A new faith-aligned investment alliance is born in 2019. It is called FaithInvest. It might change the world.
What is FaithInvest?
FaithInvest is a not-for-profit network and platform for religious groups and faith-based institutional investors seeking to align their investments with their faith values. It became a legal entity and registered charity in 2019 when it created its website, media presence, and office.
Why was it founded?
The world's faiths have billions of dollars invested in the global stock markets, across all asset classes. Together, the faiths represent a significant investment bloc in the financial world, as well as vast ownership of property and land.
They are also a natural powerhouse for ethical, faith-based and impact investing that contributes to socially responsible investing. Yet for many faiths, this is currently more of a potential than a reality. As investors, the faiths are good at knowing what they don’t want to invest in. Now it is time for faiths to say what they do want to invest in – for a better future for people and planet. FaithInvest exists to help them do so.
The first meetings of the organisation that later became Faithinvest were held in the hills above Zug in Switzerland
What are the relevant faith values?The values relevant to investment decisions vary between each faith and often each faith tradition. For almost all faiths they include fighting injustice, addressing climate change and restoring a more beautiful world. Most faiths also support the vision of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals – a world without poverty, with equality, and with a clean environment – launched by the United Nations in 2015.
How does FaithInvest work?
FaithInvest promotes faith-consistent, values-based investing and investment transparency by working with faith leaders and faith-based asset managers to build awareness, skills and capacity.
It does not make investment decisions or manage funds for the faiths. Instead it empowers faith groups to develop their own faith-consistent investment guidelines. It also encourages faiths to consider how they manage all their assets – land, buildings, purchasing power – in line with their faith values.
What does it do?
FaithInvest is an international, not-for-profit membership organisation for religious groups and faith-based institutional investors. Its aim is to grow the scale and impact of faith-consistent investing worldwide.
It works with all faiths, no matter how big or sophisticated their investment capacity, providing education and information about faith-consistent investing.
It is a voice for the fast growing values-driven investing movement in religious outreach, the media, finance worlds, parliaments, boardrooms, schools, universities and elsewhere – so the principles will be understood and taken up across a wider group.
It is a platform for investment ideas, opportunities and concepts through information exchange, projects, due diligence and technical assistance.
It works to identify and create faith-aligned investment opportunities across asset classes.
How did it come about?
FaithInvest was born from a realisation that the faiths are a massive investment bloc on the global stock markets. If they all got together they could be the fourth largest investment bloc in the financial world.
The programme includes developing and assisting faith long-term plans to protect the environment
If they collaborated then they could be share-holders in (and therefore part-owners of) companies and for-profit programmes in areas of influence that could make our world a better place.
In November 2017 there was a landmark meeting of faith investors, investment specialists, the UN, NGOs and others in Zug, Switzerland. As part of that, the Zug Guidelines were compiled. They are key faith and investment guidelines outlining what different faith traditions are interested in investing in, and why. This created an unprecedented demand.
Joined now by more than 30 philanthropies and NGOs, this new series of commitments spells out what billions of dollars of faith and value-driven investment wishes to invest in.
Who is behind it?
FaithInvest has been formed by major religious investors working with philanthropies, the United Nations, national governments and financial companies specialising in impact investment. It was hosted for its first few months by the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), a UK-based international NGO started by HRH Prince Philip in 1995.
And the people?
Until March 2019 the interim CEO was Michael Even, former CEO (then chair) of investment group MAN Numeric, and the non-executive co-chairs were Jean-Pierre Schweertz, chair of DOB Foundation and Martin Palmer, secretary-general of ARC. In 2019 Martin Palmer took over as Founding President and Interim CEO, with Mike Even as Director of Strategy and Investment Research. Chair of the Board is Dave Zellner, Chief Investment Officer for Wespath which manages $24 Billion for the United Methodists. For more information visit https://www.faithinvest.org/who-we-are
How considerable are the faiths' portfolios?
Together they have trillions of dollars of financial assets and make up one of the biggest investment blocs on the global stock markets. Religions have always had resources in land and buildings, but today they also have substantial resources invested in the world's stock markets so that they can pay pensions, or salaries, or for infrastructure projects in the future.
Don't the faiths already have investment policies?
Some of the faith investments are in alternative energy sources
In the past few decades most faiths have adopted a degree of negative screening - no investment in arms or weaponry, no tobacco companies, for some no companies concentrating on alcohol, increasingly a sense that it is faith-consistent to divest in fossil fuels or palm oil etc because of their huge negative environment impact.
What very few faith investors have done is focus on positive investments in areas which their faith teachings should encourage them to support.
This can include sustainable energy, profitable waste recycling initiatives, organic (or similar) food, fairtrade comestibles, and which also prioritises companies with clear, transparent, ethical policies in terms of staff, gender balance, waste disposal, transport policies etc.
The reasons why few have done this are many and complex but include lack of awareness or focus on this issue among faith leadership (most faith funds are managed at arms' length by professional money managers with a fiduciary responsibility to maximise returns for their clients); lack of capacity or expertise among faith groups; and the fact that many faiths come from cultures that have traditionally relied on charity for impact and so their investments have historically focused on what not to do.
What did the media say about it when it launched?
In August 2018 Bruce Clark at The Economist described how "LAST November investment managers and prominent figures from many faiths (including Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and Taoists) gathered in the Swiss town of Zug and agreed to help each other direct the vast financial assets controlled by religious bodies towards projects that help rather than harm the earth. Out of that meeting sprang an initiative called FaithInvest. Its declared aims include the establishment of “a pipeline of investable projects in line with faith-consistent principles.”
"Ethical and religiously inspired investment used in years past to focus on the avoidance of bad activities, like selling weapons to dictators or cigarettes to youngsters. The Zug meeting marks a more recent emphasis on using investment to help the environment in active ways, say through renewable energy or sustainable forest management. The deployment of billions of dollars could be affected.
What are the Sustainable Development Goals?
On September 25, 2015, 193 world leaders committed to 17 Global Goals to achieve three extraordinary things by 2030:
Martin Palmer, ARC's secretary general and Jean-Pierre Sweerts describe how FaithInvest came into being at the November 2018 Swiss Impact Investment Association (SIIA) meeting, "the TED Talks of Sustainable Investment."
Finally, here is a thoughtful, meditative short film from the first Zug meeting in 2017 which started with good will and the interest in change, and ended with well-being and the determination to make changes.
Introduction to ZUG FCI guidelines In October 2017 ARC is bringing together investors and leaders from eight of the world's great religions to discuss how to use their wealth to make a better planet. Here is why.
ARC at a glance ARC is a secular body that helps the major religions of the world to develop their own environmental programmes, based on their own core teachings, beliefs and practices.