By Elizabeth Eisenstadt Evans and Originally Published by NCR
Impact Investing Moves Money From ‘Do no harm’ to Promoting Social Good
Catholic organizations put money where their values are
For decades, Catholic organizations investing their assets were guided by a set of principles defined by “thou shalt-nots.” They avoided investments in organizations that manufactured or were linked in other ways to products like abortifacients, alcohol, tobacco, pornography and other morally fraught enterprises.
But now some entrepreneurial leaders in the Catholic investing community are encouraging a different approach: investing in industries or nonprofits making a positive difference. These include fields like clean energy generation, sustainable agriculture, economic empowerment of the poor and other ventures to promote social change.
It’s called impact investing. As defined by the Global Impact Investing Network, “impact investing is unlocking significant sums of private capital to complement public resources and philanthropy in addressing pressing global challenges.”
“Instead of trying to do no harm, you’re trying to invest in such a way that you’re promoting something that you think is constructive,” said Oblate Fr. Séamus Finn. In addition to running the Faith Consistent Investing program for the Oblate Investment Pastoral Trust, Finn chairs the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, a coalition of more than 300 faith-based institutions.
Advances in technology have also made impact investing a lot less labor-intensive than it was in the past, he added. It’s easier to access data, he said, combine information across geographical regions and analyze it.
Impact investing has broadened the choices available to financial managers, attracting attention both from faith-based groups and secular organizations like pension funds and big financial sector players like Morgan Stanley.
“We are investing in ways that can generate market rate returns. We are in close alignment with secular groups who care about improving the quality of life, and about care of creation,” said John O’Shaughnessy, chief executive officer for the St. Louis-area Franciscan Sisters of Mary, and founder of the Catholic Impact Investing Collaborative (CIIC).
Launched in 2014 in the St. Louis, Missouri, area, CIIC includes religious communities, Catholic healthcare systems, educational institutions and philanthropic organizations as its members.
Together, said O’Shaughnessy, the group, which now has a global footprint, manages over $50 billion in assets.