1st Edition

Inclusive and Sustainable Finance Leadership, Ethics and Culture

By Atul Shah Copyright 2023
    206 Pages
    by Routledge

    206 Pages
    by Routledge

    Instead of being a means to an end, finance has become an end in itself and a master of economic actions and priorities. The role of ethics, culture and faith has been diminished by neoliberalism over the last forty years, such that we are living through a profound moral crisis, rising inequality and plutocracy. This practice is destroying the social and trust capital that already exists and is in need of replenishing. This pioneering book draws upon diverse wisdom traditions and their current living business practices to show that not only is another world possible, but it is actually hiding in plain sight.

    The author argues that our obsession with technocratic economic science has disabled us from exposing the organic and culturally diverse practices of finance. The climate and inequality crises demand new institutional and cultural solutions to transform behaviour and heal the planet. Through real-life examples and case studies, this book illustrates and develops a new organic theory of finance which can be taught and shared all over the world, helping society to prepare for a sustainable and inclusive future. It provides valuable empowerment to experts and professionals from different cultures and traditions to write about their own finance practices and in turn encourage their students and communities to embrace sustainability ideals.

    There is a global audience for this book, given its multicultural outlook and the diversity of narratives and case studies, from entrepreneurs to MBA students and leaders in accounting and finance. It also has huge relevance for policymakers and educators keen on embracing sustainable finance in their curriculum.

    1. Morality 2. Tradition 3. Community 4. Experience 5. Purpose


    Atul K. Shah is a Professor (PhD LSE) and Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and is an award-winning writer and broadcaster. He has taught at the London School of Economics, University of Bristol, University of Maryland, City, University of London, Hult International Business School, Essex University, University of Suffolk and University of Kent.

    There is only one person in the world who could write a book which roams from indigenous traditions to Christianity; from Jainism to Islam while at the same time dismantling the myths and legends that lie behind contemporary economics. In a fascinating journey through the riches that lie just below the surface in all the great faith and cultural traditions, Professor Shah asks us to listen again to ancient wisdom which has more to say about who we are and why we need to invest in a sustainable world than any UN declaration or economist forecast. Read this and discover hidden treasures of wisdom and see a potentially radically realisable different world.

    Martin Palmer, Founder, BBC broadcaster and CEO, Faith Invest and author of twenty books

    Professor Atul K Shah is a powerful voice speaking truth to power within the financial sector. He articulates what needs to be said, and done, with courage, integrity, profound wisdom and compelling case studies. His exciting organic theory of ethical finance offers practical solutions to inspire leaders to embrace sustainability ideals and to revolutionise financial leadership. This book fills me with hope that sustainable and ethical business and finance practice will once more transform the world and make it a far better place for everyone.

    Dr Lynne Sedgmore CBE

    Former Chief Executive of The Centre for Excellence in Leadership UK. Debretts 500 list 2015.

    Inclusive and Sustainable Finance is a paradigm shifting and ground-breaking book that shows how and why global narrow reliance of western utilitarian economic and finance models and thinking has resulted in excessive greed, corrupt leadership and selfishness that have consistently devastated lives and global economies. By contrast, Professor Atul K. Shah, an eminent global scholar, shows that the world of finance and investment can learn a lot by drawing from diverse and alternative cultures, religions and economic systems, such as Catholics, Quakers, Parsees, Sikhs, the Yoruba, the Kikuyu, Parsis, Jains, Hindus, Ismailis, Jews, Christians and many other diverse faiths and communities. Drawing insights directly from finance and investment experts from different fields around the globe, Professor Shah illustrates and develops a new organic theory of finance which can be taught and shared all over the world, helping society to prepare for a sustainable and inclusive future. This book is ideal for finance and investment students, practitioners, academics, policymakers and regulators. I fully endorse and recommend it for your reading. Professor Collins Ntim, Department of Accounting, Southampton Business School, University of Southampton, UK.

    This is an amazing, timely and hopeful book which directly addresses the awful mess we have made of the world and its citizens.  We are threatened with extinction.  Climate change is wreaking havoc across the globe.  25,000 human beings including tiny babies and small children die of hunger every day. Our spiritualties have been quashed by empty promises of beauty, luxury goods, social media mythical "perfect lives", and so on.  In the face of this, our daily newscasts report on markets; we are informed of stock price indices, interest rates and currency values.  Finance is central to our lives.  Atul’s wonderful book, not only dispels some of the myths surrounding finance, but turns the world upside down by considering ways in which finance might be reconfigured to provide some solutions to the dire mess we are in.

    Professor Christine Cooper, University of Edinburgh, Editor – Critical Perspectives on Accounting

    In the struggle for a compassionate and just world, finance is a powerful tool. As currently practiced, however, it is largely missing in action, its extractivist obsession on profits at all costs devoid of care for the environment and the well-being of workers and communities.  Dr. Atul Shah has a response, a blueprint for finance that supports human and planetary flourishing.  For me, Atul’s is beautiful language about a topic that is usually described with the most self-referential, destructive vocabulary. Do not consider this a call for a "kinder, gentler" finance. Recognize it as a direct and clear treatise on the kind of finance necessary for the future of life itself.

    The Rev. Fletcher Harper, Executive Director, GreenFaith www.greenfaith.org

    Inclusive and sustainable finance is a vital work in a world dominated by a fundamentally western and unsustainable financial system. The book centers around interviews with diverse leaders who have set inspiring and encouraging examples in their respective professional fields, paving the way for systematic reform of finance and accounting as we know it.

    "A silent duty", Prof Atul K. Shah calls it, the work that lies ahead of educators and representatives of professional bodies; work that will intertwine culture and principle to create a different world.

    A new world in which mathematics, materialism and standardized practice no longer obfuscate ethical deliberation and consideration. A world in which there is room for diverse and organic practices of finance, and for embracing sustainable ideals.

    Prof Atul K. Shah personifies this very message, pioneering an approach that leads to thecreation of practices sustaining the world for generations to come.

    Margreeth Kloppenburg, educational innovator, author on professional honor and business integrity and chair of the faculty of Ethics, Culture and Behaviour of the Royal NetherlandsInstitute of Chartered Accountants

    Having a rogue, parasitic finance sector that has captured the state is clearly unhealthy for any society. Since this is what we have in Britain and indeed most developed countries, despite the sector’s brush with self-extinction in 2008, this is a very timely book. Atul Shah authoritatively outlines the problems that beset modern finance — it has become largely self-serving, short-termist, exploitative, inequality-fuelling and environmentally disastrous — while being divorced from most people’s cultural and religious roots. Shah calls for fundamental reform and examines a range of solutions, including the adoption of a number of benign and culturally diverse sustainable finance practices from around the world, some of which have been in existence for centuries, and most of which are hiding in plain sight. He also calls for an urgent overhaul of how finance is taught to ensure the next generation of students are less obsessed with personal self-enrichment and more focused on purpose. Shah is a fierce critic of the current drive for Environmental Social Governance (ESG) and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), describing these as "hypocritical spin machines" designed to allow financial firms to carry on with business as usual, while sidestepping the need for fundamental reform. If you are concerned about the future of the planet, and want to ensure the finance sector becomes fairer, more responsible, and more accountable, this is the book for you.

    Ian Fraser – Bestselling Finance Author, ‘Shredded’ – the inside story of RBS failure

    Here is another stunning masterpiece from the celebrated author Prof Shah. This book is a riveting account of the role of culture and faith in the modern world of finance. For me, it is a page-turner and one of the most fascinating reads of the year. Prof Shah has brought us an ocean of ideas in the areas of ethical finance and sustainable finance, through narratives and examples which make his writing very accessible. Prof Shah has taken the bull by the horn and convincingly exposed the profound changes in theory and ontology required to make this shift to a sustainable world.

    Professor Dr. Devendra Jain, Flame University, India

    Professor Shah addresses one of the meta-stories of neoliberalism: how unfettered financialised rent-seeking is destroying both the global economy and our planet.  Another model of finance is required which places community, sustainable production and ethical behaviour ahead of all other considerations.  Atul makes an eloquent contribution to this crucial debate by drawing upon timeless wisdom traditions, so spread the word.

    John Christensen, Founder, Tax Justice Network

    Dr. Atul Shah’s highly anticipated new work is akin to a Festschrift dedicated to all those individuals worldwide who have taken to heart Immanuel Kant’s 1795 treatise of Perpetual Peace, in which a monumental yearning for commercial non-violence gained incisive focus by equating biocultural values with the potential for fair trade and equitable, intergenerational economics. Professor Shah’s Inclusive And Sustainable Finance underscores the critical hour for recognizing disparity, engendering co-symbiotic mechanisms for lifting nearly 3 billion of our fellow citizens out of financial marginalization, and 800 million, mostly young people, back from the brink of hunger – through juridical choices that begin with every consumer, and within every board room. I have known Dr. Shah for nearly three decades and have had the privilege of seeing the evolution of his own enlightened thought as it tackled the values in finance necessary to redeem what has, admittedly, been a history – a human history – of greed, waste, and predatory marketplace techniques of exploitation. He has examined accounting denominated standards, and the ill-equipped lexicon of loss and gain throughout human cultures and arrived upon a portal into an ecological and ethical realm.

    Throughout Professor Shah’s "diverse ethics" orientation to capital, like John Ruskin, and Mahatma Gandhi – who himself was so taken with Ruskin’s call to alleviate poverty through a back-to-basics, locally sustainable approach – Shah has brought tremendous wisdom and weight to bear upon the intrinsically ecological nature of exchange. To demonstrate with clear prose and pragmatic idealism how it works, what it is, and what we can do, each of us, to contribute to a planet that is, by every forensic metric, hemorrhaging in this, the Anthropocene, or, sixth extinction spasm in the annals of biology. These are the enormous stakes involved in Professor’s Shah’s extraordinary new book. It should be inculcated into the agendas of every nation, territory, community, university and hamlet; enlivening all those discussions and negotiations that will either serve this and future generations, or, condemn us all, and the biosphere upon which we all depend for our breath, our water, our sanity.

    I commend Atul for a brilliant new in-depth overview of what is clearly one of the key tools – finance and ecological accountability – for saving the earth. It will add clarity and loft to an existing movement which urgently requires this precise kind of cross-disciplinary approach to every form of reciprocity. Otherwise, we shall all wake up and discover, as Henry David Thoreau once said, in words to the effect: I spent four years at college studying economics only to learn that by doing so I had plunged my parents into irretrievable debt.

    Dr. Michael Charles Tobias, Ecologist, and author of over 50 pioneering books including ‘Environmental Meditation’ and ‘Life Force: The World of Jainism’, President, Dancing Star Foundation

    It’s time for conversations about economics, politics and public life which incorporate kindness and altruism to be put into the core analysis. Professor Shah is an innovator who completely shifts the terms of our debates.

    Professor Corinne Fowler, University of Leicester, Bestselling author of ‘Green Unpleasant Land’.

    Dr Atul Shah has penned a brilliant critique of the culture of finance capitalism and its devastating effects on societies and peoples’ lives. More than this, he has mined the rich resources, traditions, wisdom, and ethics of multiple faith communities from across the world, and brought them back to life. His aim is ambitious, and necessary: nothing less than to force the powers that be to rethink their ideas, culture, practices, and join the effort ‘to transform behaviour and heal the planet…" by placing ‘harmonious living communities at the heart of sustainable society..’ A must-read book based on a lifetime’s thought and intellectual effort.

    Professor Inderjeet Parmar FAcSS, Political Economist, City, University of London.

    Atul tackles taboo topics that interact with money and finance: race, community, culture, ethics, faith and even death. It is a finance book without any equations or numbers which is truly rare.  By documenting discussions with diverse leaders, he confronts the classical view that money and finance are neutral, and instead highlights the economic power imbalances that economics creates. This book exposes the deep cracks and fissures in existing finance science and teaching. As inclusivity and the environment come to the fore, more educators should follow his example and teaching.

    Professor Mark B. Shackleton, Professor of Finance, University of Lancaster

    Inclusive and Sustainable Finance offers insights rarely uttered by those in the accountancy profession.  The book turns a leaf beyond classical economic aspirations opening alternative possibilities for finance.  It embeds the field into notions of ethical leadership drawing on the experiences of individuals who foreground traditions of community spirit.  The book above all calls for change that prioritises human and social growth above narrow financial purpose.  It will provide balance to any finance professional’s book collection.

    Professor Alnoor Bhimani, London School of Economics

    Echoing the poignant indignity of Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg’s scorching 2019 address to the United Nations, Professor Atul Shah demands a radical rethinking of arid and abstract accounting and finance practices that are causing unnecessary and unconscionable poverty, discrimination, death, and environmental degradation on a grand scale. Shah’s solution: listen to diverse voices who will speak the truth on their own terms. Shah brings these voices to life through a thought-provoking series of interviews and case studies of businesses across the globe that flourish through an embrace of culture, morality, and tradition. We ignore these voices at our own peril.

    Professor Daniel T. Ostas, JD, PhD, Chair of Business Ethics, University of Oklahoma

    As the cracks in financial expertise are widening, Atul Shah is showing us a richer tradition of financial practice which has been hiding in plain sight. The decolonisation of finance is already here, and we better pay attention.

    Professor Hendrik Vollmer, Warwick Business School, UK.

    Just like the re-discovery of Eastern meditation techniques and yoga have been game changing for the mental well being of many worldwide, Prof Shah’s contribution to rediscovering the wisdom inherent in the teachings of various timeless belief systems can be positive for the well being of western finance.   We just need to be prepared to engage and listen with an open heart and mind.

    Amit Lodha, Chief Investment Officer, Artian &  Ex Global Fund manager – Fidelity International

    There’s no question that finance sectors are broken and are disconnected from the human suffering they can cause, and greed is central to that. It’s refreshing therefore to read about the wisdoms and traditions that pull finance back towards serving all people, economies and nature in healthy ways. It is urgently necessary and this timely book illustrates hopeful ways forward on reclaiming this space which for so long has been lacking the respect and compassion that is essential for nourishing all life on earth.

    Naomi Fowler, Tax Justice Network and Taxcast

    "Atul Shah argues for business and finance practices that embrace cultural influences over the technocratic models that predominate in our globalised world. With examples from diverse contexts including the Dharma religions, this book makes a convincing case that recognising how culture has informed business practices can create more inclusive and effective solutions to global problems." — Anand Vaidya, The London School of Economics and Political Science, London, U.K.