How to save the planet? Richard Curtis says it involves pensions, actually

Director of much-loved Christmas film wants people to be aware of what investments may finance

His romcom Love Actually is frequently voted the nation’s favourite Christmas film but Richard Curtis’s latest festive offering aims to shock viewers into action, as well as make them laugh.

The screenwriter and director has launched a short tongue-in-cheek film that aims to raise awareness of how people’s pension cash may be financing industries that are “destroying the planet”.

The film, featuring the actor Jason Isaacs (best known for playing Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter films), is the latest salvo from Curtis’s Make My Money Matter campaign, which is pushing for some of the £3tn in UK pensions to be moved out of industries that are harming people and the planet via practices such as deforestation, and into sustainable businesses.

The film is a spoof end-of-year video from “Guy Byrne-Woods”, the chief executive of “FFS” – the Forestry Felling Syndicate – thanking UK pension plan holders for their contributions to its “record-breaking” year.

Rickard Curtis’s Make My Money Matter film.

The smooth-voiced CEO says he wants to thank “people like you for collectively investing hundreds of millions with us”, adding: “Your pension funds, no matter how piddly, all add up. And with all your cash, we’ve been able to destroy more natural habitat than we ever thought possible, from Alaska to the Amazon, Siberia to Sudan.”

It ends with footage of a burning forest being cleared and an on-screen message: “Do you know where your pension is going? Find out where your money’s invested, and avoid nasty surprises.”

The aim “is to shock viewers into the realisation that their pension money is likely to be funding investments that are destroying the planet when they might already be taking steps to become more sustainable in their day-to-day life”.

Curtis told Guardian Money he wanted to make something fun that people would hopefully share and that could grab the attention of those who might not normally be interested in this topic.

Richard Curtis gestures on the set of Love Actually as the actor Colin Firth (fourth from left) prepares for a scene.
Richard Curtis gestures on the set of Love Actually as the actor Colin Firth (fourth from left) prepares for a scene. Photograph: AF archive/Alamy

He was heavily involved with the concept, production and editing, which was directed by the Bafta-winning director David Kerr.

Curtis hopes “we get to the point by the end of next year that any young person taking out their first pension, the first question they ask is: ‘It will be an ethical and sustainable one, won’t it?’”

During the past few months, a string of big UK pension schemes and companies, from the Universities Superannuation Scheme and Nest (National Employment Savings Trust) to BT and the insurer Aviva, have taken action. Some have set net zero carbon emissions targets, while others have announced plans to stop investing in companies involved with activities such as thermal coalmining.

Hugh Grant, Billy Campbell and Martine McCutcheon in a scene from Love Actually
Love Actually is frequently voted the UK’s favourite Christmas film. Photograph: Working Title/Allstar

Curtis acknowledges: “It’s been a faster-moving year than I dreamed.” But he adds: “It’s great that there’s progress but there’s a huge amount that still needs to be done.”

Make My Money Matter is calling for all pension funds to commit to net zero carbon emissions, with a halving of emissions by 2030.

The 64-year-old has been using what he has learned to shake up his own pension and investment finances: “It’s actually been – dare I use the word – fun.”

As a result, some of his portfolio is invested in products and sectors such as eco-friendly “green cement”, fuel cell technology and reverse vending machines, which reward recycling.

So, while many people will end up watching Love Actually for the umpteenth time this Christmas, what is Curtis’s number one festive movie? The answer, it turns out, is another much-loved film from 2003: Elf, starring Will Ferrell. “Elf has become our family go-to Christmas delight,” Curtis says.


Rupert Jones

The GuardianTramp

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