Ubuntu is a Southern African term that is often translated as, “I am because we are.” It means that we cannot become the people we are created to be and fulfill our potential apart from one another. Ubuntu points to the truth that our lives, our destinies, our very humanity are formed in community.
Sometimes that mutuality joins us together in grief, as it has during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is taking a growing number of lives and has driven us into economic recession. Not only has every state in the union borne these impacts, so has every nation on earth. The good news is that the same interconnectedness that joins us in grief and loss also binds us together in hope and action.
The Pension Boards has a long history of working at the intersection of faith and finance, recognizing that they, too, are inseparable. Our justice commitments are realized both through direct engagement with corporations on their environmental, social and governance policies and practices, and through our investments. These commitments have not lessened during the pandemic; rather, we are bringing renewed urgency combined with innovative responses to our social justice activism.
Recently, the African Development Bank issued a “Fight Covid-19” bond through the London Stock Exchange. At $3 billion, it is the largest social bond to be issued in capital markets to date. The funds will be used to help mitigate the impact of the pandemic on African economies and livelihoods, and to contain the rapid spread of COVID-19 across the continent. The Pension Boards invested $25.9 million in the bond.
The United Church of Christ is deeply committed to prophetic witness in order to advance the cause of social justice. Sometimes that witness takes the form of opposition. The Pension Boards, along with other values-based investors, recently challenged Microsoft for its investment in a corporation whose facial recognition technology constituted a violation of Palestinian human rights on the West Bank. Microsoft divested of its holdings as a result of the action.
The Pension Boards’ commitment to activism also means making investments that benefit the human community and maintain the integrity of creation. Our investment in the African Development Bank’s Fight COVID-19 bond is but one of many examples of positive investments that contribute to sustainability, social good and environmental integrity.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. famously wrote, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” The Pension Boards’ commitment to working at the intersection of faith and finance affirms that interdependence. In our investment practices and advocacy, we seek not only to do well financially for our members, but also to do good for our fellow human beings and for creation. Ubuntu.