I have been working for big corporations for years either as manager or in CxO positions, but it is only lately that I have really started to understand how corporations’ vision and strategies are impacted by shareholders. To be more precise, I became aware that the people representing the shareholders are only interested in the return they get …! They are not at all interested in the social return and in the environmental impact. You could say that these people are heartless, couldn’t you? But let’s pause a second, who is mandating these people? We are mandating them, as soon as we put our savings in a bank, investment fund or whatever financial organization. What are we expecting from those organizations when we trust them with our savings? Return, risk level, liquidity…. Do we ever ask questions about social return and the environmental impact? Most of us don’t and I didn’t for years.
The process can be explained quite simply. When you give your money to a bank, the bank gives it to investment funds and the investment funds appoint traders to maximize the return of their funds. The way traders work is well described in Douglas Kennedy’s book « Chasing Mammon: Travels in the Pursuit of Money », it is scaring! There may be a lot of « go-betweens » between you and the receiving organization. During this process, the message your money is carrying becomes even tougher: ever more financial returns and nothing else. We all play an important role while saving money, but we don’t know it. It is of course easier to blame the traders, the banks, the CEO’s …
Besides putting my savings in truly ethical funds, I wanted to do something more: to help creating awareness of the substantial impact we all have when investing our savings in financial organizations. So when last summer I had to find a project for a lecture on project management I give to Erasmus students, I decided to propose a project I named « The Story of Finance ». The objective of it being to raise awareness of the people investing their money.
Thirteen students started working on this project end of September. They have to deliver a website, a video and a social media campaign for « The Story of Finance ». Their target date is 14th December, so they are still in the process of developing their project, but you can already see some output: the draft website, the Facebook page and the Twitter account. And you can help them. How?
By making suggestions. I am sure many of you have good ideas on how to raise awareness on investing ethically, know of good resources, etc. Please let those students know one way or the other.
By passing on. Perhaps, if you are convinced by the project, you could publish this post or one of theirs on your social network (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, ….). The idea would be to get it viral, like for the video « The story of stuff » but this is probably too ambitious although I like the saying :
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead
Thanks for your support,