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China leads sustainable investment surge

China's super-rich are leading the way when it comes to sustainable investment, according to new figures released by UBS Global Wealth Management, leaving Britain's high net worth individuals (known as HNWI) trailing in their wake.

Sustainable investment is a wide-ranging term which covers industries such as renewable energy, or those with ethical staff pay policies.

To qualify as a HNWI, an investor must hold more than 760,000 pounds ($1 million) in investable assets. The survey questioned 5,300 HNWI worldwide and revealed that 60 percent of Chinese HNWIs had at least one percent of their assets in sustainable investments.

The next highest rating nation was Brazil, with the United Arab Emirates in third place.

British investors came second last on the list, with a score of just 20 percent, ahead of people in the US, who scored 12 percent. The international average is 39 percent.

Among those who have made sustainable investments, age seems to play a significant factor. HNWI under the age of 35 invest four times as much as those aged 65 or older, and 23 percent of those questioned said their decision to invest had been influenced by the opinions of their children.

The survey also found that 65 percent of the world's super-rich were willing to pay more for environmentally friendly products and services and regarded the creation of a better planet as a high priority, but this was not necessarily borne out in their investment practices, with just 39 percent of them having sustainable investments.

Nick Tucker, head of the UK for UBS Global Wealth Management, said society was reaching a "pivotal moment" in relation to sustainable investment, and he hoped that Britain could follow the example being set by other countries, most notably China.

"It is disappointing to see the UK lagging behind other markets in the pursuit of sustainable investments," he said. "However, the growing momentum among UK investors considering this investment route is undeniable. We are increasingly having conversations with clients, across generations, about how they can best build sustainable investing into their portfolios.

"We're now at a pivotal moment where increasing investor interest in sustainable investing and an increasing number of available and suitable products are coming together. We expect the UK market to play catch up as this plays out."