line with our values.

Three cheers for The Big Exchange for leaping into this incredibly important arena, so that we have the choices and opportunity to have savings invested in companies that have a positive impact on people and planet. By investing in everything from green cement to reverse vending machines to windfarms, our money can be applied to tackle the world’s problems, not compound them, while still generating good returns.

So with almost £70 billion invested in ISAs in the UK – and over £2.7tn in our pensions – the potential for positive impact is extraordinary. It’s time we all join the movement to make our money matter.

The tax year ends on April 5. If you’re thinking about opening or transferring an ISA, visit bigexchange.com 

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