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Old Hands See a New Era for Green Investments in Malaysia

British billionaire Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, speaks at a forum entitled 'Dawn of the New Decade – Alternative Investment in Asia' in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 27 Sept. 2010

At an alternative investment conference in Malaysia the talk is about a change in attitude when it comes to mixing finance with looking after the environment.

Speakers at the conference on alternative investments said Monday that an increasing number of shareholders want assurances that their investments are environmentally friendly. And they want them return a healthy yield.

One of the speakers is Mary Buffett, an author, business woman and investor. Her books include several on the investment techniques of her former father-in-law, Warren Buffett, one of the world's wealthiest individuals.

She says that clean energy and the ability to produce alternative sources of fuel will play an increasingly important role in financial markets. That is particularly so in Asia where large populations in China, India and in Southeast Asia must compete for scarce resources.

"I believe that shareholders, especially younger shareholders, are going to be putting pressure on the companies and the investments that they own to make sure the companies put their feet to the fire and hold them to standards that they previously may not have had from an environmental standpoint," Buffett said.

She says investors today are very aware of the environmental and social costs tied to corporate activity.

She, herself, refuses to buy tobacco stocks. Tobacco use is linked to a number of potentially fatal diseases.

Her sentiments were echoed by another speaker, Michael North, president of Greenstar Corporation, a technology company that focuses on solar power, wireless communications and media development. He says the planet can expect to suffer a number of environmental crises over the next 10 years as the climate warms.

"The pattern is going to be sustained for some time, and those events when they take place, as tragic as they are, they are needed wake-up calls for the investor and for the entrepreneur, for the people building businesses," North said. "They will see opportunities in those crises – the little Warren Buffetts will be going green."

Both Buffett and North say they think the worst of the global financial crisis is over, although the next two years will remain tough, and will be followed by a period of low but steady growth.

The investment conference ends Tuesday.