Windsor Castle ARC 017 cropped long.jpeg

Prince Philip meets Sikh leaders, 2009

TRIBUTE TO HRH

For the last four decades, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, has been the inspiration for the largest civil society environmental movement in the world – that of the world's faith communities. What he began in the 1980s led directly to the establishment of FaithInvest in 2019. On his death, aged 99, FaithInvest pays tribute to his extraordinary – and, in many ways, unsung – leadership in this area.

THE INSPIRATION FOR A MOVEMENT

FaithInvest is deeply sorry to hear of the death of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh on April 9, 2021.

 

Prince Philip was not only an extraordinary personal friend to FaithInvest CEO and President Martin Palmer but for the last four decades, he was the inspiration for the largest civil society environmental movement in the world – that of the faiths.

It was Prince Philip who in 1985 saw that working with the major faiths around the world would bring new partners to the struggle to protect people and planet. “His Royal Highness was the first world leader to understand that the religions of the world could be natural partners for the conservation movement,” said Martin, who was Prince Philip's Religious Advisor on Conservation right up to the time of his death. 

"In the 1980s he expressed his absolute confidence that the religions were able and ready to protect the environment, and that he was willing to help support them in that. 

 

"Since then, all the major faiths have declared the environment to be a faith issue and now have programmes of practical action on the environment. Much of that would never have happened without the explicit support of Prince Philip."

HRH Prince Philip at the 2009 launch of Faith
Commitments to Protect the Living Planet

HRH and Martin Palmer Buckingham Palace-

HRH, FAITHS AND CONSERVATION 

Prince Philip's vision in the 1980s was to bring the faiths together with not just WWF but all the major environmental organisations.

 

It was his absolute conviction, when it was not fashionable to have such a conviction, that religions are vital forces for a sustainable planet, and that secular environmentalists needed to work with them," said Martin.

This conviction lead Prince Philip to ask Martin to organise the first ever meeting between the major faiths and the major conservation and environmental organisations in Assisi, Italy, in 1986 as the main focus of the 25th anniversary of the World Wildlife Fund, of which Prince Philip was then the International President. 

This extraordinary meeting prompted the faiths to consider the environment as a religious issue – in many cases for the first time – and transformed religious attitudes towards what conservation and other environmental issues. It also resulted in the most publicity WWF had ever seen for an event.

Left: Martin Palmer and HRH Prince Philip in 2017

'RELIGIONS ARE VITAL FORCES'

Prince Philip then persuaded WWF International to run a programme with the faiths, headed by Martin, for nine years. His subsequent suggestion that what was needed was a stand-alone organisation solely dedicated to building
links between the worlds of faith and environment led to the establishment of FaithInvest's founder organisation, the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) in 1995, which Martin headed as Secretary General until 2019.

And it was another suggestion from Prince Philip – that the assets of the faiths (buildings, finance, purchasing power) could revolutionise practical action and engagement with environmental issues – which lead to the founding of FaithInvest in 2019 to empower faiths to invest in line with their beliefs and values.

"He believed that the authority
of the faiths was a sounder
basis for building sustainable
communities than those of
nation states or even
international organisations,"
Martin said.

And where did this vision
come from?

 

In an interview for ARC in 2003,
Prince Philip said: “In the 1980s,
WWF International was trying to
do three things around the world: raise money, develop conservation projects and educate the public.

'It was his absolute conviction that religions are vital forces for a sustainable planet, and that secular environmentalists needed to work with them'

– Martin Palmer

"The first two things were fine, but the last one had real difficulties. I argued that the kind of education we were doing through articles and lectures and books and films and things of that sort only reached the educated, and probably only the middle classes in the various countries. 

 

"The people that we needed to
get to were the ones who
lived in the areas of greatest
risk, and the areas where the
potential for biological
diversity was highest. 


"It occurred to me that the
people who could most easily
communicate with them were
their religious leaders.

 

"They are in touch with their
local population more than
anyone else. And if we could
get the local faith leaders to
appreciate their responsibility
for the environment, then they would be able to explain that

responsibility to the people of their faith." 

'It occurred to me that the people who could most easily communicate with them were their religious leaders. They are in touch with their local population more than anyone else'

– HRH Prince Philip

GROUND BREAKING

Back then, this idea was ground breaking, said Martin: “As he said in 1985, if data and information alone could save the planet, we would have saved it by then. The trouble was, he used to say, we aren’t touching hearts and minds. And to do that, the conservation movement needs to work with the religions.”

2017 HRH Daoists Windsor-5-scrolles rz.j

Meeting with Daoists in 2017

HE WAS FIERCELY LOYAL, HUGE FUN, HUMOROUS, WISE

For Martin Palmer, Prince Philip's death is also a personal loss. He said: "I have worked with HRH since 1985 and we have been friends ever since. He was fiercely loyal, strongly critical when necessary, huge fun; humorous and wise. Today, I’m grieving the loss of a friend, as well as the founder of what has become the largest civil society movement on the environment.

 

“We were last in touch at the beginning of January. He was excited to hear that we, with WWF, were working with hundreds of faith organisations to help them develop Faith Long-Term Plans to be launched later this year ahead of the UN's COP26 climate conference. 

 

"These Plans build on a programme, Faith Commitments for a Living Planet, that he oversaw with the then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, launched at Windsor Castle in 2009, which have profoundly shaped the faiths' response to the environment over the last decade. We had hoped to be able to celebrate yet another major programme with him but now will do so in his honour."

Left: HRH Prince Philip meets Daoist leaders, 2017

PRINCE PHILIP INSPIRED A GREAT DEAL OF CHANGE IN THE WORLD

Known throughout the religious worlds as an inspiration and a leader in taking the social, environmental and financial power of the faiths seriously, this aspect of Prince Philip's work for over 35 years is little known to the wider public. 

 

That was typical of the man,
says Martin: "He never wanted
to boast about his role in
public life; he always said that
it was the people on the
ground who did all the work.

However, although he would
have shaken his head at my
mentioning it, I would like to
say now that Prince Philip
inspired a great deal of change
in the world. 

 

"Much of it was helping young
people, through the Duke of
Edinburgh Award which changed many people’s lives. And much of it was helping conserve the natural world.

"In the 1980s he expressed his absolute confidence that the religions were able and ready to protect the environment, and that he was willing to help support them in that. 

 

"Since then, all the major faiths have declared the environment to be a faith issue and now have programmes of practical action on the environment. Much of that would never have happened without the explicit support of Prince Philip."

'All the major faiths have declared the environment to be a faith issue... Much of that would never have happened without the explicit support of Prince Philip'

– Martin Palmer

There are many other initiatives that would likely not have happened without Prince Philip’s initial idea and his ongoing support. These include EcoSikh, set up after the 2009 UN-ARC Faith Commitments Windsor celebration, and which has created Sikh Environment Day (now an annual event on March 14 with more than 4,000 gurdwaras taking part).  

 

Martin said: "He had a special interest in the Orthodox Church of which, by baptism, he was a member,
helping to make the Orthodox
Church under the leadership
of the Ecumenical Patriarch
Bartholomeus the first major
faith tradition to make the
environment a key issue in
the early 1990s.

 

"He also had a great affection
for the Daoists of China and
regularly met with them at
Buckingham Palace to discuss'
and debate faith, philosophy
and culture. The Daoists have
their own environmental
organisation inspired by him.

"Without his willingness to break
down barriers, to be a bridge and
to show the faiths they were valued, what the UN has described as the ‘largest civil society movement to protect the planet’ would never have happened. 
And personally, too, I will miss him immensely. "

'Without his willingness to break down barriers, to
be a bridge and to show the faiths they were valued, what the UN has described as the "largest civil society movement to protect the planet" would never have happened'

– Martin Palmer

VIDEO TRIBUTES TO HRH

Many people wanted to pay tribute to Prince Philip for his work in inspiring the faiths to take environmental action. Here are just a few video tributes from people who have seen his work and his influence at first hand. 

  • Martin Palmer, CEO, FaithInvest and Prince Philip's Religious Advisor on Conservation

  • Dr Husna Ahmad, Director of Global One, a Muslim-led NGO, and a member of the UN's Multi-faith Advisory Council

  • Chantal Elkin, Head of WWF's Beliefs and Values Programme

  • Dr Xiaoxin He, ARC's former China advisor who worked closely with the Daoists 

  • Gopal Patel, Director of Bhumi Global, the leading global Hindu environmental organisation and a member of the UN's Multi-faith Advisory Council

  • Yasuhiko Saito, President, MOA Museum of Art, Japan

  • Dr Rajwant Singh, Founder of EcoSikh and chair, Sikh Council on Religion and Education

 
FAITHINVEST3-001.jpg

Helping the faiths engage with and inspire the investing world. Helping the investing world navigate and support the faiths.