With a proud and respected heritage in the financial sector, such as the pioneering development of savings banks and mutual life companies, and a growing reputation for driving forward today’s ethical finance debate, Scotland is on the cusp of becoming a key player in the global market.
Scotland’s contribution to the ethical finance movement has been recognised internationally and, according to experts in the sector such as the Islamic Finance Council UK (IFC), the country has a unique opportunity to become a leader in this rapidly developing field.
This is the backdrop to the Ethical Finance Round Table (EFRT) taking place in Edinburgh today in which Bola Gibson, of TSB Banking Group, will discuss the Group’s approach to building a trusted mainstream bank, as well as a discussion on the prospects for developing a “kite-mark” for ethical financial products led by Julian Parrott of Ethical Futures.
The IFC launched the EFRT series in 2010 as Scotland’s only systematic platform bringing together the various strands in the broad ethical finance arena. It has attracted speakers from across the world and has now become one of the UK’s leading ethical finance discussion platforms.
Martina Macpherson, Managing Partner of London based SI Partners – oekom research UK, who presented at the last EFRT in October said: “Since the 1980s, ethical and sustainable investment has grown into a complex industry. Green and ethical retail funds in the UK now have more than £13.5 billion invested, up from £6.5 billion just a decade ago. In addition, a range of studies have shown that ethical investment funds can beat their benchmarks and even outperform many of their non–ethical counterparts.”
Around 35 bodies will be represented at this today’s event including Church of Scotland, Heriot Watt University, mlm Solutions, Scottish Government, ScotWest Credit Union, Social Investment Scotland, Standard Life Investments and The Charity Bank.
Speaking ahead of the meeting, IFC Advisory Board member Omar Shaikh commented on the progress the EFRT has made. He said:
“The roundtables have become a great success. The depth and variety of the insights has been truly impressive and the willingness to learn from each other’s experience has highlighted real synergies. The ongoing banking failures have made many in society keen to see a more responsible form of finance. The roundtable debates are playing a key role towards defining terms such as ethical and responsible.”
A direct output of the EFRT series has been the establishment of a Government-backed steering group tasked with assessing the feasibility of establishing a Scottish Ethical Finance Hub (SEFH), a concept which emerged at previous meetings and gained strong support from participants. The SEFH’s role would be to facilitate commercial investment, R&D and thought leadership as required for developing and testing ethics-based models of banking and finance, and enhance international engagement.
Ms Macpherson commented: “an ethical finance hub that leads the way in knowledge exchange, innovation and best practice will build bridges between industry, academia, religious groups and politics. It will confirm Scotland’s role in ethical and sustainable investment decision-making, within the UK, Europe and beyond, for years to come.”
Complementing the EFRT, this year will see Dubai based Middle East Global Advisors (MEGA) host the inaugural Global Ethical Finance Forum (GEFF) in Edinburgh in early September, bringing together key stakeholders from the Gulf, Asia and Europe to explore the global convergence of standards in the ethical sector.
The decision to select Scotland as the host country for the first GEFF was driven in large part by Scotland’s very strong heritage in ethical finance. Ehsan Abbas, Chairman of MEGA, lauded Scotland’s “immeasurable contribution to the creation of financial institutions and early professional bodies specializing in ethical finance.”
Graham Burnside, IFC Advisory Board Member, strongly believes that ethics and business can go hand-in-hand: “The demand for increased social responsibility and ethical behaviour is quickly becoming a major transformative force within the global financial services industry. We are particularly excited about the progress the EFRT series has made and see the SEFH as a genuine opportunity for Scotland to demonstrate true innovation on a global scale. Securing the GEFF event is a major coup for Scotland and we look forward to welcoming high profile speakers and attendees from across the world.”
NOTES TO EDITORS:
The Islamic Finance Council UK (IFC) is a specialist advisory and development body established to promote and enhance the global Islamic and ethical finance industry. The IFC focuses on government policy advisory, ethical finance, shariah governance and executive training. To find out more visit us at www.ukifc.com
To find out more about GEFF2015 visit http://www.ukifc.com/growing-the-global-ethical-finance-industry-through-collaboration-and-convergence/