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Investors group claims success in carbon reduction

18 October 2013

SHUTTERSTOCK

THE Church Investors Group (CIG) this week claimed significant success in raising environmental standards among British companies.

The pressure group, whose 46 members are connected predominantly with the Churches of Britain and Ireland, uses the £12-billion worth of assets it controls to encourage environmentally responsible business practices.

Part of this is the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), which asks com- panies to report their carbon emissions and adopt emissions-reduction schemes. This year, the group prior- itised companies that were FTSE 250-listed, were operating in a carbon-intensive sector, and which were reluctant to engage in reducing emissions.

The project's latest report, published last week, says that 72 per cent of the 53 companies regarded as "laggards" by CIG, have improved their performance.

The vice-chairman of CIG, Bill Seddon, said that the report "highlighted the key role that the engagement work of church investors plays in promoting long-term thinking by the companies we invest in".

"Members of the Church Investors Group take seriously our responsibility for promoting good stewardship of our planet, and are committed to using our influential position as shareholders to persuade companies to consider their environmental impact."

The group has also joined other influential investors in the initiative "Aiming for A", which seeks to encourage ten of the larger UK-listed utilities and extractive companies to aim for inclusion in CDP's Climate Performance Leadership Index.

Among those who achieved the top A-grade for their disclosure and performance in reducing greenhouse-gas emissions this year was the energy supplier BG Group.

Ethical-business drive built up. The First Church Estates Commissioner, Andreas Whittam Smith, told Reuters news agency on Thursday of last week that the global financial crisis had strengthened the Church of England's drive for more ethical business practices by making companies more receptive to change.

Mr Whittam Smith manages about £5.5 billion in church assets, but said that the Church had often struggled to make its voice heard. Things were changing, however, he said: "It's not only companies' considering whether they are behaving as they should as good citizens: it's also investors' preparing to line up alongside the Church to promote better behaviour."

Ethical investment comes at a cost, about 0.7 per cent per year of growth lost from "opportunities foregone", but the Church's fund still made a return of 9.7 per cent last year.

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