Church of Scotland and Islamic Finance Council agree shared ethical framework

The Church of Scotland and the Islamic Finance Council UK will unveil the Edinburgh Finance Declaration, an interfaith shared values framework on ethical finance, at a reception in Greyfriars Kirk on Tuesday 23 Oct 2018.

Rev Dr Richard Frazer
Rev Dr Richard Frazer

The event marks the end of the international Ethical Finance 2018 conference that has convened 300 experts in Edinburgh this week.

The Declaration, thought to be the first of its kind globally, represents the culmination of the first stage of an historic collaboration initiated in February 2016 when the Church and UKIFC signed a partnership agreement to co-develop an ethical finance solution open to all society, regardless of faith or ethnicity, that is built upon the shared values between the two faith traditions.

The shared values framework emerged from efforts led by finance practitioners. This included in-depth interviews, consultation papers and a series of structured round tables held over a two year period. This process engaged over 200 senior stakeholders ranging from banking and finance experts to religious theologians, parliamentarians and academics from across the UK and abroad. Six core shared values emerged that were refined to create the Edinburgh Finance Declaration.

The shared values - Stewardship, Love of the Neighbour, Human Flourishing, Sustainability and Purposefulness, Justice and Equity, and Common Good - align contemporary trends in the financial markets such as climate change, UN Sustainable Development Goals and impact investing.

The Declaration is designed to inform the development of financial products that support an ethical economy. It also provides a values framework that can inform organisational cultures to help rebuild the loss of trust in financial institutions and markets that has arisen since the global financial crisis.

Rev Dr Richard Frazer, Convener of the Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council said:

“Since the global economic crash in 2008 public trust in financial institutions has been shaken, with seemingly little change as a result.

“From our Christian and Islamic faith traditions we believe that a different world of finance is possible, one in which ethics and economics go hand in hand.

“We believe that these shared values provide a solid foundation from which we might arrive at a financial sector that contributes to the flourishing of all.”

Faith organisations are estimated to command assets valued at $7 trillion. That jumps to $13 trillion when charities, endowments and philanthropic entities are included. As a consequence, these bodies are well placed to influence investment decisions and to demand that financial institutions are responsive to the values set out in the Declaration. One obvious starting point would be making a commitment to advancing the common good by adopting the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

UKIFC Advisory Board member Omar Shaikh outlined the next stage in the journey: “Faith groups have always had an important role in promoting social causes. Moving forward, taking these values coupled with strong business acumen and a solid commercial approach we hope to develop an ethical finance solution that is both commercially sustainable and creates positive societal impact.”

The Declaration, which forms part of the Global Ethical Finance Initiative, is a symbolic development sending a strong and positive message of interfaith collaboration and furthering Scotland’s growing reputation for innovation and ethical finance.