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Vatican Voices and Tech Companies’ Ethics August 24th, 2018
Rev. Séamus Finn, OMI, Delivers Remarks at
2018 Annual Event of Socially Responsible Investment Coalition (SRIC)
Work continues apace on a set of ethical investment guidelines that will provide a Catholic perspective on Faith Consistent Investing and therefore be of service to the Vatican itself and to other Catholic Institutions and organizations around the world. This has been in many ways a work of research and consolidation that has worked to mine the Scriptures and the Tradition for insights, teaching, guidance and principles that relate to the kinds of decisions, operations, activities and questions that asset managers including investment committees and individual investors deal with every day. In addition, this project has included an analysis of the investment principles and guidelines that have already been adopted and published by some bishop’s conferences, individual dioceses and religious institutions. Many of you won’t be surprised by what’s in drafts of this document because of the rich and longstanding commitment that your institutions have made to aligning the ways in which you manage your assets with the missionary charisms and priorities of your congregations. Your experience as well as the experience of believers from other faith traditions has already played an important role in verifying that the integration of beliefs and values into the investing process does not mean the sacrifice of financial return while at the same time achieving significant social and environmental return in the process. This approach is wholly consistent with the message of the encyclical Laudato Síthat has been so well received by faith and business communities.
This encyclical and projects, like the one undertaken by the Vatican, is a cause for gratitude and celebration because it elevates and amplifies the voice and presence of the church in venues across the world where the issues that many of you have worked very hard on for a number of years are debated. This has been an important part of your mission here at SRIC, the extended community of ICCR and the mission of many other faith traditions. I think this history and the Catholic Social Teaching tradition and the encyclical Laudato Síprovide a great foundation for the guidelines that are being prepared for the Vatican and subsequently for asset management professionals at Catholic institutions. Today this work embraces the broad spectrum of human rights that have been adopted by the United Nations as well as the care and cultivation of the environment, “our common home” that was highlighted by Pope Francis. The opioid crisis and genetically modified organisms, climate change and access to potable water are also priorities. Work with extractives companies including those in the oil, gas and mining sector and about health care so are an important part of those conversations and activities.
Oeconomicae et Pecuniariae Quaestiones; Economic and Financial Questions
There is another document, that I am told will see the light of day very soon (was subsequently published in May 2018) that is a compilation and consolidation of Pope Francis’s thinking and teachings on the economic and financial questions, on money and on the global financial system. It is significant that this document is being developed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and therefore will serve to locate these teachings at the heart of the church’s teaching tradition. This is in some ways reminiscent of the manner in which the Second Vatican Council located the social mission of the church at the center of the church’s mission and an integral dimension of evangelization. While we know that the Catholic Social tradition has frequently presented guidance on any number of questions about the operation of the global financial system, the perspective of the tradition on the benefits and deficits that flow from economic growth, the integration of the financial system that has resulted from globalization and the efforts to harmonize and coordinate financial regulation as well as the flows of goods, capital and peoples will be studied by many practitioners. Many of these economic and financial questions operate underneath the surface of the issues that SRIC is involved in or anybody who’s involved in faith consistent investing. They will also speak to anyone who’s involved in considering and trying to understand the operations of the financial system and the regulatory debates that are considered in Congress and other legislative bodies and adopted and enforced by different regulators. The document will lay out a vision of a financial system and articulate some guiding principles going forward. I suppose somewhere, between what we often talk about as free market capitalism and a more centralized social economy that is being debated and discussed in many places these days, is a topic and issue that the church has often written about. Many are hoping that this document will offer more clarity on some of the specific issues that were deemed to be at the heart of the near global financial calamity in 2018. I think that this document will be a rich resource for the kind of work that you at SRIC do, and that anybody involved in financial services and asset management ought to be paying attention to.
Amazon, Alphabet, Apple, Microsoft, and Google
I wanted to mention one other issue before I close because it is very current and very important. It is also one of the topics that we have been wrestling with at ICCR recently and it was highlighted this past week for us in Washington; the operating principles and activities of the five of the biggest tech companies: Amazon, Alphabet, Apple, Microsoft, and Google. What social purpose do they serve? What is the relationship between the kind of services and products that they operate or produce and human right, the environment and the wellbeing of human communities across the world. How important and how pivotal an issue this is and how important it is not just for investors whether to invest in Apple or Amazon or Microsoft is important in its own right, but it also opens up a whole other set of questions for the faith consistent and socially responsible investing community. When you think alone about the fact that Facebook has a market capitalization of about $580 billion dollars with 20,000 employees, that’s double the size of the market capitalization of Walmart—with about 1.1 million employees in the United States. How much do we know about and understand what these five giants in the tech/communications industry? I’m sure you heard Mr. Zuckerberg assure senators and congressmen that they were hiring 20,000 more people in the coming months to handle the questions related to Cambridge Analytica scandal and the broader issues of user privacy, “fake news” and exploitation of the tools and services that they have developed. I think largely—what is the added value? what is the product? what is the good that Facebook has created relative to society? Mr. Zuckerberg started out by saying he created Facebook to do two things—he wanted to bring people together and build community starting in his dorm in Harvard. However, we also know that, in a very short amount of time, this company has grown to its present size and has any number of people are engaged in manipulative and abusive practices on others and other questions and concerns about privacy, freedom and illegal activities.
The second thing I want to say about it is very simply that I know this is probably going to convince some of you to not look at Facebook. I encourage you to at least not to let this present controversy push you away from in terms of its capacity and in terms of its utility and in terms of what it may bring to the kind mission that I know most of the organizations in this room are involved in. It is indeed a very important and significant tool like all tools and all technology and can be used for good and purportedly used to disrupt and to create confusion, but it does need our attention. It does need us to engage, it does need us to think about the kind of questions that are out there, as it has, I think, made a lot of people think about that data—how much they reveal on which they put on there, what kind of walls need to be built between some of the things that are shared and not shared, that’s fine. But it does create these other levels of community and communication and establish new and vibrant networks that are extremely important. Aside from that, I think as I have said, the Facebook and Walmart comparison may be an entrance into the kinds of questions that many of you are reflecting on regularly like; how wealth and value are created and what corporations bringto society—how we measure it and how we value it.
August 9 is International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples August 3rd, 2018
This day is celebrated around the world and at the United Nations Headquarters in New York each year, bringing together indigenous peoples’ organizations, UN agencies, Member States, civil society, academia and the general public. This year’s theme is “Indigenous peoples’ migration and movement.” The 2018 theme will focus on the current situation of indigenous territories, the root causes of migration, trans-border movement and displacement, with a specific focus on indigenous peoples living in urban areas and across international borders.
There are an estimated 370 million indigenous people in the world, living across 90 countries. They make up less than 5 per cent of the world’s population, but account for 15 per cent of the poorest. They speak an overwhelming majority of the world’s estimated 7,000 languages and represent 5,000 different cultures.
To learn more about this international observance visit the UN’s website.
Visit the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) page to download the event program and key messages.
From July 8-10, 2018 the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development (IHD) and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) co-hosted the third conference on impact investing with the theme, Scaling Investment in Service of Integral Human Development. Information about the conference can be found by clicking here.
Held in Rome, the event drew experts and Catholic leaders from around the world, including Frs. Séamus Finn, OMI and Rufus Whitley, OMI. Fr. Séamus spoke on the panel Advances within the Catholic Church and Fr. Rufus participated in discussions on Deploying Capital for Impact at the Base of the Pyramid.
Other panels addressed issues like climate change, health, migrants, refugees, and youth unemployment and how impact investment can improve conditions for people affected. The conference was billed as a ‘results-oriented’ event and a long-term global commitment.
Vatican Marks the 3rd Anniversary of Laudato Si July 24th, 2018
The Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development organized an International Conference on the 3rd Anniversary of the encyclical Laudato Si’: Saving our Common Home and the Future of Life on Earth. The event took place from July 5-6, 2018 and drew representatives from civil society, religions, churches, scientists, politicians, economists, and grassroots groups to review past work and develop a plan of action. Speaking to attendees, Pope Francis remarked that “the “common home” of our planet also needs urgently to be repaired and secured for a sustainable future.”
Conference recordings and presentations can be found here.
25th Anniversary Dedication Celebration of the Missionary Oblates Woods Nature Preserve July 13th, 2018
Down-to-Earth Oblates Break Ground 1993
by Sr. Maxine Pohlman, SSND
In 1993 two local women, Margaret Morrissey and Annie Hoagland, had a special vision for the River bluff area in Alton and Godfrey. Wanting the land along the bluffs to be preserved for future generations, they tried to persuade area landowners to enter into legal agreements to preserve their land, but they were unsuccessful until the Provincial Council of the Oblates agreed. Then other landowners also signed on! Father Lou Studer was on the Council at the time, and he remembers this visit and their follow-up letter campaign. He also remembers that the Council agreeing unanimously to dedicate 16 acres as an Illinois Nature Preserve! These acres is now named the Missionary Oblates Woods Nature Preserve.
“More Important Now Than Ever” was the theme of our celebration. In the past 25 years more land has been developed and forests have continued to degrade; so, preserving high quality forested area has only increased in importance. It was truly visionary to begin preserving as much forested area as possible twenty-five years ago.
The celebration was held on Saturday, July 7th outdoors from 2:00 – 4:00 pm and was attended by over 40 people, including Mayor Mike McCormick, representatives of the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission and the Great Rivers Land Trust, faithful Preserve volunteers, friends and the Novitiate Community. The program included a luncheon for special guests, several presentations and a guided hike into the Preserve.
Jack Lau, OMI, served as the emcee, expertly weaving together the presentations with his passion for land and La Vista in particular. Speakers included:
- Debbie Newman, Natural Areas Preservation Specialist with the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission, who shared the history of the preservation movement in Illinois, pointing out that the Oblates were the first faith-based group to preserve land in the state
- Pen Daubach, an Illinois Nature Preserves Commissioner, who highlighted the name “Oblate” as “one who offers”, saying that the Oblates have made a big commitment in offering their land to protect biodiversity and to preserve habitat.
- Father Lou Studer, OMI, pointing out that Oblates are “down-to-Earth” priests and brothers seeking practical solutions to issues. “Oblates are close to the people,” he said. “Oblates preach the message of Jesus who often used images from nature in his teaching.” Father Lou also summarized for us the work of Oblates in the
justice, peace and integrity of creation priority, sharing this aspect of the Oblate spirit.
- Maxine Pohlman, SSND, who works with the Preserve volunteers, said that it was the work of this group of highly dedicated people who healed the acres by removing trash, invasive species, and planting native wildflowers. “They work hard, meeting monthly, to tackle a job that looked impossible, but the volunteers have made a huge difference in a few years.” For several years OMI novices have taken part in Preserve work, putting up boundary markers, removing honeysuckle, and participating in controlled burns.
After the presentations, the hike into the Preserve was a real eye-opener for participants who got to experience firsthand what land can look like when it is maintained by people who have learned to do the task correctly. A clear view of the River, the presence of native wildflowers, and the absence of big honeysuckle bushes and invasive trees make the Preserve a beautiful example of what protected land can look like and how it can serve the community of life in this region.
Everyone took away with them a good share of Oblate spirit, esteem for the work of the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission, and the peace that comes with spending time in a beautiful place.
INFORMATION SHARED by Fr. Daniel LeBlanc OMI, (Missionary Oblates’ representative at the United Nations)
“We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it.” Laudato Si’ 76
The High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a meeting of the Member States of the United Nations under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council. The 2018 forum will be held from July 9-18. The HLPF is tasked with the central role of the follow-up and review of the 2030 Global Agenda for Sustainable Development. And the highlight of the forum is the Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs). As part of the follow-up and review mechanism of the SDGs, the VNRs facilitates the sharing of experiences and lessons learned and challenges by the Member States with a view to implementing the SDGs. Forty-seven countries will be conducting the National Voluntary Reviews during the 2018 forum. The HLPF platform provides opportunities for partnership among the Member States. Civil society organizations, UN agencies, the private sector, academia, and other stakeholders also actively participate in the forum.
The following goals, including goal 17 (Strengthen the Means of Implementation and Revitalize Global Partnership for Sustainable Development), will be reviewed during the 2018 HLPF. The central theme for the 2018 HLPF is, “Transformation Towards Sustainable and Resilient Society.”
- Goal 6. Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
- Goal 7. Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
- Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
- Goal 12. Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
- Goal 15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
2018 High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development Goals: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/hlpf/2018