By Isabel Nuesse
On October 10th, WEAll Scotland held an event in Edinburgh in collaboration with Baillie Gifford and the Global Ethical Finance Initiative.
“The transition to a sustainable economic system: what’s the role of finance?” raised questions of the future of finance and how the sector can adapt to the challenges of the 21st century. The speakers were Frank Dixon of Global Systems Change, Jessica Runicles of Business in the Community and Andrew Cave of Ballie Gifford, hosted by WEAll’s Lisa Hough-Stewart.
Frank Dixon presented his concept of System Change Investing (click to download PDF) as a proposal for an approach the finance sector could take, modelled on his extensive experience developing SRI frameworks. He questioned, what if the finance sector applied the rule of law (“do no harm to others”) to their thinking? How would that effect the systems that make up the sector as well as the investments that are made inside it? He argued that investing in systems change is the most important action needed to solve climate change and address the Sustainable Development Goals.
The conversation then evolved into speaking about the role of business in environmental and social governance. Jessica Runicles emphasised how important it is for financiers to educate businesses on their opportunities to become more responsible. While explaining the Responsible Business Map she talked of some challenges she has with businesses not grasping the profitable opportunities better business can present.
Our final speaker was Andrew Cave from Baillie Gifford who had the audience watch this video, “Corporate Scandals that Changed the Course of Capitalism.” He spoke about Baillie Gifford’s long term investment and engagement strategies and their new communications approach which emphasises the need for investors to “help shape the new world – not just shore up the old one”.
After the speakers presented, we had a panel discussion where the audience was able to ask questions. It was clear that education is a huge missing piece in elevating the role of finance in society. It was discussed that radical transparency is also necessary to increase the understanding of how the finance sector works and more specifically, how individuals and business can take more aggressive steps to move money into more socially responsible initiatives. The event provided a valuable opportunity for finance professionals and other interested attendees to share their challenges in creating change openly and honestly, and it was the start of a valuable conversation that WEAll will continue to drive forward.