Sustainable capitalism is beginning to be talked about. It is still discussed in dark corners, mostly at a whisper, for fear of rocking the boat. So, well done to Al Gore for standing up and trying to get the debate going.
I confess to being a capitalist at heart, but not your Gordon Gecko style capitalist. I call myself a ‘social capitalist’, which means that I want to make sure that society as a whole benefits from my activities, not just me. I believe that no people or animals should be exploited in the pursuit of profit and we should minimise our impact on the environment to ensure that it is available to be enjoyed by future generations. ‘Profit at any cost’ in anathema to me; the cost to society, animals and the planet is far too high for a sustainable future and when we hurt others we hurt ourselves.
If companies and shareholders worked together to enhance company value whilst at the same time ensuing that our society and its sustainability is improved, then we all come out winners. Here are some examples of where the lack of joined up thinking currently stands:
Trade Unions – a union is calling a strike against a company for ‘downsizing’ its workforce. Downsizing in real terms is laying people off who may then become a burden on the State leading to a more fragmented society. At the same time, the union invests its own money in the shares of the same company against which it has called a strike. As a shareholder, the union is demanding a higher and higher return on its investments, pushing the company to maximise profits at any cost. The irony here is that it is the UNION which has forced the jobs cuts, not the management. I challenge all Unions around the world to invest in a way which ensures the greatest equality for all and not the highest return for the few. Alternatively, Unions should not have the right to challenge any company in which they invest.
Vegans – at the same time as campaigning outside an intensive farm those present are investing their Superfund in companies whose activities involved in broiler hens, battery eggs and live exports. Just like in the case with the Unions mentioned above, it is rally rather pointless to be demanding profits from a meat company who can only use intensive methods to maximise profits whilst at the same time calling for an end to intensive farming. Those responsible for the abuse of animals via intensive farming are all too often those who are most vocal in their defence of animals.
Do you feel challenged by the above statements? Good, you should be, whether you represent a trade union or are an animal welfare campaigner. Get your own finances in order and ensure they are socially responsible first, before you condemn the activities of others.
Back to Al and his sub-prime climate statement. He’s absolutely right; each day that we allow our money to finance the destruction of our climate it is just like throwing more and more money into sub-prime mortgages. Maybe it is perhaps worse; no one really noticed the sub-prime mortgage problems until it all exploded back in 2008. When it comes to the climate, none of us can say that we haven’t noticed the changes that are happening. How many times to we have to hear ‘unusual’, ‘unseasonal’ or ‘once in a generation’ before we accept the fact that our weather and climate are being affected by our actions?
I am pleased that investment companies in the UK such as WHEB Asset Management are supporting Al Gore and are developing new investment methodologies which take into account sustainability factors. One day, all investment companies will do the same. The question is, how much damage will mainstream investment companies do to us and our planet (with our own money) before they see the light?
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