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A History of Scandinavian Socially Responsible Investing

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This article contributes to the literature on national varieties of socially responsible investment (SRI) by demonstrating how Scandinavian SRI developed from the 60s and onwards. Combining findings on Scandinavian SRI with insights from previous research and institutional theory, the article accounts for the role of changes in societal values and norms, the mechanisms by which SRI practices spread, and how investors adopt and transform practices to suit their surrounding institutional contexts. Especially, the article draws attention to how different categories of investors act as institutional entrepreneurs during specific historical periods, and how these roles come to shift as institutional rule systems of varying societal levels change. Thus, the insights gained are useful in the future research agenda concerned with advancing knowledge on idiosyncrasies and commonalities of national SRI manifestations, and to understand the reasons underlying such characteristics.

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Arbejdsmarkedets Tillægspension


Best in class


Corporate social responsibility


Government pension fund


International Labour Organization


Kommunal Landspensjonskasse




Non-governmental organization


Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development


Pensionskassernes Administration


Socially responsible investing


United Nations


United Nations Conference on Environment and Development


United Nations Principles of Responsible Investment


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The author wishes to express his gratitude to Letterstedska Stiftelsen for financial support, and to all those who contributed by agreeing to be interviewed. He also wishes to thank Rebecca Rothstein and Örjan Teleman for their useful comments on earlier drafts of the article.

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Correspondence to Elias Bengtsson.

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Bengtsson, E. A History of Scandinavian Socially Responsible Investing. J Bus Ethics 82, 969–983 (2008).

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