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Red Bridge in Lyon
'If you put the assets of all faith institutions together, they would constitute a country twice the size
of the United Kingdom
'

– Iyad Abumoghli, UNEP
FOR PEOPLE
AND PLANET

WHY WORK WITH
FAITHS?

Few people think of the world's faiths in terms of their assets but religions are significant stakeholders in the planet. They own large amounts of land and buildings as well as billions of dollars of investments. They also have huge outreach, with around 84% of people globally identifying with a religion, which means they have enormous potential to influence attitudes and behaviour.

FAITHS AS STAKEHOLDERS

'If you put the assets of all faith institutions together, they would constitute a country twice the size of the United Kingdom... They have more than 37 million churches around the world, six million mosques, dozens of millions of temples and so on. So this is a country, a big country.'

– Iyad Abumoghli, Director, Faith for Earth Initiative,
United Nations Environment Programme

Hindu ceremony
OUTREACH

Around 84% of people globally describe themselves as belonging to a religion, according to the Pew Research Center. Christianity is the world's biggest religion (31%), followed by Islam (24%), Hinduism (15%) and Buddhism (7%). Around 16% of people are unaffiliated.

Church
BUILDINGS

Religions own enormous numbers of buildings. There are, for example, more than 37 million churches, six million mosques and millions more temples around the world, according to UNEP. And then there are the schools, hospitals, community centres, hotels, cafes...

Stocks
FINANCIAL ASSETS

The faiths are believed to have trillions of dollars on the global stock markets, though much information about faith investments is not publicly available. Islamic finance alone globally grew to US$4 trillion in 2021 and is expected to reach US$5.9 trillion in 2026.

School in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
EDUCATION

Faith groups run half of all schools worldwide (64% in sub-Saharan Africa according to UNICEF). The Catholic Church runs the world's biggest non-governmental school system, with more than 100,000 primary schools and nearly 50,000 secondary schools.

Green landscape with mountains in the background
LAND

Faiths manage 7-8% of the habitable landmass of the planet, including 5% of commercial forests (22% in Sweden, 28% in Austria). They have influence over 15% of land considered to be sacred, according to an Oxford University study shared with our predecessor, ARC.

Pediatrician
HEALTH

Religions are heavily involved in healthcare, providing 30-50% of health provision in many developing countries. The Catholic Church alone runs 26% of the world's health facilities, including at least a quarter of all HIV and AIDS initiatives in Africa.

Stakeholders
Faith Investments
FAITH-OWNED INVESTMENTS

Religions have been described as 'the third-largest economic power on Earth' and estimates frequently suggest they own trillions of dollars in assets and investments. Specific details are hard to come by, however, as much information about faith investments is not publicly available. We know even less about the finances of certain faith institutions, such as Hindu, Buddhist or Daoist temples in Asia, for example, although some are known to be very wealthy. Below is the history of engagement in this area and examples of faith assets.

2002: FaithInvest's predecessor, the Alliance of Religions and Conservation, worked with CitIGroup to carry out the first external survey of faith finances. It was never published externally but estimated that 10-15% of the US stock market (2.5-7.5% of the world markets) was owned by religious groups.

2009: Speaking at ARC's Windsor Celebration, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said faith groups comprised the third largest category of investors.

2016: A study of the economic value of religion to US society estimated faiths had annual revenues of US$378 billion annually – more than those of tech giants Apple and Microsoft combined and the equivalent to being the world's 15th-largest national economy.

2021: UNEP's Iyad Abumoghli described religions as 'the third-largest economic power on Earth', with 'trillions of dollars in investments'.

2022: Islamic finance globally grew to US$4 trillion in 2021 and is expected to reach US$5.9 trillion in 2026, according to a 2022 study.

Chinese temple in trees

EXAMPLES OF FAITH  INVESTMENT PORTFOLIOS

Download a document with the references for the above figures.

SUPPORT US

By donating to FaithInvest, your gift helps us develop the free-to-access tools, programmes and resources needed to support faith groups as across as wide a range of geographies and capacities as possible. We are very grateful for any support you can give us.

Sincere thanks from everyone at FaithInvest!

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