Ethical campaigners have criticised the Church in Wales for investing millions into four controversial pharmaceutical companies, prompting the Church to defend its ‘solid ethical investment policy’.
The Church in Wales has invested £6 million into GlaxoSmithKline, more than £5 million into AstraZeneca Plc, more than £4 million into Novartis and more than £3 million into Pfizer.
Ethical investment campaigner and Church of England vicar Keith Hebden said that the Church in Wales has a moral obligation to invest in ethical firms.
“Big Pharma have and always will put profits before people”, he told Wales Online.
“The Church needs to think of its investments not in terms of the least amount of harm they can do but in terms of the most amount of good they can do.”
The four pharmaceutical companies have been involved in a series of scandals. GlaxoSmithKline recently came under scrutiny over accusations of bribery and corruption in China, despite being a popular choice among ethical investors. Novartis has been involved in a legal dispute over pharmaceutical patent in India. AstraZeneca paid £689 million to settle a tax dispute in 2011, while Pfizer has also been involved in a large number of legal cases in relation to its pharmaceutical products.
The Church has replied, “Our fund managers screen companies to ensure that they are not in breach of this policy. We are also members of the Church Investors Group which researches companies, investigates allegations of bad practice, arranges company meetings and engages with companies when there are concerns.
“We recognise the complexities and ambiguities surrounding the activities of companies in which we can invest, and reserve the right to make investment decisions on a case by case basis.”
Last week, the Church of England was strongly criticised over £10 million investment in arms manufacturer General Electric (GE).