Social, economic and environmental justice are not just noble pursuits, they are the engines of democracy and among the driving forces that brought the United States into being. Unalienable rights – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – are realized through democracy but also through commerce. Economic and social justice, and yes also the pursuit of wealth, drove the earliest explorers and then the Colonists to the New World, and that quest pushed the generations that followed further West.
Even so, great injustices and exploitation were committed in the name of progress, as the rights and privileges of all were not respected and honored. The slave trade, the abuse and destruction of virtually the entirety of aboriginal American civilization, racism and misogyny are stark and unforgivable reminders of the importance of “for all”. Justice is not justice when it is reserved for the few.
The principle of rights “for all” extends to the environment as well. Generations of scholars and scientists, politicians, industrialists and innovators have shaped society and the environment in profound and often unproductive ways through policy, technology and enterprise as it pertains to the utilization of our natural resources. Environmental justice has taken many forms across centuries as civilizations have moved and expanded, but the essence of it has been and continues to be that equal access to and preservation of the environmental commons is critical to fully enjoying our unalienable rights.
Profit and Progress
The capital markets can be an efficient mechanism for directing dollars to projects and enterprises which serve humanity – providing food, shelter, transportation, raw materials, health care, infrastructure, social services and even recreation and entertainment – and do so profitably. At the same time, businesses that have been or continue to be predatory, depletive or harmful in some or all of their practices service the interests of only a few in search of profit to the detriment of people and planet. There are also parts of the market that are more casino than conduit and do little or nothing to create value, grow the real economy and serve society.
The notion of sustainability is that businesses and infrastructure investments can be part of a virtuous circle with a wide range of stakeholders from owners to employees to suppliers to customers to the communities that surround them. There should not have to be losers in order to have winners in a capitalist system. Sustainable enterprises can create products and services profitably, but also efficiently and with respect for human and natural capital. Investing in enterprises that understand that perpetuating the resources on which they draw and the markets in which they operate should perpetuate earnings and growth and the interests of all stakeholders in the long term.
Our philosophical orientation is only a starting point. Translating these principles into implementable processes for asset owners and asset managers is our mandate. We work with individuals, families, foundations, endowments, religious institutions, retirement plans and other asset owners to develop approaches that are consistent with their values and chart a path to implementation. For asset managers, we assist in building investment processes that embrace and integrate environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into market-performing strategies and bringing those strategies to the community of asset owners.
The Future of Capital
Capitalism is one of the most profound systems for change mankind has ever fashioned. However, the current system fails to include everyone, and for those that are included, it does not do so equitably. We do not believe the answer is to dismantle capitalism, but to revise and refine it in a way that aligns people, planet and profit, and by doing so not only will it lift up more people, it will unlock a historic wave of inclusive prosperity. Wilde Capital Management is a proud founding participant in the Future Capital initiative, convened by the UN Office for Partnerships, the UN Conference on Trade and Development, and the World Academy of Art and Science, and our Partner, Mark Sloss, is currently serving as Executive Director of the Initiative.