Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Evolving capitalism to include environmental costs

     Following is an e-mail reflection from Tom Miller , the first CEO of the Kentucky HIghlands Corporation and later the head of Program Related Investing at the Ford Foundation to Woody Tasch.  It was recorded in the book "Inquiries into the nature of slow money: Investing as if food, farms, and fertility mattered," by Woody Tasch.

     We are not trying to reign in or correct or punish capitalism.  We are trying to complete it.
     Capitalism remained incomplete because resources seemed inexhaustible and consumption seemed to cause no harm. How, as we reach a new juncture in our history on the planet, this is no longer the case.
     Our most fundamental resources are in large part not counted in the costs of products. Sure I pay for water, but that accounts only for the costs of getting the bugs out of it and getting it to my tap. There is no accounting for the costs of depleting an aquifer. Sure I pay for gasoline, but that accounts for the costs of getting it from the oil patch to my gas tank. There is no accounting for what happens to the air and the planet after I burn it. Sure I pay for lima beans, but their price only accounts for the costs of planting and growing and delivering them to my nearest Wal-Mart. This is no accounting for the costs of depleting soil nutrients or harm to rivers by fertilizer.
     This is not a failure of capitalism, but merely the result of an incomplete system, which it is up to us to complete.

     Mr Tesch suggests that the world would be a better place if more socially responsible investing (SRI).  SRI investing considers the double bottom line, "doing well while doing good", or the triple bottom line, recognizing social, natural and financial capital, also known as people, planet and profits.

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