Tuesday, 20 October, 2020
The crisis generated in recent months by the Covid-19 pandemic has led many people around the world to rethink their work, consumption and relationships choices. Given the current health crisis and the constant possibility of new lockdown measures in different countries and regions, it is increasingly difficult to make medium and long-term forecasts on the economic and social impact of the crisis.
This situation of uncertainty is determining a reconsideration of the priorities of individuals, public institutions and society in general, generating broad debates and reflections on the use of public and private resources.
At the level of public resources, as it has emerged for example from the long and difficult negotiations related to the European Recovery Fund, discussions revolve around the correct balance between the need for concrete and immediate aid for the most affected countries and the need to guarantee long-term economic, financial and environmental stability in the European area, and the most appropriate mechanisms to monitor the use of common resources. Similarly, at the level of private resources, the discussions refer to the most effective financial mechanisms to boost economic activities, with a view to fostering short-term recovery but with a long-term focus on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In fact, it seems now like a long time, but only a few months ago, the Fridays for Future movement was among the most debated topics and had gained strong momentum. On the wave of the climate action movement, the European Commission had also launched an ambitious plan for a European Green New Deal.
These issues, often presented dichotomously (short-term versus long-term; economic recovery versus environmental actions) and seemingly contrasting with each other, are actually strongly correlated. As it emerges more and more clearly, the economic system based exclusively on a logic of short-term profit cannot autonomously cope with global crises like the ones we unfortunately witnessed in the early 2000s. Indeed, now it is clear that there can be no development if it is not sustainable, from an economic, environmental and social point of view. The public and private resources introduced into the economic system must be capable of activating virtuous mechanisms that provide added value for the entire community, and not just for a few shareholders.
We could, and we should, go beyond the concept of “sustainability” and promote an economic system that is more than just “sustainable”, but that can benefit society as a whole, the environment and the climate. This model already exists: it is the one promoted by the social and solidarity economy, which takes different forms across Europe, since it includes entities with diverse legal forms and approaches, but which share the same basic principles: solidarity, participation, and social value first.
So how can we, as individuals, as a community, as part of public institutions and movements, support this “more than sustainable” development, and not only during the crisis but also in the long term?
One of the possible answers is ethical finance. Historically, ethical finance has been at the service of the social economy, and its objective is to use financial instruments to promote sustainable and socially valuable activities in the territories in which it operates.
The dossier published on Valor Social presents some concrete examples of how ethical finance, in Europe and internationally, has been able to react, transform and adapt to the needs of the social economy and local communities during the crisis. In recent months, the ability of ethical financial organizations to continually reinvent their products and services in order to respond effectively and quickly to new needs has been fundamental, thanks to innovative tools and approaches to deal with new realities and situations.
As can be seen from this dossier, the value of ethical finance is also rooted in the diversity of approaches and the ability to work in a network with local authorities, associations and citizens.
Therefore, the moment of “forced” reflection that we are experiencing may be the right moment to reconsider our personal and collective choices about the use of individual savings and public resources: ethical finance can, and in our opinion should, be one of the starting points.