Background Paper: Big Business or Humane Development, 2005
Big business or humane development? Or both?
What happens when the Church becomes a market force?
The Church of Sweden is using its centuries of experience managing Northern
European forests in a new role. It is becoming an entrepreneur in Mozambique,
helping the country build up its forest areas under responsible management.
Global Solidarity Fund (GSF) is an initiative taken by the Diocese of Västerås, near
Stockholm. It was set up to design and invest in forest projects in the developing world
that provide economic, environmental and social benefits.
It is currently developing two major forest projects in Mozambique. One will reforest and
responsibly manage 46,000 hectares and create 45,000 hectares of conservation areas in
the Niassa province. The other will manage a concession of 50,000 hectares of natural
forests in the Sofala province, of which 5% will be set aside as conservation areas. The
Niassa area consists of barren lands, after extreme deforestation under the previous
communist regime. The forests will include pine, teak and eucalyptus plantations, as well
as areas with indigenous hardwood tree species.
Ethical investment fund managers – and indeed anyone else – are invited to invest in the
Niassa programme. The total investment capital during the first 10 years is 33 million
USD. The project is well suited for investors with an ethical profile that are experienced
with forest ventures and prepared to wait for long-term payback. It is projected to bring in
five percent profit after five years, and 20 percent after year eighteen once the renewable
teak and other forest areas are operational.
All projects supported by GSF are profitable commercial ventures that increase the forest
area under responsible management, empower communities, enhance biodiversity and
contribute to building local capacity.
But why is the church involved? Some people think that Church and Business do not
seem to be a marriage made in heaven. After all, large-scale industrial investments are
often viewed as a dubious way of seeing to the best interests of the poor – and yet the
focus of Christian churches is usually about giving a message of liberation to the poor.
Without doubt industrial investment is needed in order to achieve long-term development
in poor areas of the world. The problem very often is that when economic gain is the
driving force, industrial development tends to be slow in increasing the standard of living
of the population as a whole. The trickle-down effect is slow, if it is seen at all, and one
of the main reasons for this in so many commercial projects the perceived benefits for
poor people are based more on expectations of future advantages from the general
improvement in the country’s GDP than on real participation from the beginning.
Both projects are carried out in partnership with the local Anglican dioceses of Lebombo
and Niassa and will provide these dioceses with a long-term financial base. This base will
rest on the responsible management of natural resources, similar to how the Diocese of
Västerås’ financial base rests on the responsible management of its forests. The Diocese
of Västerås has cooperated with the Diocese of Lebombo for nearly 20 years. The focus
has been on social, theological, education and health issues. An education center has been
established in the Lebombo Diocese as part of the cooperation.
Yet this initiative - with the Diocese of Västerås working in cooperation with the local
Anglican Church, the Mozambique government, the Swedish development agency, Sida,
with the support of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) - comes from a
different starting point.
• The forestry projects will generate profits, but they spring only from responsible
forestry methods and are of the kind that long-term, ethical investors are
• Social and ecological aspects are integrated into the project from the start. Instead
of quick profits made by irresponsible logging of an area, these projects are based
on FSC-certified forestry with an emphasis on employing local people at all
• The programme involves planting a range of tree species which will be ultimately
used to make locally manufactured and value-added wood products (including
high quality sawn timber) for the domestic and international markets. FSC
certification is a verification that the forest management applied is economically
viable, socially acceptable and ecologically sound, based on a wide stakeholder
• The villages inside the prospective concession areas are already involved in the
project. Thanks to the work of GSF, the local government and Sida, new land
laws in Mozambique are being applied to their full potential for the first time. The
legislation means that the villages will have their present and future land use
mapped and recognized – and that the local people, instead of being viewed as
trespassers on company concessions, can carry out their own forest management
with rights to take fuel wood and other forest products. This also means
cooperation on fire prevention.
Mozambique’s most pressing socio-economic issue is poverty, with more than 70% of
the population living below the national poverty line. The forest projects (which will
generate their own employment) are integrated with parallel social development
programs, giving communities more opportunities to improve their living standards
through forestry education, group certification, agroforestry and apiculture.
The Church of Sweden is one of the country’s biggest forest owners. It carries out large-
scale modern forestry as a major business, operating all its holdings on environmental
principles. The profits are spent on supporting the Church – paying priests’ salaries and
keeping churches open – as they have done for centuries. The Church of Sweden reaches
out to people not only with the gospel but also with a social and environmental message.
Management of the Church of Sweden’s forests is based on a theological conviction of
responsibility for creation. The responsible management of the Church forests is one way
of aligning its words and actions.
For more information please contact:
Global Solidarity Fund
Diocese of Västerås
Church of Sweden
Tel: +46 708 24 76 64