The Prince of Wales used his keynote speech at the 9th World Islamic Economic Forum in London this week to warn of the dangers of climate change, as well as the depletion of natural resources, and how big businesses often contributed to the problem.
His Royal Highness, a fervent supporter of action on climate change, told the gathering of 1,800 political and business leaders from over 115 countries the deterioration of “nature’s capital reserves” like water and soils can cause direct impacts on food and energy security.
“The tragic conflict in Syria provides a terrifyingly graphic example, where a severe drought for the last seven years has decimated Syria’s rural economy, driving many farmers off their fields and into cities where, already, food was in short supply.” he said. “This depletion of natural capital, inexplicably, little reported in the media, was a significant contributor to the social tension that exploded with such desperate results.”
The Prince said financial institutions needed to treat “natural capital” with the same importance as financial capital for the strain on the planet’s natural resources to be eased.
“It is clear from the Koran, and indeed the Bible too, that humanity has a sacred responsibility for the stewardship of the Earth,” he said. “The time then has surely come for our financial institutions to recognise that the Earth is not a limitless resource that can be plundered at will, and to integrate that principle of stewardship into our financial structures.”
He said Islamic banking, or alternative banking, could provide the answers where conventional “banking could not, given Islam’s emphasis on the moral economy”.
The Prince said there was a welcome emphasis in Islamic finance that wider ethical and moral codes could not be separated from business.
“We each have a scared duty of care towards the Earth,” The Prince said. “It calls upon us to shoulder this work together.”
The event, which lasts for two days, is being held outside a Muslim country for the first time.
Several major Islamic world leaders are attending, including King Abdullah of Jordan, the Sultan of Brunei and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
The Prince met delegates before taking to the lectern and while much of the discussion was on congratulating The Prince on the arrival of his grandson Prince George, it primarily focused on the desire to forge business links in the UK.
Maybank Islamic Chairman Dato’Seri Ismail Shahudin, who chairs Malaysia’s biggest bank, said he had met The Prince before and had always appreciated his desire for business to look out for those less fortunate.
“One of the things that struck me was his passion for helping the youth,” he said. “One of the things that is typical of Islamic banking is to help others and not just profit from it.”
Guest speaker and prominent Egyptian architect Abdel-Wahed El-Wakil said the importance of holding the forum in London could not be understated.
“The Prince coming here is a positive event at a time when everybody’s trying to create schisms,” he said.