Blogpost by Conrad Heilmann, Marta Szymanowska, and Melissa Vergara Fernández
Video on the value commitments of sustainable finance research

‘Doing Science in a Pluralistic Society’ conference: What role does sustainability play in finance research?

Which roles should democratic values play in science? At a recent international conference, key philosophers debated this question - amongst them scholars of the Erasmus Initiative Dynamics of Inclusive Prosperity who focused on research in sustainable finance. You can watch the video of this talk below.

Famously, sustainability is defined as development that meets the needs of the present without sacrificing the ability of the future to meet its needs. It has become one of the most important democratic values in the last decades. Can research in finance contribute to clarify the demands of sustainable development? Researchers in sustainable finance say: yes. But how exactly does their research reflect the value of sustainability?

We think there are two different ways in which researchers in sustainable finance deal with sustainability. One way is ‘narrow’ – quite simply, standard methods of finance are directed at questions of sustainability. But there are also researchers who investigate sustainability in a ‘broad’ way: for instance, they integrate methods from other disciplines, or they engage with the content of what sustainable development is and should be in a very detailed way. That often involves methodological reflection – and the researchers also frequently call for a fundamental change in vision and outlook of how sustainable finance is done.

There are several interesting things to note about these narrow and broad strategies: for one, they entail fundamentally different methods. For another, their treatment of sustainability entails diverging visions of its content and relevance. And yet, despite these differences, narrow and broad research in sustainable finance are actually not incompatible with each other. More details can be found in the full talk and discussion at the conference you can watch below.

The talk was given at the high-profile colloquium "Doing Science in a Pluralistic Society" which was held online in April 2020. It was organised by Viorel Paslaru and Zachary Piso at the University of Dayton. The event hosted many key philosophers of science, such as Heather Douglas, Hugh Lacey, Wendy Parker, and Kevin Elliott. You can find links to the videos of their talks on the conference’s virtual participation website.

Presentation Heilmann, Szymanowska, Vergara Fernandez

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Conrad Heilmann, Marta Szymanowska, and Melissa Vergara Fernández collaborate on the project ‘Values in Finance’ within the Erasmus Initiative Dynamics of Inclusive Prosperity