RELIGIOUS ORGANISATIONS COMMIT TO ETHICALLY-DRIVEN INVESTMENT
For many in the western world, the conclusion of October 2017 signalled the end of autumn amid a backdrop of Halloween pumpkins and fireworks. Yet in the small municipality of Zug, located in north central Switzerland, representatives of all faiths and none gathered for the inaugural Faith in Finance general meeting. Hosted by secular body the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), the event set out to demonstrate the need for religious organisations to ethically invest their extensive assets.
Taking place on the 30 and 31 October in Lassalle Haus, Zug, the Faith in Finance meeting coincided with the 500th anniversary of protestant reformer Martin Luther. Known for nailing his 95 theses onto the door of a chapel in Wittenberg, Germany, Luther is widely regarded as changing the face of modern Christianity. The two-day event therefore began with a banner procession through Zug, reflecting the meeting on faith-consistent investing’s commitment to continue bringing radical reform to the religious realm.
And, with numerous faiths controlling an estimated $3 trillion of the world’s financial assets, ensuring sustainable investment of funds has never been so pressing. Ensuring religion continues to work for the good of the world’s people is founded in the very principles of each faith; the meeting in Zug saw religious leaders come together in launching the Zug Guidelines on Faith-Consistent Investing.
Martin Palmer, secretary general of the ARC, explains how the events in Zug has been partly inspired by the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Goals. Launched in 2015, the goals aimed to encourage government and civil society to help create a poverty-free world, devoid of discrimination and with clean energy, clean water, and good education for all. “The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals are a huge, and inspiring vision, one shared by many faiths,” says Palmer. “They cannot be achieved by government tax money alone, or by charity donations. They can only be achieved by investment in environmental and sustainable development projects and financial products. But they are just the start for value-driven investment for a better world.”
With the goals in mind, Faith in Finance marks a shift in how religious leaders approach ethically-minded investing. With each faith group that attended Zug completing its own statement of faith-consistent investment, newly-developed and formally endorsed environmental, sustainable and governance (ESG) are the principles now driving change in how religious organisations invest their income. This is all while ensuring the institutions committing capital are guaranteed a return.
With 2017 seeing a global barrage of political, economic and social upheaval, the breakthrough in Zug highlights the role faith-consistent investment can play in helping stabilise a turbulent world. By asking, ‘What do you do with wealth to make a better planet?,’ the world’s religious organisations can continue the work set out by the UN in 2015.
The event coincided, and in collaboration with, the annual Swiss Impact Investment Association (SIIA) Summit, also in Zug. This year’s theme was Faith-Consistent Investing. The full guidelines can be found here.