13 December 2011
Two new ethical investment policies have been adopted by the
Church of England national investing bodies following advice from
the Church's Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG).
The national investing bodies' new policy maintains the toughest
possible exclusion of companies involved in the production or
distribution of pornography that their ethical investment research
provider is able to implement.
The new policy document however is more fully theologically
articulated than the previous one. The Revd Professor Richard
Burridge, Deputy Chair of the EIAG, said "Like all of God's gifts,
sexuality can be abused.
"Our policy is predicated upon the biblical witness against
abusing God's gift of human sexuality for financial gain or
exploitation. Our role as Christian investors is to stand for
a more positive attitude to sexual expression than can ever be
attained through pornography.
"Pornography involves degradation of human beings made in the
image of God and normalises views of human sexuality that
contradict the Christian message. "
James Featherby, incoming Chair of the EIAG, said "It is
completely inappropriate for the Church national investing bodies
to invest their capital with companies whose business is the
production or distribution of pornography.
"There is no other policy recommended by the EIAG that sets such
a low threshold across the piece for unacceptable turnover from a
"However exclusion from investment of unacceptable companies is
only part of this policy. There are too many big businesses
making conscious choices to make pornography a revenue stream, even
though the level of revenues is below the threshold at which we can
consistently screen our investments.
"Where we have concerns about companies in which the investing
bodies are shareholders, we will challenge them in engagement.
We do not think it is acceptable, for example, that major
mobile phone companies should promote pornography on their own
internet portals, especially when mobile phones are provided to
children at ever younger ages.
"On issues like this the EIAG will use shareholder influence to
press hard for more ethical and responsible corporate
High interest rate lending
The new policy on high interest rate lending builds on the
previous policy under which companies involved in weekly collected
home credit ('doorstep lending') were excluded from investment.
The new policy extends the investment exclusion to cover other
forms of specialised high interest rate lending, in particular
payday and pawnbroker loans.
This extension of the policy takes account of the
internationalisation of the investing bodies' portfolios and in
particular the risk of investment exposure to publicly listed
payday lending companies in the US (some of whom are now operating
in the UK).
The policy draws on Christian theology on the need for the
greatest care to ensure that lending to poorer members of society
is not exploitative.
James Featherby, incoming Chair of the EIAG, said "The Ethical
Investment Advisory Group acknowledges the importance of access to
credit for all members of society. But it is not prepared to
sanction investment by the Church's investing bodies in companies
charging triple-digit interest rates to some of the most vulnerable
customers of the financial services industry.
"The Ethical Investment Advisory Group urges companies involved
in the provision of short-term unsecured lending to vulnerable
borrowers to do all they possibly can to ensure that their business
models keep interest rates as low as possible and that their loans
are appropriate for customers' circumstances.
"We call on mainstream banks to continue to work to make basic
banking available to all and to help basic banking customers
graduate to mainstream financial services.
"We call on the banks who have benefited from the generosity of
society to be generous themselves in their provision of finance to
credit unions and community finance development institutions who
work so hard to meet the financial needs of vulnerable customers at
appropriate rates of interest.
"The Ethical Investment Advisory Group remains open to engage
with any specialist providers of unsecured short-term credit
that want, in these toughest of times, to consider business ethics
in the challenging sector in which they operate."
The Church of England Ethical
Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) makes recommendations on
ethical investment policy to the Church of England's three national
investing bodies. These are the
Church Commissioners for England, the Church
of England Pensions Board and the CBF Church of England Funds
managed by CCLA.
Together they hold assets in excess of £8bn.
The EIAG includes representation from the General Synod, the
Archbishops' Council and the Mission and Public Affairs Council as
well as the investing bodies.
The EIAG has no investment powers of its own but acts in a
wholly advisory capacity. It is the responsibility of the
Trustees of each separately constituted investment body to decide
whether to implement the advice given.
two new ethical investment policies referred to are now