“Sustainability is not just a technocratic criterion. It is also a human right”, a Vatican cardinal has stressed.

– “Let us always remember that work is not simply a resource. It is also the dignity of a person”: Cardinal Ravasi

“Finance is a means. Do not let yourselves be conquered by the splendour, by the power of management with respect to a project. Let us always remember that work is not simply a resource. It is also the dignity of a person”, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, the President of the Pontifical Council for Culture, appealed in a conference in Rome October 13 on the topic “Five years after Laudato si’: Ethical investments for a sustainable world”.

“Sustainability is not only a technocratic criterion: it has entered into the human rights of the fourth generation”, Ravasi added, in an allusion to the theory of Czech jurist Karel Vasak – now commonly-accepted in European law – that new human rights can emerge as a consequence of technological advancements and/or new socio-cultural-environmental challenges.

The cardinal gave a checklist for integral human development in the world by referring to Gandhi’s famous list of seven social sins.

“The world will be destroyed by politics without principles, by wealth without work, by business without ethics, by science without humanity. The world will be destroyed by religion without faith, by intelligence without wisdom, by a vague solidarity without sacrifice”, Ravasi emphasised.

– Human Development secretary Augusto Zampini: Criteria that led to 2008 GFC have not been redesigned but only “revitalised”

Also speaking at the forum Tuesday – organised by the Roman division of the Südtirol Bank in association with Vatican media – was Father Augusto Zampini, adjunct secretary of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

Zampini stressed that the COVID-19 pandemic has made the need for change in the worldwide economic and financial system all that much more urgent.

The 2008 global financial crash “was supposed to be an opportunity to redesign the ethical criteria that are at the root of this [coronavirus] crisis: instead, the financial response has been unsatisfactory, and the criteria have not changed; on the contrary, they have been revitalised”, Zampini denounced.

The Vatican official echoed Cardinal Ravasi’s warning and emphasised that “finance is not an end in itself, but an instrument that should be put at the service of the community”.

“We must ask ourselves what is the ultimate end we want to give to finances: otherwise, if the ethical end is emptied out, finances cannot be regulated”, Zampini cautioned.

– Investing etihcally doesn’t necessarily mean lower profits

The event Tuesday on how to put the human person, and not money, at the centre of our economic and financial system in the light of Pope Francis’ encyclicals Laudato si’ and lately Fratelli tutti also heard from bankers and other experts who are working in and researching sustainable finance.

Pietro Invernizzi – a managing partner of Alpha Investor Services Management Luxembourg – challenged the idea that investing ethically must mean returning lower profits.

Often the opposite is true, higlighted Invernizzi, explaining that the investments his company attempts to favour – “that defend life from conception, promote the family and the role of women and favor the circular economy” – are delivering satisfactory returns to clients.

More on Novena on the moral and theological imperative of sustainability:

Novena guest article: Opinion: “A patriarchal ecology of human dominion over nature is no longer sustainable”

More Church calls for responsible finance:

Francis condemns “idolatry” of neoliberal economy, pushes for “clean” financial system “that does not oppress the weakest”

Francis hits out at economy of “profit at any cost”, warns against “risk of concentrating commerce in the hands of a few global players”

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