Guest Blog: First UK signatory of the Catholic Impact Investing Pledge


Shaun Cooper is Head of Finance at the Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood, a Catholic religious order that recently became the first UK signatory of the Catholic Impact Investing Pledge.

In this guest blog he shares the background on how and why the congregation decided to begin impact investing.

When they were elected in 2013, the current Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood (FMDM) Leadership Team brought with them a shared passion for the environment, no doubt influenced by their mission work in Australia, Nigeria and the UK.

The FMDM charism encourages sisters to seek to imitate Mary in her unique role as Mother of God – to conceive, give birth to, and nurture the life of Christ – which is a life of love – in our hearts, our communities and in our world today.

The Leadership Team felt that as well as applying the FMDM charism to the way they lived their lives and managed the Congregation, it should also be applied to the way FMDM invest their reserve funds. And so the journey started!

FMDM Leadership Team (Photo credit: Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood)

Our General Bursar, Sr Helena McEvilly, signed up for a Catholic Impact Investing Collaborative (CIIC) webinar with the Congregation of Christian Brothers in November 2017. She liked what she heard, so reached out to CIIC founding member John O’Shaughnessy to see if he could tell us more. A Zoom call with the leadership team followed in early 2018, where John’s words of wisdom and advice on impact investing cemented the issue in the minds of the leadership team and really helped us with our sense of direction.

Further focus was gained by attending the Third Vatican Conference on Impact Investing in July 2018, and coming to understand the sad truth that the UK really was lagging behind the rest of the world on the subject of impact investing. Time, in our own small way, to do something about it! However, whilst the intention was there, pressure of work got the better of us, and no further progress was made until 2019, when we attended the Association of Provincial Bursars Annual Conference at High Leigh Conference Centre, north London.

Not only was there an excellent keynote address from John O’Shaughnessy from the Catholic Impact Investing Collaborative, but also an inspiring session on ‘Impact Investing – the next steps’ from Kayoko Lyons, Bryan Pini and Jake Barnett. If this were not enough, there was also an opportunity to attend the House of Lords on the invitation of Lord Deben, the prominent supporter of Catholic social justice causes, to be part of the first regional CIIC gathering outside of the US.

Suitably inspired, the FMDM Leadership Team signed up to the Catholic Impact Investing Pledge in November 2019 and, dismayed by the lack of options offered by our existing investment manager, began the search for a like-minded impact investment manager. Though options are still limited in the UK, we approached a couple of managers, and were really impressed with L&P Cantor Fitzgerald, both with the quality and range of their impact investing options, and the knowledge and experience they had of the impact investing market. This approach soon became a proposal, which was considered and approved by the FMDM Leadership Team in January 2020.

So the FMDM congregation had dipped their toes into impact investing. We are committed to take further steps, and to increase the percentage of our investment portfolio allocated to impact investing. We are also living up to our Catholic Impact Investing Pledge, by promoting awareness of impact investing among our fellow Catholics.

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