I am sure that many of us, at one time or another, have said or thought ‘the government should really do…’ (whatever a particular urgent issue is). With major global issues such as the climate crisis and the Covid pandemic, I suspect many of us have done this more often!
However what major crises highlight is the importance of what we all do – as Pope Francis referenced in ‘Thought for the Day’ on BBC Radio 4 on 29th October, just ahead of the COP26 climate summit. He went on to stress that these times of crisis are also opportunities – to have ‘conversion’, not just spiritually, but in all parts of our lives.
A collective conversion
This conversion is both individual and communitarian, and this has led to many Christian communities considering not just what ‘they’ should do, or what ‘I’ should do, but also what ‘we’ can do. A major step being taken is to look closely at how the money held by Christian communities is used – how it is invested and what it is used for. The eve of the COP26 summit has seen announcements as to different dioceses taking action to divest from putting money into fossil fuel companies – including all the Catholic Dioceses in Scotland, the Catholic Archdioceses of Birmingham and Southwark, the Anglican Diocese of Truro, the Presbyterian Church of Wales and the Presbyterian Church of Ireland.
This action is not limited to the Christian Churches, but spans religions and faith groups across the world. In all 72 faith institutions, including 37 from the UK, announced their disinvestment from fossil fuels in the week before COP26. This represents $4.2 billion of combined assets and for the UK those organisations cover nearly 2,000 local churches.
How money is used is vital for our common home, and equally important as disinvestment from that which is harmful is investment in that which is positive.
This is where FaithInvest is working – with the aim to grow the scale and impact of faith-consistent, values-driven investing worldwide. It is an international, not-for-profit membership organisation for religious groups and faith-based institutional investors.
Often Faith groups are clear as to what they don’t want their money to do, but it can be less clear on what to invest in, and so FaithInvest links up diverse groups to share and work collaboratively – it is not a body that makes investment decisions or manages money for faith groups.
Two fundamental moral principles guide our work in managing assets: the principle of human dignity and the concept of stewardship. – Church of Sweden
On the 4th October 2021 FaithInvest launched ‘Faith Plans for People and Planet’. The initiative was timed in response to Pope Francis’ 4th October declaration that more concrete action is needed from the world’s faith communities in addressing the planet’s challenges. Faith Plans is already the largest and most ambitious environmental initiative ever launched by the world’s faiths.
‘Given the size of their assets and influence, faiths alone, through their actions, could make the crucial difference to the world’s efforts to halt irreversible climate change and reverse environmental destruction,’ said FaithInvest CEO Martin Palmer.
The coalition includes faith-based networks such as the World Evangelical Alliance (more than 600 million members worldwide), Religions for Peace (the world’s largest multi-religious organisation); and the Ethiopian Gospel Believers’ Church Council (more than 30 million members). It includes groups reaching out to hundreds of millions of Buddhists and Daoists in China; secular groups working with faiths such as Interfaith Rainforest Initiative; and UN bodies such as UN Environment’s Faith for Earth and the UNDP’s Learning for Nature. The Faith Plans programme is also partnering with the ‘Laudato Si’ Movement’ of the Catholic Church which is urging its 1.3 billion members to take environmental action inspired by the Pope’s groundbreaking 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si’ (On Care for Our Common Home).
Under this initiative faith groups of all shapes and sizes are encouraged to make a pledge for change and to develop plans for what they will do.
‘Faith Plans for People and Planet’ looks at using their assets, investments, influence and resources to drive practical action on climate change, biodiversity and sustainable development over the next seven to ten years. This could include things like how energy is used and which energy suppliers; which banks and where money is held; what transport is used/what alternatives considered; balancing up in person and on-line meetings, and more.
From October 2021 there is a timeline set out:
- Plan baselines (what assets – money, people, buildings, etc)
- Plan development and delivery
- Sharing best practice
- Creating new frameworks and partnerships
- Launch of concrete faith commitments at Stockholm +50 (in June 2022)
The Focolare Movement as a whole has signed up to ‘Faith Plans for People and Planet’, so we will all have our part to play in going forward. Any readers interested in helping to develop a plan would be most welcome!