Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 95, Issue 3, pp 415–424 | Cite as

UN Principles for Responsible Investment Signatories and the Anti-Apartheid SRI Movement: A Thought Experiment



There appears to be a growing disquiet amongst academics surrounding the ascendancy of ‘responsible’ investment that is egoist or self-interested in character – ‘business case’ responsible investment. This ascendancy has in no small measure been associated with the uptake of United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) as a de facto standard for mainstream responsible investment. This article contributes to this disquiet. It does this by examining how egoist ‘responsible’ investors (as endorsed by the PRI) might have behaved had they been around in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s during days of the anti-apartheid socially responsible investment (SRI) movement. Armed with near perfect (hindsight grade) enhanced analytics, it is clear that the signals that such egoist ‘responsible’ investors would have sent to company management in terms of the apartheid issue would have been highly muddled and therefore ineffective. The net conclusion is that there is nothing inherently or inevitably ‘responsible’ about egoist investment and that the aversion to behaving ethically amongst institutional investors must be challenged and not swept under a carpet of rhetoric.


egoist investors ethical investment principles for responsible investment responsible investment socially responsible investment 


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This research was funded by Noah Financial Innovation. The author would like to thank David Wood and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on the paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Corporate CitizenshipUniversity of South AfricaPretoriaSouth Africa

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