By Henri-Claude de Bettignies, F. Lépineux

What has triggered the shift towards sustainability in several monetary components? Can traders' mindsets be replaced to embody a long term view? Can shareholders and activists play a better function in encouraging monetary actors to act extra responsibly? those are a number of the appropriate issues which are explored during this forward-looking set of essays.

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The main foundations finance their “social” actions thanks to financial benefits derived from investments which can provoke contradictory effects. Let us take the example of the Gates Foundation: there is no ethical assessment of the financial investments which yield the profits meant to finance the charitable actions of the Foundation. One can very well imagine that this Foundation endangers people because of the pollution generated by the companies in which it owns shares, and on the other hand, that it acts against the environmental consequences of these programs, this time through the Foundation thanks to the surplus generated by the shares.

Why should it be viewed positively that the Danone Group, in association with the Grameen Group, invests in Bangladesh to sell one of its yogurts, while the investments of some banking groups in the microfinance sector would be viewed negatively? Is it because the commercial banks take a portion of the market in a fast-expanding sector? Profit opportunities which can be socially useful exist in microfinance. Opportunities exist for investors accepting high risks and wanting to diversify their portfolios.

The confusion about the status of the players and their respective, effective roles is widespread. Some come from private organizations with nonlucrative goals; others from the public sector, local, national or from bilateral or multilateral cooperation, applying administered programs; others, finally, from financial institutions with lucrative goals. These different players can act together and complementarily or by subsidiarity. This brings us to the simplistic, classic opposition between public and private, state and market.

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