Church of England to divest from companies contributing to climate change

The Church of England General Synod has just met and agreed a policy of divesting from companies that are significantly contributing to climate change. While this is a good thing in of itself, particularly given that the Church of England pension fund is a sizeable fund, it is also widely recognised as one of the most successful funds in terms of performance. Because of this it is a highly influential fund, and therefore this publicly stated direction is likely to have a greater impact than the billion pounds that will be moved directly.

The Church of England already had a policy largely in line with this, that currently it is mostly directed to working with the companies to improve the way they perform in this area. However the new policy put forward by Canon Giles Goddard of the church environmental working group, asked that all companies be assessed on their progress in five years time. At this point the fund will start to divest of any companies that have not made significant progress.

This seems to strike an extremely sensible balance, between making the most money for the fund which pays for the pensions of most of the clergy in the Church of England, while at the same time moving the fund gradually to fully Green Investment Portfolio. The impressive thing about this policy is that both a significant number of funds that are currently invested in could well, because of the public scrutiny, start moving far more rapidly towards a more green operation.

Due to this highlighted role that the Investment Portfolio will now have there will also be more eyes on what they say on the environment, and as such it is a far greater threat than it might have been to state that in the future they would not hesitate in complaining about the dirty habits of some of these companies.

I feel therefore that this policy has not only made it clear that the Church of England Investment Portfolio needs to be not only ethical but also green. It has also forced a further careful review of investments (the last time being when Justin Welby the Archbishop of Canterbury the Condemned payday loans companies only to find that the Investment Portfolio held a small investment in a fund that invested in Wonga). This move also means that if the church is careful about how it does it, it can also continue to speak with far more authority into the field of investment which up to this point has really been touched by anything that the church has said.

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