The Church of England holds over £5bn in the stock market at a national level, more than any other UK denomination. A number of dioceses also hold investments in their own right, although it is unusual for individual churches to do so.
Nationally, investments are made by three bodies: the Church Commissioners, the Church of England Pensions Board and the CBF Church of England Funds. Investments for the last of these are handled by the company CCLA. Recommendations on ethics are made by the Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG). None of the three bodies are bound by its advice, although in practice they nearly always follow it.
The EIAG’s most recent statement of ethical investment policy, issued in 2011, includes both negative and positive screening. It advises against any company that makes more than 3% of its turnover from pornography, more than 10% from arms or more than 25% from tobacco, gambling, alcohol, high interest rate lending or human embryonic cloning. It also suggests avoiding companies whose management practices are “unacceptable”.
The policy lists factors to be taken into account when positively selecting investments. These cover employment practices, corporate governance, human rights, environmental sustainability and sensitivity towards local communities.
Diocesan investments also often follow the EIAG’s recommendations, although they may choose not to and some have ethical investment policies that go further. Policies passed at diocesan level can go on to General Synod, so this may be a good place to start. For example, in 2013 the Diocese of Southwark became the first to formally ask that the Church of England consider divestment from fossil fuels. Its motion on the subject will go to General Synod in 2014.