I just had the great pleasure of attending the 20th Anniversary SRI in the Rockies Conference. This year’s gathering of the sustainable and responsible investing community, titled “From Crisis to Opportunity: Investing in a Sustainable World”, was held in Tucson from October 25-28. As always, the event was energizing and inspirational as the world’s leading thinkers and practitioners shared ideas and strategies for using money as a transformational tool for positive social and environmental change.
The recent financial crisis offered fertile ground for probing discussions about the root causes of the problems and the opportunity we now have to use the crisis as a launching point for meaningful change in the financial system. A common theme in several of the sessions was the loss of “connectedness” between people and their money. Money now moves around the world at lightning speed, often so detached from the activities it is financing that not even the “experts” fully understand all of the implications. In a world dominated by huge global financial institutions, money has lost its personal connection to our communities and individual lives.
Woody Tasch, President of the Slow Money Alliance, remarked during a panel discussion that financial transactions are now ‘complex, opaque, anonymous and based on short-term outcomes’ while we would be much better served by transactions that are ‘direct, transparent, personal and based on long-term relationships’. In his 2008 book “Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money”, Mr. Tasch draws on the principles of the International Slow Food Movement, founded by Carlo Petrini. Tasch builds on Petrini’s vision of food’s powerful ability to restore, heal and connect people and place and his argument for an agricultural system which produces nutritious, satisfying, healthy and affordable food from sustainable local farms. This vision stands in sharp contrast to the agribusiness model which has contributed to ‘…chemically-laden food supplies, depleted aquifers, millions of acres of GMO corn, trillions of food miles, widespread deregulation of soil fertility, a dead zone the size of Rhode Island in the Gulf of Mexico created by topsoil runoff full of pesticides and fertilizer residues, and obesity epidemics side by side with persistent hunger’.
Tasch points to the broader importance of restoring the connection between our money and our communities. We need to support enterprises that pay attention to the “triple bottom line”- people, planet and profit, as we transition from a model dominated by “efficient” financial markets to one that is more grounded and place-based. I believe this vision offers real hope during this difficult period as we attempt to move from the consumer-driven, maximum growth at all costs model based on extraction and consumption, to one in which we may have less “stuff” but far more substance, meaning and connection. We need to work together to bring forth this new economy which seeks preservation and restoration and is focused on quality and our relationships to one another and to the land. Your support of local farms and businesses puts you on the leading edge of this economic transformation.