Morals, Markets and Sustainable Investments: A Qualitative Study of ‘Champions’
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Sustainable investment (SI), which integrates social, environmental and ethical issues, has grown from a niche market of individual ethical investors to embrace institutional investors (e.g. pension funds) resulting in £764 billion in assets under management in the UK alone [Eurosif, 2008: ‘European SRI Study 2008’ (Eurosif, Paris)]. Explaining this growth is complex, involving shifts in personal and collective values, reactions to corporate scandals, scientific and media pronouncements about climate change, Government initiatives, responses from financial markets and the influence of SI innovators in The City of London. The article examines the influence of human agency through interviews with 14 SI champions who have variously been responsible for launching SI funds and changing investment processes and organisational structures in order to enhance SI. Interviewees were asked about their motivations and persuasive strategies, the obstacles they faced and how they overcame them as well as broader implications of SI for financial markets. The following key categories inform the results and the discussion: Values; Conservatism, Antipathy and Incredulity; Optimism and Sympathy from Insiders; The Social and Political Context; The Business Case; Organisational Constraints; Inappropriate forms of Remuneration; Short-termism; The Nature of Capitalism. Three discourses were also identified. The first is the necessity to make a business case for SI; the second is the benefits that SI can bring to the quest of overcoming short-termism; the third is a belief that for SI to have a significant influence, greater government intervention is required.
Keywordschampionship discourse human agency innovation morals and markets qualitative sustainable investment
Corporate social responsibility
Ethical investment research and information service
Socially responsible investment
Environmental, social and corporate governance (factors)
European social investment forum
UK social investment forum
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We gratefully acknowledge the funding support provided by Mistra, the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research.
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