Building Awareness – Regular publications and events promote dialogue, discussion and action through demonstrating what works, identifying key obstacles and building unique and valuable connections between responsible finance stakeholders
- Weekly email newsletter
- Monthly podcast - Listen here or find on iTunes or Google Play
- RFI Summit
- Organized roundtables and conference sessions across the world including in London, New York, Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, and Zurich
- RFI Emissaries – A group of current leaders within the responsible finance industry who have been assembled at the invitation of RFI to offer mutual support, share research and insights, and to promote the cause of the RFI Foundation. Future Emissaries will be invited to join the RFI Emissary Network based on their current leadership or potential to become a leader within the responsible finance industry.
Promoting Research – Conduct research of interest to our membership and promote relevant related research that can support increased adoption and implementation of responsible finance practices
- Outlined market potential for disclosed ‘Prudent ESG’ assets managed within the largest OIC markets (with Thomson Reuters) Download
- Detailed survey of environmental & social impact practices at Islamic financial institutions with recommendations (with UNEP FI) Download
- Research evaluating ESG risks facing Islamic banks, correlation between ESG quality and Shari’ah compliance and case studies of Islamic financial institution who are responsible finance champions (with Refinitiv) Download
Encouraging Convergence- Develop RFI guidelines to support member adoption and implementation of responsible finance, and offer capacity building, training and other resources to open new opportunities for growth through responsible finance
- Developed a Statement of Intent framework to support RFI member communication of the values and intentions behind their responsible finance actions
- Developing RFI guidelines to support adoption and implementation of responsible finance practices
- Work underway to meet member needs for training and capacity building to enhance their adoption of responsible finance practices.
The RFI Foundation is committed to conducting, promoting and using insights from research to back all of its activities with the view that evidence-based decision-making is the best way to promote lasting change within the financial sector. Our released research has demonstrated a tangible market opportunity for greater engagement, cooperation and convergence between Islamic finance and other responsible finance sectors. Our current research priorities are designed to support adoption and implementation of responsible finance practices with a view to expanding adoption, improving implementation and supporting diffusion of innovative approaches to responsible finance practices.
Responsible Finance - Ethical and Islamic Finance: Meeting the Global Agenda
The devastating impact of the Global Financial Crisis was intensified by the delinking between finance and the economy, and by international financial centres having become a leading source of national income and wealth in their own right. In short, there was too much finance. However, the reaction since to the unethical behaviour and excesses that caused the crisis, though understandable, may have swung too far in the other direction by relying too heavily on rules and regulations rather than addressing the underlying ethics.
Responsible finance, by providing models for different forms of finance that explicitly factor in ethics, provides an alternative response. This report highlights the specific characteristics and features that ethical finance and Islamic finance share and those that set them apart. In reviewing the similarities and assessing future connections, this report aims to provide a firm basis for cooperation between the two types of finance and contribute towards a greater understanding of the forms of finance that bring value to the economy, society and the environment and thereby support sustainable development in the global economy.
Collaboration between the responsible forms of finance will yield benefits from the knowledge and experience that has been gained in assessing the impact of such financing and investments on the economy, society and the environment. It must promote greater awareness of the potential role these respective responsible forms of finance have in delivering a form of finance that is well anchored to the economy and that brings value to society and environmental sustainability.
A framework of cooperation will be helpful in articulating the stated intent of both forms of responsible finance to achieve this greater awareness and enabling an assessment of the impact of the various aspects covered by each type of responsible finance. With financial reforms by the international community now largely in place, the imperative for future finance is not only to become stable and resilient but also to become a deep anchor to its bedrock – the real economy – and to generate a positive benefit for the wider society and to environmental sustainability.
Islamic Finance ESG Outlook 2019: Shared Values
ESG scores from Refinitiv’s EIKON database of over 5,000 non-financial companies suggest a direct correlation between Shariah compliance and higher ESG scores. Shariah-compliant companies — to which Islamic financial institutions will direct capital — have ESG scores that are on average 6% higher than for those excluded by the Shariah screening process. For non-financial companies, the difference rises to 10%. ESG scores for Shariah-compliant companies ranged from 3.0% higher for governance to 7.3% and 7.0%, respectively, for environmental and social issues.
Through a separate analysis conducted by the RFI Foundation, we found that the most common risks across the 11 markets with the largest Islamic finance industries are emissions to air & water, the management of waste and the effects of site contamination, as well as workplace safety & health. These risks are particularly prevalent for Islamic banks that are financing utilities, manufacturing, healthcare, mining/oil & gas, and primary agriculture.
If a bank is not taking active measures to integrate these risks into the financing process, it is taking on additional risk while receiving no compensation for doing so. As more research demonstrates the importance of ESG risks to financial return, financial institutions are becoming increasingly aware of how these risks affect their potential profitability, portfolio risk levels and return on capital.
It is imperative that an Islamic bank that has become aware of ESG risks that will have a financial impact first addresses these concerns with employees at all levels to create buy-in to the changes that will need to be made. Change will take time, but improving ESG risk management will not only benefit the bottom line, but will allow the bank to stand out from its peers and discover new business opportunities.
Environmental Impact in Islamic Finance
Several research studies have shown that integration of environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) in businesses is not just profitable, but it is vital for protecting companies’ social license to operate and ensure their financial sustainability over the long-term. Despite the progress of responsible finance across global markets, its presence in the Islamic finance industry has not developed as rapidly. This report captures the current state of practice of Islamic finance around environmental & social issues and discusses key opportunities for Islamic finance to shift its values-based orientation towards a greater focus on environmental and social impact. In addition to the primary data we gathered from Islamic financial institutions, this report includes a comprehensive overview of some key recent developments in responsible finance practices from the Muslim world and by major Islamic financial institutions.
The report includes the findings of a survey conducted by the RFI Foundation where we asked 32 institutions operating in the Islamic financial industry about their practices and perceptions relating to environmental and social issues. The survey results are incorporated into some recommendations and conclusions including:
- Development well-structured strategies and enhanced policies for environmental and social issues within Islamic financial institutions including incentive programs tied to social and environmental outcomes;
- Greater consideration of how awqaf (perpetual endowments) can be mobilized in support of sustainable infrastructure, education, healthcare, food security, renewable energy, and water management, among others
- Training employees and management in Islamic financial institutions to enhance their focus on environmental and social issues in their business decision-making process, including a more proactive role for Shari‘ah scholars on sustainable business practices.
Thomson Reuters-RFI Responsible Finance Report
The Thomson Reuters – RFI “Responsible Finance Report” provides an overview of similarities between all sectors within responsible finance (including Islamic finance) and outlines the need to develop and implement regulatory changes and standards that will enhance the availability and growth potential of all sectors of responsible finance. The report was launched at the inaugural Global Ethical Forum in Edinburgh — September 2015.
What is in the Report?
Overview of the history of responsible finance within faith traditions and broadening to include a wider set of environmental, social and governance concerns
Analysis of how responsible investing is correcting perception that responsibility and financial performance are mutually exclusive
Summary of regulatory impediments to the development of responsible finance globally
Identification of a starting point for greater convergence between responsible finance sectors including SRI, ESG and Islamic finance
Quantitative model for asset management opportunity from mutual funds for a ‘prudent ESG’ approach that incorporates Islamic finance and ESG
The initial opportunity for convergence between Islamic finance and ESG in the mutual funds alone is $37.1 billion by 2019
This estimate represents just a fraction of the wider financial market potential for responsible finance to find a market created by greater recognition
Islamic finance and SRI/ESG must balance higher returns or more impact demanded by different investors/asset owners
Within many markets, responsible finance has been able to deliver higher risk-adjusted returns
Integrating ESG with Shariah screened assets represents a key opportunity and could support transparency, disclosure and corporate governance in Muslim-majority emerging markets
The RFI will organize roundtables, symposia & working groups with global policymakers, market participants and RFI Trustees to shape an analytical perspective. These will run throughout the year. In addition to these there will be large-scale events followed by more focused sessions with financial institutions, asset owners and other responsible finance stakeholders.
These events will position RFI to be a powerful voice representing the perspectives and solutions of its members within the responsible financial services industry to senior government bodies, policy makers, and asset owners. The RFI acts as an advocate for regulatory and financial policies that will remove barriers that inhibit the development of responsible finance.
The RFI will also attend key policy events to become a benchmark in thought leadership and advocacy to represent the collective views and policies of the responsible finance & investment industry.
RFI Summit 2019
April 27-28, 2019
Abu Dhabi Global Market, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Theme: A NEW SRI: Can Sustainable, Responsible & Islamic Finance Deliver More Impact Together?
RFI Summit 2018
April 26-27, 2018
Theme: Impact Finance & Technology
Selected Other Events
RFI Roundtable on Responsible Finance, co-organised with Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre “Unlocking the Full Potential of Islamic Finance through Sustainability”
23 September 2019 | Sasana Kijang, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Hosted by Bank Negara Malaysia
Read the Roundtable Summary
Roundtable with Malaysian institutional investors on how they can engage the banking industry to systematically consider how environmental and social risks ultimately affect financial institutions’ bottom lines.
Programme Partner with UNEP-FI at the Global Round Table, Dubai, UAE, 25-26 October 2016
RFI Roundtable at the IFN Investor Forum 2016, 21 September 2016
- Does ESG improve Islamic finance?
- Does Islamic finance create positive social impact that ESG cannot?
International Investor - RFI Roundtable
This roundtable looked at the linkages between responsible finance and Islamic finance and the opportunities for greater convergence. This roundtable was first published in The Edge on December 5, 2016.
Responsible Finance Summit
March 30-31, 2016
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Theme: Unlocking Finance, Expanding Impact
Keynotes Day 1: Dr. Zeti Akhtar Aziz & Georg Kell
Panel 1: Going the distance - Hot money versus patient capital
Panel 2: Addressing popular perceptions of responsible finance
Panel 3: Integrated reporting & Islamic finance – Addressing impact
Panel 4: CEO One-on-One - How can Islamic finance support and develop responsible finance?
Panel 5: The impact of leadership and policy in developing responsible finance
Keynotes Day 2: HRH Sanusi
Panel 6: Measuring the impact of responsible investment and reporting to stakeholders
Panel 7: Harnessing techies for good: Broadening the base of finance through the use of technology
Panel 8: Connecting with the man on the street: Expanding responsible finance at the retail level
Panel 9: How can impact investing become more prominent within responsible finance?