Sustainable investing: Opportunity awaits Islamic finance industry
Islamic finance and the forms of finance generally referred to as sustainable and responsible investing (SRI) are yet to actively collaborate with each other. One would think that to strengthen their position in a market dominated by conventional finance, Islamic finance and SRI would be sharing their successes and failures, coming together for joint ventures, and supporting each other on issues where they have similar views. But such collaboration has not occurred. Building bridges between the two remains an opportunity that is waiting to be seized upon by the industry leaders from the two sides.
Islamic finance and SRI share some obvious similarities in their objectives (do good; avoid harm), methods (e.g. exclusionary screening) and claims (such as emphasis on ethics). Both seem to trigger similar expectations among their proponents of being ethically different from conventional finance. They also face similar criticism of not being able to live to up to these expectations as shown by the ‘form versus substance’ debate in Islamic finance and ‘green washing’ debate in SRI. Although SRI is older and larger than Islamic finance, which is estimated between $1 to $2 trillion in terms of global assets, both are relatively small and growing segments.