Research shows a huge US$5 trillion worth of net assets held across four main religious groups
Research at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford has given new insights into how different religions are making faith-aligned impact investments, creating ‘game changing’ opportunities in achieving UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Oxford Faith-Aligned Impact Finance Project (OxFAIF) mapped 360 separate organisations connected to religions across the world in the Abrahamic and Dharmic traditions, with identified total net assets valued at approximately US$5 trillion. This is thought to be the most extensive research ever undertaken into this area.
The findings, which come ahead of COP27 in November, for the first time show Islamic investment is trillions of US dollars ahead of all others. Assets across religious groups were held and invested in various ways with varying levels of impact creation, ranging from sophisticated global funds to holding gold in vaults.
- Christian aligned capital - $260 billion
- Islamic sovereign capital - $3 trillion
- Islamic private finance capital - $1 trillion
- Dharmic capital - $300 billion
- Jewish capital - $16 billion
Launched during the pandemic in 2020, and against a backdrop of complex global challenges, the project aims to provide a greater understanding of the state of faith-aligned investments and ways more funds can be directed to systemic social and climate-related impact investments across the faiths globally.
Oxford Saïd Associate Fellow Gayle Peterson, co-principal investigator leading OxFAIF, said: ‘Examining the role of faiths in impact finance is essential as more funds are needed to support efforts to address the world’s most complex problems. Protecting people and planet is consistent with the values and goals of the faith communities worldwide. More than 85% of the global population is affiliated with a faith.
‘We believe faith-aligned investing is a game-changer in creating opportunities to achieve sustainable development goals. Funding for phase one, provided by Wallace Global Fund and Shine, allowed us to understand the depth of the faith-based investment community and the opportunity to mobilise capital.’
Oxford Saïd Professor Alex Nicholls, also co-principal investigator leading OxFAIF, added: ‘Many of our executive students come to our impact programmes with a desire to understand ways their faith-based investments can make a positive difference in achieving the UN SDGs. This research allows us to meet their investment and education needs, and to inform the growing faith-based investment community.’
Phase two will expand research and education opportunities in climate finance and ways to mobilise faith-based capital in philanthropy, impact investing, and ESG (environmental, social, and governance).
OxFAIF’s 28-member international Advisory Board represents major global religions, and included faith investment practitioners as well as religious academics and members of advocacy groups. Members included Calvert Impact, the Church of England, Church of Sweden, UK Islamic Finance Council, JLens and FaithInvest. OxFAIF will also be partnering with Global Impact Investors Network (GIIN) a leader in building a global impact investing community.
Advisory Board member Omar Shaikh, Director and Board member of the UK Islamic Finance Council, said: ‘Many faith communities have similar views on concepts on stewardship and interconnection with the earth. This, coupled with their understanding of holistic wellbeing, makes faith based finance a potential key contributor to both ESG and impact markets. For Islamic finance moving from negative screening to positive ESG embedded impact will be a key part of its future growth.’
Advisory Board member Jenn Pryce, CEO Calvert Impact, added: ‘We’ve worked with hundreds of faith-based investors looking to have their portfolios advance their vision for the world, but this is the first attempt we know to map the activity across faiths globally. This is an important step in building greater understanding and collaboration across faiths, and we look forward to more faith investors converting their portfolios to impact.'
Oxford Saïd was chosen as the research hub for OxFAIF because of its strong reputation and deep experience in impact investing. Alex and Gayle also co-lead the Oxford Impact Investing and Oxford Social Finance programmes. This year the Oxford Impact Investing Programme is marking its 10-year anniversary. It is the world’s oldest and most expansive executive education global impact investing programme and has reached more than 800 senior executives from 80 countries.
Gayle and Alex lead OxFAIF, supported by Oxford Saïd MBA alumnus Eric Sukumaran, who serves as research and operations lead.