Uncensored Money Season Five: What Would You Do? Mel & Lawsie Talk Ethical Spending and Investing.

Melissa Browne: Ex-Accountant, Ex-Financial Advisor, Ex-Working Till I Drop, Now Serial Entrepreneur & Author, Financial Wellness Advocate, Living a Life by Design | 19/02/2024


Show Notes

In this episode of Uncensored Money, Mel and Lawsie discuss what ethical means to them (and you), through a series of What Would You Do questions. Through this and a discussion of how they view sustainability differently, Lawsie and Mel talk about what is ethical spending and investing, and how to gradually reset to spending and investing more in line with your values.

Books and resources mentioned in this episode

If you're on insta, come play over at @MelBrowne.Money and make sure you’re signed up to Mel's Money Musings for more tips, tricks and ideas on how to best work with your money.

Finally, if you love this episode please make sure you subscribe and leave us a review.


Mel: Hey everyone. I'm Mel Brown. I'm an ex-accountant and ex-financial advisor, so I have the theory, but I also have the life experience. I'm now financially independent in my own right after coming back from less than nothing in my early thirties. I want this podcast to be like a chat with your girlfriends about money. My aim is to help you discover why you're behaving the way you are with money, to suggest new ways you might behave that are a better fit for you, and to increase your financial literacy and financial confidence. I hope it inspires challenges, educates and empowers you with how you do money. So let's get into it. Welcome to Uncensored Money.

Mel: Today I'm joined by the very fabulous Lawsie. Hey Lawsie <laugh>.

Lawsie: Hi.

Mel: And we wanna talk today about ethical investing and spending. Now, this is something more and more people are interested in, but if I'm honest, it can be super murky. And that's because what's ethical to you might not be ethical to me. Plus, many of us genuinely believe we wanna behave ethically or sustainably or according to our values. But what we find is that often people find themselves acting out of alignment. To explain and to set the scene, I wanna ask Lawsie a series of questions that have absolutely nothing to do with money. And I want you to play along as well as you listen in, and I want you to answer them for yourself. Right? Lawsie, are you ready?

Lawsie: No, but here we go. <Laugh>,

Mel: Are you nervous?

Lawsie: Maybe as I spin on my chair...

Mel: She really is, she looks very nervous. There are a series of questions and I want you to answer. I'm speaking back to Lawsie and to you the listener. I want you to answer for each one how you would behave and also why you would behave that way, especially if it's a different answer than the one you had given me the answer before. So for example, and this is not one of the questions, if I said to you, would you eat toast for breakfast? And you went, sure. And my next question was, would you eat toast for breakfast before a marathon? And you went, no. I then would say, what's the difference? Like why? Why not now? Alright, scared <laugh>.

Lawsie: Let's go.

Mel: Question number one. If you knew someone was being cheated on but you barely knew them, would you contact them and tell them that they were being cheated on? I told you these are random, but they're all about values and how we want to behave.

Lawsie: Yeah, I think this is an interesting one. I would, if you barely know them, I don't feel like that conversation is going to go well because you don't have the history and that stronger relationship underneath it. So I feel like if I was saying that to someone, they'd be like, well, what's your motive? Like, why would you be saying that to me? So I think it would be one where I think action, that person absolutely deserves to be told. I would think that I'm not the right person necessarily to tell them, but I would make sure that people that I felt were more qualified and would be able to support that person in being able to obviously tell them that terrible news and therefore be able to support it, rather than me coming in and just dropping a bomb would be, yeah, my answer that. So I'd go, I guess in some way I'd go, I probably wouldn't feel comfortable to do it myself because I just don't think that's the right thing for that person because we don't really have a relationship. But I think I would still have to make sure that that person knew, but I just don't think I'd be the right person to deliver it.

Mel: So the answer would be no, you wouldn't tell them, but you might tell one of their good friends?

Lawsie: Yes.

Mel: If you knew them. Okay. Number two. Mm-Hmm. What I wanna do now is layer, because sometimes we can think something in one situation and then we add a different frame of reference and it's a different answer. What if that person being cheated on was a friend? Would you tell that friend that their partner was cheating on them or that they're being cheated on?

Lawsie: Yes.

Mel: Okay. So that was very easy.

Lawsie: Very easy. You've got that relationship, you know how to handle that conversation, but you're also gonna be able to support that person in the potential fallout from that and to help them navigate that situation. Not just drop the bomb and leave. Yeah. So yeah.

Mel: Okay. No, for the first one, but tell a friend second one. Absolutely telling. Yeah. Third told you, we're going to look at it from another frame of reference, another angle. What if the person doing the cheating was the friend? Would you tell the friend's partner that they were cheating on them?

Lawsie: This is a tough one. I would say, obviously if I had the, because I think sometimes you're more the friend to one person of the couple.

Mel: Yeah.

Lawsie: Here I am. I'm just making questions complicated.

Mel: <Laugh>.

Lawsie: I would say though, like assuming that I'm more the friend of the friend that is actually doing the cheating, I would absolutely be having that conversation with them. Like that just is.

Mel: So you would have a conversation with the friend that's cheating?

Lawsie: Yeah, because I still think that they're the ones that need to ultimately come clean. And if they wouldn't, I would like to think that I would tell the friend's partner, like, cheating is such a no for me, that I'm like, no. And if my friend was cheating, I'd be questioning that relationship as well because I'm going, well, you are actually engaging in a behavior that goes against what I believe in so strongly that I would think that that's probably an issue for our friendship anyway. I would start with the friend and be like, what the hell? And then still, if they weren't prepared to do something, then yeah, I would go, I'd have to talk to the partner. Like I couldn't. Or again, it would be finding the right person to talk to the partner as well.

Mel: Yeah.

Lawsie: Depending on the dynamics and all those kind of things. Yeah.

Mel: Okay. No, no. And this is where there's no judgment. It's just, I find it really interesting that sometimes it's really easy and then sometimes you look through another frame of reference or another window and it becomes murkier or it becomes, oh, <laugh>. Okay, next one. What if the person cheating was cheating with one of the partners of your group of friends? Do you tell the friend to stop? Do you tell the partner that they have been cheated on? So now you all know everyone, the partner is a friend, the friend's partner is a friend. Go <laugh>.

Lawsie: I'm still gonna go that. You'd have to be talking to the friend to start with. They're the one that are in the wrong obviously. Like they're the one that started it. They're the one that have got the ability to stop it. And they're also the one that ultimately has to be able to communicate that with their partner and live with the fallout of that. Because actions have consequences as we tell my 5-year-old niece

Mel: <Laugh>.

Lawsie: So you know, I think on the basis of that, yes, absolutely. But again, in line with the previous question is if your friend doesn't stop, then absolutely the partner has to be told. Like, full stop.

Mel: Sso do you tell your friend that the partner, did you tell their partner they've been cheated on? So you are saying if the friend stops the affair, you don't tell the partner.

Lawsie: Well, I would be hoping that the friend would be honest with the partner to go, this is what happened.

Mel: Mm-Hmm <affirmative>. And if they, they weren't?

Lawsie: We can't control that. I don't know. I know

Mel: This is where I know it's like they deserve to know, but blah blah blah.

Lawsie: The partner has to be told, yeah,

Mel: I wish you could see Lawsie's body language now <laugh>, there's quite literal ringing of hands by now.

Lawsie: Just remember that my number one thing in gallops is harmony. Like that explains where I come from with all of this. The friend is still ultimately the one that's in the wrong. And I think if I was to look at it and go, well, if they're not gonna do something, then I would tell the partner, because I go, you are going against the values of what I believe in with that. So I guess push come to shove me if I have to say an answer to it I'd go, the friend has to stop it, but also has to confess it. Yeah. And if not, then the partner has to know like if you're friends with both of them, what kind of friend are you to favour one over the other and not keep it?

Mel: Yeah. Like that. Which is why that question became more layered.

Lawsie: Thanks for that.

Mel: Okay, two more.

Lawsie: Good lord.

Mel: And again, we're gonna explain what this has to do with money and ethics, but I want you to see how you could be really clear about your values or sustainability, but it's about what window or what lens are you looking through them? So second, last question, what if the person cheating became pregnant? You're not sure whose baby it is. Do you tell their partner that they have been cheated on so suddenly there's now a change involved?

Lawsie: Can I just leave these questions now?

Mel: <Laugh>. I know it's so mean.

Lawsie: Ay yai yai. Yes. I honestly think that you need to, I think there's gotta be something with, one, the child deserves to know who it's father is.

Mel: Yeah.

Lawsie: You know? So there is that. But I also get the other side of it going. But what if they're back being the happily together couple and they've got this baby and they're all high on life and it's all wonderful, then you are gonna look like the home wrecker coming in to then upset that. But then you also have to look at it and go, well how are you gonna live with yourself? And if I was to use myself as so I think I would have to remove myself. because I would go, you've done something that goes against my values, but I've also done something against my values if I haven't said anything. Yeah. So yeah.

Mel: Yeah. Now you need to see both of us. <Laugh> I'm playing with my hair. Lawsie's wringing your hands. We're so comfortable.

Lawsie: No, my hands are sweating. I'm like, good Lord, I'm not even on a lie detector test. And I'm like, cannot cope with this.

Mel: Okay. Final question. I'm gonna put you out of your misery.

Lawsie: Thank you.

Mel: What if you decided to tell the partner next time you saw them? You're like, no, I'm gonna tell them. But when you did, they were pushing the pram with their newborn baby. Do you tell them all three of them are there? You could also say, all right, what if it's just the husband say pushing the baby, no friend.

Lawsie: I still feel like that they need to know. It's still absolutely horrible and horrific. But I feel like they still deserve a right to know. But I mean like you're just doing in your groceries and it's like, oh hey by the way, pick up a milk and an awkward conversation with your partner when you get home like <laugh>.

Mel: Yeah.

Mel: I don't know about you, but sometimes I wish there was an easy way, a silver bullet, a magical unicorn, a fairy godmother ready to grant me three wishes. I mean, think of all the miracle diets, fitness fads, promising a six pack in six weeks, or finance bros promising riches by following this easy formula. Do you believe a word of it?Well, the part that longs for a quick fix might be taken in, but you are smarter than that. Personally, what I believe in is consistency, educating myself, finding an expert to help me, surrounding myself with a community who are going to motivate me to keep going and make me feel like I can do it because they're doing it too or are further down the road than I am. That's exactly what we've created inside the My Financial Adulting Plan. If you feel like you're on top of your finances, you have a plan for this year that you're super comfortable with and have everything you need to make that happen, then just ignore this ad. But for the rest of you, make sure you check out my life-changing 12 week course or for less than the price of a cup of coffee a day. Head to the show notes to join the wait list for the next round. Or you might be lucky enough to find that the doors are open and you can join now.

Mel: So I'm gonna put Lawsie out of her misery so Lawsie you can shake it off. And if you've been playing along, I'm gonna put you out of your misery as well. But what I find interesting with this example is that if you asked me if you knew that someone was being cheated on, do you tell them? So that first question, if you ask me that personally, my answer would always have been emphatically yes, I a hundred percent agree with you LZ. My answer would be yes.

Mel: They deserve to know. It's so against my values as someone that has been cheated on, I would absolutely want them to know yada yada. Particularly if they're a friend or within my group of friends. Like, no, no <laugh>. But this is a real situation that I was involved with. Plus, to add in another layer, the person cheating was a friend of our group of friends and the person doing the cheating was one of my long-term ex-partners. So because I felt like if I was to say something, I would look like the bitter ex-wife, if you know what I mean. Like I would look like the one that, oh, that's the only reason she's saying something. That last situation around, I had determined I absolutely am gonna say something if I see him next. I saw them in that situation pushing the baby and I had decided if ever I see him, I will say something and I couldn't do it.

Mel: And it's something that I live with. Like when you said I have to live with myself, I extracted myself from that friendship group because those friends all still are together and I don't believe have said anything, et cetera. And he still doesn't know. And I will not say names or who it was or anything because I still think that's not my place. Although I reckon every single month I still think about it and I still wonder, did I make the right decision And should I say something? I feel like this is an example. And I used to love them of those Geoffrey Robertson hypotheticals. I loved those shows. But real life is not a hypothetical. And I think what we just did describes ethical investing and spending.

Mel: Because you might say that sustainability is one of your core values in the same way that we both, Lawsie and I said cheating and trust, core values like absolutely.

Lawsie: The not cheating.

Mel: Oh yeah, yeah. The not cheating <laugh> not cheating and having trust. That's yeah, core values in relationships. Oh my God, thank you for clearing that up. You might say sustainability is one of your core values. You might recycle and choose eco products and more yet you might be investing in fossil fuels in your super and simply because you can't be bothered looking into it or it seems too hard or complex. Or you might be leaning hard onto Uber Eats when you time poor. Or you might be shopping from Amazon and fast fashion online because it's cheaper and you won't pay more. And again, they're all examples of situations where you might be operating outside of your values because of the layering that has happened that you've said in this situation, it's okay.

Mel: Or I'm gonna act outside of my values. Which is why we set up such a complex <laugh> set of questions because life is complex. It's not black and white. And what we wanna do today now is have a talk about what is ethical spending, investing and how to gradually reset to spending investing more in line with your values and to even do checks to see am I acting out of alignment and where am I acting out of alignment and how can I just gradually bring that back? Because I don't want you to be sabotaging financially or feeling ugh about your finances because of how you're behaving and kind of not realising why like this is all just part of taking agency. So Lawsie, ethical spending and investing, like how would you define that? Because I know we all define it differently.

Lawsie: Yeah. And that's the problem. I think what is ethical and whatever to me is gonna be different ethical to you. I mean if we were looking, and I, I'll use this from a sustainability point of view. because I think that's the thing that a lot of people think of when we are talking about ethical spending and investing. But I'm like, even if you look at you and I how we would both view sustainability, there'd be some commonalities, but there'd also be some real differences. So for example, you might, and I'm not saying that this is the only thing you do, but you would look at it, say from a sustainability point of view and go, you wanna make sure that the whole process that goes through for buying clothes and shoes,

Mel: Modern slavery enjoy sustainable. Yep. It's all of those not environmentally damaging.

Lawsie: Yep. For me, I look at it more from an organic environmental impact I guess. So I'm looking at it going, what products and things when I'm buying them are gonna be reducing impact on the environment and still gonna be organic and natural for me and whatever. So I go, I'm gonna buy shampoo, conditioner bars that come in a cardboard box.

Mel: Yes.

Lawsie: That are an organic product that all of those things. So again, very different.

Mel: Whereas I won't do that.

Lawsie: You are not doing that. But then when I look at say fashion side of things, I go, I look at it with a long term view of, I mean I don't buy fast fashion and I don't do those things, but I also don't go and look at the whole supply chain of the things that I'm buying. But anything I am buying, I'm doing it to go, well I want this to last me for a long period of time. As you know, I'm very daggy and I don't worry too much about local trends and everything else.

Mel: You're not daggy! You're classic!

Mel: As long as I've got jeans and sneakers, I'm, you know, happy. But whereas if I was looking at say, outdoor gear, I'd go, great, I know a brand that I'm going to use Yeah for that because it ticks all of those things. So I think it's that example there if we to simplify it and go, well Mel looks into sustainability and stuff for fashion, Lawsie does it for household and health and beauty products. And it's not that either of us are wrong and both are gonna have a positive impact on us and yeah, the greater world, let's go aim high. But that in itself I think just highlights how different–

Mel: Yeah, definitely

Lawsie: – It can be.

Mel: Although, I'm very proud of myself because I've just done the whole blue land thing and I'm trying out all their products. So I'm gradually swapping all my household products over. I feel like such an eco warrior <laugh>. But my thing is, if they don't work...

Lawsie: But where do the plastic bags go remember?

Mel: No. So they're a thing where you buy their bottles and you get, you use the refills. Yeah, yeah, yeah. But my thing is if they don't work, I'm not gonna stick with it. Oh absolutely. That's where I had definitely have a thing with sustainability. It's gotta work. Yeah, I love that. So it is, it's figuring out what is ethical spending and investing for you. So as Lawsie said, it might be what must it includes. So for Lawsie, it has to be sustainable. For me, I'm gonna look at your supply chain. That would be a start.

Mel: It also might be, for example, I will not invest in tobacco. I will not invest in guns or thingies of war. Mining? I'm going to research you to make sure you have sustainable practices. Whereas someone else would be no mines whatsoever. So it's figuring out are you choosing for the company to not be doing a particular thing like no guns, no fuel, no whatever, fossil fuels Or are you looking for companies that are pro? So for example, I think Stella McCartney is a beautiful example of she's so pro environmental, so everything she does is it has to be vegan. So you know when you buy Incu is another example of that. When you're buying those brands, you're doing it with the, well, I know that they get a tick simply because they are so pro environmental. So it's sitting down for yourself and asking the question, what does sustainable or ethical spending and investing mean to me?

Mel: Because if you haven't done that, you are not gonna be able to take it any further. That's really important. So for you it might be environmental, it might be guns, it might be modern slavery, it might be women on boards, figure out what it is. It might be that the company has to be pro purpose and pro profit. Figure out what that is and start there. And then the next we wanna give you three steps to be able to then put that into practice. One is actually write down what are your values and the alignment with your ethical spending and investing. As I said, will you opt out of things or will you choose things? So that's step one. The second one is to look at your superannuation or retirement funds. So this is a really easy one you can tick the box with really quickly.

Mel: That will have a massive impact because the amount that we have in our super or retirement funds is quite large. That's something that you can very easily change but also very easily get a massive bang for your buck as far as wow tick for what's important to me. And there was a great TED talk by Dr. Bronwyn King who was an oncologist. We'll put a link to it in the bio if you're interested. She was an oncologist, so she's obviously helping people that have cancer every single day. When they had a a financial planner come to their work, she asked the question about where it was being invested and she was horrified to realise they were investing in tobacco in her day to day. She's fighting the effects of that, but her superannuation was investing in that. So she went on a mission to we will not from here on out be investing our superannuation or retirement funds with any company that is pro tobacco.

Mel: I want your first step when if you're listening to look at your superannuation and ask the question, what is it currently being invested in? And if you're not sure, get your last annual statement or figure out the name of your fund and get what's called a fact sheet. You can download those online and they'll tell you what is being invested in potentially even the top 10 invest companies that are being invested in. And if you are not comfortable with it, contact your fund and ask them. If you can't figure it out, contact them and say Are you investing in these three things? And if they are, you then can make a choice. You either move it to another fund within that fund that is more ethical or you could choose to transfer it to another fund entirely that is in line with your value. So that would be your second thing. One, look at what are your values and two, look at your super retirement fund.

Lawsie: And I'd add to that also your investments. Mm. So if you do have investments, then also when you've looked at your super or your retirement funds, then to also look at your investments just as that sanity check. Like you said, it's not that you are finding cancer and saving people here and investing in things that are ultimately cause or a cause of it.

Mel: Exactly. Number three Law-dog

Lawsie: Is to go back over three to six months of your spending and actually ask the questions of are you spending in alignment with your values? So what you've identified as point, one of those things that are really important to you is your spending in line with that and where are you spending out outside of that alignment with your values. So you know, if we use the fast fashion example, you might go, I'm pro environment and everything else, but then your spending is showing that you're buying lots of $5 and $10 tops and whatever outfits and things. And then you suddenly go, oh hang on like that a disconnects a bit of a disconnect there. And it's not just limited to fashion like Mel said, there's other things in terms of you know, Uber Eats or all those bits and pieces. But it is just about looking at it and just don't beat yourself up over it when you do it.

Lawsie: If you do find those things, this is just simply about bringing awareness to it. because You're saying this is what's important, but this is what my behaviors are showing. And then while you're also doing that, when you do spend and it's out of alignment, like what is the driver behind that to use? You know the Uber Eats example, is it just because you're time poor and you haven't had a chance to go and buy all of the fresh food and groceries and everything that you're saying that you want and you're just like, oh you can't be bothered to cook or whatever it is. And you just go, great Uber Eats on its way, da da da da. But does it actually line up with your values and then to be really proactive with it to go well what's one thing that you can change this week or month to bring your spending more in line with your values that you identify in point one.

Mel: And I think doing that exercise, it's giving yourself a really big tick where you find that spending that's in an alignment. Go. Yeah, excellent. I wanna see more of that. As you said, don't beat yourself up when you find it out of alignment, but just ask the question, well why am I doing that? Like what's the reason? Is it because I'm time poor? Is it just because I'm stressed? Is it because I'm rushed? Is it just because I haven't thought about it? And then what can you swap that to? I love the work of Alexx Stuartt from Low Talk Life and She'll always talks about just gradually swapping, doing a big change and being overwhelmed is often why we don't do things. But just ask what maybe it's one a week or one a month. Like what's our swap that I can make a really easy one is your milk.

Mel: I am such an advocate of making sure money ends up in farmer's hands the most money. And I get that if you're a large family, it can be really tempting to grab the cheap milk where the farmers just simply aren't getting enough bang for their buck. So it might be that you say, right, okay, I'm gonna swap to, I'm gonna do my research and figure out, okay, I'm gonna spend where it's getting more money in the farmer's hands, but because that's gonna cost me an extra, say five bucks a week, I'm gonna find that five bucks somewhere else. What else do I need to swap to make that back? Because this is the problem, isn't it? Sometimes we don't do things because we know there's a cost, but if the values are important to you, it's asking the question, well I'm gonna do it gradually. So the milk might be your monthly thing you're spending this month figuring out where am I gonna find that five bucks a week that the extra that's costing or 20 bucks or whatever it is. But it's important to not do it just because it's hard. <Laugh>. Yeah, <laugh>.

Lawsie: Yeah. Which I think it is that whole bite-sized chunk. It is what can you do? Yeah, this week or this month and just, it is just those small tweaks. But if you make a small tweak every month, that's still 12 small tweaks that you've made. It's massive over the course of the year or 26, obviously if you do it fortnightly and 52 of you do it weekly.

Mel: Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>.

Lawsie: I guess it's just not underestimating those small decisions. Like even if you were going, I'm really stressed and whatever and I'm ordering Uber Eats in tonight. And then if you stop yourself from doing that and go, actually no, I'm just gonna raid the cupboard and chuck something together. The feeling of empowerment you're gonna get from that anyway is gonna be like, well yes, I've caught that behavior before I've done it. And also therefore making sure that I'm not spending outside of alig with my values and potentially it's gonna be healthier for you as well. Like it's just tick, tick, tick. But it's just bringing that awareness to it. So then when you do make that decision it's like, okay cool. Awesome.

Mel: Exactly. And the thing that I love about the society that we live in is there's so many things that make it easier for us now. So one, go and listen to that TED Talk and we'll link it on Bronwyn King. There's another app called The Good on You app, which is if you are looking for supply chains and wanting to know if companies, for example, making sure that they're ticking the modern slavery box kind of important then Good On You app is something that will help with that. There's another app called Yuka, YUKA, which is all about the environmental impact of companies, but also the effect that they have on you <laugh>. They're endocrine disruptors. There are other nasties in there. And what I love about that app is that it'll give you some examples of ones that you could swap to so that you are not then having to go and do more research and even following people online, like low tox life.

Mel: By keeping them front of mind on your socials, it can really help to remind you. That's right. This is important to us. So thank you for playing along everyone. We hope we know this was a bit of an unusual way to set up this episode today. So thank you for playing along. I hope it's made you think, I hope it's challenged you on in how you are behaving and maybe realising that it's not as black and white as you thought it was. So giving yourself a little bit of a break around that, but also giving you the encouragement to start doing something today.

Mel: Come over to Mel Browne Money, @melbrowne.money on Insta, and send me a DM and let me know how you are going to start.

Mel: If you enjoyed this episode, we would love it if you subscribed and give us a review, then make sure you come and play with me on Insta. I'm at @melbrowne.money Remember there's an E on the end of Browne. I'm one of those fancy Browne's, and don't forget to check out the show notes for even more ways you can work with me to transform your finances.



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