I am thrilled to announce that the Dutch Research Council (NWO) has awarded me a VIDI grant for the project “Making Finance Sustainable? A Comparative Perspective on the Politics of Investment”. Part of NWO’s Talent Programme, the VIDI grant allows mid-career scholars to develop their own research line and build a research team over the course of five years. For this project, I will be joined by a postdoctoral researcher and a PhD student.
The project takes a comparative political economy approach to study the effects of governance on sustainable investment by large investors like insurance companies and pension funds. Sustainable investment involves (but is not limited to) the application of environmental criteria to financial investments. Despite increased policy interventions and political activism around sustainable investment, however, large investors have yet to realize the goal stated in the 2015 Paris Agreement: making “finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate resilient development” (Article 2.1 sub c).
Bringing comparative political economy into conversation with economic and sociological studies of sustainable investment, the project seeks to understand how different types of political economies, each with their own institutional characteristics and modes of governance, produce distinct sustainable investment outcomes. Taking an actor-centered institutionalist approach, we investigate governance at three distinct levels: the macro-organization of the political economy, financial policy-making processes, and the micro-level governance of the investment process. The project focuses on Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, where structures of the financial system and modes of policy-making vary along key dimensions relevant to financial investment. The project combines multilevel analysis and automated text analysis of investment data with comparative case studies based on interviews and site-intensive methods.
Three subprojects investigate the following questions: How does the macro-institutional structure of the political economy shape national and sectoral patterns of sustainable investment? How do modes of policy-making produce accommodative or constraining sustainable investment policies? And how do investors manage stakeholder pressures in the investment process? Assessing different policy instruments and political strategies for promoting sustainability among profit-oriented actors, the project will contribute to both academic and policy debates through a monograph and journal articles, conference presentations and targeted outreach activities aimed at national and European policymakers and other stakeholders.
My thanks goes out to NWO and to the VIDI selection committee for granting me this unique opportunity.