CHURCH OF ENGLAND investors have reported that they are holding
BP to account, after a court ruling in the United States which
found that the firm had been negligent during the build-up to the
Deepwater Horizon oil-rig explosion in the Gulf of New Mexico on 20
The Church Commissioners have a significant stake in BP, worth
£36.6 million in 2013. The oil company is now facing a fine of up
to £11 billion after being found to be responsible for 67 per cent
of the disaster, in which, the authorities say, 4.1 million barrels
of oil leaked into the ocean. Lawyers for BP argued in court that
the figure was closer to half that number.
In a statement on Tuesday, Helen Wildsmith, the head of ethical
and responsible investment at CCLA, which manages the Church of
England's investment in BP, said that CCLA had had several meetings
with BP executives after the oil spill, and attempted to block the
re-election of the chair of the board's safety committee.
"Although CCLA continues to monitor safety and environmental
management issues at BP, the focus of the discussions with the
company is now the transition to the low-carbon economy," Ms
She did not comment on whether the Commissioners would question
BP after the court ruling. The judge, Carl Barbier, said that BP
had made "profit-driven" decisions before the oil-rig explosion.
"These instances of negligence, taken together, evince . . . a
conscious disregard of known risks," he wrote. A statement from BP
after the ruling said that the firm would appeal against the
The company has already paid almost £15 billion in compensation
and other related expenses, and pleaded guilty in 2013 to the
manslaughter of the 11 oil workers who died in the explosion.
Ms Wildsmith said that the focus of the Church's engagement with
BP was now on reducing emissions. "BP is one of the companies with
which Church Investors Group members engage most heavily," she
said. "This included attending BP's AGM earlier this year to ask a
question about the company's carbon-performance band. These bands,
which cover strategy, governance, and emissions management, are
updated each October."
Human-rights groups accuse oil company. SOCO
International, a British oil company in which the Church
Commissioners invest, is the subject of allegations of
intimidation, bribery, and murder in the Democratic Republic of
NGOs and some Congolese who live in Virunga National Park, a
UNESCO World Heritage Site, have accused SOCO's supporters of using
violence and threats against those opposed to the company's
searching for oil in the park.
The Daily Telegraph published a report on Saturday
detailing the allegations made by Global Witness and Human Rights
Watch against SOCO, including claims that they were responsible for
the shooting and serious injury of the head of the park; that
soldiers protecting SOCO's operations were running a protection
racket; and that opponents of SOCO have been threatened, and, in
some cases, killed.
The company has denied that it had any involvement in the
violence, and said that the NGOs had not provided evidence for
their claims. A spokesman for the Church Commissioners said in a
statement on Tuesday: "We are grateful that NGOs have made public
their concerns about oil exploration activities in the Virunga
He said that the conservation organisation WWF had made a
complaint to the UK last year about SOCO's activities in Virunga,
under OECD rules about multinational enterprises. "Following WWF's
complaint, we commenced a process of engagement with SOCO about the
environmental and social issues associated with their operations in
DRC. Despite this complaint now having been abandoned, and SOCO
having clarified its position, we continue to engage."