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Our Work

New Initiatives

New Initiatives

Introduction

JFI selects projects through a structured research process. We conduct initial exploration with a rubric, examining an idea from a variety of angles: its theoretical and empirical power; the degree to which it is foundational, innovative, and timely; the available intellectual and financial capital beyond our walls; and, finally, which of our own resources to bear–our staff, fellows, and research base. This selection process is perpetual; we are always seeking new modes of intervention and evaluating our current ones.

In this section, we enumerate our most promising potential new initiatives, out of the dozens that we are tracking. If you have a suggestion of a topic we should investigate, please email jfi@jainfamilyinstitute.org.

Economic, Social, and Governance Scoring

An increasing number of businesses are incorporating economic, social, and governance (ESG) factors throughout their decision-making. Businesses integrate ESG concerns in a variety of ways, by choosing to divest from certain areas or increase investment in others, some on the argument that prioritizing ESG factors will produce better returns, others focusing on ethics and societal improvement. But despite the trillions of dollars now invested according to ESG principles, there are a number of challenges in the field.

ESG factors rely on data, but the data gathering is decentralized, the disclosures voluntary. At the same time, each investment company uses the data differently. A variety of ratings agencies, auditors, and working groups have sought to address these issues by proposing unifying standards, but a new approach is needed to bring alignment to the field.

Through our research, the intervention that we think would be most promising would be creating a scoring system that allows funds to offset their investment in non-ESG funds. The idea combines the mechanism of carbon offsets with the historical success of institutional agreements shaped along the lines of the Basel Accords. Raising or lowering prices, in accordance with ESG principles, would give teeth to the unifying framework, and create a more flexible, accountable, and rigorous ESG system.

Metrics Beyond GDP

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) became the national scorecard after a 1944 conference at Bretton Woods. A framework of a specific historical era, GDP can answer specific questions about budget deficits, but it has generalized into a shorthand for national success. This widespread use has resulted in an incomplete accounting of some of society’s key measures of wellbeing: GDP doesn’t account for the distribution of goods; doesn’t factor in work in the household; and increases under calamity as well as success. GDP cannot express efficiency, quality, or access.

A fairer metric would consider the wellbeing of a society across more dimensions, including social and environmental positions. Despite the challenges of creating a more complex metric, a number of countries, including Ecuador, France, and the United Arab Emirates, have been able to work wellbeing measures into their policy decision-making. Working alongside our researchers and collaborators in our ESG, Digital Ethics, and Guaranteed Income programs, JFI is working towards a new theoretical framework that counterbalances the urgent issues with GDP. At the same time, using its research on international models, JFI is building applications of this work to policy.

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