Gongs and plaudits for Church of England’s ethical investment stance

By Gavin Drake
Posted May 3, 2016

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Church Commissioners for England have been ranked joint tenth out of 500 of the world’s largest investment funds and given an AAA rating over their performance in tackling climate change. The list was produced by the Asset Owners Disclosure Project (AODP) for its 2016 Report on the world top 500 investors, which was published May 2. Together, the 500 funds under review manage a total of $38 trillion assets.

There are only three “new entries” in this year’s top 10 from the 2015 list. Pensionskassernes Administration A/S (PKA) pension fund in Denmark have gone from 12th place to sixth place; and the French-based pension fund Etablissement de retraite additionnelle de la Fonction Publique (ERAFP) moved from 13th place to joint tenth place with the Church Commissioners.

The Church Commissioners are the only fund to have entered this year’s top ten from outside last year’s 500. “The Church Commissioners for England have gone straight to the top, gaining a AAA rating for their awareness and action on climate risk,” the AODP said. “They are very active on the engagement front, driving many of the shareholder resolutions being presented to boards.”

On May 25, shareholders of ExxonMobil will vote on a motion co-sponsored by the Church Commissioners which will force the company to disclose its plans for responding to climate change following the COP21 climate change agreement on limiting the rise of global temperatures to just two degrees Celsius.

The board of ExxonMobil attempted to block the motion but the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission ruled that it must be put to shareholders. Since that ruling, institutional investors responsible for some $6 trillion of investment have said that they are backing the Church Commissioners’ move.

Last year shareholders at ExxonMobil’s competitors Shell and BP backed similar motions after the boards of both companies said they supported the Church Commissioners’ call.

A separate C of E fund, the Church of England Pensions Board, is another new entry in the top 500; coming in at 29th place on the list. It has been given an A rating.

In a separate move, the Church Commissioners won two categories at this year’s Portfolio Institutional Awards last week. It took home the prize for the Best Charity / Fund / Trust for the first time since 2013; and also the award for Best Implementation of Responsible Investment for the second year in a row.

“We’re delighted to see the hard work of our whole investment team on responsible investment and climate change recognized,” the Head of Responsible Investment for the Church Commissioners, Edward Mason, said. “Our investments allow us to fund the church’s activities across the country, as well as giving us an opportunity to engage with companies on a range of issues.

“It is good to see that this work resonates with others in the investment community.”

The Church Commissioners for England were established by the British Parliament to support the work and mission of the Church of England; they manage a number of historic assets, including an investment fund of £6.7 billion. In 2014, they distributed £215 million to support the mission and ministry of the Church of England; making them the third largest U.K. charitable giver and the 14th largest globally.