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Religion: A Force In Ethical & Green Investing

Religion: A Force In Ethical & Green Investing

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Published by Ron Robins
Religious and faith groups have huge investment portfolios representing the third largest category of investors globally, says UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. And their investments are increasingly focused on ethical and green investing.
Religious and faith groups have huge investment portfolios representing the third largest category of investors globally, says UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. And their investments are increasingly focused on ethical and green investing.

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Published by: Ron Robins on Dec 30, 2010
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12/30/2010

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Religion: A Force In Ethical & Green Investing
By Ron Robins, Founder & Analyst,Investing for the SoulBlogEnlightened Economics;twitter First published November 11, 2010, in his weekly economics and finance column atalrroya.comReligious and faith groups have huge investment portfolios representing the thirdlargest category of investors globally, says UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Andtheir investments are increasingly focused on ethical and green investing.Though religion’s main interest is spirituality, we also know it is concerned withethics, morality and stewardship of our environment. In Christianity, Islam andJudaism, God has dominion over all creation and everyone is expected to be goodshepherds of it. In Hinduism, the earth is divine and to be respected. Buddhismpreaches compassion for all life forms and the unity of all creations. Similarsentiments are expressed in most other religions too.Thus, it is not surprising to hear that it was probably religious groups who pioneeredethical investing. The foundations of Western ethical investing are traced to biblicaltimes when directives were found on investing according to ethical values.Increasingly, religious and faith groups focus on aspects of ethical investing thatrelate to environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, sometimes referred toas ‘impact’ investing. In a 2010 study by 3iG, the Spain based InternationalInterfaith Investment Group, found that, “more than 70 per cent of religiousinstitutions.... practice some form of impact investing, in areas such as communitydevelopment, micro-finance, affordable housing and fair trade, and not just negativeand positive screening [for ESG issues].” The 3iG organisation itself represents a growing awareness among religions to betterreflect religious values in their investments. 3iG is “designed to assist the Faiths infacilitating and advancing their engagement in the area of faith-consistent investingand to provide high-level research and information to enhance its development. Thegreat challenge is to integrate faith-based principles into the world of business,particularly via investing.” Unfortunately, it is usually difficult to obtain information on investment portfolioholdings of many faith based organisations. And even when they are revealed, realestate holdings are often not included. Nonetheless, there are some examples of howlarge and important are religious ethical investment activities.One example is the bank administered by the Roman Catholic Church, based in theVatican and known as the Institute for Works of Religion (ICW). It has assetssomewhere around €5 billion, (according to the Financial Times) and these are saidto be second in size to those of the UN. Its focus is on ethical investments withprofits going to charities and religious organisations around the world. (Note though,that the assets of Roman Catholic Churches globally are many times that of theICW.)Some other Christian churches, particularly in Britain and Ireland, are however, quite

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