Many religious groups hire specialist companies to manage their investments, while others do it themselves. For example, the investments of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain are managed by Rathbone Greenbank, who specialise in investment advice for people concerned about ethics.
If your organisation chooses to outsource investment management, it is important to keep in regular contact with the fund manager and keep on top of the details of what they are doing with your money. The Methodist Church say they are better able to avoid problems by managing their own investments directly.
Ruling out certain industries may not be as straightforward as it seems. What about a business that owns subsidiary companies? And if you decide not to invest in alcohol, what about a hotel chain that profits from alcohol sales in hotel bars? If you’re avoiding military equipment, would this extend to a clothing company that produces army uniforms?
A number of churches use percentage calculations. The Church of Scotland will not invest in any industry that takes more than 15% of its turnover from arms, alcohol or tobacco. For the United Reformed Church, the figure is “10-20%” for alcohol, tobacco and some type of military equipment but any company that produces or sells weapons is ruled out. The Church of England has different percentage limits for different industries, with the lowest being 3% for pornography. The Methodist Church is unusual in rejecting the percentage approach and choosing to look at each company individually. They will assess the company on several grounds, including its impact on human rights, conflict and climate change. You can read more on the investment policies of individual denominations.
Keeping track of your money can be a challenge if you own a private or occupational pension (link to 5g – influencing). Some pension funds are considerably more helpful than others when it comes to revealing details of their investments. Click here if you want to challenge your pension fund.