Remembering Tessa Tennant, green finance giant
LAST November investment managers and celebrities from many faiths (including Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and Taoists) gathered in the Swiss city of Zug and agreed to help each other manage the fund large financial institutions controlled by religious organizations to projects that help rather than harm the earth. Out of that meeting came an initiative called FaithInvest. Its stated goals include establishing a “pipeline of investment projects based on religious principles.”
Ethical and religious investment used in past years to focus on avoiding bad activities, such as selling weapons to dictators or cigarettes to young people. The Zug meeting marks a more recent emphasis on using investment to help the environment in active ways, say through renewable energy or sustainable forest management. The impact could be on the use of billions of dollars.
That was one landmark in the history of the connections between religions that most people adhere to and people who are responsible, in some way, for the physical state of the Earth. Another landmark of this kind happened before the Paris summit on climate change in 2015. In a project called Our Voices, people of many religious and philosophical convictions came together to voice their hopes, demands , to express their wishes and prayers for a successful summit. .
What unites these two initiatives – one in the practical field, the other more moral and spiritual – is the person who was the prime mover in each case. Her name was Tessa Tennant, and she died last month at the age of 59 after a long battle with cancer.
Although she was not physically present in Zug, her success was a reflection of the relationships and networks she had established, and the moral pressure she exerted, according to Martin Palmer, the organizer of the gathering and secretary -general of the Federation. Religions and Conservation (ARC), NGO. The Our Voices campaign reflected another inspiration of hers: instead of pretending to be just another green lobby group, the world’s religions should try to influence a summit Paris by doing what they do best: inspire, encourage and pray.
One of the many paradoxes of Ms. Tennant’s life is that she had a major impact on the religious world without being formally religious herself. She had plenty of influence elsewhere too: she co-founded Britain’s first green investment fund, now known as the Jupiter Fund. She founded the Carbon Disclosure Project which has forced thousands of companies to make annual reports on their greenhouse emissions. And she worked closely with the United Nations Environment Program to develop best practices for banks, insurance companies and investment funds.
She is remembered in the ARC office in Bath as someone who was “extremely approachable” to whom it was impossible to say no. The Zug religion and finance meeting was the result of a long series of considerations that began in a conversation between her and Mr. Palmer in a frozen Scottish castle nearly 20 years ago. She asked him what money the religions had and what they were doing with it; he had just been talking to the treasurer of one of America’s leading Christian churches who said his pension fund was about $13bn and total financial assets about $70bn. Ms Tennant and Mr Palmer agreed that something could be done with this money.
Ms Tennant’s own stately Scottish home, brought to her from the unusual blue-blooded family into which she briefly married, was a much warmer place. People with interesting ideas about finance, ecology, philosophy or any combination of the above were invited to brainstorm their ideas, and then their ideas were put into action.
Metaphysically, says Mr Palmer, Ms Tennant was closer to Pelagius than to Calvin: in other words, she refused to believe in the unfathomable wickedness of man and felt that people had the capacity to act to to save themselves. But it is highly unlikely that she paid the slightest attention to either of these thinkers.
FaithInvest is now planning a meeting in Hong Kong where prominent leaders and practitioners of Asian belief systems (including Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists and Confucians) will be invited to share their metaphysical beliefs. converted to ecological use. The concept and connections that underpin that plan are all part of Ms. Tennant’s precious legacy to the earth.