Every Economic Decision has a Moral Consequence
October saw us marking National Ethical Investment week with a
topical debate on the choices we make when it comes to our money.
Held in Oxford as an event open to all, the debate involved four
panellists, each with a very different approach to the world of
Shared Interest's 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
to whom you pay an absolute pittance because the homeworkers,
mostly women, are poorly educated (if at all) and 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 promoting the idea of
fairness in trade and now 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."
Exchanging views with Carol was Diana Mills, Co-ordinator of the
National Justice and Peace Network. Diana spoke passionately 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
Reverend Canon Andrew Studdert-Kennedy, Team Rector of
Marlborough 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."
Steve Hucklesby, Policy Adviser within the Joint Public Issues
team serving the Baptist, Methodist and United Reformed churches,
looked at how investments are made in the context of power. He
explained how investment options like that of Shared Interest,
engages the investor to the borrower.
Over 70 people attended our Oxford event and we hope that the
debate inspired our guests to look at ethical investment from a
different point of view. We would love to hear your feedback on
this topic. Please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org to
share your views.