Values at Work: Mind the Gap!

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.  

A little bit about us…

A little bit about us…

Welcome to the first EIRIS Foundation blog post. We are a small organisation with big ambitions. Our vision is a financial and corporate system that encourages sustainable and responsible wealth creation. The transition we are aiming for will move trillions in the direction of a more sustainable economy and benefit millions of people. We will be using this little corner of the internet to talk about our current and future plans, comment on various sustainable and responsible investment issues and share the numerous ways that we and others are working to help responsible investors make a difference.  

The EIRIS Foundation was founded in the 1980s and originated out of a group of churches and charities needing research to help them with their concerns about investing in companies contributing to Apartheid South Africa. 

In the 1980s – 2016 the EIRIS Foundation was the sole parent company of EIRIS, a research agency providing environmental, social and governance research to investors. EIRIS has now become part of the merged entity Vigeo Eiris. The EIRIS Foundation remains a shareholder in this new entity but is a separate organisation which now has its own staff team. 

Past activities by the EIRIS Foundation have included: 

  • Increasing the numbers of charities investing ethically 
  • Creating a new one-stop shop website on ethical money to promote responsible investment and encourage more consumers to choose ethical options as part of their financial planning 
  • Working with charities and NGOs to explore how best they can influence the direction of responsible investment 
  • Undertaking new research that is not yet commercially viable 
  • Making responsible investment more widely practiced and/or more effective 
  • Disseminating existing and new responsible investment research to a wider audience 

We are excited about this new phase for the Foundation and look forward to building on our past projects and initiatives and delivering a wealth of new ones to help achieve our vision of a truly sustainable economy. Watch this space!  

 Upcoming event: 

We are pleased to be supporting Rob Lake of Authentic Investor with his event ‘Values at Work : What does personal authenticity mean in investment and finance’ which is taking place in London on the 26th of July. For more information and to purchase a ticket visit: