The Church Commissioners and The Church of England Pensions Board, London, will divest £12 million ($17.9 million) of exposure to thermal coal and tar sands.
The two bodies, which along with the CBF Church of England Investment Fund make up the church’s national investing bodies, have already divested, said a spokeswoman for the collective £9 billion of investment portfolios. Also, effective April 30, the investment funds will not make any direct investments in any company that has more than 10% of its revenues derived from the extraction of thermal coal, or from the production of oil from tar sands.
The spokeswoman said the equities portfolio for the investment funds is externally managed. “The £12 million has been sold and the newly reinvested proceeds will be reinvested in ethically compliant stocks,” she said.
Of the decision to divest and the new climate change policy, the Rev. Canon Professor Richard Burridge, deputy chair of the church’s ethical investment advisory group and lead on the group’s theological process, said in a video as part of an announcement about the decision: “This theology is absolutely right for the time. This is a major step forward. … It leads us to further engagement.”
“Alongside issues about disinvestment, even more important in many ways is our work with companies. Engagement is crucial, and the last resort is, ‘Well, if you won’t engage and you won’t change, then we will disinvest.’”
Edward Mason, head of responsible investment for the Church Commissioners, said in the same video that the divestment relates to 13 companies, with £9 million of shareholdings related to the Church Commissioners’ portfolio, and the remaining £3 million to The Church of England Pensions Board. “Because these are companies that specialize in these areas (of thermal coal and tar sands), we didn’t think that we would be able to have productive engagement with them. And also we don’t feel that it is the right place for church investing bodies to have their money.”