Sabuha Ilgaz, Hans-Martin Zademach
January 16, 2016
Performative capital market practices. The case of socially responsible investments in Germany. Socially responsible investment (SRI), also referred to as sustainable, responsible or impact investing, is an investment discipline that does not only take conventional financial criteria into account (most notably return, risk and liquidity), but also puts emphasis on environmental, social, governance (ESG) considerations to generate long-term competitive financial returns and positive societal impact. Key instrument in this market are so-called sustainability ratings which seek to assess the economic, environmental and social values and performance of potential investment objects. Such ratings are produced by a worldwide growing, but still limited number of private rating agencies that offer a dazzling variety of - in some cases even contradictory - ratings, rankings, indices and awards that have an enormous potential to influence investment decisions of all kind of investors. Applying a cultural geographies of economies approach, the paper in-hand aims to shed new light on this particular group of financial agents and their particular practices. It presents original qualitative data from Germany that delivers insights on the different ways these agencies follow in their assessments, how they define, operationalize and perform the notion of sustainability, and how effective they are in actually contributing to a more sustainable world.