Originally posted September 10, 2018
Here is an excerpt:
Ten years ago, “ethical” investing meant not buying shares in arms and alcohol, as if morality were so unfamiliar to financial decision-making that you had to go back to the 19th century and borrow it from the Quakers. The growth of banks with a moral mission – like Triodos (“quality of life, human dignity, sustainability”) – or investments with a social purpose – like Abundance, which finances renewable energy – has been impressive on its own terms, but remained niche, for baby boomers with a conscience. The idea that all market activity should have a purpose other than profit is roughly where it always was on the spectrum, somewhere between Marx and Jesus – one for the rioters, the subversives, the people with beards, unsuited to mainstream discourse.
But there is nothing more pragmatic and less idealistic than to insist on the social purpose of the market; banking cannot survive without it – not as a corporate bolt-on but as its driving and decisive motivation. The derivatives trade cannot weather the consequences of infinite self-interest, because there really will be consequences – extreme global ones. The planet cannot survive an endless cost-benefit analysis in which nature is pitted against profit. Nature will always lose and so will humanity as a result. Whatever the immediate cause of the next crash, if and when it comes its roots will be environmental. The Financial Times talks about “the insidious danger that pension funds deflate, leaving a generation without enough money to retire”. The most likely cause for that devaluation of pensions – leaving aside the generation that cannot afford to save for the future – will be stranded assets, pension funds having invested in fossil fuels that cannot be excavated.
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