Heeding the Call: Investing in Justice and a Livable Future
November 01, 2022
Article originally published in GreenMoney Journal
At the start of each New Year, it is the Jewish tradition to sound the shofar. The ancient cry of the ram’s horn calls upon us to awaken, to take stock of our actions (and inaction), and to move forward into the new year with conviction and commitment to do better as individuals and as communities, pursuing acts of justice, compassion, and righteousness.
The clarion call of the past two years—throughout a pandemic, climate crisis, war in Ukraine, and racial justice reckonings—has never been louder, but how have we heeded this prophetic cry for justice?
Fortunately, we have seen a reawakening among faith investors to address these challenges through the power of mobilizing assets in alignment with their values. Over the decades, faith leaders charted a course that has engaged both values-aligned investors and financial professionals. Today, we are witnessing some of the first “impact investing” pioneers coming together with a new generation of faith-based asset owners and an expanding set of networks that support them, to learn from one another, share knowledge and expertise, and invest their resources for a better world.
Through an increasingly interconnected and collaborative network within and across faith communities, we are witnessing an ecosystem emerge that is committed to moving their trillions of dollars of collective capital into true global solutions. A movement is underway. Momentum is building. And the urgency is real.
Through this, two things have become apparent.
First, faith institutions, which together represent roughly one-tenth of global investable assets1, often serve as catalysts that attract other investors. That means their decisions to invest for impact will continue to have an outsized positive influence on what tomorrow looks like.
Second, faith-based asset owners are increasingly expecting more — more from their investments, their policies, their investment committees, their financial advisors and investment consultants. These faith leaders, sometimes prompted by their grassroots, know they can no longer make decisions at a glacial pace when the glaciers are quite literally melting. Consequently, they will demand more from their institutions and from their portfolios, more urgently. And they are doing so through myriad initiatives.
The responsible stewardship of community assets is paramount for faith investors—from bank accounts and endowment funds, to houses of worship and other real estate. Using a values-based framework to evaluate their portfolios, faith institutions may discover that investments in their portfolios may undermine their vision for a better world, profiting by extracting from communities they care about, rather than contributing to their flourishing. For example, the cry for divestment from fossil fuels and for investment in a “just transition” is increasing, such as the Laudato Si’ Movement in the global Catholic world, Operation Noah among churches in England, Dayenu (“enough”) in the US Jewish community.
Today, faith investors affiliated with the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR)—which first held corporations accountable for actions in apartheid South Africa through screening, divestment and engagement—are leaders in employing these powerful investment strategies to drive corporate accountability on behalf of all stakeholders, not just shareholders. These pioneers, like the Sisters of Mercy and the Unitarian Universalist Association, were also among the first to invest directly in communities in the US and globally, long before we called it “impact investing.” Today, ICCR members are revisiting this legacy through an impact investing working group, offering peer support to more fully activate their assets for justice.
Since 2020, the GIIN (Global Impact Investing Initiative) has hosted the Faith-Based Investor Hub to drive a greater mobilization of faith-based assets into impact investing and support the evolving ecosystem of networks and organizations pursuing these goals. Dozens of faith-based asset owners and the networks that support them meet regularly as peers to share challenges and barriers, identify opportunities for collaboration, including the faith-based repository, a library of resources and publications curated for faith investors.
Grounded in Pope Francis’s Laudato Si’ encyclical on “care for our common home,” the Catholic Impact Investing Collaborative (CIIC) is a membership organization of Catholic asset owners and partners committed to helping grow the broader community Catholic impact investors, through trainings, resources, and deal sharing. CIIC members seek a world where capital is a transformative force for good, stewards the environment, and enhances both equality and human dignity.
Similarly, the Francesco Collaborative has created opportunities for peer learning through its Livable Futures workshop, based on Catholic Social Teachings (CST). Together, investors are challenged to explore new investing- strategies that support an economy that safeguards humanity and the planet, and build a movement at scale.
FaithInvest is an international, network of religious groups and faith-based institutional investors, committed to growing the scale and impact of faith-consistent, values-driven investing worldwide. They support a broad constituency of global faith communities to proactively act as faith-consistent investors to make our world a better place, through trainings, convenings, and resources, including the Living Laudato Si’ resource hub.
The American Jewish community is also supporting impact investing initiatives, such as the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation & Endowment Fund’s Impact Lending program, offering impact opportunities in the US and Israel through donor-advised funds; a guide to impact investing published by the Jewish Funder’s Network; and a Jewish values investment framework developed by the JLens Network.
Importantly, a number of faith-based fund managers have committed at least 1% to impact investing. Everence’s Praxis Mutual Funds, a long-time leader in community development investing, has continued to grow its impact investing and reporting across its funds. Eventide Funds has also made a commitment to invest 1% of its assets to serving vulnerable populations with dignity. And the Guidestone Global Impact Fund also seeks to invest 1% in community investments.
Faith Driven Investor, a growing community of Christian investors, has created the Marketplace, an online platform connecting investors with like-minded entrepreneurs and fund managers
Notably faith institutions, including churches in BIPOC communities, serving as anchors in the neighborhoods they serve, now focus on transforming their real estate into assets for economic renewal and community transformation, working with groups like The Oikos Institute, Enterprise Community Partner’s Faith-Based Development Initiative, New Way Homes, and others. Similarly, as members of Catholic religious orders age and their communities shrink, they are considering new, more inclusive strategies for the land they hold, to benefit communities for generations to come with affordable housing, open space, and more.
It is inspiring to see this growing movement among diverse faith investors fulfilling the mandates of their specific tradition and together transforming how investing is done—in service of a more livable future for all. Small and large churches, congregations, synagogues, temples, wealthy and under-resourced. Mainline denominations. Islamic investors inspiring new products that can comply with Shariah law. As well as those outside the Abrahamic traditions—our colleagues at FaithInvest have brought together investors across the Dharmic religions, including Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, to explore what “faith consistent investing” looks like.
Powerfully, these faith-based asset owners are leading the way, not only for their peers, but also for secular values-based investors; they are also demanding that their financial decision-makers and professionals follow suit with investment products and services to address these urgent and universal challenges.
Whether a secular or faith-inspired investor, may we all hear the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor, and heed the sound of the shofar for racial and economic justice. May we be inspired for action, to work in community, collaboratively, across faiths, by deploying our abundance aligned with our faith values to make a world that is just, equitable and sustainable. Now is the time to mobilize our collective assets and energies, for our common home, for people, planet, all of creation and for generations to come. A movement is underway. Heed the call. Join us.
Article by Amanda Joseph, Director of Faith-Based Initiatives at Calvert Impact Capital, a leading impact investment firm that through its products and services has mobilized over $2 billion in investments to create a more equitable and sustainable world. She serves as a resource for faith-based investors on their impact investing journeys and partners with faith leaders and networks to build the capacity and community of practicing faith-based impact investors.
Previously, Amanda worked at Opportunity Finance Network, the nation’s leading association of community development financial institutions (CDFIs) committed to providing affordable, responsible capital and financial services to communities not served by mainstream finance. She has held senior management roles at a technology company assisting Americans to sustainably move out of poverty and for a decade-plus at Jewish Funds for Justice/The Shefa Fund where she managed the first and only national initiative to organize the American Jewish community to invest in low-wealth communities across the county.
Amanda has prior experience as a commercial loan officer for the Self-Help Credit Union, and has worked with a range of mission-driven organizations. She holds an MBA from the Yale School of Management, and an AB from Bryn Mawr College.