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Faith & Finance | 3iG mission | Good investment | What the press said | Resources | Religion & economics

The definition of a good investment

3iG aims to encourage investment grounded in deeply-held values of justice and faith

1. What is the definition of a good investment?

In the business world it tends to be a financial investment that makes a good profit. In the religious world it tends to be an investment of time or donations that helps make the world a better place for individuals and communities.

But what happens when those two worlds meet?

The International Interfaith Investment Group (3iG) is an initiative by the world’s faiths to work together to invest their financial assets, land assets, educational and media networks in ways that bring in high returns, both financially and socially, in line with the values of each faith.

Download a PDF of 'The definition of good investment' from our Downloads page
It is about earning money from money, and putting religious teachings into practice at the same time.

2. Surely the faiths are already investing in ethical ways?

It is true that many religious investors have strict rules about what they do not invest in – companies dealing in arms, tobacco, alcohol, gambling, cruelty to animals or pornography do not usually appear on religious portfolios.

But pro-active investment – with the positive intention of using funds to make the world a brighter place – is still a relatively new concept in the world of religious investing.

Some religious fund managers – particularly in the United States – have been investing in this area for some years. They are willing to share that expertise because they recognise that alone they are small; together they could be a powerful force for good.

3. But there are already ethical investment bodies. What would 3iG add?

There are a few national ethical investment bodies – which mainly involve Christian or Jewish investors. Indeed the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) in the United States is an important model for 3iG and has been running successfully with 275 faith group members for more than 30 years. But so far there are no large-scale international interfaith ethical investment groups. Financial capital is increasingly mobile across borders: socially responsible investment needs to be international as well.

4. Would 3iG mean that a religion would lose control of its portfolio?

On the contrary, it would mean that a religion would have even more control of its portfolio. Because it would have access to more information, and to a huge network of people thinking in similar ways.

In 3iG religious investors would only share as much about their investments as they were prepared to.

3iG is not necessarily talking about changing investment portfolios. It will ask faith groups to use the rights associated with shared ownership to voice concerns directly with company directors and senior management.

5. But surely different faiths don’t think about things in the same way?

This is the strength of 3iG. It is not an interfaith body but a group which works with all faiths and networks between them when appropriate. It does not require or even desire any kind of consensus beyond the simple Mission Statement. Instead its investors will operate in ‘cluster groups’ of shared interests.

6. What is a cluster group?

Cluster Groups will be the heart of 3iG. Members can propose an area of potential equity investment and loans and then see who wishes to join them in order to make a bigger potential pool of ethical investors. There is no obligation to join a cluster but 3iG believes the clusters will be the most effective means by which faiths make an impact on the market. Each member can decide independently which clusters to join. So far members have identified the following issues as benefiting for a cluster approach:
• Water
• Micro-finance
• Alternative or Renewable Energy
• Sustainable housing
• Sustainable Forestry
• Sustainable Agriculture

7. Who is behind 3iG?

3iG’s founding members are Buddhist, Christian, Druze, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Zoroastrian. The group emerged over the past four years from work undertaken by the faiths assisted by the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) in association with the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) and secular bodies ranging from major banks to investment advisory groups.

8. Who can join?

There are three grades of membership:
a.) Members. Only faith organisations can be full members. They can elect a Governing Board, which is the main decision-making body of 3iG and is made up only of full members.
b.) Associate members. They have the same rights and access to information as full members, but cannot vote. It is expected that Associates will within three years have become Members.
c.) Partners. These are non faith-based organisations who share the values and goals of 3iG. They do not have voting rights.

9. Why so many categories?

The membership structure encourages as many groups as possible to be part of 3iG – and commit to the principle of faith-based responsible investment for their own funds and the funds of their grassroots members.

3iG aims to be as inclusive as possible to religious groups, and so it is possible for local organisations (for example dioceses of individual congregations or faith-based foundations such as colleges or madrassahs) to be members. 3iG is also open to partner membership from groups – charitable foundations for example – that are sympathetic to its principles, but are secular.

10. What will it cost?

A fee basis for membership enables groups to join at a level appropriate to their own funds. A membership fee will be negotiated with each new group. 3iG is a not-for-profit organisation.

11. Isn’t all this talk about money and financial returns rather against the underlying philosophy of religions?

In some countries religious organisations are among the biggest employers. They need to pay not only for salaries but also for the upkeep of thousands of historic buildings, the maintenance of land and forests, the building and management of vast suburbs of social housing, and the running of schools and colleges. To do this they need income, and for many religions a financial portfolio is the main way of earning that.

In the words of a fund manager for a religious pension fund: ‘I have a duty to the faith to be ethical: but I also have a duty to the pensioners to make sure they are looked after in their old age.’

3iG takes very seriously the concept of responsibilities of the faith’s financial trustees to steward money effectively.

12. What does 3iG involve?

3iG acts like a clearing house for information and networking about best practice in socially responsible investing (SRI). As a member of 3iG you have access to an extraordinarily wide range of expertise from all over the world. The information will come from the faiths themselves, from secular partners, and from other groups who are exploring these issues.

3iG is also an objective source of the facts on socially responsible investment – including data on returns, volatility etc.
You also have access to an increasingly useful database of fund-managers, together with their recent record in the area of SRI. There are a few national databases with this information in countries like the US, but nothing like this on a global basis.

If you tend to hold your assets in grouped funds, such as open ended investment companies or unit trusts, then you will be able to find funds that will meet your social objectives as well as financial objectives. You will also be able to use your proxy vote on key issues.

13. What else does 3iG do?

One of the extraordinary benefits of 3iG is that it is dealing with ‘businesses’ that have huge congregations. One of the aspects of joining 3iG is what has been called the ‘cascade effect’. Member faiths are expected to pass on information, teachings and guidance to their followings on the broad theme of ethical investment in line with the faith’s own position. So in churches, temples, mosques, synagogues and other places of worship the faithful are encouraged to look at their own personal investments, and assess whether they are making the best possible returns.

The impact can be huge: a major church in the US with an estimated 5 million members with average investment savings of $50,000 would create an ethical investment potential of $250 billion.

The knock-on effect could mean that companies around the world would not be able to afford to be unethical because that would no longer make business sense.

14. What services could 3iG offer?

• Research into various investment approaches.
• SRI Educational Services/Fund managers training.
• Issue-Focused Programmes.
• Communication between members on best financial data available.
• SRI Advisory Services.

15. What have people said about 3iG?

‘Religious institutions must examine their use of land and buildings and – yes – investments, to insure that they do not harm the environment or the human family but rather improve our natural surroundings and the conditions of our lives. And we must seek ways to go about this that go beyond pronounce-ments, speeches and books, as important as these can be.’
Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople

‘The active engage-ment of the faiths in investing in a better, sustainable future could be one of the most important social and spiritual movements of this century.’
Nambaryn Enkhbayar, Prime Minister of Mongolia

‘3iG will affirm much-needed friendships and understandings across cultures. It is only too easy to see how much more necessary this work and its success becomes every year – indeed every month – that passes.’
Prince El Hassan Bin Talal of Jordan

16. What should I do if I would like to know more or if I am interested in my organisation joining 3iG?

Please contact our Secretary General Joost Douma at: Keizersgracht 788
1017 EC Amsterdam
Netherlands EU

Tel: 31 20 420 7463
Mobile: 31 6 4620 6604

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Related information

Green Futures magazine, 25 March 2003:
Spiritual capital across the divide
The main faiths control investments amounting to about 10 per cent of the world’s equities. That gives them a mighty lever for change, and it’s one which they are just beginning to wield.
June 24, 2004:
3iG to be launched in April 2005
The International Interfaith Investment Group will bring together world faiths and financial bodies to invest in socially and environmentally responsible investment
8 September 2003:
The Prince, the Prime Minister and the Patriarch
HRH Prince Philip has invited Mongolian Prime Minister and President of ARC, Mr Enkhbayar and the Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and All the East to Buckingham Palace in October to discuss urgent conservation projects.