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 ethical investment.

OXFORD EVENT BODY IMAGE

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 the questions.

OXFORD EVENT BODY IMAGE 2

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 info@shared-interest.com to share your views.