2 weeks ago

Diplomatic World_nummer 56.

82 I have to be honest,

82 I have to be honest, when we said this in January, I thought, we were being too outrageous and was worried they would not reply. Well, to my absolute amazement, and the amazement of my colleagues, every single religion we invited said ‘Yes’. A couple of them had done it before, the Protestant German churches, as had the Swedish Lutheran churches, but the others were new, completely new. This led to tremendous internal discussions, debates and questioning. We gave funding where it was necessary to enable the faiths to gather their key thinkers, their key finance people, and to our delight, we were able to launch 30 faith guidelines at Zug. Of those 30, four are guidelines for collective groups, for example, JLens, the major advisory body to Jewish foundations in the United States. They have one hundred Jewish foundations, synagogues, and schools in their network. Therefore, these guidelines actually influence about one hundred people, and the same reach is extended in the Hindu and Muslim networks. So although there are only 30 guidelines, they will influence over 500 religious investment groups around the world from eight major religions. I give much credit to the United Nations. The Assistant Secretary General apologised at the Impact Summit in Zug for not asking the religions for their view on the SDGs until the very last moment (which they did then with ARC’s guidance). Ironically, the faiths were ignored, although they are the fourth largest investment group in the world. The fact that the UN said that the sustainable development of the planet cannot take place through the old system of giving a grant here and another grant there, but that it has to involve the business and investment world, had already moved many of the faiths to consider their involvement. What ARC did, is to speed the process up quite considerably and to show them, without any of them losing their own autonomy, that they can be much stronger together than alone. Some secular finance organisations, were already handling money for Catholic or Muslim foundations, but had not asked their faith foundations, what as venture capitalists they would do for a sustainable planet. We brought them together, and they were delighted to discover that they were not alone. How can the faiths bring innovation to investment? What values and approaches do you see creating change in the industry? The main innovation is something that has been much discussed, but I do not see much happening, namely valuedriven investing. In other words, not just asking, ‘How much money can we make? How quickly can we make it? Are our shareholders happy?’, but actually using finances to fund the values they want to see, whether religious, secular, artistic, or philanthropic. What the faiths are, and I think this is the exciting thing about the new alliance we are creating after Zug, is the largest identifiable group with clear values. When you look to the Zug Guidelines, you will see each guideline begin with a theological statement of why they care, based on their own traditions, their own teachings, their sacred books, and their holy people. There are 500 faith investment groups who have clearly set out the values that will drive them. Now, they can be approached and asked, ‘Why not invest in this? It meets your values as you set out on pages two and three.’ This is what they bring, a major focus on value-driven investing. And that is important, because now the philanthropies are saying they should do the same. In Zug, over a dozen Swiss foundations issued the Zug Declaration, which is an early stage of creating their own guidelines. I think, what we are seeing, and what we are being asked to set out in the alliance, is an alliance of value-driven investing, which at its heart will have religions, the philanthropies walking at their side, and in the background the NGO world. I think we are on the cusp of launching an alliance, that will mean that not only religious groups talk about values, so will secular groups. This is very exciting. Also, this is very interesting, unfortunately the UN had no money to fund this event, so on very short notice we had to raise a lot of money. We had wonderful philanthropies in the United States, Japan, Britain, and the Netherlands who supported us, but we still needed further funding. So for the first time in my professional life, and I have been fundraising for nearly forty years, we went to the secular, commercial world. We had nine or ten finance houses interested, who agreed to sponsor us. The guidelines were written by the middle of August, when our international steering group suggested to ask the secular finance houses what their values were. It was complete panic. Only one group had set out their values, the others said, they do not have any values, they only reflect the values of their customers. We said, “Rubbish! That is absolute rubbish!” Others had come into being precisely to be value driven, but had not worked out what the values were other that they were not the same as the others that did not have

values. It was an extraordinary month, where people from the secular world were sending in their values, and I was sending them back and saying, “No, sorry, those are not values, try again, start it all over again.” And they did. I think we are setting standards right across the border, and one of the great things was the partnership with SIIA. SIIA, from the very beginning invited us to Zug, because they saw that this could change the ball game. Instead of just talking about impact investing, which could mean anything, as every investment is an impact, the question that needs to be asked is, ‘Is it good impactful?’ To know, you must look at the values that you are looking to serve. The partnership with SIIA has been fundamental to this. They kept us taking the secular financial world seriously, in the same way that they have taken the faithful financial world seriously. It has been a wonderful partnership. What are your goals, moving forward with the Zug Guidelines, towards effecting change in conservation and sustainability? What are the next steps for ARC? It comes in three different stages. Firstly, we are already having new guidelines being sent to us. We have triggered an awareness within the faiths. We have compiled three new major guidelines in the last two weeks. My guess is that when we come to re-issue the guidelines, in about six months time, I would be surprised, if we were not up to 40, reaching out to about 600 faith investment groups. We have now set a standard, if you like, for what any selfrespecting faith investment group should have. If you have not got your guidelines, people will now be asking, “Why not? Because the other group has.” The second stage is the creation of the new alliance. We were asked at the end of the event by the philanthropies, by the UN, by the secular finance houses, and the faiths, whether we would create an alliance that would enable this energy, these levels of commitment, this potential for putting together baskets of projects. We have a pipeline of investible projects that we have been developing with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s R20 organisation and Leonardo di Caprio’s organisation. So we not only have the faiths as investors, we also have faith driven projects and big infrastructure projects that they can invest in as well. The weekend at the Summit, we had over 40 comments, ideas, and suggestions, as to what this alliance should look like. My job in the next week is to draw up a blueprint. We will hold these groups together and enable them to become investment partners. We will enable them to undertake research work. Princeton University has offered to join in as the major academic centre. The University of Winchester here in the UK is offering to create a new chair in faith consistent investing. We are talking to the Dartington Hall Centre, a big international centre in Devon, who are offering to host three or four major think tank events every year. SIIA will annually host a whole section on philanthropy and religious investment. But beyond that we need to set up a structure that can broker partnerships, that can for example enable a cluster of faiths to invest in sustainable forestry or alternative energy. The third stage is to be representatives of better finance to the wider world. For example, the United Nations Development Program is now in discussion with the Norwegian government about potential funding for a new unit within UNDP on faith-consistent investing and the SDGs. Major philanthropies are considering setting up similar structures. I think the ripple effects will be enormous. In my understanding and experience, finance managers are herd animals, if the front cow turns into a different direction, then the rest of the herd comes up behind. I think we are very close to being able to turn the herd, and that is terribly exciting. Brita Achberger Martin Palmer is the Director of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education and Culture (ICOREC) and Secretary General of the Alliance of Religion and Conservation (ARC). An Anglican Christian, Palmer studied theology and religious studies at Cambridge University and has translated several popular books on Sinology, giving popular and controversial interpretation of early Chinese Christianity. He is a regular contributor to the BBC on religious, ethical, and historical issues, appearing regularly on BBC Radio 3 and 4, BBC World Service and presenting on BBC TV. He is Co-Chair of a joint ARC-UNDP programme on the faiths, climate change and the environment. 83