Ethical Criteria (Investments)

Oral Answers to Questions — Church Commissioners – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 26th October 2010.

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Photo of Fiona Bruce Fiona Bruce Conservative, Congleton 2:30 pm, 26th October 2010

What account the Church Commissioners take of ethical criteria when making investments.

Photo of Jim Cunningham Jim Cunningham Labour, Coventry South

What account the Church Commissioners take of ethical criteria when making investments.

Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry The Second Church Estates Commissioner

The Church Commissioners are committed to managing our assets in a way that reflects the Church's teaching and values and take advice on ethical investment policies from the Church's ethical investment advisory group.

Photo of Fiona Bruce Fiona Bruce Conservative, Congleton

How do the Church Commissioners use their substantial wealth to encourage responsible corporate practice?

Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry The Second Church Estates Commissioner

My hon. Friend is right to raise this issue. The Church Commissioners seek positively to encourage responsible corporate practice by the businesses in which we invest. We are signatories to the United Nations principles for responsible investment. We vote our shares in line with the importance we attach to good corporate governance. We continuously discuss environmental, social and governance issues with our investment managers, and if ever we should have a concern about corporate practice in a company in which we invest, we engage with that company to seek to influence its corporate behaviour at board level.

Photo of Jim Cunningham Jim Cunningham Labour, Coventry South

What is the Church Commissioners' attitude to arms deals, particularly the shady arms trade? What would be the commissioners' attitude to that in terms of investment?

Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry The Second Church Estates Commissioner

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we would not invest in companies that we thought were shady. For example, we disinvested from Vedanta Resources plc recently because of its treatment of tribal communities in India. There are a number of US companies that we have made a conscious decision not to invest in because of their involvement in cluster munitions systems. Wherever possible, if we think that someone is behaving in a shady way, we would hope to influence through engagement, and engagement as a potential investor takes the Church Commissioners into discussion with the boards of some of the world's biggest companies.

Photo of Robert Halfon Robert Halfon Conservative, Harlow

Does my hon. Friend agree that, when the Church is considering the use of its property investments, it has a charitable duty of care to the voluntary groups that may depend on the use of those properties?

Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry The Second Church Estates Commissioner

Yes, of course, and I think that the Church will need to work out ways in which we can use Church property much more actively to engage with voluntary and community groups, as part of the big society initiative, which the Church has always supported and continues to support.