How do we incorporate social concerns into finance?
At Ethical Finance Global 2022 we had a fantastic panel with Thom Kenrick FICRS FRSA of NatWest Group, Seynabou Ba of AZURA POWER & ESG Africa, Catherine Flockhart of Baillie Gifford and Azman Mokhtar of INCEIF, The Global University of Islamic Finance, moderated by our very own Allan Watt.
The panellists agreed that defining and measuring social good was a key challenge, due to the fact that, like finance, society is fundamentally about people, about their needs, wants and flaws, and thus it cannot be modelled like a physical system. The difficulty of doing so, however, in no way means that it should be be strived for.
Thom Kenrick pointed out that incorporating the S into finance is both the oldest – and the newest – part of ESG. While it has gained recent prominence, it remains below the environmental E in many institutions’ priorities. But it was not always this way – long before humanity had heard of climate change, the East India Company was being hauled over the coals by shareholders for the issue of slavery in its supply chains.
Seynabou Ba warned of the prospect of ‘elite capture’ when working with community leaders, cautioning that businesses must be alert to the potential that community benefits go further than merely enriching the leaders.
Likewise, there was broad agreement on the fact that companies bear a significant responsibility for their workers, particularly in the current economic crisis.
Allan Watt, Senior Advisor, Global Ethical Finance Initiative
Thom Kenrick, Head of Social Strategy and Impact, NatWest Group
Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar, Chairman, Tabung Haji Pilgrims Fund, Malaysia
Seynabou Ba, ESG Director, Azura Power and Founder, ESG Africa
Catherine Flockhart, Head of ESG, Baillie Gifford