The Heterogeneity of Socially Responsible Investment

  • Joakim SandbergEmail author
  • Carmen Juravle
  • Ted Martin Hedesström
  • Ian Hamilton


Many writers have commented on the heterogeneity of the socially responsible investment (SRI) movement. However, few have actually tried to understand and explain it, and even fewer have discussed whether the opposite – standardisation – is possible and desirable. In this article, we take a broader perspective on the issue of the heterogeneity of SRI. We distinguish between four levels on which heterogeneity can be found: the terminological, definitional, strategic and practical. Whilst there is much talk about the definitional ambiguities of SRI, we suggest that there is actually some agreement on the definitional level. There are at least three explanations which we suggest can account for the heterogeneity on the other levels: cultural and ideological differences between different regions, differences in values, norms and ideology between various SRI stakeholders, and the market setting of SRI. Discussing the implications of the three explanations for the SRI market, we suggest that there is reason to be sceptical about the possibilities of standardisation if not standardisation is imposed top-down. Whether this kind of standardisation is desirable or not, we argue, depends on what the motives for it would be. To the extent that standardisation may facilitate the mainstreaming of SRI, it could be a good thing – but we entertain doubts about whether mainstreaming really requires standardisation.


ambiguity business ethics definitions ethical investment heterogeneity mainstreaming responsible investment socially responsible investment standardisation sustainable investment 



We gratefully acknowledge the funding support provided by Mistra, the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research. This study is part of a larger programme, `Behavioural Impediments to Sustainable Investment', run in collaboration with researchers from the Department of Psychology and the Centre for Finance, School of Business, Economics and Law at University of Gothenburg, Sweden. We would also like to thank Professor Alan Lewis of the University of Bath (UK) who supervised the qualitative research project in the UK.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joakim Sandberg
    • 1
    Email author
  • Carmen Juravle
    • 2
  • Ted Martin Hedesström
    • 3
  • Ian Hamilton
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of GothenburgGothenburgSweden
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of BathBathU.K.
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of GothenburgGothenburgSweden
  4. 4.Umeå School of BusinessUmeå UniversityUmeåSweden

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