Editor's Note

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Ethics has loomed large in conversations in the financial services industry of late, with some notable names dominating headlines for all the wrong reasons. At the same time, sustainability seems to be coming to the fore, for reasons based on pure common sense.

When companies like Allan Gray appoint sustainability officers in order to establish that the companies they invest in are sustainable, it is clear that sustainability has shifted in status from nice-to-have to essential. But what does it mean? Where once it was sometimes the case of massaging figures in order to show compliance with sustainability directives like King IV, now it is a matter of encouraging companies to self-regulate in their own best interests as well as those of society at large.

The mining industry, whose companies feature in so many investment portfolios, has been vilified in the past for practices that have been socially and environmentally harmful. Now, the sustainability requirements for mining companies to operate have become so stringent in many countries that mining companies have to adopt the most advanced sustainability practices as a matter of course simply to remain in business. In the process, they have become leaders in sustainability research.

The same applies to the financial services sector. Fair treatment of clients and socially responsible behaviour are vital to the sustainability of the sector as a whole. When unethical behaviour has the capability of wiping out billions in shareholder value overnight, it's clear that nobody can afford a self-interested approach anymore. This applies to economic transformation through enterprise development as well. Fortunately, organisations such as ASISA are leading the way in developing business that is sustainable and contributes to the social bottom line, if the expression may be permitted.

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