Faiths will use their billions to back ethical business

By staff writers
14 Nov 2007

Religious organisations already have a major stake in the global economy and can now shift decisively towards using their resources for ethical purposes and to redistribute wealth to the poor, a major group of faith investors says.

“Faith organisations have the real potential to transform the global money markets, but are currently failing to ‘walk the walk’ when it comes to ethical investment”, Joost Douma, Secretary General of the International Interfaith Investment Group (3iG), has been telling a gathering of major faith fund leaders in Paris.

Representatives of nearly two dozen Christian, Jewish and Buddhist faith organisations, with combined assets in excess of 135 billion dollars, will be advised to work together using shareholder activism to promote ethical, environmental and socially sustainable behaviour by companies in which they have funds invested. Meetings will be held with leading pension funds, led by ABP – the second largest fund in the world – to pool resources to influence multi-nationals.

If successful, the talks could link the activities and investment strategies of religious and institutional investors with assets of up to a trillion dollars, creating a massive market for faith-consistent and other ethical investments.

Addressing the first ever major conference of 3iG, Douma will say: “The great faiths wield enormous economic power in stock and shares. They own a substantial part of the habitable surface of the planet and administer literally millions of buildings, community facilities, welfare networks and employment projects. The assets of 3iG’s members alone are equivalent to more than the Bank of England’s entire foreign currency and gold reserves.

“Until now, faith organisations have consistently failed to use their investment power to the full. They have focused solely on what not to invest in: guns, pornography and so on. Now 3iG is asking faiths to focus on positive action, using investment to promote good activities rather than merely avoid bad ones. At the same time, 3iG is providing the skills and advice faith organisations need to become effective financial activists.”

Michiel Hardon, 3iG Board member and a representative of the World Council of Churches, adds: “In a world of increasing multi-national power, which often subverts or makes obsolete the powers of national government, it’s time that the world’s first multi-nationals – the major faiths - flexed their full financial muscle.”

The move is attracting the close attention of many in the financial sector with the World Bank directly involved in discussions, and Abbas Mirakhor, Executive Director of the International Monetary Fund, due to address the conference tomorrow.

For more detailed information, a downloadable version of the workshop brochure is available here: http://www.3ignet.org/pdfs/3ignetParisNov2007.pdf (PDF/Adobe file).

3iG is a coalition of like-minded faith organizations committed to using their funds for faith-based and socially responsible investments and promoting the similar use of the funds of their grassroots members.

3iG members - which include amongst others the Church of England, the Church of Sweden, the World Union of Progressive Judaism, the United Methodist Board of Pension and Health Benefits and the Foundation for the Preservation of Mahayana Tradition - represent organisations with assets for investment exceeding 135 billion dollars.

For a full list of members visit:
http://www.3ignet.org/about/members.html

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