Faith for Earth

Mobilizing partnerships is an important means for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. This can only be achieved by engaging and partnering with stakeholders from all walks of life building on cultural diversity as a fourth dimension of sustainable development.  For more than 80% of the people living on earth spiritual values have been driving their behaviours and are main pillars not only for cultural values, but also for social inclusion, political engagement, and economic prosperity.  Because traditional stakeholder’s engagement strategies have sometimes shown limited effectiveness, therefore, new, creative, inspiring and innovative actions bringing like-minded networks around a common goal are required. In this context, UN Environment has launched a corporate strategy to engage with faith-based organizations.  The strategy is focusing on three overarching goals of empowering leadership, mobilizing faith-based investments and providing the faith-science evidence. These goals will be supported by a system of knowledge management encouraging south-south cooperation and empowering its own staff.

The Strategy is based on three overarching and interlinked goals:

Inspire and empower faith-based leaders and organizations for a sustainable impact

Religious leaders play an important role either in governing community’s affairs, or in providing socio-economic and cultural services to the needy. Religious and spiritual leaders have an enormous powerful impact on local communities as their statements touch on the beliefs of their followers often extracting examples from sacred books. Mobilized and empowered local community religious and spiritual leaders on environmental issues as related to religious teachings can be achieved by creating a web of networks connecting remote communities close to environmental resources and knowledge where local communities should be encouraged to use indigenous and cultural knowledge for sustainable management of environmental resources. This will require the involvement of young men and women in the local communities to start up sustainable investments at the local level.

Our aim is to engage faith leaders and their institutions to tackle issues we mutually prioritize.

Outcomes we target:

  • A high level global “Coalition for Creation” is established to facilitate policy dialogue on environmental issues that would encourage innovative approaches to finding long-lasting solutions to environmental challenges.
  • Common ground environmental issues have been identified where faith-based organizations and UN Environment can establish strategic partnerships for a stronger impact at all levels.
  • A global compact for action by religious leaders on collaborative work on care for creation is established.
  • Faith-based organizations are strategically involved in the global debate on integrating ethical and moral religious values into the design and implementation of UN Environment global programmes and initiatives.
  • Global UN Environment initiatives involve FBO’s at global, regional and local levels.

Greening faith-based assets and investments

Religious institutions hold enormous financial assets to build schools, hospitals, and infrastructure as well as distribute cash to support the poorest and most marginalized. Religious organizations are arguably the fourth largest group of investors in the world (Faith to Faith Consistent Investing: Religious Institutions and their Investment Practices, 2010). These financial assets are mainly contributed by charity donors; however, faith-based organizations do own investment corporations, holdings, pension funds, private sector businesses as well as land and real estates. Innovative financing mechanisms are required in order to meet the SDGs, which can be extended to include faith based finance and scaled up to contribute towards a sustainable future.

Our aim is to see more faith based investments and assets integrating environmental considerations and investing in greener and more environmentally sustainable investments.

Outcomes we target:

  • Assets of faith-based organizations establishments (schools, hospitals, and worship places), investments and human resources support concrete actions using green economy principles, including but not limited to using solar panels, water conservation, food waste management, reforestation, etc.
  • Faith-based organizations financial institutions join the global network of UN Environment Finance Initiative and include in their criteria for investments principles of environmental sustainability and care for creation into their dialogue and decision making considerations.
  • Faith-based organizations join the global circular economy movement and link other UN Environment value-based initiatives such as the Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) and Green Economy.
  • New partnerships created between Faith-based organizations and major private sector companies that promote efficient use of energy and water systems, as well as other sustainable technologies.
  • Partnership with Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and encourage streamlining the practices of Faith-based organizations to become more socially and environmentally responsible.

For more details about the finances, consult About The Finances section.

Making knowledge and the scientific evidence available for more powerful spiritual messages

Almost all faiths have been linking scientific discoveries to the religious scripts proving that God has created all things in balance. For example, to Muslims, the discovery of other suns and planets revolving around them has been mentioned in the Quran 1500 years ago. Similarly, the Zabur of David says, "Your kingdom is a kingdom of all worlds”. Faith-based leaders have been using such scientific findings in their teachings to reach the hearts and minds of their followers. While climate change has seen much of the global debates and scientists have been providing much knowledge and evidence, other environmental challenges such as biodiversity loss, desertification, and sand and dust severe storms have not had the privilege of reaching out to the attention of religious leaders nor have connections by the scientists been made.

Faith-based organizations, however, do not have easy access to the global knowledge and scientific evidence that UN Environment could provide. While these organizations may rely on indigenous knowledge and traditional cultural practices, other knowledge that is backed by the scientific evidence is needed to strengthen the relationship between environmental stewardship and duty of care, as well as with ethical behavior and sustainable citizenship.

Our aim is to create a broader mass of faith based institutions that have the relevant scientific information available on areas where they see questions arising or a reluctance to take action. 

Outcomes we target:

  • Consolidate existing scientific research to support linkages between human impact and environmental issues.
  • Faith based organizations’ leaders are included in select high-level thematic debates as well as contribute to faith-based international conferences and initiatives to facilitate dialogue among faith scholars and the environmental scientific community.
  • Appropriate existing knowledge platforms are identified that can be better linked to faith based organizations and to indigenous knowledge, cultural practices and science-based knowledge to strengthen religious arguments and visible evidence to demonstrate the relationship between environmental stewardship and duty of care.
  • Faith-based communication and advocacy tools and materials are prepared and disseminated.

For more information, a more comprehensive strategy document is available to provide further details. Learn more UN Environment Strategy for Engaging with Faith-Based Organizations