Religious institutions can influence corporate behaviour by being active in the ownership of their shares, according to new research carried out by Vlerick Leuven Gent Management School together with the International Interfaith Investment Group 3iG, along with ESADE Business School in Spain.
Despite the fact that many faith institutions feel they are too small to actually change a companys social and environmental practices, examples of religious shareholder engagement practices do show successes.
Religious institutions are widely considered to be the pioneers of responsible investment, and make up the third largest demographic of investors globally.
Besides investment portfolio decision-making, based on negative and positive screening of companies, faith traditions seem to inspire believers to actively own their shares and confront the management of the companies which they invest in, forcing them to acknowledge their responsibilities towards society.
"From our findings we were able to draw an interesting list of key success factors that make shareholder engagement impactful. Faith institutions are enormously persistent, utilizing their grassroots and extensive networks to understand community concerns and combine this with their faith beliefs that they then bring into the boardrooms of influential corporations", said Katinka C. van Cranenburgh, Secretary General of the International Interfaith Investment Group, 3iG.
With growing global investment strategies and increasing collaboration structures, faith investors are dominant stakeholders to be taken seriously by companies. Religious shareholders interests go beyond profits, and collectively they have a major opportunity for practicing their faith whilst enhancing corporate responsibility.