US firm will take over screening

14 February 2014

SHUTTERSTOCK

THE Church of England has appointed an external company, MSCI ESG Research, to screen the ethics of potential and current investments.

Based at the World Trade Centre in New York, MSCI will provide "global ethical screening"; environment, social, and governance (ESG) ratings; and "other services" to the C of E's national investing bodies. MSCI will take over the position currently filled by the London-based social enterprise EIRIS in March.

EIRIS has been quick to rebut media reports that the C of E's decision to switch to MSCI was a result of the embarrassment caused when it was revealed that the Church in-vested in the payday lender Wonga, just hours after the Archbishop of Canterbury announced that he wanted to compete with it and drive it out of business.

"We were responsible for screening quoted equities, and Wonga was held indirectly by the Church of England through a different investment vehicle that was not quoted, and outside our mandate," the head of responsible investment development at EIRIS, Stephen Hine, said. "That indirect holding was very small, being one of many investments in a larger fund in which the Church invested indirectly."

MSCI said that its work for the C of E will include screening quoted companies against the Church's exclusion criteria, such as tobacco, adult entertainment, gambling, defence, and weapons; as well as identifying companies involved in controversies or that have breached UN Global Compact standards.

In a statement, MSCI said that it was "proud to work with the Church of England".

A spokesperson for the Church Commissioners said that MSCI's appointment followed a competitive tendering process. "The national investing bodies routinely review third-party screening-providers to make sure that we are getting the most appropriate screening service to manage the large number of investments we are monitoring worldwide."

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