Capitalism should serve society’s “long-term interests and concerns”, and not the other way around, the Prince of Wales has said at a major financial conference in London.
The Conference on Inclusive Capitalism, taking place on Tuesday at the Mansion House and Guildhall, brings together delegates who represent around $30 trillion (£18 trillion) worth of assets under management.
Former US president Bill Clinton, Bank of England governor Mark Carney and International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde are delivering keynote speeches. Other speakers and panellists include leading investor Jeremy Grantham, Unilever chief executive Paul Polman and lord mayor of the City of London Fiona Woolf.
In an address at the start of the day, Prince Charles argued that capitalism’s “primary purpose” should be to serve society, rather than society serving capitalism.
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He said, “Either we continue along the path we seem collectively determined to follow, apparently at the mercy of those who so vociferously and aggressively deny that our current operating model has any effect upon dangerously accelerating climate change, which I fear will bring us to our own destruction, or we can choose to act now before it is finally too late.”
The prince has acquired a reputation as an ardent environmentalist after a series of similar comments in the past. In February, he likened people who deny climate change to “headless chickens” and last year criticised the pensions industry for focusing on what he called “quarterly capitalism”, rather than on long-term sustainability issues.
The Conference on Inclusive Capitalism is running under the banner, “The Will To Make Capitalism Fairer; The Means To Do It.” It is hosted by the City of London Corporation and the investment holding company EL Rothschild.
In comments to the BBC, EL Rothschild’s chief executive Lynn Forester de Rothschild said, “If investors say we are only going to put our money in companies that have a long-term view towards society then, surprise surprise, the corporations will behave that way. So our time horizon is 20 years not 12 weeks. That’s the immediate objective.”
In his speech, Prince Charles noted that he was “somewhat bewildered be being asked to join such a stratospheric group of financial, economic and business experts”.
He also told delegates, “There will of course be hard choices to make, and take it from me, in the short-term, you will not be popular with your peers. But if you stand firm and take the kind of action that is needed, I have every confidence the rewards will be immense.”
The prince’s appearance at the conference comes just a few days after he courted controversy with comments that compared Russian president Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine to those of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.
Photo: Dan Marsh via Flickr