9 months ago

Diplomatic World_nummer 56.


INTERVIEW WITH MR. MARTIN PALMER, SECRETARY GENERAL ARC Highlighted in Diplomatic World 55, the Impact Investment Summit 2017 in Zug, co-hosted by the Swiss Impact Investment Association (SIIA) and the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), set a new standard for faith and value based investing. The signing of the Zug Guidelines to Faith-Consistent Investment and the Zug Declaration represents official commitments of faith-based investors and philanthropies to invest their assets in environmentally and socially sound projects. At their parallel event, ARC worked closely with representatives of eight major global religions to write the Zug Guidelines that are to serve the faiths as principles for investing their assets, and furthermore, serve as a platform to publicise these principles. Founded in 1995 by HRH The Prince Philip, ARC engages the faiths in dialogue and helps them develop environmental programs based upon their beliefs. For over 20 years, they havwe linked religions to environmental organisations, creating powerful, effective alliances. Diplomatic World had the chance to interview Martin Palmer, Secretary General of ARC, following the SIIA Investment Summit. 80 Please describe the process leading up to the Zug Guidelines and the goal of the faiths’ pledge in impactful investment. Did the idea emerge from a momentary, incendiary thought or ripen over a longer time? How was the collaborative process with the faiths? In 1999, I went to a meeting in Washington DC with WWF USA. They were the most resistant WWF branch to the idea of working with religions. Ironically, they were all practicing Hindus, Christians, or Jews, but it was a step too far for them to consider religion in their field of work. I expected a hostile reception as I was sitting outside the main board room, when I heard a passerby say, ‘I don’t know why we are bothering with this meeting about religion. If they wanted to, they could use their wealth and buy a company like Monsanto and turn it to be an environmental organisation. Why don’t they?’ I thought, ‘O bother, are enemies in the camp.’ Then I thought, it is actually a good idea. Therefore, in response to a new version of the classic, dismissive argument that if only the religions could give away all their wealth, they could solve all the problems in the world, in 2000 we did an audit of what major faiths owned. Land, buildings, schools, hospitals, farmland, forestry, and investments. We were absolutely astonished, how much money and investments the faiths actually had. Far more than I had expected, and I belong to the Church of England and we have an awful amount of money and land. We own 10% of England. There is a long tradition of what faiths will not invest in. For example, Muslims would traditionally not invest in anything that would charge interest, or the Quakers in anything to

Mr. Martin Palmer do with armaments. And so, challenged by this off-hand comment that I had overheard, we asked, ‘We know what you are against, what are you for?’ Interestingly, we were too early in asking that question. What we actually discovered, as we first held a meeting with faith investors in 2001 in New York, was that less than 25% of the faith funds that we were in touch with, had developed a negative screening process. The majority needed still to develop a negative screening process. In 2015 we were asked by the UN, if we would co-host the main meeting between the religions and the UN on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Twenty-eight faith commitments resulted from that meeting. The UN noticed that nine of these said they were thinking about shifting their investments into environmentally sustainable development. The UN was terribly excited and asked us, whether the religions have any money. We affirmed they did. We wrote a paper for the UN called “Faith in Finance” that we launched last December in China at a multi-faith and multi-government event. Now it became very clear that the faiths had shifted, 75%, maybe even 80% have now got well-developed negative screening processes. In January 2017 we asked them again, ‘We know what you are against, what are you for?’ They were ready. They were ready, but they had not thought it through. They were aware of the fact that the UN were asking for the SDGs to be funded primarily by investment, they were thinking about it, but they had not really done much about it. We at ARC were a little outrageous really, we said, if they wanted to come to this meeting, they would have to write and have us officially approve a set of guidelines. They must tell us what they own, and in what classes of investment. They must tell us their theology and philosophy about wealth. What is it for, where does it come from, where does it fit into their understanding of God, or humanity, or the cycle of karma, et cetera? They must give us their guidelines, for themselves and for members of their religion, as to what they now will invest in. Where will they put their money to make a difference? 81