From Mr Simon Court
Sir, - The Church Commissioners have celebrated the "best"
results for their investment fund in eight years. (News, 30
May). We are told that, after Government Treasury Bonds, their
next biggest stock-exchange holdings were in Royal Dutch Shell,
Vodafone, HSBC, and BP. So much for ethical investment!
It is bad enough to have substantial investments in a bank that
has recently paid hundreds of millions in fines to US regulators
for money laundering and in a company that saved billions of tax in
a sweetheart deal with HM Revenue and Customs. Worse still are the
large holdings in oil companies.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu said recently that "it makes no sense to
invest in companies that undermine our future." He encouraged
people of conscience to "break their ties with corporations
financing the injustice of climate change". Churches in the UK, led
by Operation Noah, are leading the way on fossil-fuel
The idea behind divestment is quite simple really. If we want to
stop climate change, then we need to stop burning fossil fuels.
Serious climate scientists agree that if we emit 565 gigatonnes of
carbon dioxide, then there is a chance that global warming will
stay below 2°C. The bad news is that fossil-fuel companies and
fossil-fuel-rich nations have current reserves of around 2795
gigatonnes already. This means that we not only have to stop
looking for more (no more fracking), but also leave 80 per cent of
reserves in the ground to have a chance of staying within two
degrees of warming.
The Church Commissioners should be finding something less risky
and more ethical to invest in than fossil fuels. Instead, they pat
themselves on the back and award a £90,000 bonus to their
The General Synod has made clear its desire that the Church's
National Investing Bodies continually ensure that their investment
policies are "aligned with the theological, moral and social
priorities" of the Church on climate change.
There is so much that we can all do to tackle climate change by
reducing our carbon emissions. The Church Commissioners need to
divest themselves of their fossil-fuel investments now.
Perrys Lane, Cawston
Norwich NR10 4HJ
From Mr Matthew Jones
Sir, - As the co-ordinator of the Methodist Tax Justice
Network, I was interested to read in the Church Times (News, 23
May), and in the Independent article quoted, that
Edward Mason, of the Ethical Investment Advisory Group, praised the
efforts of Glencore-Xstrata with regard to improving their
Undoubtedly, if what Glencore-Xstrata's chairman had to say
about the improvements being made to the Mopani smelter in Zambia
was true, then this is a positive step for a company that has been
dogged by numerous reports of environmental contamination. Before
patting this corporation on the back, however, should not Mr Mason
and the EIAG consider its record of avoiding paying its taxes in
Since buying the Mopani Copper mine in Zambia in 2000, Glencore
(and subsequently Glencore-Xstrata) has been exporting Zambian
copper at well under its market value to its headquarters in
Switzerland. From here, it has then been selling it on again
(usually to its own subsidiaries) at more than the market price.
This is a classic example of transfer mispricing in order to lower
its tax bill in Zambia and maximise its profits in low-tax
Switzerland. It has also under-reported profits and over-inflated
its operating costs, and as a result pays almost no corporation tax
Glencore-Xstrata also uses a complex tax-avoiding structure to
avoid paying tax in the Democratic Republic of Congo: the ownership
of Kamoto Copper Company is split between tax-haven-based holding
companies in the British Virgin Islands, Guernsey, the Isle of Man,
and Yukon Territory in Canada. The Revd Peggy Mulambya Kabonde,
General Secretary of the United Church of Zambia, has said that
"Increasing the tax we get from international trade will allow the
government to reduce inequality among the people of Zambia." Our
leaflet on this issue can be downloaded from our website at
We would welcome further dialogue with Mr Mason and the EIAG on
this issue, as tax justice is fast becoming one of the most
important ethical issues in modern finance.
Co-ordinator, Methodist Tax
1 Park Mews, Selly Oak
Birmingham B29 5JQ