At the time of writing we are only a few weeks into the new US administration and the feeling has moved very quickly from trepidation and even surrealism to alarm.
From the impact on the climate agenda through to immigration and human rights, it’s a troubling outlook for progressives. Hugely disturbing has been the disdainful treatment of the truth, a destructive trend in politics culminating in the Oxford dictionary’s choice of ‘post-truth’ as its word of the year for 2016. This is a world where opinion reigns and facts are incidental.
And while greater access to information has been enormously beneficial to humankind, it has a dark side: the increasing influence of ‘fake news’.
Trust is now an increasingly scarce and valuable commodity.
With the US election, Brexit and the resurrection of the One Nation party in Australia, there are clearly concerns about an increasingly open and globalised world. Globalisation has delivered benefits to many, but it has also failed many.
We have tried to reconcile these trends with the overwhelmingly positive growth we see in social and environmental consciousness: people are increasingly making conscious choices and are more aware of how these choices have an impact in their world.
This gives us hope. Rather than be despondent about the state of global politics, we must focus on the opportunities we all have to effect change through both our own actions and our influence on others.
Our community of investors care passionately about the world around us and the people and animals that inhabit it. And they, quite rightly, constantly challenge us to demonstrate that we are making the right decisions both ethically and financially. We welcome this scrutiny.
I often get challenged that we can’t apply ideology to the world of finance. To which I will always ask, “Is it ideological to do what’s right?”
If you reject the alleged dichotomy between economic and ethical outcomes – and we do – then you inevitably conclude, “why wouldn’t you pursue both?”
In an uncertain socio-political climate, both individuals and business need to focus on universal principles of what’s right.
Be politically active. Find your voice, while also making your own change. Our planet depends on it.
Phil Vernon is the CEO of Australian Ethical.