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Why is the world of finance interested in veganism now?

By Audrey Popa

Aug 13, 2019

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The world of finance typically brings to mind dozens of stereotypes, with movies like The Wolf of Wall Street and The Big Short creating a pretty negative connotation of the finance world in our psyche. The realm of finance, in summary, is often depicted as the epitome of human greed. And yet, in a world driven by the insatiable need to maximise profits, with little regard to much else, an unexpected new trend can be spotted to be making waves. Against all odds, it looks as though capitalism could be going vegan.

Urban Dictionary’s number one definition of the Finance Bro is: “One who drives a BMW with white interior leather, balks at dehumanizing hookers and overall douchey appearance to impress everyone around him with the finance firm he works for.” Finance culture has obviously got a pretty bad reputation, and for valid reasons. Meme accounts like @litquidity perpetuate memes of what it means to work in finance with starter packs featuring JUUL pods, golfing, and cis white men interning at Goldman.

Veganism and the wave of social awareness regarding the environment have just recently become popularised. Veganism, in complete contrast, used to be reserved for the few that many used to perceive as too ‘hippy’. The finance bro and the realm of veganism seem as far away from each other on the spectrum of humanity as possible, and yet somehow we’re seeing them merge.

The Economist referred to 2019 as “The year of the vegan,” due not only to the general public’s swing toward veganism, but, evidently, the financial sector’s shift as well. Veganism isn’t solely about eating a certain way; rather, the idea is focused on individual lifestyle and health concerns related to what is mostly environmental damage caused by animal agriculture.

So how are these trends affecting those on Wall Street? Luckily, there’s a need to stay on-trend, as millennials begin investing and changing habits. With the number of Americans identifying as vegan having soared sixfold since 2017 according to GlobalData, it has become evident that there’s big money in veganism. Protein alternatives have recently dominated headlines, with Beyond Meats and Impossible Food making waves in financial sectors.

In recent years, consumers have also been demanding from companies and financial institutions to report on environmental, social, and governance issues (ESG), with regulation slowly coming into place to enforce such demands. Another reason why veganism and environmentalism are both looking lucrative to the finance industry’s own agenda is climate change. The risks associated with climate disasters pose a serious threat to people and, therefore, to investments. The looming financial consequences of climate change have become enough for investors to begin considering serious action in terms of sustainable finance. Unlike political figures, who are able to ignore the serious damage to come, climate change will hit the finance world where it hurtsin their monetary gains.

Investors are getting increasingly excited by meat alternatives and other investment solutions that provide both financial and social returns. It feels as though anything is possible. A vegan exchange-traded fund (ETF) is expected to launch next month, “seeking to address the concerns of vegans, animal lovers and environmentalist by avoiding investments in companies whose activities directly contribute to animal suffering, destruction of the natural environment and climate change.”

Of course, in the context of the entire finance world these actions are minuscule and new, but it’s clear that some of the finance bros might be going vegan. It’s just a matter of time now before we truly witness what could prove to be one of the most surprising unions ever.