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Case studies – Health, food, finance 

Many faith groups are major players in their communities – sometimes being the biggest provider of healthcare facilities. Many have major catering and hospitality operations, or supply food to the needy. They may also control significant investments which support their work.

 

In all these areas, faith groups have found ways to change their practices to benefit the environment, while still remaining true to their deepest principles.  

Here are some examples of groups which have put their faith into practice by changing the way they administer their assets for the good of the environment.

Our world  is irreplaceable. Let’s save it.

Faiths are key stakeholders in the planet

Historically, faith groups have often been the only place to turn for healthcare and sustenance when communities faced hard times. Religious organisations still control large parts of the health infrastructure in many countries, from the US to India. In parts of Africa 70 per cent of healthcare is supplied by faith groups. This brings big challenges and opportunities when trying to conserve the planet's resources. In the same way, faith groups are big providers of food and hospitality, and major investors too. All these activities can be wasteful of resources and harmful to the Earth – but not if the best advice is followed.  

D. Healthcare

How explaining ancient beliefs can help to preserve endangered species

 Daoism and traditional remedies 

 Case study: Healthcare 

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the remedy for an illness is intended to restore balance  – to enable the elemental life force, qi, by redressing the balance between the two opposed elemental groups of yin and yang.

Contrary to what some believe in the West, TCM is not dependent for its remedies on a supply of rhino horn, shark teeth or obscure parts of tigers. In fact, the vast majority of preparations are herbal and have no animal component.

 

But it is undeniable that in recent decades, with increase affluence in China, demand has grown for the most exotic ingredients for underground TCM "cures" in the belief that their scarcity will make the remedy more potent.

 

The impact on rhinos, tigers, bears and other large species is well documented. What has been less well publicised is the fact that TCM does not require the killing of endangered species – and one of China's major religions has unequivocally condemned the practice.    

The Daoist Association of China made a study of the problem in the late 1990s. It concluded that any medicine that endangered a rare species or caused undue suffering to animals would not work. In 1999 the association  issued an edict excommunicating any traditional medical practitioner who used prescriptions that contravene the laws of balance.

Demand for soup containing shark fins has declined dramatically since China's official Daoist association declared that the use of rare species in remedies was against Daoist principles – and hence the remedies would not work

In addition, Daoist scholars searched ancient medical texts for different prescriptions that did not involve endangered species. 

"A new dimension of Daoist teachings emerged," noted theologian Martin Palmer, "rooted in tradition but addressing a contemporary issue. It is an example of how all religions move forward while maintaining ancient truths."

The problem of endangered species being targeted for so-called "remedies" has not disappeared. But it has been driven underground – outlawed by the Chinese government, albeit not always effectively, and forbidden by Daoism's highest authorities.

 

The ban fits well with other aspects of Daoism's need to find a balance and avoid excess: when affluent worshippers began bringing huge quantities of incense sticks to temples, perhaps believing it would make their prayers more effective, temple leaders stepped in. They decreed that three incense sticks was enough: one for Heaven, one for Earth, and one for yourself. 

The Daoist view on incense encapsulates its view on the environment: excess consumption should be avoided, and the best riches consist in preserving the largest number of species and natural environments.

There are wider consequences to this belief. Working with the World Wildlife Fund, the Shaanxi Daoist community is promoting "Environmental Temples”, including a pilot Tiejia Ecology Temple at Mt. Taibai in the Qinling mountains in Shaanxi province. All temples are now meant to be built to Shaanxi standards, by government decree.

 

The Daoist  association has its own Seven Year Plan for Environmental Protection, which features ecological education, conservationism, and wildlife protection. 

What of the impact on endangered species? Demand, at least, is reduced, In a survey, 19 out of 20 Beijing restaurants reported a “significant decline" in shark fin consumption in 2014, helped by a ban on the dish at state banquets. In addition 85 per cent of Chinese consumers surveyed claimed they had given up shark fin soup within the previous three years.

Improving health and aiding the environment are two sides of the same coin for Amity

 Case study: Healthcare 

 Amity Foundation 

Women in Myanmar benefit from a clean water supply, provided by the Amity Foundation's Act for Living Water programme

The Amity Foundation is an independent Chinese social organisation, founded in 1985 on the initiative of Chinese Christians led by Bishop KH Ting. The foundation is committed to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, by placing people and the planet at the centre. It promotes public health, education, social welfare, community development, environmental protection and more, across China and beyond.

In 2010, Amity’s Act For Living Water project was set up to to raise public awareness of the global water crisis and encourage people to take action, improving water and sanitation in vulnerable areas. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, problematic situations were made much worse. The funds raised during 2020 and 2021 have provided support for communities in Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Nepal. As well as building new water and sanitation facilities, these projects have also ensured environmental awareness is raised through educating communities on water conservation and environmental protection.

The Amity Sprouts on Earth project focuses on maternal and child nutrition in underdeveloped areas of mainland China. It provides pregnancy check-ups, nutritional support, growth monitorin and health education for poor women and newborns.

Another project neatly shows the benefit of linking better health with sustainability. Amity's Solar Power for Education project is mainly about providing small solar-powered lighting kits for children in remote mountainous parts of western China. The kits provide light enabling children to study after dark – but they also help prevent the damage that can be done to young eyes by trying to read by candlelight.

Amity also runs a successful Public Health and HIV/AIDS Prevention Programme to develop sustainable healthcare systems in underdeveloped communities, including training for professionals and building clinics. In 2019, over 410,000 people were benefited through 47 projects in 37 cities, across 15 provinces in China. Abiding by the principles of mutual respect and interfaith harmony, the Amity Foundation displays how the role of faith values connects with sustainable development and action for a better world.

amityfoundation.org

Amity's Solar Power for Education project provides small solar power packs to children in areas without mains electricity, allowing them to study at home after dark – and also preventing possible damage to their eyesight  

E. Food and hospitality

Islamic approach to farming speaks to farmers in the language of the Qur'an

 Islamic Farming 

Farming may seem to be an activity that is the same the world over: it can be done well or badly, but its practice doesn't have much to do with religious beliefs. But that view is to ignore an important truth: that to many, their faith guides everything they do. Many believe that their duty is to act as guardians of a sacred creation: but how to do this?

In 2012, as the nature of the farming crisis affecting Africa became clear, Muslim leaders asked the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) to help prepare an action plan to meet the region's future farming needs.

They recognised that agriculture is in crisis throughout Africa. Soil erosion is rising and crop yields are falling. Erratic rains due partly to climate change have left affected farmers in despair. Meanwhile Africa’s population is expected to more than double to 2.3 billion by 2050. New farming methods are needed to increase productivity, nutrition and livelihoods, while also conserving the land for future generations.

ARC commissioned Global One, a Muslim-led development organisation, to work with Islamic clerics and scholars as well as agriculture experts to develop this new approach. Given that subsistence farmers account for about 85 per cent of Africa’s population, and Africa has 60 per cent of the world’s unused arable land, the need was clear.

 

The result was a new manual: Islamic Farming: A Toolkit for Conservation Agriculture. It was launched in Nairobi, Kenya, in March 2014, along with plans for 10 demonstration and training Islamic farms in Kenya. 

Practical benefit: Islamic Farming workshop demonstrates how mulching helps prevent water run-off and maximises the benefits of irrigation

 Case study: Food & hospitality 

Islamic Farming is a faith-based approach to agriculture that integrates Qur’anic teachings about caring for the Earth as a religious responsibility – khalifa – with practical teaching in sustainable farming techniques, specifically in conservation agriculture.

 

Conservation agriculture is a proven methodology that can increase crop yields while also protecting soil health and biodiversity. It is promoted by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation and other groups as a form of climate-smart agriculture.

 

The Islamic Farming manual is unique in that it speaks to Muslim farmers in the language of the Qur’an and Sunnah, says the manual’s chief editor, Dr Husna Ahmad: "As Muslims we are stewards appointed by Allah to be guardians of the world He created. It is our duty to safeguard this blessing, not to exploit it."

Like conservation agriculture, Islamic Farming observes the following principles:

 

  • Minimum soil disturbance – that is, little or no tillage. Dig planting holes instead. 

  • Apply mulch to reduce soil erosion and minimise water evaporation. o Do not burn – crop residues are used for mulching.

  •  

  • Rotate crops and plant with diversity. Change crops every year to avoid pests and allow soil to recover.

  •  

  • Remove all weeds regularly.

  •  

  • Increase soil fertility through adding compost.

  •  

  • Prepare early, complete activities on time, and maintain a high standard of work.

'As Muslims we are stewards appointed by Allah to be guardians of the world He created. It is our duty to safeguard this blessing, not to exploit it.' 

 

Dr Husna Ahmad

'I learned how a girl can manage her menstruation ... they told us that menstruation is not a disease but is normal and natural for everyone. I feel
​so good!' 

– Asima Evers, 14, Kitoba Primary School, Uganda

 Quakers and investment 

Taking members on a journey to decide which investments are morally sound

The Quaker movement has long been concerned with environmental issues, but members’ thinking on the impact of their investments took several years to develop.

 

It seemed clear to many members from about 2011 that the movement should make a corporate commitment to become a low carbon, sustainable community. But  change didn’t begin until 2013, by which time the Quakers had begun to make progress on lowering their own carbon footprint.

 

By that time the science was clear that if internationally-set targets on reducing carbon emissions were to be met, 80 percent of fossil fuels needed to stay in the ground. Why, then, asked Quakers, were their central funds still partly invested in companies that made or processed fossil fuels?

 

Explains Suzanne Ismail, head of networking and engagement for Quaker Peace and Social Witness, Quakers in Britain: “At the time, our investment portfolio, which is mostly in equities, was worth about £21 million and just under four per cent of that was invested in fossil fuel companies, particularly Statoil and BG Group, and they were very much the best in their sector on carbon issues at that time – but those holdings were a real tension for us.”

 

The trustees of the Quaker investment portfolio consulted members of the movement, and took advice from their own investment committee, and external investment managers. They came up with three options:

 

  1. Continuing to invest in fossil fuels, but with a “best-in-sector approach”, trying to influence fossil fuel companies to improve their transition plan.

  2. To restrict investment to the lowest-carbon, least damaging fossil fuels, such as gas production.

  3. To fully divest from fossil fuel companies.

'By the end of it, there was a really strong feeling through our community that this was absolutely the right thing for us to do, even if it meant the possibility of potential financial risks' 


Suzanne Ismail

 Case study: Finance & Investment 

World's first ethical hotel is run according to Gospel principles 

 The Wesley hotel, London 

 Case study: Food & hospitality 

The Wesley’s social and environmental impact

 

The Wesley seeks to support its local community while minimising its environmental impact.

  • Gift Aid from all profits goes to support the Methodist Church’s educational activities.

  • The Wesley won the Investors in People Gold Award for its culture of learning and development.

There is a long tradition of providing hospitality and accommodation in many religions, but the Methodist faith has a particularly practical approach to the use of its buildings. From the very beginnings of the faith, it constructed and acquired buildings that the faithful needed for worship, instruction or other purposes. But unlike some earlier Christian traditions, the buildings were not seen to have a sacred, unchangeable purpose – if needs changed, then so did the buildings, sold off or converted to a new purpose.

Hence The Wesley – to the uninitiated, one of many smart hotels in central London; but to those who look a little deeper, an example of practical faith, and a commitment to sustainability, in action.

 

It claims to be the world's first ethical hotel, run as a business, but with every aspect run along environmental lines.

The Wesley’s roots go back to 1950, when Hilda Porter founded the Methodist International House to welcome students from abroad who struggled to find accommodation. In the late 1990s, it was transformed into a new social enterprise, the Methodist International Centre, and took up residence in London Euston, in the building we now know as The Wesley Hotel.

 

Since 1950, The Wesley has supported tens of thousands of students with accommodation and hospitality. In its present incarnation, The Wesley provides hospitality for those seeking to live in a more sustainable  way.​

Gold standard: The Wesley hotel is the only hotel ever to win the UK's Social Enterprise Mark. It scrutinises every aspect of its performance, from waste management to employment practices, to make sure they all adhere to its moral standards 

The Wesley hotel is London's only four-star hotel run on ethical lines. Every effort is made to avoid wasting any of the planet's resources, from unnecessary laundry to thrown away food

  • Suppliers are handpicked and Fair Trade accredited.

  • The Wesley monitors its carbon footprint and is a
    Camden Council Carbon Champion. Since 2012,
    The Wesley’s C02 intensity per customer has
    decreased by 85% despite welcoming more guests.

  • It holds the Green Tourism Gold Award.

  • It recycles all food waste. All other wastes is carefully
    sorted to maximise recycling.

  • Laundry use is minimised, and plastics use reduced.

The Wesley has held the UK’s Social Enterprise Mark since 2010 and is still the only hotel to do so.

 

Reverend Stuart Burgess chairs the board of The Wesley. He previously served as the President of the Methodist Church of Great Britain (equivalent to the Archbishop of Canterbury).

Speaking to FaithInvest, he said: “I've always been interested in property and in how to make property work for the well-being of the church. Historically, the Methodist Church back in the 18th century was a rural church and many of the rural buildings were only put up by the goodwill of farmers on their land, and were only there to last about 100 years. If a building isn't wanted, we get rid of it and move on.”

 

The ethical dimension of The Wesley is based on Gospel values. Rev Burgess explains: “Part of our values include looking after our people, making sure they're on the living wage, and paying them more than living wage, for example.

 

“It's about the management of waste. It's about your to attitude to people and how you value people and run the organisation in a caring and humane way. I think those are some of the social values of what the Gospel is about, and it’s important to hold onto those against the backcloth that you’ve got to make money.”

 

The Methodist church has historically shied away from ventures that generate income, but the vision behind The Wesley shows how faith groups can manage their assets, make money and channel that wealth into socially responsible projects. A second Wesley hotel is being planned in north London.

F. Finance and investments

'I think those are some of the social values of what the Gospel is about, and it’s important to hold onto those against the backcloth that you’ve got to make money' 


Rev Stuart Burgess

The trustees were exposed to a wide range of views, some pointing out the financial risks if the Quakers were to restrict their investments to rule out whole sectors of the market. But in the end, they went for the third option – to end investment in all fossil fuels.

“By the end of it, there was a really strong feeling through our community and throughout all of those different structures and committees, that this was absolutely the right thing for us to do, even if it meant the possibility of some potential extra financial risks,” said Suzanne.

Investments in oil and gas companies were replaced by taking stakes in renewable energy companies – still in the financial mainstream, in equities that were easily tradable on the main British exchanges.

The result? Approval from the majority of Quaker members who, Suzanne said, felt “that this was something that Quakers were really called to do at that particular point in time”.

There was no monetary loss, either: financially, the portfolio has held up well in comparison to others.

The Quakers’ climate-friendly investment policy is now common practice among socially-conscious organisations of all kinds. It helped to inspire other UK churches to make similar moves, and the Quakers have worked with ECCR or Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility – a charity supporting UK churches to make ethical investment decisions.

The project has also reverberated at a local level: “That approach certainly helped Quaker communities at local and regional level make their own decisions around investments and their own approach to fossil fuels,” said Suzanne. “We found that although the willingness was there, people needed a little bit of a nudge and help and a framework to start thinking about those kind of conversations.”

 

Based on a Faith Plans webinar on Financial Assets. CLICK HERE to watch the recorded discussions and to find out more information.

'I learned how a girl can manage her menstruation ... they told us that menstruation is not a disease but is normal and natural for everyone. I feel
​so good!' 

– Asima Evers, 14, Kitoba Primary School, Uganda

Water is for much more than drinking: it underpins human dignity and many religions hold it sacred

 Faith in Water

Water is not just a simple necessity for human life; it is core to religious traditions, to social practices and to basic dignity for people the world over. Much attention is paid by secular charities to the supply of clean drinking water, but it is needed for so much more.

The UK charity Faith in Water, which grew out of the Alliance for Religions and Conservation (ARC), works with faith groups to promote the need for clean water and the importance of WASH – water, sanitation and hygiene – for everyone, particularly women.

Faith in Water tries to bridge the gap between secular bodies and faith groups. A prime example is its work with Muslim and Christian groups in Indonesia , Kenya and Uganda, encouraging them to focus more on water, sanitation and hygiene in their teachings, traditions and practices.

The results have been impressive. At Ebukoola primary school in Kenya there are 80 per cent fewer cases of water borne diseases among pupils, and 80 per cent less absenteeism rates due to illness as a result. At Gisire Academy, also in Kenya, there was no water supply at all. After David Chacha, the head teacher, attended an ARC training session, he decided to install an 8,000 litre tank to be filled by rainwater. This has greatly improved hygiene and sanitation and saved money because the school doesn't need to buy water, except in the dry season. 

 Case study: Water 

Dignity4Girls: A project in Kenya is one of several around the world encouraging schools to promote WASH – the importanc e of water, sanitation and hygiene – with special reference to girls. 

Results are not limited to individual schools. In each country where Faith In Water works, good practice has spread by example. In Indonesia, Muslim and Christian groups are spreading the message that water and sanitation is essential for young girls' health. 

In the same way, the Dignity4Girls programme in Uganda has reach almost 32,000 people – more than four times the original target, despite the inevitable interruption caused by the Covid pandemic. The project raises awareness on menstrual hygiene management. It is the first menstrual health programme to work with three major faith groups in Uganda: the Catholic Church, Church of Uganda and Uganda Muslim Supreme Council.

WASH issues are a key focus of the Faith-based Education for Sustainable Development Teacher's Toolkit, launched in Kenya in July 2013.

The crisis

Dirty water and inadequate sanitation are the second biggest killer of children aged under five worldwide. More than a third of the world's population – 2.5 billion people – lack adequate sanitation facilities. And one in nine – 750 million – lack access to safe drinking water. 

 

The  approach

Water and cleanliness play a role in belief and practice in many faiths. Linking those beliefs to practical action adds a powerful motivator for behaviour change. Faith In Water inspires faith groups to give greater priority to these issues and broker partnerships with secular organisations.

 

Engaging faith schools

Faith groups are involved in more than 50 per cent of schools worldwide. Working with faith schools offers a unique opportunity to engage the wider community. That's because they are usually part of a bigger faith structure – one that is highly trusted and influential. 

'I learned how a girl can manage her menstruation ... they told us that menstruation is not a disease but is normal and natural for everyone. I feel
​so good!' 

– Asima Evers, 14, Kitoba Primary School, Uganda

Water is for much more than drinking: it underpins human dignity and many religions hold it sacred

 Faith in Water

 Case study: Water 

Water is not just a simple necessity for human life; it is core to religious traditions, to social practices and to basic dignity for people the world over. Much attention is paid by secular charities to the supply of clean drinking water, but it is needed for so much more.

The UK charity Faith in Water, which grew out of the Alliance for Religions and Conservation (ARC), works with faith groups to promote the need for clean water and the importance of WASH – water, sanitation and hygiene – for everyone, particularly women.

Faith in Water tries to bridge the gap between secular bodies and faith groups. A prime example is its work with Muslim and Christian groups in Indonesia , Kenya and Uganda, encouraging them to focus more on water, sanitation and hygiene in their teachings, traditions and practices.

The results have been impressive. At Ebukoola primary school in Kenya there are 80 per cent fewer cases of water borne diseases among pupils, and 80 per cent less absenteeism rates due to illness as a result. At Gisire Academy, also in Kenya, there was no water supply at all. After David Chacha, the head teacher, attended an ARC training session, he decided to install an 8,000 litre tank to be filled by rainwater. This has greatly improved hygiene and sanitation and saved money because the school doesn't need to buy water, except in the dry season. 

Dignity4Girls: A project in Kenya is one of several around the world encouraging schools to promote WASH – the importanc e of water, sanitation and hygiene – with special reference to girls. 

Results are not limited to individual schools. In each country where Faith In Water works, good practice has spread by example. In Indonesia, Muslim and Christian groups are spreading the message that water and sanitation is essential for young girls' health. 

In the same way, the Dignity4Girls programme in Uganda has reach almost 32,000 people – more than four times the original target, despite the inevitable interruption caused by the Covid pandemic. The project raises awareness on menstrual hygiene management. It is the first menstrual health programme to work with three major faith groups in Uganda: the Catholic Church, Church of Uganda and Uganda Muslim Supreme Council.

WASH issues are a key focus of the Faith-based Education for Sustainable Development Teacher's Toolkit, launched in Kenya in July 2013.

The crisis

Dirty water and inadequate sanitation are the second biggest killer of children aged under five worldwide. More than a third of the world's population – 2.5 billion people – lack adequate sanitation facilities. And one in nine – 750 million – lack access to safe drinking water. 

 

The  approach

Water and cleanliness play a role in belief and practice in many faiths. Linking those beliefs to practical action adds a powerful motivator for behaviour change. Faith In Water inspires faith groups to give greater priority to these issues and broker partnerships with secular organisations.

 

Engaging faith schools

Faith groups are involved in more than 50 per cent of schools worldwide. Working with faith schools offers a unique opportunity to engage the wider community. That's because they are usually part of a bigger faith structure – one that is highly trusted and influential. 

Interested in finding out more?

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