Investments account for future prospects. Long-term investment is based on discounting future anticipations. Socially responsible investments (SRIs) were historically focused on long-term considerations. In general, sociopsychological motives may drive the demand for SRIs besides the intention to maximize profits. Altruism as a concern for the societal well-being, the need for innovation and entrepreneurship, strategic leadership advantages through social status elevation, utility derived from transparency and information disclosure but also self-enhancement through identification and self-consistency, the expression of social values but also long-term considerations are sociopsychological drives of SRI (Puaschunder forthcoming-b). These nonfinancial criteria seem to play a major role in the decision to invest with a long-term focus. Long-term investment holds sociopsychological and leadership advantages, such as altruism benefits and first-mover gains. In the age of global warming, attention for intergenerational aspects of future investments has gained unprecedented momentum. Political divestiture with a long-term investment view is one of the most recent trends in investment policies, as, for instance, practiced in carbon divestiture. Future research may integrate social, environmental, and intergenerational aspects in long-term financial discounting calculus.
Time determines life. In the anticipation of future outcomes, people constantly decide whether to incur gains or losses now or later. Investment decisions are based on reflections about future prospects. Investments and financial foresight attribute long-term perspectives. Investment strategies can build on intentions to maximize sustainable financial returns as well as considerations of long-term societal implications of investments. Attentive corporate executives and financial professionals are mindful of future risks and future impacts of their decision-making.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
Long-term viability of corporate conduct is ingrained in corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices. CSR grants long-term stability of corporate conduct as for creating a supportive business environment and decreasing the likelihood of stakeholder pressure and litigations risks (Little 2008; Posnikoff 1997; Sparkes 2002). When taking rising CSR trends into consideration, socially responsible investment (SRI) offers long-term financial prospects (Little 2008; McWilliams and Siegel 2000).
Advocating for integrating long-term investments in CSR models in academia and practice holds various advantages. There is an enormous untapped potential of transnational corporations and multinational enterprises (TC&MEs) to implement social conscientiousness over time. As corporate entities with economic influence beyond the borders of nation-states as for holding subsidiaries in various nations of the world (Binder et al. 2014), TC&MEs are acknowledged as international legal entities and must therefore abide by international law standards and fulfill international court laws (e.g., ICSID and UNCITRAL). As a consequence TC&MEs should, like nation-states, consider adopting social concerns.
There are several advantages of TC&MEs implementing social responsibility. TC&MEs hold enormous economic potential, with the largest multinational corporations having revenues larger than many nation-states. In their corporate governance, TC&ME leadership decision-making quickly adapts to market demands without having to reach international consensus – contrary to stakeholder engagement and international consensus negotiation demands of classic global governance entities such as the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank. TC&MEs are not dependent on voters – such as governmental officials – and can thus address intergenerational concerns faster and more flexibly than governmental technocrats. In addition, TC&ME leadership may be more stable than governmental officials enacted through voting cycles, that is, global corporate leaders are likely to stay longer in “office” than their governmental counterparts.
If the corporate world adopts a long-term view in current CSR endeavors, it could help governmental officials in very many different ways ranging from tax ethics to first aid global governance support. For society, acknowledging long-term views in the CSR practices promises to alleviate current pressing societal predicaments of overindebtedness, social welfare reform needs, and environmental threats in the wake of climate change. Investigating the possibilities to integrate a temporal dimension in contemporary CSR work innovatively guides the implementation of financial social responsibility, environmental protection education, and social welfare. For academia, applying the notion of long-term considerations in corporate governance models fills an up-to-date undiscovered research gap that spearheads interdisciplinary behavioral law and economic models to aid in the global corporate arena and the finance world.
Socially Responsible Investment
SRI allows investors to support corporations that have a lasting impact on society. Investors interested in “social change” put their investments to work in ways that sustainably improve the overall quality of life. Socially conscientious investors thereby use SRI as a long-term strategy to contribute to society (Knoll 2008; Schueth 2003).
From a multi-stakeholder perspective, SRI implies long-term positive societal outcomes (Sparkes 2002). SRI ensures that corporations are held accountable for any social and environmental impacts and investments are in line with societal values (Sparkes 2002). By shifting capital from socially disapproved to socially conscientious corporations, SRI fosters corporate social performances. As for being incentivized by first-mover leadership advantages, more and more corporations currently pay attention to social responsibility in the future. Accompanied by followers, the rising supply of SRI in combination with a heightened demand for the integration of personal values and societal concerns into financial decision-making may prospectively leverage social conscientiousness to become a standard feature of investment markets. On the long run, the integration of SRI into the overall competitive model will further sophisticate social responsibility in corporate conduct (Schueth 2003; Starr 2008; Stiglitz 1998).
In recent decades, SRI experienced a qualitative and quantitative growth in the Western world that can be traced back to a combination of historical incidents, legislative compulsion, and stakeholder pressure. Due to a qualitative and quantitative growth in the Western world within recent decades, SRI emerged into an investment philosophy adopted by a growing proportion of financial practitioners. Key indicators for the ascent of SRI are the increasing number and diversity of SRI options. Over the past decades, SRI has grown 4% faster than all professionally managed investment assets. In the aftermath of the world financial crisis and the subsequent age of austerity, social responsibility has evolved into an en vogue topic for the corporate world and the finance sector. Contrary to classic finance theory that sees investments as primarily based on expected utility and volatility, the consideration of social responsibility in financial investment decisions has gained unprecedented momentum. The rise in SRI is accompanied by the upcoming of stock exchange rating agencies, social responsibility impact measurement tools, social reporting, and certifications.
2008/2009 World Financial Recession Aftermath
After the steady rise of SRI in recent decades, stakeholder concerns for financial social responsibility climaxed in the eye of the 2008 financial meltdown. Since the outbreak of the crisis, the societal call for social responsibility in corporate and financial markets has reached unprecedented momentum. The revelation of corporate social misconduct and financial fraud steered consumers and investors to increasingly pay attention to social responsibility within market systems. Media coverage of corporate scandals, fiduciary breaches, and astronomic CEO remuneration fostered the need for financial social conscientiousness. Financial managers’ exuberance fueled the demand for transparent and accountable corporate conduct. Stakeholder pressure addressed information disclosure of corporate activities. Market actors were confronted with growing societal expectations of disciplined corporate conduct under conditions of heightened levels of public scrutiny. Corporate scandals also drove the wish for restoring public trust in financial markets. The announcement of the recapitalization of the finance sector in October 2008 perpetuated skepticism in the performance of unregulated markets and halted liberalization trends. Stakeholders demanded governmental control of corporate social conduct and pushed for financial market regulations. A redefined interplay of public and private sector forces was meant to ensure social responsibility and strengthen confidence in financial markets. Governmental bailouts renewed public claims in financial market control to lower agency default risks. In his historic inauguration speech, US President Barack Obama drew attention to the importance of social responsibility for economic prosperity voicing the collective demand for a well-balanced interplay of public and private forces. Regained regulatory power should ensure social responsibility in the corporate and finance world as a prerequisite for sustainable markets. Legislative reforms and governmental regulations set out to institutionalize social responsibility in financial markets. Technocrats’ “watchful eye over the market place” should oversee socially responsible financial conduct and ingrain long-term societal considerations in short-sighted market actors. Newly installed financial market disclosure regulations set out to prevent financial fraud steering economic turmoil. Transparency of private sector activities and accountability of financial market operations should naturally lower principal-agent default risks.
The 2008/2009 World Financial Recession has drawn attention to an additional essential feature for the long-term success of entrepreneurial innovations in free market hubs – social responsibility. The 2008 world financial meltdown underlined that creative entrepreneurs featuring dynamic energy, an extraordinary striving for innovative progress, and high levels of risk acceptance can impose emergent and systemic risks on unregulated markets. While unregulated markets are essential for fostering an innovative climate, the past 2008/2009 regulatory watchful eye over the marketplace has created an “Age of Angst,” featuring shied liquidity and corporate capital hoarding that may only be overcome by renewed attention to the importance of risky entrepreneurs driving innovation, yet who are also socially conscientious, allowing free market innovations to prosper sustainably. Social responsibility as an essential safety protection beyond legal regulation ensures the correct performance of contracts coupled with additional conscientiousness for social needs. In these functions, financial social responsibility serves societal goals beyond the regulatory control (Chakrabarty and Wang 2012).
Within the financial market in particular, SRI is an innovative and entrepreneurial investment option that allows sustainable free market economic growth protected by a personal social responsibility which tames the personal excesses that can impose potential risks onto the economy. As a means of stakeholder activism, SRI allows investors to reward societal progress and innovatively tackle social and environmental concerns. Public and private leaders as well as academics followed these trends by searching for financial social conscientiousness-enhancing market structures, while investors aimed at restoring general public trust in financial markets – e.g., the theme of the 2011 Bretton Woods Institute for New Economic Thinking conference. The renewed acknowledgment of financial social conscientiousness and also the regulatory renaissance in the finance world are believed to prosper SRI.
Contemporary Long-Term Investments
Today the range of shareholder engagement possibilities is more sophisticated than ever, and trends forecast a further maturation of SRI from a niche segment solution into a mainstream market feature. SRI appears as idea, whose time has come. Ever since its existence, financial social responsibility has been perpetuated by socially and environmentally problematic situations and flourished in the eye of sociopolitical deficiencies. As for being less volatile during cyclical changes and more robust for whimsical market movements during economic turmoil, socially responsible funds are proven as crisis-stable market options (Puaschunder 2016b). Especially negative screenings are extremely robust in times of heightened uncertainty – as socially conscientious investors remain loyal to core values even during uncertainty. Given this track record of growth and stability in times of societal and economic downturns, nowadays SRI appears as a favorable market strategy. Research-based transparency campaigns could aid this trend by promoting SRI as a crisis-stable market option. Concurrent executive education may also nurture social conscientiousness in financial leaders as role models who motivate others to follow their paths. In the aftermath of the 2008/2009 financial meltdown, SRI appears as a powerful means to implement financial social conduct and thereby opens a window of opportunity for reestablishing stakeholders’ trust in financial markets. Ingraining social conscientiousness in financial markets promises to positively echo in the industry and thereby bring positive socioeconomic change. If the majority of investors are social responsibility and social conscientiousness becomes a standard feature of financial decision-making, this will also reflect positive on the corporate social performance. If more and more investors become willing to pay for socially responsible assets, firms in general will be incentivized to adopt more socially responsible practices. In this scenario, all investors will have to accept some degree of socially responsible contributions in response to rising socially conscientious market options. SRI thus holds the potential to lift entire market industries onto a more socially favorable level in the future.
Financial market demand and supply geared toward SRI will stretch the option range in a more socially responsible direction. In addition if the majority of investors are socially conscientious, socially responsible corporations will continuously benefit from increasing investment streams. Directed capital flows to socially responsible market options will sustainably contribute to CSR and SRI trends. Overall, financial markets attuned to social responsibility will lift entire industries onto a more socially conscientious level (Trevino and Nelson 2004). As such SRI is attributed the potential to positively impact on the financial markets and create socially attentive market systems that improve the overall standard of living and quality of life for this generation and the following.
SRI in the Age of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
The UN plays a pivotal role in institutionally promoting long-term investment opportunities in guidelining principles and public-private partnership (PPP) initiatives. In 2004 the UN invited a group of leading financial institutions to form a financial responsibility initiative under the wing of the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) (https://www.unglobalcompact.org/). In 2006, a UNGC division launched “The Principles for Responsible Investment” in collaboration with the New York Stock Exchange. The Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) were introduced as part of the UNGC to encourage institutional investors to embrace SRI. This initiative develops guidelines and recommendations on how to integrate environmental, social, and corporate governance in financial markets and how financial investment banks and fiduciaries can implement social responsibility goals as a risk management tool. In February 2008, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) launched the “Responsible Investment in Emerging Markets” initiative, which enhances transparency of emerging financial markets. In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, SRI is attributed the potential to reestablish trust in financial markets. Stakeholder pressure and changing financial market regulations enhancing accountability and transparency are believed to perpetuate SRI in the future.
In addition, the corporate world plays a pivotal role in ingraining a long-term perspective into the finance world. In the given literature on global responsible leadership in the corporate sector and contemporary corporate social responsibility (CSR) models, intergenerational equity appears to have widely been neglected. While the notion of sustainability has been integrated in CSR models (Steurer et al. 2012), intergenerational equity has hardly been touched on as intergenerational fairness differs from sustainability as for being a more legal case for codifying the triple bottom line (Boubaker et al. 2018). Since 2008 the International Law Commission of the United Nations has been promoting intergenerational equity primarily on global governance issues – such as climate change awareness, overindebtedness, and pension reform (Puaschunder 2012).
In the age of sustainable development (http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/summit/), global governance entities create public-private partnerships (PPP) that enhance institutional, political, and judicial infrastructures. Legislative frameworks aim at corporate social value creation. International public policy makers ratify social responsibility declarations that are in sync with societal goals and advocate for the adoption of social responsibility policies.
Regarding the UN SDGs (http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/summit/), which were introduced in September 2015, sustainable finance has become an essential tool for the alleviation of societal deficiencies. As for the eradication of hunger, the social investment revolution has perpetuated the crises and poverty alleviation strategies. But how to raise the necessary funds for the enabling of the ambitious SDG goals? Proposed funding schemes range from IT solutions and crowdfunding (Puaschunder 2016c, b; Lehner 2016), human capital development through female education and empowerment, social venture capital, urban social inclusive growth through microfinancing, and the implementation of sustainable self-financing through creating a constant revenue stream to settle long-term expenses. Innovative PPP financing solutions include state-provided ground and infrastructure and corporations generating constant revenue stream through running facilities while embracing the stakeholder community through providing multifaceted employment and engagement options. A public-private plan to achieve all SDGs in all the low-income countries could also be reached by development, global disarmament fund, and private patient capital in addition to national budgets as proposed by Jeffrey Sachs (Alpbach Laxenburg Group 2016) (http://www.iiasa.ac.at/web/home/research/alg/Alpbach-Laxenburg-Group.html). The fund should be deployed locally through a range of specialized SDG-oriented public and private institutions with an emphasis on new technologies. National action plans should be developed through public deliberation, with governments, impact hubs, scientists, the media, and other stakeholders.
As an innovative avenue for fighting poverty, information and communications technologies (ICTs) provide access to capital online and by mobile phones. Information flow is key to medical assistance of underserved communities and an essential prerequisite for effective epidemiology. As an essential feature of preventive medical assistance, ICT helps educating on maternal health and combating child mortality, HIV, malaria, and other diseases. ICT has led to groundbreaking insights on the decay of natural resources and climate change. Information and communication foster environmental protection and sustainability (Puaschunder 2017b).
Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Investments
Environmental, social and governance (ESG)-focused investments are one of the newest developments of long-term investments (Lehner 2016). In the realm of ESG investments, environmental concerns center around sustainability and climate stabilization. The maintenance of a favorable climate accounts for the most challenging contemporary global governance predicament that seems to pit today’s generation against future world inhabitants in a trade-off of economic growth versus sustainability. Innovative intertemporal fiscal policy approaches (e.g., of Jeffrey Sachs) propose an economically efficient and intergenerationally fair allocation of efforts toward mitigation and adaptation by climate stabilization bonds as well as a transition into renewable energy. Carbon divestiture accounts for one of the most novel trends in the wake of climate stabilization efforts shaping the finance world.
Exclusionary social responsibility excludes market options that are not in sync with moral, ethical, and environmental considerations. Thereby, fossil fuel divestment aims to reduce carbon emissions by accelerating the adoption of renewable energy through the stigmatization of fossil fuel companies (Puaschunder 2015b). This includes putting public pressure on companies that are currently involved in fossil fuel extraction to invest in renewable energy. Competition from renewable energy sources may lead to the loss of value of fossil fuel companies due to their inability to compete commercially with the renewable energy sources. In some cases, this has already happened. Unstable fossil fuel prices have made investment in fossil fuel extraction a more risky investment. The stigmatization of fossil fuel companies caused by divestment can materially increase the uncertainty surrounding the future cash flows of fossil fuel companies. For instance, West Texas Intermediate crude oil fell in value from $107 per barrel in June 2014 to $50 per barrel in January 2015. Goldman Sachs stated in January 2015 that, if oil were to stabilize at $70 per barrel, $1 trillion of planned oilfield investments would not be profitable.
Exclusionary long-term investment strategies have a history of being fueled at academic institutions. Around 2011 universities started to divest endowments from coal and other fossil fuels to invest in clean energy. These so-called transition strategies were targeted at empowering environmentalism. Soon the campaign spread to an estimated 50 campuses in spring 2012. By September 2014, 181 institutions and 656 individuals had committed to divest over $50 billion based on concerns regarding carbon-intensive industries’ harmful impact on the environment. By September 2015, the numbers had grown to 436 institutions and 2,040 individuals across 43 countries, representing $2.6 trillion in assets, of which 56% were based on the commitment of pension funds and 37% of private companies. By April 2016, already 515 institutions had joined the pledge, of which 27% faith-based groups, 24% foundations, 13% governmental organizations, 13% pension funds, and 12% colleges, universities, and schools, representing, together with the individual investors, a total of $3.4 trillion in assets.
As another novel, yet proactive screening alternative, climate stabilization funds aim at financing climate mitigation and adaptation around the world through an intertemporal fiscal policy mix backed by climate bonds and carbon tax. Bonds are debt investment in which investor’s loan money to an entity, which borrows the funds for a defined period of time at a variable or fixed interest rate. Bonds are primarily used by companies, municipalities, states, and sovereign governments to raise money and finance a variety of future-oriented long-term projects and activities (Puaschunder 2016b). This solution appears as real-world relevant means to tap into the worldwide USD 80 trillion bond market in order to fund the incentives to transition to a sustainable path. Carbon tax is another alternative to raise the funds for incentivizing emission reduction and provide adaptation means (Puaschunder 2016a). A combined carbon tax-and-bond transfer strategy could turn climate change burden sharing into a Pareto-improving option over time (Puaschunder 2017c).
In order to avoid governmental expenditure on climate change hindering economic growth (Barro 1990), Sachs (2014) introduces financing climate change mitigation through debt to be paid back by future generations through taxation as a novel means to amend individual saving preferences in favor of future generations (Marron and Morris 2016). Carbon taxes can raise substantial revenue until the economy is largely decarbonized (Marron and Morris 2016). Jeffrey Sachs (2014) proposes to mitigate climate change by debt to be repaid by tax revenues on labor income in the future. Leaving the current generation with unchanged disposable income allocates the burdens of climate change mitigation across generations without the need to trade off one generation’s well-being for another’s. While today’s young generation is left unharmed, the second period young generation is made better off ecologically. Taxes on later generations are justified as for the assumed willingness of future generations to avoid higher costs of climate change prevention and environmental irreversible lock-ins. Overall this tax-and-transfer mitigation policy is thus Pareto improving across generations. While future generations enjoy a favorable climate and averted environmental lock-ins, the current populace does not face drawbacks on economic growth (Puaschunder 2017a, c).
According to neoclassical economic theory, individuals maximize future utility by discounting options with preference for immediate rewards over delayed ones. The hyperbolic discounting paradigm captures real-world choice patterns deviating from neoclassical economic theory in the finance domain with attention to discounting variance based on economic, social, and environment contexts. While standard microeconomic theory outlines exponential temporal discounting to explain rational decision-making, behavioral economics finds human time perception biased by heuristics, analogical thinking, and minimized effort. People’s cognitive capacities to consider future outcomes in today’s decisions are limited. Laibson’s (1997) hyperbolically decreasing discounting functions describe more accurately choice behavior of individuals, who tend to be impatient for smaller rewards now rather than waiting for larger ones later. Dynamically inconsistent preferences reverse as people are patient when deciding for the future and impatient when choosing for now. Field and laboratory experiments provide widespread empirical evidence for hyperbolic discounting and self-control failures on money management, financial benefits, credit card debt, medical adherence, public health, addiction, social security, fiscal policies, commitment, health exercise, employment, procrastination, diet, subscription discipline, animal care, and consumption. Failures to disciplinedly stick to plans for giving in to immediate desires are explained by people caring less about future outcomes in the eye of future uncertainty, perceived risk, and transaction costs. Presenting temporal snapshots for now and later concurrently helps overcome myopia (Puaschunder forthcoming a; Puaschunder and Schwarz 2012).
Contemporary intergenerational equity constraints emerge from universal concerns (Puaschunder 2015a; Puaschunder and Schwarz 2012). For instance, climate change demands global solutions in international negotiations, which are supported by different national officials’ future orientation and social responsibility. Evaluating temporally distant policies concurrently could help global leaders to make intergenerationally equitable choices. The joint decision-making advantage could thereby prove as a cost-effective and powerful tool to elicit intertemporally harmonious choices in global predicaments (Puaschunder and Schwarz 2012). In the search for establishing joint decision-making as a global governance policy evaluation tool, providing evidence for the joint decision-making advantage in differing cultures could stress the joint decision nudge to help in globally shared intertemporal resource allocation dilemmas. The international testing of the effect of concurrent policy representations also allows outlining the joint decision-making advantage being independent from individual reference points or external influences (Puaschunder and Schwarz 2012). The joint decision advantage could also be outlined to touch on an innate human behavioral law rather than a peculiar policy artifact and thereby contribute to the emerging behavioral economics field of law and mind sciences (Puaschunder 2011).
In discounting, rates and time horizons differ. As the human mind adapts to environments, contexts shape mental time frames. The subjective perception of time, money, and the environment reflects in discounting differences between time and money and ecological and economic discounting. While Laibson (1997) models financial discounting, which subsequent behavioral economic experiments primarily investigate, differences between discounting private and social but also financial aspects and life suggest limitations to generalizations of standard hyperbolic discounting findings. Further hyperbolic social discounting covers human life spans and not environmental discounting organisms and biological phenomena beyond a generation. Only considering this myopic discounting has detrimental effects on sustainability. As finitely limited natural resources and unlimited man-made capital differ, environmental irreversibility leads to natural resources being discounted below standard social and monetary discounting rates (Puaschunder 2017d). Further understanding individuals’ discounting of future environmental benefits could help valuing public goods over time when future generations cannot express preferences and participate in contractual transactions to conserve resources. Future research may explore practical implications of context-dependent discounting such as extrapolating moral commitments found in social discounting onto the domains of finance and the natural environment.
While Laibson’s (1997) hyperbolic discounting provides an excellent model for income and market-dependent consumption that innovatively opened the floor for hyperbolic discounting empirical validations in very many different domains, individual age depending discounting differences are, so far, not captured. The length of time having lived and past critical life events experienced, however, may shape discounting. While neoclassical and hyperbolic discounting are always forward looking and never consider how past experiences, call it social learning, may stretch the focus of societal care, the longer having lived and the more critical life events having experienced, the more socially caring beyond our own existence we may get. The influence of age on discounting appears reasonable in light of age-dependent risk preferences. Younger people with a narrower past time horizon are more prone to myopic behavior – e.g., take drugs and save less – whereas more mature people, whose discounting may depend on a longer history of past critical life events, tend to care beyond their prospective natural existence, e.g., for climate stability and charity. Solving how to overcome the negative externalities of short-termism will help averting negative outcomes in the future. Being enabled to generate predictions on how to better foresee the societal implications of future consequences of current corporate decision-making will bring the public and private sector temporal foci closer together in order to harmoniously tackle the most pressing contemporary challenges of humankind.
Overall, long-term investment is based on sociopsychological nonfinancial criteria. The aftermath of the 2008/2009 World Financial Recession enhanced the interest in socially conscientious financial market options. The age of global warming calls for financial attention of prospects beyond the individual life span. Carbon divestiture as exclusionary investment option but also green bonds as proactive market transition tool are the newest developments in ethical, social, and environmental governance-driven finance. Future research may integrate social, environmental, and intergenerational aspects in long-term financial discounting calculus. Heterodox economics may open a detected black box of forward-looking discounting paradigms. Outlining fundamental differences of temporal discounting throughout different ages would thereby allow retrieving multifaceted decision-making influences as well as generating wide-ranging nudges to improve choices over the entire life cycle. Shedding light on the importance of integrating backward looking aspects in discounting sets the stage for improving future social care beyond one’s own existence in a real-world relevant way granting innovative opportunities to imbue eternal equity in humankind.
- Alpbach Laxenburg Group (2016) Report find at http://www.iiasa.ac.at/web/home/about/events/ALG_2016_Narrative_2.pdf
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