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Throughout the summer of 2002, published a weekly article series on the environmental, social, and economic issues relating to the World Summit on Sustainable Development. Entitled the “Rio + 10” articles, the stories include overviews of the previous two Earth Summits, analysis of how the private sector is both facilitating and hampering sustainable development, and reviews of relevant publications. The World Summit on Sustainable Development addressed the environmental and social impacts of global economic development and took place August 26–September 4, 2002 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

By Tessa Tennant

Did you, like me, look on Rio + 10 from afar with bemusement? Have you since erased the event from your mind as irrelevant, simply the latest example of what a waste of time such gatherings are?

Well, think again. has done us proud. In this collection of short essays, Bill Baue has brought the point of the Earth Summit process alive to investors, in particular to socially responsible investors (SRI).

I am ashamed I did not make more of an effort to work with others in the SRI community to make a proper contribution at the Summit and I feel disillusioned there was no groundswell pressing for collective effort from within our ranks. Is that because the social investment community is so stretched with existing tasks that it has no time or energy to take its rightful place at this unique and fundamentally important global gathering? Or is it because we don't have a collective vision of our role in social progress despite using the language of environmental protection and social justice so easily to attract new business and win public support? Have we, perish the thought, become too complacent and comfortable in our home markets?

Now is the time for some soul-searching. SRI attracts some of the greatest "social change" talent, pays some of the best "social change" wages and, like all investors, has the privileged position of a bird's eye view of world affairs backed by the best information sources of the global financial market place. We must not abuse this position. Indeed, everything we profess to stand for is betrayed if we do so.

I urge you to read these short essays and engage in the collective debate. Can we afford to have global capital markets continue to be driven without SRI policies? Are financial institutions going to adopt the language of SRI without any real change to investment practice, so the approach becomes discredited? Or, conversely, are other investors going to take up Kofi Annan's WEHAB (water and sanititation, energy, health, agriculture, and biodiversity) challenge with new financial innovation that leaves SRI in the shadows? How can we go about defining and agreeing on a common set of very tangible goals? In other words, where next for investors who truly care?

Tessa Tennant is the executive chair of the Association for Sustainable and Responsible Investment in Asia (ASrIA). She chaired the UK Social Investment Forum from 1993 through 1997 and has served as head of SRI Strategy for Henderson Global Investors. She is a board member of the Calvert Group's World Values Fund and an adviser to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Finance Initiative.

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