(This lecture was given on October 21st, 2005.)

Good Evening! I feel honoured to be with you today and quite thrilled by this opportunity to share my excitement about the possibility of “Mindful Markets”.

Now what on earth are mindful markets? And should I take your time this evening, to talk about any kind of markets? After all, you spend your working hours deep inside the maze of capital markets. This evening you have stepped out of office for a celebration, a party. And indeed you have much to celebrate. Within just two years of being founded you became India’s largest stock exchange. Your success in raising the standards of capital markets is a seminal and historic contribution to the upward graph of the Indian economy and will shape commerce in the 21st century.

Given the magnitude of your achievements I feel both diffident and enormously privileged to be invited to speak at your annual day. So, firstly, thank you for your time and attention for some stories about a nascent transformation that is unfolding in the markets of the world.

Why didn’t the extensive advertising campaign of Suzlon’s IPO loudly declare it as a Green Investment? Why did Suzlon sell itself to investors as just another expanding business and not as a planet saving, life saving enterprise? Perhaps Suzlon’s sales pitch was inhibited by the fact that there isn’t – as yet – a ‘market’ for overtly Green Investing in India.


 •  Businesses, growth, good society
 •  Business with humanitarian goals
 •  The market as God

Mindful Markets are as yet an aspiration. This term refers to a broad range of efforts that aim to ensure that markets truly, and more fully, work for the common good. But let’s start the evening with a story that recalls our childhood fascination with how those wiggly ground-bound caterpillars transform themselves into air-borne butterflies.

Let us reflect a moment on that phase when the caterpillar has turned into a seemingly inert and dull chrysalis. But inside that chrysalis an incredible revolution is taking place. Within the amorphous pulp of the erstwhile caterpillar new kinds of cells begin to appear which some scientists call “imaginal cells”. It is these cells which carry the code, the pattern of the yet to be formed butterfly. The old caterpillar cells, naturally resist these alien cells and fight back. But the imaginal cells are determined little fellows. Gradually, the old cells get the message that they are not being threatened with destruction. Instead the imaginal cells are an invitation to be transformed into an incredibly beautiful new creation. Thus the butterfly comes into being.

The striving to foster Mindful Markets is today akin to those imaginal cells. So it is perfectly understandable if, at first, the idea of fundamentally re-programming markets seems destructive, anti-profits – some kind of fluffy romantic non-sense.

But what if we are indeed at the threshold of redefining profit itself. What if we don’t have to worry about making money at one level of life and worry about the quality of the air we breath at some other level. What if money making, our own health and the planet’s health are all missions we can address on one plane? Some of this can be done by adding social and environmental filters to capital markets.

The motives for doing this are rather powerful. One because almost half the world’s people are so poor that they are barely window-shoppers in the global bazaar as you and I know it. And, two, because the survival of the affluent classes and the planet itself is now seriously under threat.

Most of us accept that the Torrential Tuesday of July 26th was a freak act of nature. We would prefer to think that the sky can’t make a habit of dumping 37 inches of rain over one area in just 24 hours. But the really serious bad news is that this kind of deluge is likely to become more frequent and intense. This is no longer a “what if” scenario. Katrina and Rita did strike within weeks of each other. What meteorologists used to call once-in-a-hundred-years kind of storms are now expected to strike several times within one generation.

For example, there is a 3 km dense cloud of pollution hanging over Asia which is affecting our weather patters in all sorts of ways. This semi-toxic cloud is not an act of nature. We put it up there – you and I – with our emissions from automobiles, air conditioners, factories, forest clearing and even inefficient use of biomass fuels. Climate change is no longer a future threat. It is here, now! Back in 2003 the World Health Organization declared that an estimated 150,000 people are dying every year due to climate change related events.

So where do we go from here?

What forms of damage control are open to us?

Let us begin by being clear that we don’t have to accept any one environmental projection of the future as gospel. But we do need to remember a simple and basic fact of life: Nature bats last and it owns the stadium!

So what’s the good news?

The good news is that we have the means for being long term players in the stadium provided by Mother Earth. Like any other crisis this one is an enormous, even epochal, opportunity.

Let’s dwell a moment on a matter that many of you may have directly dealt with just last month – the much publicized IPO of Suzlon – a company that is in the business of wind power. Suzlon’s website’s opens on the logo : “Powering a Greener Tomorrow”. So why didn’t the extensive advertising campaign of Suzlon’s IPO loudly declare it as a Green Investment? Why did Suzlon sell itself to investors as just another expanding business and not as a planet saving, life saving enterprise.[1] Perhaps Suzlon’s sales pitch was inhibited by the fact that there isn’t – as yet – a ‘market’ for overtly Green Investing in India.

You might ask that since Sulzon’s IPO did very well in any case why bother with claiming credit as a green investment?

The phenomenon of Socially Responsible Investing officially arrived on Wall Street in 1999 with the launch of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. In 2001 the FTSE4Good was set up in London.