The United Reformed Church (URC) holds substantial investments at a national level. In addition, many investments are held at synod (regional) level. URC structures are varied as the church was formed by a merger of denominations with congregational and presbyterial structures.
The URC has a more detailed ethical investment policy than many denominations. The policy was adopted by the URC General Assembly in 2010, putting greater emphasis on positive screening and constructive engagement as well as negative screening.
The policy begins with several basic principles, including stewardship, sustainability and accountability. It rules out any company that is directly involved in the manufacture or supply of “weapons of destruction”. It also rejects those that have a “significant” stake (defined as 10-20% of turnover) in alcohol, tobacco, gambling, pornography or military equipment (that is additional to weapons).
The URC seeks to invest in companies with good practices in areas such as employment, equal opportunities, environmental sustainability and human rights. The policy states that the denomination will “set aside a proportion of its capital investment where the return is principally social rather than financial”. Examples include ecological building projects and microcredit-based development schemes. The URC is committed to engaging with companies over ethics and to divestment as a last resort.
Many synods take the lead from the national ethical investment policy, although they are free to set their own. It is therefore important to find out about the policies and investments of your own synod if you are seeking change at a regional level.