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HomePaperUniversal Ownership and the Polycrisis: Social Norms, Feedback Loops, and the Double Hermeneutic

Universal Ownership and the Polycrisis: Social Norms, Feedback Loops, and the Double Hermeneutic

5 June 2023
Authors: Ellen Quigley (University of Cambridge)
Presenter: Ellen Quigley (University of Cambridge)

The events of the early 2020s have exposed many of the environmental and social systemic risks that threaten the health and wellbeing of people and the environment. Through an exploration of the relevant evidence and theory, this paper lays out some of the systemic risks the Covid-19 pandemic and its continuing aftermath have revealed; quantifies the opportunity for long-term asset owners – universal owners – to counter these risks at the company level; identifies shifting norms; and examines the ways in which norms in the financial system emerge, take hold, and even become self-fulfilling. Having done so, the paper then tests universal ownership theory against two established norm formation frameworks while proposing the addition of a “momentum/velocity” condition to the existing norm formation theories. Following Marti & Gond’s pathway towards self-fulfilling theories, it ends by puts forward four experiments for asset owners to test whether universal ownership theory could become self-fulfilling, including an experiment that recommends implementation of an Advance Notice of Future Litigation that allows litigation for future harms to be priced into the market in the present. Our findings suggest that universal ownership has the potential to become a self-reinforcing norm in the financial sector, and therefore that universal owners may be capable of helping to mitigate the emerging polycrisis.

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