Universal Ownership in the Anthropocene

39 Pages Posted: 2 Oct 2019 Last revised: 25 Sep 2022

Date Written: May 13, 2019


This paper reviews the existing literature on Universal Ownership Theory and expands on it to encompass a theoretical and practical framework for Universal Owners in the Anthropocene era. This extension of the theory is necessary because of the scale and urgency of the climate crisis, on one hand, and the expansion of the category of funds considered to be Universal Owners on the other – through the rise of fiduciary capitalism and the increase in institutional ownership, and through the increasing prevalence of passive investing.

This paper incorporates several novel elements into Universal Ownership Theory: an Existential Risk lens, which highlights the portfolio risk of civilisational collapse; a theoretical framework that reflects advances in behavioural science; a practical investment framework based on the tenets of Positive Investment, including asset class-specific recommendations with a focus on capital allocation, the primary-to-secondary market transition, and “ungameable” metrics; and the proposition of a “duty of expansion” for Universal Owners to extend participation to communities and regions of the world currently underrepresented among the body of large institutional investors.

*Note that the second half of this paper has been updated and expanded here: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3638217

Keywords: universal ownership, sustainable finance, existential risk, corporate governance, climate risk

JEL Classification: G30, Q00

Suggested Citation

Quigley, Ellen, Universal Ownership in the Anthropocene (May 13, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3457205 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3457205

Ellen Quigley (Contact Author)

University of Cambridge ( email )

Trinity Ln
Cambridge, CB2 1TN
United Kingdom

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