Below is a post from Schulich School of Business MBA student James MacDonald. James, a volunteer at the PRI-CBERN Academic Network Conference, provides his insights on the first day of the conference.
What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “Responsible Investing”? Some might picture a well-kept, nerdy looking bookkeeper. Others might picture a kindly old lady with a pad-lock on her purse. What you might not realize is that RI goes way beyond that and way beyond simple financial transactions. There is a bit of a debate over whether RI is its own field or a sub-sect of finance. Regardless, you may have over looked the fact that it has become an important aspect of virtually all businesses regardless of incorporation type, mission statement, or operational processes.
The reality of the “new normal” that followed the recent recession is that they old ways of doing business will no longer work as well as they used to. Businesses, academics, and students alike realize that in the competition for resources and customers the winner will be the one who goes the extra mile. Companies and investors who can see past the first reasonable pile of money to the second larger pile of money that also has a bunch of people who were helped in the process will be the ones getting the true return. An important caveat to this is that these are likely the people who already regard returns as something that combines financial and non-financial factors in their determination of value.
It should be noted that this simple comparison of piles of money also has a physical dimension to it. The second pile is generally larger, further away, and involves more intimate processes. This is not to say that this is always the case, but in an economy where most markets are stagnant or shrinking, putting in the extra effort is the only way forward. The benefit of this ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance), SRI (Social Responsible Investing), CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), SVC (Shared Value Creation), and Social Enterprise paradigms is that other people internally and externally will benefit from your business processes. Customers will be more attracted to your business and employees will be more motivated and proud of their work. Sounds like a win-win to me.
In the first day of PRI-CBERN Academic Network Conference the topics have covered disciplines such as law, sociology, physiology, business management, governance, institutional theory, finance, and economics on topics of climate change, the retail industry, governance in Africa, investing in Asia, sustainability reports, benefit corporations, transparency and public policy. This is just to name some of the themes that papers being presented and discussions happening as there is more going on each day then possible to attend. Regardless of if you are interested in RI or not there is something for you at this conference as it covers virtually all aspects of the future of business and society at the same time. It’s been an exciting first day and I’m sure the next two will be equally captivating.