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Ethical investment and the oil industry

by
25 January 2012

iStock

From the Chairman of the Ethical Investment Advisory Group

Sir, — Siobhan Grimes writes that the Church, as an investor, “must stop profiting from burning of fossil fuels” (Comment, 20 January).

The Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) and the Church’s national investing bodies respect and share Ms Grimes’s concerns about climate change. Our conclusion on the ethics of investment in the oil sector, however, is different from that of Ms Grimes, because of an ethical dimension that is not mentioned in her article. The global economy, which sustains the lives of most people on the planet, cannot function without energy, the great majority of which at present comes from fossil fuels.

Rather than divest from companies involved in fossil fuels, the Church’s national investing bodies work actively to help promote the required structural transition to a lower carbon economy. For example, all three of the investing bodies are members of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, which lobbies policymakers on public policy change. All three are signatories to the Carbon Disclosure Project, which requires thousands of companies to disclose their carbon emissions and set reduction targets. All three invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy.

The extractives sector, of which the oil industry forms part, features more prominently than any other in the EIAG’s programme of engagement with business. We talk to oil companies about all of the issues that Ms Grimes raises in her article, including human rights, pollution, and oil sands. We continue to press oil companies to demonstrate the highest standards of corporate responsibility.

We have had initial discussions with representatives of the Good Steward campaign about the approach of the EIAG and investing bodies to climate change. We will, of course, gladly look into any fresh concerns that the campaign raises about the practices of the oil com­panies in which the investing bodies hold shares.

JAMES FEATHERBY
Church House
Great Smith Street
London SW1P 3AZ

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