Investors have the power to shift the course of economy. But how do investors – in addition to financial return – consider social and environmental good and take it to practice?

Responsible Investment and the Food Industry – Socio-ethical Reflections (RIFISER) is an interdisciplinary research project that addresses the ethicality of responsible investment. We aim to find out how responsible investment commitments impact the actions of responsible institutional investors. Our research question is: “How do responsible investment commitments impact implementation and actions of responsible institutional investors in food sector investments?” The actions and implementation reveal the true ethical value of responsible investment.

 

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RESPONSIBLE INVESTMENT IS RISING 

Responsible investment is no longer marginal. The value of assets invested in accordance with responsible investment criteria in Europe has grown from around € 2.665 billion in 2007 to € 9.885 billion. Also responsible investment by institutional investors is growing steadily. The rise of responsible investment is evident, but no complete theory yet exists.

We contribute to the theory formation by investigating the implementation of responsible investment by institutional investors. We examine in particular the implementation of responsible investment by Finnish and Dutch institutional investors.

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FOOD MATTERS DO MATTER 

Avocados, almonds, soy and quinoa might be good for your health but equally bad for the environment. Food industry is a topical yet discordant theme. Is food industry rightly accused of unethical practices and methods of production such as GMOs? How to combine health, environmental and social values in investing in food and agriculture industry?

For these reasons our team has chosen food industry as a focal sector of our research. Financially there is much at stake in food industry: it is one of the largest manufacturing sectors in Europe.

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INTERDISCIPLINARY TEAM, EXPLORATIVE RESEARCH 

The earlier research builds heavily on the theories in economics and finance. But shouldn’t moral philosophy also have something to say about responsible investment? At least in case responsible investing is also ethical investing? Our team works in an explorative manner with the aim of developing a theory of responsible investment that builds on the interaction between philosophical ethics, economics and finance.

The originality of our team lies in its interdisciplinarity. Among out team’s areas of expertise are responsible investment, agriculture and food science, economics and management, social ethics and business ethics. Our methodology comprises of both qualitative and quantitative empirical methods as well as systematic philosophical analysis.

The main site for the research project is University of Helsinki. The project is lead from the Department of Systematic Theology (Faculty of Theology) and assistance provided by the Department of Economics and Management (Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry). Part of the research project will take place in University of Groningen in the Department of Economics, Econometrics & Finance (Faculty of Economics and Business).