In a recent interview of the BBC in London, Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi called for companies to practice “ethical and responsible investment”. The question she was asked related to companies looking to trade in Burma and she said she welcomed new investment by overseas companies but only where the companies demonstrated that they were looking to invest in her country and apply an ethical and responsible approach to their activities.
In a much wider sense, we are all responsible for what is done in our name with our money, so we all need to make sure that we invest ethically and responsibly. Human Rights campaigners should not be financing companies exploiting people and environmental campaigners probably won’t want their money to support companies contributing to climate change the worst extractive companies.
If companies struggle to do the right thing, then as shareholders we are faced with three simple choices:
1) Do nothing; this means we remain part of the problem and therefore have no right at all to be upset or complain when companies do things we don’t like,
2) Be an active shareholder and gather others who feel the same as you, engage with the company to get them to stop doing the things you don’t like,
3) Invest ethically, in a fund which pledges not to use your money to support companies that compromise your personal values.
In Summary, if you want to see companies move in to Burma in an ethical and responsible way, then you need to make sure you are backing the right horse; decide which of the above three options is most comfortable for you and act accordingly. Remember, doing nothing is still a choice you have made, and the consequences of your choice can be far reaching and, unfortunately, damaging to people, animals and our planet.