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Climate change, Hans Jonas and indirect investors1

Sally Wheeler

Keywords: corporate governance; Jonas; investment climate

This article considers how corporate behaviour in relation to climate change might be reconfigured and the role that indirect investors might play in this reconfiguring. The article suggests that the consequences of climate change are serious enough that indirect investors might be prevailed upon, using a model of behaviour suggested by the work of Hans Jonas, to pressure institutional investors into demanding changes in corporate policy towards climate change. Jonas' work represents a plea for the recognition and acceptance of responsibility in the face of nature's vulnerability and humanity's power over technology. The article suggests that this ethic can be operationalised in relation to corporate governance by building on the changes in the pattern of investment holdings that have taken place in large public companies in the preceding two decades or so. The idea is to appeal to individuals who may perceive themselves as currently being outsiders – or at least only distant stakeholders in relation to the corporation – to realise the responsibility vested in them as beneficiaries through their interest in pension funds, life assurance policies, annuities and other arm's-length financial arrangements with corporations. The hope is that these individuals may, through the influence of a model of responsibility, become active investors and beneficiaries interested in corporate practices that impact on climate change and, encourage others to do likewise.

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