In its current consultation on its investment policy, the University of Edinburgh reminds us that its Strategic Plan aims to make a socially responsible contribution to the world in three key areas: health, economic growth, and cultural wellbeing. The social reasons for seeking to promote health and cultural wellbeing are readily understandable, but what about economic growth? Unlike health or wellbeing, which are values counted among fundamental human rights, economic growth is not a direct good for people. It is at most a proxy for measuring the potential means to achieve the wealth that may in turn be good for people.
The assumption that economic growth is a good thing implies a judgement about macroeconomic morality. I want to examine that assumption and how it relates to the principles of responsible investment. A commitment to such principles means being prepared to forego a financial return if that could only be achieved at the expense of unacceptable costs being inflicted on people or planet. The University of Edinburgh has already taken this kind of stand with regard to investments in tobacco and drones technology. It is thus committed to certain principles of microeconomic morality. Continue reading