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WWF on ARC: Move to socially responsible investment

WWF News: March 2004:

“In time, 3iG could become one of the world’s major economic power blocks.”

By Peter Denton

WWF has been instrumental in creating a global organisation that could have as much as US$1 trillion – that’s a thousand billion dollars – placed in socially responsible investments within the next decade.

The organisation is the International Interfaith Investment Group, known as 3iG, which will formally come into being in October. Its members are 11 of the world’s leading religions, which between them own an estimated seven per cent of the habitable surface of the planet, and represent 4.5 billion people.

3iG is being developed by the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), a UK-based organisation which works with the world’s religions on environmental issues, often in partnership with WWF. Martin Palmer, its Chief Executive, said, “In time, 3iG could become one of the world’s major economic power blocks.” WWF would be a secular partner, offering advice on environmental matters such as renewable energy and climate change, and drawing up management plans for huge open spaces.

Its members are 11 of the world’s leading religions, which Between them the major religions own an estimated seven per cent of the habitable surface of the planet, and represent 4.5 billion people.
At least 20 religious organisations are joining 3iG, many of them with extraordinary amounts of money at their disposal. They include the United Methodist Pension Board in the US, which has already committed $13 billion to socially responsible investments. Among 3iG’s board members are Zoroastrian, Jewish and Muslim foundations, Hindu organisations, the World Council of Churches and the Interfaith Centre on Corporate Responsibility, a coalition of 275 faith-based institutional investors.

Common ground

Because no two religions are the same, investment issues are complicated – investing in pig farming, for example, would be anathema to some members, but acceptable to others. However, the areas of common ground far outnumber the differences.

“All faiths will collaborate as they think appropriate while still retaining their full autonomy,” Martin Palmer explained. “They will identify key issues for themselves, then seek allies and partners. So for example, Islamic, Daoist and some Christian investors might work together on financing poor communities developing sustainable products – but on a non-usury basis as reflected in their beliefs and values. Another example might be water investment in India, which could bring together Hindu, Jain and Zoroastrian investors.”

Pragmatic alliances will be the order of the day – alliances to achieve particular goals of influence and effectiveness within socially responsible investment. Each religion will operate its portfolios with “due regard to the faith’s beliefs, values, the environment and human rights so that all life on Earth can benefit”.

Jules Peck, WWF’s Global Policy Adviser, is keenly anticipating 3iG’s launch. “We feel strongly that there’s much common ground between ourselves and the various religions, particularly in terms of the planet’s sustainable development. We are all very much aware of our interdependence, our feeling of community and, of course, our custodianship of the planet for future generations,” he said.

LINK TO OTHER WWF FEATURES ABOUT ARC

Religions commit to global land conservation

Manchester’s green plan calls for action and change

Church in rebuilt Lebanon plays key environmental role

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