The nation that gave birth to various ethical finance initiatives to serve as a backdrop to a historic platform aimed at spurring a conversation within the large but historically segmented ethical finance sectorThe Global Ethical Finance Forum (GEFF) was formally announced today by its organizers, Middle East Global Advisors (MEGA), as taking place in early September. Hosted by the Scottish Government and supported by Visit Scotland, the Forum is a historic initiative in conjunction with the Islamic Finance Council UK (IFC UK) and Thomson Reuters.
It is envisaged to be the inaugural international platform that aspires to bridge the various disconnected segments in the ethical finance industry which are currently separated by perceptions or geographical differences. The long-term aim for the forum is to support the development of common practices and ultimately promote the adoption of global standards for the industry.
Happening exclusively alongside GEFF is the launch of the Responsible Finance Institute (RFI). Given the wide separation among various segments of ethical finance, there has never been a greater need for a common platform to bring the industry together. The RFI aims to provide that platform and engage the industry in a dialogue which will result in increased opportunities for convergence and collaboration.
Speaking ahead of the forum, Sarah Marten, CEO of the RFI, commented that “GEFF's objectives are to harness the collective strengths of the various forms of responsible finance and investing (inclusive of Islamic finance) that together comprise more than US$11 trillion dollars.” Sarah added that global sustainable development challenges such as climate change and poverty line can hardly be addressed without responsible finance that integrates social, environmental and governance concerns into the financing and investment decision making of financial institutions. She concluded that the “RFI is proud to partner with GEFF in this important event and looks forward to working towards developing and further expanding responsible finance, inclusive of Islamic finance.”
GEFF 2015 is particularly targeted at institutional investors, asset owners, policymakers, academics and other stakeholders within the Islamic finance; environmental, social & governance (ESG); and socially responsible investing (SRI) segments.
Also speaking ahead of the conference, Dr. Sayd Farook, Global Head Islamic Capital Markets at Thomson Reuters, stated: “Thomson Reuters is proud to be the Knowledge Partner for the inaugural Global Ethical Finance Forum, a platform that will serve to connect the large but fragmented ethical / responsible finance and investment communities. We believe that now is an opportune time to expand the capacity of ethical finance, inclusive of Islamic finance and socially responsible investment (SRI), to better serve people and the overall economy, and Thomson Reuters is participating in a number of initiatives to promote convergence and collaboration.”
Thomson Reuters’ role at GEFF is significant in large part due to the fact that the global media conglomerate has chosen the Forum for the exclusive launch of the Responsible Finance Report, produced in collaboration with the Responsible Finance Institute (RFI).
“The Responsible Finance Report,” Dr. Farook continued, “will be the first report to rigorously measure the size and geographic concentrations of the entire ethical finance and SRI industry, inclusive of the Islamic banking and finance industry, assess its commonalities and present opportunities for convergence in customers, processes and practices. Therefore, we share much in common with the objectives of GEFF 2015.”
The decision of selecting Scotland as the host country for the first Global Ethical Finance Forum was driven in large part to Scotland’s very strong heritage in ethical finance. Ehsan Abbas, Chairman of MEGA, lauded Scotland’s “immeasurable contribution to the creation of financial institutions and early professional bodies specializing in ethical finance. MEGA is delighted to work towards meeting the vision of the very place that gave birth to Scottish Widows and the savings banks movement.”
The Islamic Finance Council UK (UKIFC), one of the key players promoting Scotland as the Ethical finance hub, had hosted the 2014 Edinburgh Ethical Finance Roundtable series. Graham Burnside, a UKIFC Advisory Board Member, structured and documented one of the first Shariah-compliant mortgage products operating under Scots law and strongly believes that ethics and business can go hand-in-hand: “The demand for increased social responsibility and ethical behavior is quickly becoming a major transformative force within the global financial services industry…We are particularly excited about bringing this unique new event to Scotland to build on the UKIFC’s existing series of ethical finance round tables and complementing the UK Government’s recent work on Islamic finance.”
One of GEFF’s highlights include a Reception at the historic fortress in Edinburgh – the iconic Edinburgh castle – and Power Debates on the future of the fast growing sector of ethical finance. Topics to be discussed include: building a responsible financial system that supports real economic development; opportunities, challenges and risks; convergence of the different spheres of ethical finance; the role of Islamic finance in the ethical space; and the influence of technology and disruptive innovation to facilitate responsible finance. The Forum is therefore seen as a unique opportunity for all stakeholders to shape the future of the ethical finance industry.
GEFF will take place on the 1st and 2nd of September at the historic Balmoral Hotel in downtown Edinburgh, one of Europe’s cultural & literary capitals.