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BBC Thought for the Day on faith-consistent investment

April 14 2005:

A Hindu sacred dance created to celebrate the launch of 3iG

By Martin Palmer

As we gear up for the Election, it is easy to feel rather powerless - though the Today programme's Poetry for the Day does help. Voting once every five years in the kind of first-past-the-post system we have in Britain can seem rather irrelevant, especially for most of us, who statistically are voting in safe seats. How can our participation really make changes happen?

But in fact we do have powers - powers which most of us do not even know we have but which, together with exercising our democratic right to vote next month, can help make the world a better place to live in.

The Bishop of London gives the 3iG keynote speech
Four years ago, an interesting challenge was thrown down to the fund managers of the worlds' major religions, who each hold large financial portfolios to pay salaries, pensions, run schools, hospitals, development programmes as well as the upkeep of their buildings.

There has long been a tradition of what religions won't invest in - which the Bishop of London on Monday called the via negativa. For example Islam and Daoism ban the charging of interest; Quaker funds ban anything to do with the military; Jains will not put their money into anything to do with the taking of life.

But what most religious communities don't have is the tradition of deciding what they will invest in - the via positiva. On Tuesday this began to change. A new group, called the International Interfaith Investment Group, or 3iG, was launched to encourage the huge funds owned by the religions to go into socially-responsible investing.

Link to the Institute of Jainology Report on the launch of 3iG.
I was astounded to hear one person after another explaining how investing in businesses which have sound social, environmental and economic policies is not only a nice thing to do, but it also makes financial sense. We were seeing figures that showed how good businesses can often bring returns that are much higher than the market average.

This is where all of us come in. As one speaker this week said, the financial community is essentially a herd. Stampede them and they will all head off together. There are millions of us who listen to Today. Let us, each of us, write, email or make a phone-call to our bank manager, the company that insures our car or house, the company that manages our pension scheme, or (for those who have shares) our stockbroker. And let us ask them what they are doing with our money, and what their policy is about investing in socially and environmentally responsible businesses.

And we are not talking peanuts. The faiths and foundations joining 3iG have assets of about a trillion dollars. My bank account is not quite that large and I'd guess nor is yours but by using our power to vote where our money goes we together can make a very different world using powers most of us didn't know we had.

So my thought for the day is let's start a stampede.

Martin Palmer is the Secretary General of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC).

LINK TO the BBC Thought for the Day .

LINK TO The International Interfaith Investment Group (3iG).

LINK TO the Bishop of London's April 11 speech on faith-consistent investment.

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April 19 2005:
International Interfaith 3iG launches with 27 founder members and partners
Twenty-seven organizations representing members of seven world religions and an array of banks, philanthropies and SRI organizations, became the founding members of 3iG
April 11 2005:
Bishop of London urges religious fundmanagers to invest positively
"We have to balance our fiduciary responsibilities with a spiritual imperative to be faith-consistent investors and to learn by being engaged in the debate." Bishop of London at the launch of 3iG.
April 27 2005:
Social investment a weapon of change for the world's faiths
International investment consultants report on launch of 3iG.