Press release: We are on the cusp of a great change – and faith groups can lead the way. That was the message from an extraordinary event in London this week which brought together around 40 people to discuss Church Investments in Climate Solutions.
The event, co-hosted by FaithInvest and Operation Noah, featured speakers such as Dr Lorna Gold, FaithInvest CEO; Paul Jaffe, head of ESG: Real Assets for the Church Commissioners; Mike Sturgess, chair of the Truro Diocesan Board of Finance; Nana Francois, CEO of Opportunity International UK, Samuel Williams, Private Sector Partnerships Lead for Christian Aid; David Marett, Finance Director of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus; and more.
FaithInvest CEO Dr Lorna Gold gave the keynote speech in which she outlined the scale of the climate challenge. 'We are at a pivotal moment. We know we have to change what we're doing – but we do have the solutions,' she said.
'In all our investment decisions, there's a moral risk, an economic risk and an environmental risk' – Dr Lorna Gold
'We are on the cusp of a great change but the question in all of this is where is the moral leadership, as well as the financial leadership, coming from? Faith communities must lead the way – because in all our investment decisions, there's a moral risk, an economic risk and an environmental risk.'
The conference, which was subtitled Financing a LIveable Future, heard that faith groups are taking action on climate change through their investments – for example, by divesting from fossil fuels and investing in sustainable energy.
Paul Jaffe said in the 18 months he'd been at the Church Commissioners, which manages a £10.3bn investment fund, he'd been struck by the extent to which 'how much part of the conversation, every decision is in relation to the environment, climate change, what investments we hold, are we doing enough?
'And I also see this in other faith organisations that either are part of the Anglican Church or wider, and that recognition that doing good on a day-to-day basis should be backed up by how our investments work.'
However, in a 2023 FaithInvest study, shared by FaithInvest Director of Programmes Mathew Jensen (pictured above), which looked at 87 publicly available Investment Policy and Guidelines statements from religious groups, only 55% explicitly stated that they took their faith values into account when making investment decisions.
Of these, 36% were involved in impact investing (where the intention is to generation positive social and environmental benefits alongside a financial return). 'In contrast, only 5% of the group that did not link their faith values to their investment policy were involved in impact investing,' he said.
One challenge facing smaller faith-based organisations is they often lack capacity. Mike Sturgess, chair of the Truro Diocesan Board of Finance, described some of the challenges: The Diocese has a £39 million investment fund, of which 10% is in renewables, but its investment committee is made up of only six volunteers who meet quarterly.
Nevertheless, 'we believe we need to actually back what we think and put our money where our mouth is,' he said. 'We have incorporated Kingdom values into our investment policy. First, do no harm and then do some good. The first was divest in fossil fuels, the second invest in renewables.’
'You realise if you don't have things written down, you can't hold people accountable' – David Marett, Society of the Holy Child Jesus
David Marett, Finance Director (Europe) of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, a congregation of Catholic women, described the project it had recently undertaken with FaithInvest to strengthen its faith-consistent investing policy. 'One of the frustrations that I had as Finance Director was that although we wanted to talk to our investment managers about achieving social impact, nothing was written down in our investment policy,' he said. 'And you realise if you don't have things written down, you can't hold people accountable.'
FaithInvest strongly encourages 'well-documented "front door" language', said Mathew Jensen: 'What is our faith? What are our beliefs, teachings and values, and how will they manifest themselves in our investments? Very strong language around that, because it's the anchor for everything else and everything else you do.'
To support faith groups to feel better equipped and more confident about implementing faith-consistent investing, FaithInvest has developed a four-week, online, live-taught course, entitled Faithful Finance: An Introduction to Aligning Investments with Faith Values, to be launched in Spring 2024.
FCI Scorecard Index
We also invite faith organisations to submit their investment policies in confidence to be assessed using FaithInvest's proprietary scorecard framework to assess the extent to which their policies are aligned with their values.
Notes for editors
FaithInvest is a non-profit organisation founded to support all faiths to invest in line with their values, for the benefit of people and planet. More information: www.faithinvest.org
Operation Noah is a UK-based Christian Charity working with the Church to inspire action on the climate crisis. More information: www.operationnoah.org
Videos of the panel discussions will be available shortly.