Webinar shows vital role of Catholic impact investing in advancing just, green recovery


On Wednesday 21 October, Catholic Impact Investing Collaborative, Operation Noah and partner organisations hosted the second part of a webinar series on Catholic investment for an integral ecology.

The webinar series was sponsored by Operation Noah, CAFOD, Global Catholic Climate Movement, the Catholic Impact Investing Collaborative, the Conference of Religious, the Association of Provincial Bursars, Trocaire, National Justice & Peace Network and Justice & Peace Scotland.

The second webinar in the series, entitled Investment for a green recovery: Innovation in impact investing, focused on impact investing, exploring how Catholic organisations can make investments with positive environmental and social impacts. Speakers included Lord Deben, Dr Sr Gemma Simmonds CJ, Neil Thorns, Sr Pat Daly OP, Shaun Cooper and Victoria Carrion.

The webinar was attended by more than 250 participants from around the world, including provincials, bursars and other members of Catholic religious orders, diocesan financial trustees and lay people.

Lord Deben, Chair of UK’s Committee on Climate Change and keynote speaker, said: ‘Climate change is something that will affect us utterly disastrously unless we take action immediately and meet the worldwide decision laid out in Paris more rapidly.’

Lord Deben said that Catholic organisations need to ‘look at the effects of [their] investments and make decisions based upon those effects’. He added that, in the lead up to the UN climate talks (COP26) in Glasgow next year, ‘It is hugely important for the Catholic community to be very visible…it must be very determined, and it must be clear that we all ought to be in this together.’

He concluded: ‘The most urgent, most serious material threat to this world is a moral question… The defence of creation is the most fundamental fact of the Christian faith.’

Dr Sr Gemma Simmonds CJ, Director of Religious Life Institute at the University of Cambridge, gave a theological perspective on impact investing. She reminded us that ‘We need to think of ourselves as a single family dwelling in a common home. Impact investing isn’t so much as putting our money where our mouth is, but putting our money where our heart is.’

Neil Thorns, Director of Advocacy and Communications at CAFOD, spoke about how impact investing is enabling development outcomes in the global South. He said that ‘impact investing models a different economic future – and that’s a fundamental thing we need to change.’ He highlighted that ‘the green recovery is so important for poor communities because they are being hit the hardest.’

Sr Pat Daly OP, former Executive Director of Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment, provided a case study of how 16 US Dominican religious congregations collaborated to launch the Climate Solutions Fund. She said: ‘We wanted to start the journey of impact investing for our organization to serve as a model for others, and make sure that our efforts were going to move the financial sector into sustainable investing.’

Shaun Cooper, Head of Finance at Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood, shared a case study on beginning the impact investing journey. He shared how the congregation signed the Catholic Impact Investing Pledge in November 2019, and that this was their ‘first positive step in our impact investing journey.’ He added that signing the pledge was ‘a straightforward and transformational decision for us’.

Victoria Carrion, Director of Membership and Partnerships at the Catholic Impact Investing Collaborative, invited Catholic dioceses, religious orders and other organisations to begin the impact investing journey and consider signing the Catholic Impact Investing Pledge. She invited participants to consider joining a network of Catholic organisations and individuals in the UK, Ireland and the rest of Europe wishing to advance impact investing.

James Buchanan, Bright Now Campaign Manager at Operation Noah who moderated the question and answer session on the webinar, said: ‘We were delighted to see the interest and engagement in impact investing among Catholic organisations. The clear message from the webinar was that Catholic and other faith institutions have a key role to play in investing in solutions to the climate crisis.’

More than 20 Catholic organisations around the world, with a combined $40 billion in assets under management, including groups such as Catholic Relief Services, the Catholic Community Foundation of Minnesota, and many others, have now made pledges to start impact investing. This group has committed not only to maintaining their focus on internal impact investment programmes but is also interested in helping to grow the broader ecosystem of Catholic impact investing. 

Next steps

If you would like to discuss how your religious order, diocese or organisation could sign the Catholic Impact Investing Pledge, please contact Victoria Carrion (Catholic Impact Investing Collaborative) on victoria@catholicimpact.org.

In addition, if you would like to join a January online meeting to share ideas and connect with others interested in Catholic impact investing in the UK and Ireland, please contact Bokani Tshidzu (Bright Now Campaign Officer at Operation Noah) to express your interest on bokani.tshidzu@operationnoah.org.

The first webinar in the series was held on 22 September 2020 and entitled Fossil fuel divestment: Accelerating the clean energy transition. It brought together Catholic organisations to learn more and share experiences of divesting from the fossil fuel industry and supporting a just recovery from Covid-19. Speakers included Fr Augusto Zampini, Dr Lorna Gold, Stephen Power SJ, Sr Susan Francois CSJP and James Buchanan.

Operation Noah and the Global Catholic Climate Movement invited Catholic religious orders and dioceses to join the global divestment announcement for faith organisations in November 2020. 

If you are in the UK and would like to learn more from other organisations who have started on their impact investing journey or discuss fossil fuel divestment, please contact Bokani Tshidzu (Operation Noah) on bokani.tshidzu@operationnoah.org

The Catholic impact investing webinar is available to watch again and can be viewed here. Please share the link with others!

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