Values at Work: Mind the Gap!

“Values – principles or standards of behaviour; one’s judgement of what is important in life.”

Oxford Dictionary

The week before last the EIRIS Foundation supported an event run by Rob Lake of Authentic Investor entitled “Values at Work: What does personal authenticity mean in investment and finance”. Sitting down to write about this event from an attendee’s perspective felt oddly challenging. From an organisational standpoint it is obvious why we as a Foundation would support an event that encourages investment and finance professionals to “build cultures in financial institutions that do more to support sustainability and a fairer society”. The transition to a more sustainable economy cannot happen without the work of committed individuals and leaders who are not afraid to talk about values and ethics and how they are aligned with investment decisions.

From a personal perspective though a conversation about values and work sometimes feels slightly tricky and I find it quite difficult to articulate what I mean by that. Having worked for nearly 10 years for the UK Investment and Finance Association and now for the EIRIS Foundation, organisations where the merit of incorporating environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into investments is not in any doubt, I have been lucky enough to never feel that my personal values are misaligned with my professional life. At the event Rob helped attendees to consider the gap between how our values are centered within our lives outside and inside work and the potential reasons for why this gap might exist. For me, the gap is fairly small, but I know that this is not the case for many who work in the finance sector. Upon reflection I have realised that although I am happy with my own gap and it is clear to me what I can work on to close it I am less sure of how to help others with their own. Shifting organisational cultures and group mindsets is a huge task. When I talk about my personal perspective on this I am mindful of the fact that my own experience may not be relevant to those who work for larger organisations where profit maximisation is always the imperative and where the arguments for ESG and/or responsible investment must, it sometimes seems, only be discussed within the framework of explicit financial materiality. Fortunately, there are people like Rob and others with a wealth of experience and knowledge to share in this regard. From the discussion at the event it is clear that there are a number of individuals working in finance and investment who would welcome practical guidance on how to develop the conversation around values at work. We made a start last week, but I look forward to seeing and being a part of this taken forward and used to build a more sustainable economy.

Read Rob Lake’s own words on ‘Values at Work’

About Authentic Investor: Authentic Investor is a not-for-profit initiative founded by Rob Lake, working closely with numerous people in the institutional investment community. Rob has worked in sustainability since 1987 and in responsible investment since 2001. Since 2013 he has worked independently.

In over thirty years of work in organisations he has become increasingly focused on the importance of human factors – values, motivations, self-beliefs, interpersonal skills and organisational culture. He works as an advisor to institutional investors and as a coach. He previously worked for Henderson Global Investors (London), APG Asset Management (Amsterdam) and the UN-supported Principles for Responsible Investment.