In November last year a Vatican organisation released an important and much awaited document called Mensuram Bonam (Good Measure), which has already led to an enriched discussion and started activities related to faith consistent investment. The document aims to give guidance to Catholic investors based on Catholic theology. Cardinal Peter Kodwo Turkson, the Chancellor Pontifical Academies of Sciences & of Social Sciences, spells out the main motivation behind the document in the introduction:
‘Since finance has taken on a larger role at every level of human activity, the need for the Church to reflect on the requirements of Christian discipleship, including the vocation of persons to stewardship in this arena, has become more critical. It is important that their stewardship of created goods, including all forms of financial activity, especially asset management, be directed to reflect this gift of God to the human family, by serving the common good, respecting justice and ethical standards.’
It is not an easy task to find ways of making these intentions a reality in the day-to-day decision making required of investors and the document is not giving fixed guidelines but is aimed at stimulating practitioners to find solutions in response.
‘All those, who work in the financial sectors every day (institutions but also individuals), and are searching for ways to live their faith and contribute to the promotion of an inclusive and integral wellbeing or advancement of people.The specific objectives are set as:
- where investment guidelines and criteria exist, entities should be encouraged to persevere in systematically integrating Catholic Social Teaching into their investment policies and adjust them where necessary from time to time.
- where such guidelines have not yet been developed, Mensuram Bonam is providing a stimulus and a model/example to help and to encourage institutions to establish clear investment policies by integrating Catholic Social Teaching into their investing process.’
The aims are ambitious – but there are already activities underway to encourage and support Catholic investors to reach these goals.
An international working group of advisers were deeply involved in the development of the document. An event held in June included a conference in London where a number of investors from Catholic charities had opportunities to learn more and discuss the paper and actions they might take as a result. Further events to follow up on the publication are planned. Mensuram Bonam gives an opportunity to develop Catholic faith-consistent practices in investment and is clearly an encouragement to strengthen an ongoing process which could have real impact for Catholic investors’ understanding of their interpretation of faith, taking Catholic Social Teaching to a practical level.
The document is not setting out a fixed model for faith-consistent investment policies but instead recommends investors to really work through important questions and find out for themselves what they consider to be the relevant response and action in line with their faith. A few examples of suggested questions that Catholic investors ask are:
‘Are Human Rights fully respected? Will this investment grow or fray social trust? Is authentic sustainability being realised (and greenwashing avoided)? Do investment decisions include lessons from the marginalised?’
These are questions that are not always easy to answer but are highly relevant for every other Church tradition; so the document is also a welcome resource in the ecumenical discussion about faith consistent investment.
The full document adds many additional questions and suggestions on how to truly develop a faith consistent investment policy and encourages investors to not avoid the difficult decisions where answers might not always be immediately clear.
These conversations will continue and not only affect asset owners but also asset managers such as CCLA, with its relatively new Catholic faith-consistent fund and which has its own advisory committee that oversees and develops the thinking around these issues on a deeper level.
Further reading – the Mensuram Bonam document in its entirety can be found on https://www.pass.va/en/publications/other-publications/mensuram_bonam_eng.html
Josephine Carlsson, Church Ethics Lead, CCLA
Investment markets can only be as healthy as the society and environment that support them.
Through Good Investment we carefully select assets that add long-term value and act collectively to encourage systemic change.
Our purpose is to help our clients maximise their impact on society by harnessing the power of investment markets. This means we must provide a supportive and stable environment for our staff, and deliver trusted, responsibly managed and strongly performing products and services to our clients, irrespective of their size.