NL: Sustainable investing

Plaisier Arjan NL: Sustainable investing

Dr. Arjan Plaisier, secretary of the general synod of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands. Photo: PKN

Dr. Arjan Plaisier, secretary of the general synod of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands on the financial crisis.

The upcoming days it will become clear what decisions will be made by Europe’s political leaders in view of the financial crisis. The indebtedness of mainly the southern countries of Europe, the future of the Euro and the stability of the market ask for decisiveness. Nobody has the perfect solution.

One thing has become absolutely clear in the past time: the market is not self-regulating. One of the causes for the present crisis is a totally overloaded money market. Money is separated from real economical values, but also from social values. The greed which lives inside all of us got a free hand and then the Mammon turns out to be an indestructible god. He behaves like a Moloch devouring its own children. Society goes to pieces because of this.

Another cause is living on tick. For too long debts have been moved up to the future. Prosperity has been bought with a bad check. This is not working either. At a certain point the capital contributor or investor is not confident any longer that the debts, or just the interest, will be paid and then things go wrong.

Meanwhile this subject has an aspect which is much closer to home. How do we spend our money? And more specifically: how do we invest ourselves? And how do we invest as a church? On this topic a booklet has been published with the title ‘Invest in your/the mission! Sustainable investing by churches’. Investing is not an area free of values. With investing as well we can get into the control of greed.

Money in the church has been made available to be handled responsibly. There should be made sure that it does not decrease in value. It should be managed in such a manner, that the capital is preserved and that good can be done with it for a long time. However, this should be done with sound means.

Of course it is important that ‘good’ is done with the profit from investments and therefore one has to look for profit. But that is not the only criterion. The manner in which is operated with the capital itself, is not devoid of value judgements. One can not work with it in a manner which supports dubious enterprises. Capital can be a curse. Positively expressed: capital can be a blessing as well. For example, by investing in companies and institutions with provable social purpose. In that case you give people and groups a chance to make an honest product and to be rewarded for doing so. This can be done by investing through Oikocredit. Or by putting money in a bank ‘with sustainable investments’.

The person who is bent on making money with money, enters a dangerous territory. In this territory we need to keep listening to what the Gospel tells us. Precisely there. Because even with the best intentions we can get under the spell of the Mammon. Ultimately only the Gospel protects us from that. The booklet ‘Invest in your/the mission!’ is a modest but important attempt to listen to this voice and to reflect on what this means concretely.