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The Economist features FaithInvest

August 15, 2018:

In its obituary story about Tessa Tennant, doyenne of ethical impact investment, who so sadly died last month, The Economist's Erasmus column, written by Bruce Clark, leads on FaithInvest, as part of a long legacy of faiths investing positively for the environment which Tessa helped at its early stages.

Faith, finance and the future of humanity: Remembering Tessa Tennant, giant of green finance

A rainmaker who cajoled the religious and made them greener

Erasmus Aug 5th 2018 by ERASMUS

Link to the Economist site here LAST November investment managers and prominent figures from many faiths (including Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and Taoists) gathered in the Swiss town of Zug and agreed to help each other direct the vast financial assets controlled by religious bodies towards projects that help rather than harm the earth. Out of that meeting sprang an initiative called FaithInvest. Its declared aims include the establishment of “a pipeline of investable projects in line with faith-consistent principles.”

Ethical and religiously inspired investment used in years past to focus on the avoidance of bad activities, like selling weapons to dictators or cigarettes to youngsters. The Zug meeting marks a more recent emphasis on using investment to help the environment in active ways, say through renewable energy or sustainable forest management. The deployment of billions of dollars could be affected.

That was one landmark in the history of ties between religions to which most humans adhere and people who are responsible, in one way or another, for the physical state of the Earth. Another such landmark occurred in the run-up to the Paris summit on climate change in 2015. In a project called Our Voices, people of many different religious and philosophical convictions came together to express their hopes, demands, aspirations and prayers for a successful summit.

What unites these two initiatives—one in the realm of the practical, the other more moral and spiritual—is the individual who acted as a prime mover in both cases. Her name was Tessa Tennant, and she died last month at the age of 59 after a long battle with cancer.

Although she wasn’t physically present in Zug, its success was a reflection of relationships and networks which she had established, and moral pressure which she had applied, according to Martin Palmer, the organiser of the gathering and secretary-general of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC), an NGO. The Our Voices campaign reflected another inspiration of hers: instead of pretending to be one more green lobby group, the religions of the world should try to influence the Paris summit by doing what they do best: exhorting, inspiring and praying.

One of the many paradoxes of Ms Tennant’s life is that she had a huge impact on the world of faith without being formally religious herself. She had plenty of influence in other quarters too: she co-founded Britain’s first green investment fund, now known as the Jupiter Fund. She established the Carbon Disclosure Project which prompted thousands of companies to make annual statements about their greenhouse emissions. And she worked closely with the United Nations Environment Programme to develop good practice for banks, insurance firms and investment funds.

She is remembered at the ARC office in Bath as being a “joyously manipulative” person to whom it was impossible to say no. The Zug faith-and-finance meeting was the culmination of a long series of deliberations that began in a conversation between her and Mr Palmer in an icy Scottish castle nearly 20 years ago. She asked him how much money religions had and what they were doing with it; he had just been talking to the treasurer of one of America’s main Christian churches who said its pension fund was about $13bn and total financial assets around $70bn. Ms Tennant and Mr Palmer agreed that something could be done with this money.

Ms Tennant’s own Scottish stately home, which passed to her from the eccentric blue-blooded family into which she made a short-lived marriage, was by all accounts a much warmer place. People with interesting ideas about finance, ecology, philosophy or any combination of the above were invited to brainstorm, and were then browbeaten into putting their ideas into practice.

In metaphysical terms, says Mr Palmer, Ms Tennant was closer to Pelagius than to Calvin: in other words she refused to believe in man’s incorrigible wickedness and felt that humans had the capacity to take action to save themselves. But it seems very unlikely that she paid the slightest attention to either of those thinkers.

FaithInvest is now planning a meeting in Hong Kong where leaders and prominent practitioners of Asian belief systems (including Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists and Confucians) will be invited to turn their metaphysical beliefs into ecological practice. The concept and the contacts which underlie that plan are all part of Ms Tennant’s bountiful legacy to the earth.






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