Speakers including Prof. Atul Shah joined us in London to discuss how ethical codes can be incorporated into financial practice

On 22nd June 2023, we hosted an event in our Radical Old Idea series in London, at Barclays. The event saw speakers from different faith perspectives share their views on how the ethical values and perspectives of their respective traditions can be incorporated into the everyday practice of financial institutions and the corporations they work with.


The event began with an introduction to the work of the Canary Wharf Multifaith Chaplaincy from Chaplain Fiona Stewart-Darling, and a summary of GEFI’s Edinburgh Finance Declaration from Graham Burnside.

Presentation: Sustainable and Inclusive Finance

We then saw a presentation from Prof. Atul Shah. He presented the findings from his latest book, Inclusive and Sustainable Finance: Leadership Ethics and Culture. Prof Shah drew upon interviews he conducted with business leaders from his Jain faith and beyond, to describe how the world of finance has opted for a mathematically-oriented mode of business.

Like much of modern Western society, finance operates from a largely utilitarian, rational worldview. Values are explicitly excluded in favour of equations, and a cynical, amoral understanding of the world is promoted.

This intensifies the short-termism endemic to finance, as the longer-term principles of a business are not seen as important, merely its short-term cashflow.

Prof. Shah provided a number of key takeaways to better incorporate values in the commercial world:

  • Don’t neglect small family business and enterprise
  • Encourage diversity and community through understanding NOT box ticking
  • Restore broken faiths and trust: train differently
  • Educate leaders to think and act differently true stories help
  • Emphasise patient capital NOT fast returns and tech start ups
  • Respect savers and individual borrowers


After Prof. Shah’s presentation, GEFI’s Omar Shaikh led a discussion and Q&A, bringing in Prof. Iqbal Asaria of the London Institute of Banking and Finance and Martin Palmer of FaithInvest.

Together, they discussed some of the principles behind faith involvement in finance, starting with unpacking the prohibitions that Abrahamic faiths have had on interest over time, and how these have been eroded, maintained and revived.

Originally, most of the faiths saw debt bondage as not only immoral, but a challenge even to the authority of god. Heavily indebted people may not be servants of god, as the faiths thought they should be, but of their debt.

The speakers discussed some of the practical action taken by faiths on climate, focusing on climate-related investment funds set up, but also drilling deeper to undertand how faith perspectives could promote sustainability.

The Abrahamic faiths tend to emphasise a role of stewardship for humanity, while the Dharmic faiths emphasise a conception of oneness among all living creatures and non-violence towards them.