Quakers and C of E urged to to sell their shares in BP

by
15 July 2010

by Ed Thornton

CAMPAIGNERS have called on church investment bodies to sell their shares in BP because of the environ­mental damage caused by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The World Development Move­ment (WDM), a pressure group, urged the British Yearly Meeting (BYM), the national group of British Quakers, to consider selling its BP shares, which amount to more than £500,000, because of the company’s contribution to “fuelling climate change”.

The press officer for WDM, Kate Blagojevic, told The Friend, the weekly independent magazine for Quakers: “Unless BYM are prepared to use their shares for the strongest possible shareholder action, then divestment from BP is the only ethical stance available.”

But the clerk of BYM’s investment sub-committee of Quaker finance and property, Roger Morton, told the magazine that the Quakers’ fund-managers had engaged with BP on issues such as oil-sands exploration and investment in renewable energy.

The Church of England said in a statement that it was not considering disinvestment from BP. It said that the Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) was “making arrange­ments for appropriate engagement with BP once the immediate crisis has passed”. The Church Commis­sioners, the Central Board of Finance, and the Church of England Pension Board have shares in BP worth £140 million (News, 14 May).

In its annual review for 2009/10, published last week, the chairman of EIAG, John Reynolds, wrote: “En­gage­ment as an investor leads the Church into discussion with the Boards of some of the world’s biggest companies. Such engagement can achieve a more positive impact on many more companies than our in­vest­ment exclusions. It . . . leads on occasion to real changes in corporate policy.”

At BP’s annual general meeting in April, a group of shareholders, including the Church of England, the Methodist Church, and the Quakers, tabled a resolution calling on the company to disclose its plans for developing oil sands, a carbon-intensive way of extracting oil.

The Jewish Chronicle reported last week that the Church of England was reviewing its investment in the Jerusalem light-rail project over fears that the tramline “will help to cement Israel’s hold on occupied east Jeru­salem”. This comes after the Meth­odist Church voted at its recent conference to boycott products from Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories (News, 9 July).

The United Reformed Church (URC) last week voted to maintain its boycott of Nestlé until the com­pany is accepted by the FTSE4Good Index, which measures standards of corporate social responsibility. The URC’s boycott of Nestlé began in 1992, in protest at the company’s policy of marketing breast-milk sub­stitutes to mothers in poorer countries.

The EIRIS Foundation and the Char­ity Finance Directors’ Group re­cently issued a guide, Socially Respons­ible Investment, to help charity trustees to make socially re­sponsible investment decisions.

Synod, Church Commissioners debate

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