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Agent of Impact: The Vatican’s Cardinal Peter Turkson

ImpactAlpha, Nov. 8 – As a cardinal in Ghana, Peter Turkson came to see social enterprise and impact investing as a way of sustaining the ministry of the church.

“Economics and finance need to be brought back within the boundaries of their real vocation and function, including their social function, in consideration of their obvious responsibilities to society,” Turkson wrote in 2011 document calling for reform of global markets.

At the Vatican, Turkson is a part of the inner circle of Pope Francis (and widely regarded as papabile). If Francis is the Vatican’s inspirational “coach” of impact investing, calling on Catholic institutions to use financial markets to fulfill their mission, Turkson is running point. 

From the unlikely perch of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, which was formed in 2017, Turkson has seized impact investing as a lever for human development. The multi-lingual Turkson is calling on all investors and business people to be more ethical in their practices; internally, he’s working to get the Church itself to be a more responsible investor.

The dicastery, with Catholic Relief Services, has co-hosted three Vatican impact investing conferences (a fourth may take place next year) “to look at very specific paths we can follow to increase capital used for impact investing, especially for the most poor and vulnerable among us.”

Turkson is developing ethical investment guidelines with specific guidelines for how Catholic institutions should invest for impact. “We must focus on agriculture in poor countries and access to water to those who do not have it, things that are necessary for people’s survival,” Turkson said in Milan last month.

Money, he says, “must serve and not dominate.”

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