I gave a webinar and then, I felt terrible. Here’s why…

I gave a webinar and then, I felt terrible. Here’s why…

Last week I prepared and gave a Webinar on how to find the best funds to reduce the risks related to the impacts of climate change, and I felt terrible about it. It wasn’t because it didn’t go well – I got decent, even good feedback on it, but I still felt terrible and wasn’t too sure why.

 A big part of it was that the timeline was definitely too short for me to know the exact message I wanted to be giving. I thought I was responding to individual investor needs, but people are looking for direction in this space, and I don’t want to misguide them. I recently read a quote that said, “Life is too dangerous not to be fully truthful and too short not to love fully“. I realized that I had these doubts about whether I was speaking the full truth.

That’s why I felt terrible.

 I said in the webinar something that resonates with many: “the next 20 years in capital markets will not be anything like the last 20 years“. I’ve been very consumed lately by a United Nations study I recently came across that put a dollar value to natural capital and found that none of the 20 top impact-region sectors* in the world would have been profitable if the price for natural capital were actually paid. The investment world, finance world and the big business world are more often than not  mortgaging the future of the earth to produce short term profits for a few. I am among those. I come from a reasonably well off family, and have enjoyed many privileges that most people don’t.

I need to talk about returns. Realistic returns. I’ve always been uncomfortable with the responsible investment industry discourse that returns are equal or superior to traditional investment returns, and that the whole argument is made on a narrow ‘business case for’ responsible investment. The responsible investment and sustainability industries are perpetuating a lie of sorts because they are still doing things without full information, without full cost accounting. The truth is, profit that is subsidized by natural capital is destroying the very security we seek in our retirement and in the value we want to pass on to our children and their children. We all have to dramatically change our expectations around returns and accept notions of slow money with lower returns…

 But that’s such an unsexy message — how can we make that fun, playful, enjoyable???

I don’t have all the answers. I’m still asking myself so many questions. This is a young field, and there is a lot of uncertainty. I recognize that I am wanting an ideal right away, and that for this aspiration to be realized, it needs to happen one step at a time.

Tell me what you think. Ideally we can have this discussion in a open space so that many can participate, so please use the comments section below.

P.S. For all of you who wrote to me asking if the French language Webinar that I gave would be available in replay, the answer is no. I’ll do better. We’ll be in touch after the school March break.

* See “Natural capital at risk: the top 100 externalities of business” p 56.


Comments

  1. I believe we are many to want the immediate ideal of swift profitability through responsible investment. And I would guess that if the demand for such investment is there, and growing, then people should be willing to receive the message and understand what responsible investment truly entails. Now even if most decide to back off, or take awhile to commit, the message will get out there and the step by step shift should make its way…
    I base this belief on how I’ve seen the LEED building certification progress in the past 10 years, when so many said there was no business case for such investment. However, strong business cases are turning out today, on top of all the sustainable knowledge being spread on green buildings. I would most certainly like aspire with you that the pattern will be similar with sustainable investments!

  2. Because you’re in the responsible investment field, I appreciate your openness about your struggle with this. I’m basically an anti-capitalist but am in a new position of having an RDSP that I need to make decisions about. Sure, it would be nice to see the amount grow over the next decade or more, but I don’t want to invest it in companies that make me cringe, like the big five banks, or Loblaws, for example, both of which I’ve seen listed as major holdings for SRIs. It makes me feel sick. I personally agree with the voluntary degrowth movement and would like to see alternative economic models, like gift economy grow. Pipe dream? The more I learn about the world of investment, the more I feel concerned about the future of the planet and human species, because so many privileged people of the world, especially Westerners (and definitely NOT just the “1%”)are personally invested in a desire for long-term economic growth that is threatening to the planet. I don’t necessarily see any good coming the current economic model, even if there’s a shift toward clean energy, etc. We need to slow down, expect less, think of ourselves as a collective, and invest in the present with the good of future beings in mind. How do I reconcile this belief with this pile of money I now have through the Canadian government? Do I just let it sit and basically lose value over the years because of inflation? It seems like I would be a fool to do that. Oy! Needed to vent. But would also appreciate any tips.

  3. Brenda Plant Says: May 5, 2017 at 1:19 pm

    If you understand French, there are more comments on the French-language version of this article.

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