Its great when you’re able to combine some of the things you’re passionate about. Two organisations that have had a huge impact in shaping me are Tearfund and IFES Ireland (who I work for although Jaybercrow has always speculated that IFESi paid me and i actually worked for Tearfund). Anyway back to the money. we had a joint event on ethical finance tonight for students and graduates covering a huge area from a a big picture biblical understanding of stewardship, how to handle your money to ethical investments.
I remember being pretty shocked a number of years ago when I discovered that the money (or lack of) that was in my bank account didn’t just sit in a huge vault. Its obvious that banks don’t just make money from the bandit charges they have, but they invest the money that sits in your account to make money – which is how they can pay you interest. And what makes the most money? Well it tends to be arms companies (amazing the effect spreading fear of global terrorism has on the value of arms companies…), oil companies, and many which maybe aren’t the most scrupulous in their ethics. One of the major downsides of capitalistic societies is that generally where there is large amounts of wealth there is also oppression and injustice. This is where ethical finance comes in. Ethical accounts and investments have strict criteria about what they invest in – so for example the co-operative bank and smile its Internet version won’t invest in companies involved in the arms trade, oil companies, companies associated with human rights abuses or animal rights abuses (although the last one wouldn’t be my biggest concern). This means you can sleep easy about where your money is being invested. True the returns may not be just as hot (although the ethical market is one of the fastest growing) but what is more important – justice, dignity, care for the earth or an extra £20 interest? What would Jesus be teaching about ethics if he arrived in the 21st century?
I can hear you saying that’s all well and good but does avoiding the bad companies make a difference – surely we should try and reform them. Yep. This is where SRI’s or Socially Responsible Investments come in. They aren’t as strict as ethical accounts and reward companies that are doing good stuff by investing in them. For example instead of avoiding oil companies they will invest in BP because they are pouring a lot of resources into renewable energy, or they will invest in drug companies that are diverting some of their massive profits to providing cheap drugs for the developing world.
So with SRI’s your money can make a positive difference. Now you may not be loaded or have an investment portfolio but you will or should have a pension plan or long term savings – that’s where all this stuff kicks in.
But I need to remember as someone who follows Jesus, and believes in a God who is generous towards me, to live generously, and that involves not just giving money away (which i could be better at) but thinking about what happens to the money I do have.
Then the other problem with all of this is if you live in the south – are there any ethical bank accounts there?
Your financial correspondent signing off and wondering if he should follow his predecessor into the financial sector…