Group 2

Upholding Global Peace, by Ugo Biggeri

GABV

18 March 2024

By Ugo Biggeri, Regional Representative for Europe of the Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV). Cofounder of Banca Etica, former CEO and Chair of Banca Etica, and former Chair of Etica SGR

In June 2022, I had the honour of speaking at the United Nations against investments in nuclear weapons, representing Etica Sgr, the fund investment company of Banca Etica’s Group, together with ICAN (International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons) and other financial institutions. I had no idea then that it was marking a pivotal moment that laid the foundation for the Milan Declaration: A Statement for Peace.

This declaration, championed by the Global Alliance for Banking on Values (GABV), a network of the world’s leading values-based banks, underscores a powerful commitment: a unanimous stand against the financing of production or trade of war weapons by any GABV member institution.

In this article, I will delve into the three fundamental concepts encapsulated in the declaration and articulate why responsible banking in the weapon industry is not just an ethical stance but a necessary step toward a more prosperous and peaceful world.

  1. GABV: For People, Planet, and Prosperity:

The GABV stands united for the well-being of people, the sustainability of our planet, and the overall prosperity of society. It is inconceivable to assert that profits derived from the production and trade of war weapons contribute to prosperity. In fact, such investments represent an inefficient allocation of resources that hinders the pursuit of these noble goals.

By disavowing any association with the war industry, GABV banks send a clear message that financial institutions should be catalysts for positive change, contributing to the betterment of humanity and the preservation of our planet.

  1. Humanitarian View:

The GABV banks hold a humanitarian perspective, as articulated in the Milan Peace Declaration. This declaration emphasizes the fundamental values that should guide financial institutions, highlighting the bold assertion that making profits from war is not only undesirable but also morally reprehensible.

The humanitarian lens through which GABV banks view their role in the financial sector positions them as advocates for a world free from the devastating consequences of armed conflicts. This perspective, rooted in empathy and ethical considerations, serves as a beacon for responsible banking practices.

  1. A Vision for the Entire Financial Industry:

The GABV declaration extends beyond its own member institutions, recognizing the need for a paradigm shift in the entire financial industry. The GABV is not taking a position on individual States’ right to defend themselves, including via arms. But where this happens, it can be done between Government defence departments and weapons manufacturers. In these situations, a financial institution is not profiting from the transaction and is not incentivised financially to expand the arms industry for its own benefit. Weapons should not be regarded as just any commodity to make profits through finance.

While some may view this vision as utopian, history has shown that seemingly utopian requests, such as the abolition of slavery and women’s suffrage, eventually became societal norms. The ban on fossil fuels is another contemporary example.

GABV members choose not to finance the arms industry, in large part, because they do not want to profit from the production or trade in arms that are used in conflicts the justification of which they have no influence over. The GABV’s Statement for Peace, though ambitious, challenges the industry to reconsider its priorities and responsibilities, paving the way for a future where profits are not derived from activities that jeopardize global peace and stability.

The art of crafting a declaration lies in navigating the delicate balance between the pragmatic demands of the real world and the pursuit of a vision for a better future. GABV banks have bravely chosen the path of responsibility and ethical leadership.

At a time when some financial entities contemplate the eligibility of the weapon industry for sustainable finance, the GABV stands firm, asserting that making profits from war is not only avoidable but contrary to their vision for a better world. In this statement, values-based banks urge financial institutions to divest from the arms industry and reject that financing of weapons and munitions meet any definition of sustainable financing.

By fostering dialogue and challenging the status quo, the GABV’s declaration becomes a catalyst for genuine discussions that will undoubtedly contribute to the advancement of real peace in our world.

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