In an online conference attended by more than 150 people on 15 January 2021, churches across the world have explored how they can contribute to ethical and impactful investing driven by faith and values – especially in the light of the current pandemic.
The event, entitled ‘Faith-Driven Investing: Walk the Talk’, is part of the 4th International Faith-Based Investment Conference, which this year is split into regional online sessions.
Allocation of resources – capital, human and natural resources – with the best impact on development has become even more important in the context of COVID-19.
The conference explored issues and shared experiences of successful and challenging investment projects, strengthened impactful cooperation between faith partners and investors, and presented tools to make projects investable. The event was organized by the Geneva Agape Foundation and co-hosted by the World Council of Churches (WCC), FaithInvest, and the World Evangelical Alliance’s Business Coalition.
While this session of the conference focused on Africa and Europe, a similar event is being planned with a focus on Asia for 5 March 2021.
In a welcome, Prof Dr Christoph Stückelberger, Executive Director of the Geneva Agape Foundation, talked about innovative approaches to investments in which faith-driven organizations are partners.
In her opening remarks, the WCC Deputy General Secretary, Prof Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri,reflected on the impacts of COVID-19 on many areas of people’s lives, reminding that the global health emergency is an outcome of as well as spur to the ongoing economic crisis.
“It is also very much related to the climate and larger ecological crisis,” she said. Therefore, “we need to invest deeply in systems of heath, care and resilience and in the protection and regeneration of our global ecological commons.”
Panel discussions focused on the impact of faith-driven investing in and after the coronavirus pandemic.
Anis Ashgar, investor, Oikosinvest Foundation, said: “Almost all investors ask: What happened to my investment? People just no longer want to invest in what they don’t like – it’s not just about investor return, but also social return. The Sustainable Development Goals are important, and impacts are better measured nowadays. New markets emerging are more aware and more impact-driven.”
Nkatha Njeru, coordinator for the African Christian Health Association Platform, offered insights on the needs, risks and opportunities of health projects. “The best about faith-based organizations is that they can reach rural areas with information, for instance regarding the risks of congregating in churches. Faith-based organizations can work together with church leaders to create an understanding about other ways of worshipping in times of a pandemic.”
Bruno Bobone, new president of UNIAPAC, an international meeting place for Christian business executives to promote Christian social thought within the business world, spoke about the contribution of Christian entrepreneurs for faith-driven investments with focus on Africa.“Youth and growth are the two important assets in Africa, where we will find opportunities,” he said. “We have to work long-term and guarantee the sustainability of our investments. Most important, to show in practical ways that we believe in working that way, and that we belong to the society that we invest in. It is both about creating wealth and distributing it fairly.”
Roland Schatz, CEO, UNGSII Foundation and president of the Geneva Agape Foundation, shared with Günter Nocke of the German Ministry for Development how the German government is cooperating with faith-driven investing: “If we are not successful in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, we will lose all credibility. We have the tools, so let’s do it!”
The conference also featured reflections on the area of interest rates, equities, grants, and governance, as well as principles and praxis in Islamic, Hindu and interfaith investments. Concrete investment opportunities with churches and other faith groups have been identified in six sectors: health, education, real estate, agrofood and water, renewable energy and climate and financial sector.
The event was closed with the sharing of a range of good practice.
* Source: World Council of Churches.
* For more information, please contact:
Marianne Ejdersten, WCC director of communication
Cell Phone +41 79 507 63 63
Christoph Stückelberger, Geneva Agape Foundation
Phone: +41 79 419 68 12
E-mail: [email protected]