Our OCHS Director, Shaunaka Rishi Das, recently attended a unique three-day meeting, accompanied by Gopal Patel, the Director of The Bhumi Project and our intern for this term, Miss Vishakha Sharma, a student at Aarhus University in Denmark. This gathering of faith leaders and fund management experts from around the world, took place from 30th October to the 1st of November at Zug, Switzerland.
The OCHS had a major role to play in planning the meeting. We were requested to take the movement forward into its next iteration, making OCHS the ‘go-to’ place for Hindu investments, ideas and the shaping of policies. ‘Markets fluctuate, principles do not’, our Director summed up the ethos of the participants. ‘Ethical and impact investments are gaining importance in the markets these days’, he added, ‘and how faiths invest their money can have a huge influence the markets.’
A global movement aimed at shifting billions of dollars of faith-based investments into initiatives supporting sustainable development and the environment was launched following the Conference.
By unanimous agreement among participants at the Zug ‘Faith in Finance’ meeting, an alliance will be created to spearhead this movement and develop faith-consistent investment goals. Participants included more than 30 different faith traditions from eight religions, representing over 500 faith investment groups and trillions of dollars in assets, as well as senior United Nations figures and leading impact investment funds.
The event was attended by Cardinal Peter Turkson, who was recently asked by Pope Francis to head up a new agency in the Vatican with the task of ‘promoting integral human development.’
‘The long-term impact will be to empower faith groups – and the billions of people who make up their congregations – and decide how to use their investments, their pension funds and their assets to create a better world, one that as Cardinal Turkson says, responds to two cries, the cry of the poor and the cry of creation,’ Martin Palmer added, Secretary General of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), who hosted the Conference.
The UN Assistant Secretary-General, UN Environment Programme, Elliott Harris, was also one of the guest speakers. The governments which committed to the sustainable development goals must be held to account, he said. “But we realise that this agenda is far too complicated to leave up to the governments. They cannot do it alone.”
With 2017 seeing a global barrage of political, economic and social upheaval, the breakthrough in Zug highlights the role faith-consistent investment can play in helping stabilise a turbulent world. By asking, ‘What do you do with wealth to make a better planet?,’ the world’s religious organisations can continue the work set out by the UN.