“Every economic decision has a moral consequence”
Ethical investment co-operative Shared Interest marked the run up to National Ethical Investment Week (14– 20 October) with
a topical debate on the choices we make when it comes to our money. Somewhat belatedly (with apologies) bring you details of the discussion.
Held at Oxford’s Wesley Memorial Church on Saturday 6th October as an event open to all, the debate involved four panellists with different approaches to ethical investment.
Shared Interest uses investment from people living in the UK to lend to fair trade businesses across the globe, with the aim of improving livelihoods even in the most marginalised of communities.
Shared Interest’s Sally Reith introduced the panellists before Board member Carol Wills opened the debate, talking about the roots of fair trade and how the movement began. She went on to say:
“One way to exploit people is to make sure that they are not well organised – to deny workers the right to form associations or to join Trades Unions or to hand out work to individual homeworkers ignorant of any rights they may have. At the heart of fair trade is the cooperative concept, that people are stronger if they work together.
“Fair trade has been hugely successful in that every supermarket has their own Fairtrade brand, and many large companies have committed to purchasing their raw materials on fair trade terms.
“Where does that leave the pioneering Fairtrade brands? It leaves them competing for shelf space in the supermarkets. That means they have to focus on quality, taste and origins to keep the consumers buying.
“It’s a good challenge to have – because the volumes now traded on fair trade terms are growing all the time – running to over £1 billion a year in the UK alone – and this can only be good for producers. And ethical investment is needed to sustain this. “
Co-ordinator of the National Justice and Peace Network, Diana Mills spoke about how every economic decision has a moral consequence: we need to be informed and engaged to be able to speak out and query fund managers. There is a legal obligation from companies to give an open and honest response and we have an ethical obligation to ask the questions.
Team Rector of Marlborough, Reverend Canon Andrew Studdert-Kennedy, highlighted that we live in a world fuelled by debt. As a “nation in a hurry”, he believes that our easy access to credit and the fast and impersonal nature of technology has sped up our purchasing activity and left little time for reflection on our actions.
Andrew argues that: “The world in which we live is competitive, but is it happy? We think we need to be prosperous before we can be generous – we need to reverse this thinking.”
Policy Adviser within the Joint Public Issues team serving the Baptist, Methodist and United Reformed churches, Steve Hucklesby, looked at how investments are made in the context of power. He explained how investment options like that of Shared Interest engage the investor to the borrower.
What are your views on ethical investment? Shared Interest would like your feedback on this topic. Please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your views.
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