Financing farther futures: how to incorporate long-term considerations in the development of sustainable finance

In October, SMART will be hosting a seminar in Oslo together with the Sustainable Societies Research Group at Molde University College, bringing research and reality together to critically assess sustainable finance in a perspective of the long term, through practical and theoretical insights. 

Photo by Joshua Sortino

As part of the overall awakening to climate change and systemic environmental disruptions, the finance sector is under increased pressure to take more responsibility for global sustainable development. Institutional investors such as The Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund and a host of national pension funds are either divesting ethically tainted stocks such as coal and oil or engaging in shareholder activism to try and influence corporations to become more environmentally and socially responsible.

In Denmark, media attention and growing public awareness has pushed the pension funds into ethically proactive approaches. Banks are increasingly offering green investment portfolios and socially responsible investment policies are finding their way to more mainstream Exchange-Traded Funds (EFT’s) as well. Alongside these developments we have seen certain rise of microfinance and the emergence of new community-based finance models.

Though these turn of events are positive, they still only represent a small deviance in global finance-as-usual.

Sustainable finance has yet to grapple with the long-term disruptions of the Anthropocene and with how to invest in unmeasurable ROI’s and strategies that support multiple actors who are usually undervalued in financial systems: communities, forests, animals, rivers, mountains and others whose ‘voices’ are not part of price assessments and trade logics.

The economic growth paradigm and its predatory approach to ‘natural resources’ seems more or less intact in the discourse of sustainable finance. Some resources may lose legitimacy as investment objects (e.g. coal or fracked gas), but a multitude of organic and non-organic materials and lives are still valuated within the rational machine of economic trade. These valuations are linear and do not take so-called ‘externalities’ of the resources into account (e.g. waste problems or health effects). They are temporally ignorant, not considering e.g. the value of the millions of years it has taken for earth’s strata to produce materials such as oil or iron – nor the future effects and challenges that the use of the product will bring, e.g. the effects of pesticides on bees. 

The seminar Financing Farther Futures places itself in the middle of these topics, inviting people who are working to change these modes of thinking and acting, both from both scholarly and practical points of view.Our aim for the day is to critically assess sustainable finance in a perspective of the long term, through practical and theoretical insights. We are here to talk, learn and challenge ourselves and each other. We ask ourselves:

  1. What are the barriers for banks, venture caps and shareholders to investing in the large-scale and long-term institutional changes needed to change destructive and anthropocentric behavior? 
  2. Do we see any financial concern with long-term climate change resilience in the face of e.g. IPCC warnings about draughts and rising oceans – and how is this then put into practice?
  3. Can the relation between finance and lived (human and non-human) life transform to the extent that financial structures and practices take interest in issues such as well-being, thriving environments, regeneration of resources, inter-generational happiness, etc.?

Save the date! A detailed programme will soon follow.

Published July 10, 2019 1:07 PM - Last modified July 10, 2019 1:07 PM