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Commissioners hope money will grow on trees

19 December 2014

PA

"How lovely are your branches": one of many Christmas trees cut down this year by rangers from the Forestry Commission Scotland, in Glentress forest on the Scottish Borders

"How lovely are your branches": one of many Christmas trees cut down this year by rangers from the Forestry Commission Scotland, in Glentress forest...

THE Church Commissioners have spent almost £50 million buying 15 forests across Scotland and Wales in a bid to make their investment portfolio more sustainable.

The forests, bought from the timber company UPM Tihill, amount to 6922 hectares of productive woodland, equivalent to almost 1000 football pitches. The portfolio also includes wind farms and a mountain-biking centre.

The investment manager for the Commissioners, Chris West, said in a statement announcing the purchase on Friday of last week that the Commissioners had spent five years buying up forests across the UK, the United States, and Australia. In the UK alone, they now own £100million-worth of forestry.

The head of responsible investment at the Commissioners, Edward Mason, said: "The Commissioners are delighted to be adding to their low-carbon investments with this further significant investment in sustainable forestry."

Last week, the Commissioners announced plans to put pressure on BP and Shell to do more to combat climate change (News, 12 December). A shareholder resolution will be filed at each company's annual general meeting next year with the support of other ethical investors.

In February, the General Synod passed a motion that urged the Church of England's investing bodies to align their investment policies with the Church's position on caring for the planet (Synod, 14 February).

One part of the new forests bought in Scotland includes 300 hectares of new woodland planted on land previously used for farming.

The Commissioners' statement said that this development was playing a large part in attempting to meet the Scottish Government's aim to create 6000 hectares of new forestry.

Three years ago, the Church was dragged into a political battle over a government proposal to sell off state-owned woodland. The then Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishops of Gloucester and Guildford signed an open letter to the Sunday Telegraph that described the plans as "unconscionable" and "ill-conceived" (News, 28 January 2011).

Commissioners praised. A study on best practice among ethical investors has named the Church Commissioners as one of the best examples in the business. The study, Good with Money: Why charity investments matter, was released on Tuesday by the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations. The Commissioners are commended for the detailed information on their ethical-investment policy which is contained in their annual report.

The report was commissioned after an investigation by the BBC's Panorama into charity investments last year.

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