Faith-based organizations (FBOs) are helping progress toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), according to a report from the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) published Oct. 5.

“Any institution, organization or congregation affiliated with a religious, faith-based, indigenous or spiritual tradition” is how the report defines an FBO.

The report highlights the work of several FBOs around the world that are working to conserve and protect natural resources in ways that promote a number of SDGs.

  • A Rocha Peru, a Christian faith organization, has planted thousands of native trees in the Huarango forests.
  • More than a million trees have been planted in more than 1,800 locations by Sikh groups.
  • An increasing number of solar arrays and/or geothermal systems have been installed on houses of faith around the world.
  • Several hundred FBOs have committed to divest themselves of fossil-fuel-related investments.
  • Many FBOs are working to ensure everyone has access to clean water and to provide education and resources about sustainable farming.

Concluding the report are recommendations for FBOs to strengthen and expand their efforts to care for creation and contribute to global efforts to meet the SDGs. These include:

  • Providing training for female farmers in sustainable, ecofriendly farming.
  • Reversing the doctrine of discovery by returning lands to indigenous control.
  • Increasing collaborative initiatives with conservation groups and government agencies.
  • Using land of closed congregations to create sustainable farming initiatives.
  • Increasing the number of FBOs divesting from fossil fuels and combining their reinvestments to fund sustainable initiatives.

“FBOs are uniquely positioned to make progress toward the SDGs. Nearly every religious, indigenous and spiritual tradition teaches a moral obligation to protect the planet,” the report said.

“Aside from these moral considerations, however, are some very compelling statistics. FBOs control 8% of the habitable land surface of Earth, 5% of all commercial forests, 50% of schools worldwide and 10% of the world’s total financial institutions. With a portfolio including these vast resources, the potential aggregate impact of FBOs on sustainable development is immense.”

The full report is available here.

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