Following the Harries case from 20 years ago, the public also have an expectation on what trustees should and shouldn’t be spending their money on, says Stephen Roberts.
In 1992, the Bishop of Oxford challenged the Church Commissioners over their investment policy (Harries v The Church Commissioners for England  1WLR 1241). In particular, he sought a declaration that the Church Commissioners, in exercising their investment powers, were obliged to have regard to the object of promoting the Christian faith and thus to apply ethical consideration to their choice of investment.
The vice-chancellor considering that case summed up the responsibilities of charities with regard to investment very succinctly, “Most charities need money; and the more of it there is available the more the trustees can seek to accomplish.”
Thus the purposes of the charity are usually “best served by the trustees seeking to obtain therefrom the maximum return, whether by way of income or capital growth which is consistent with commercial prudence“.
However, he recognised that “in a minority of cases the position will not be so straightforward“. These were cases “when the objects of the charity are such that investments of a particular type would conflict with the aims of the charity”. Examples were cancer research charities and tobacco shares, trustees of temperance charities and brewery and distillery shares, and trustees of charities of the Society of Friends and shares in armaments companies.
The vice-chancellor also identified another category of case where trustees’ holdings of particular investments “might hamper a charity’s work by making potential recipients of aid unwilling to be helped because of the source of the charity’s money, or by alienating some of those who support the charity financially”.
The vice-chancellor made clear that the greater the risk of financial detriment the clearer the trustees needed to be of the advantages to the charity of the course of action they were adopting.
The case also made clear that trustees “must not use property held by them for investment purposes as a means for making moral statements at the expense of the charity of which they are trustees”.
This case was decided twenty two years ago. Have there been developments in the law since that time? There have certainly been no significant legal cases on the issue of ethical investment since that time. Accordingly, in terms of the obligations of charity trustees with regard to the process of ethical investment, this remains the leading case.
The case does state the issue of ethical investment in permissive terms. Trustees may invest on ethical lines in certain situations. The tone is that this will be comparatively rare. Trustees can make ethical investments if there is no financial detriment. That said, the Harries case certainly envisages situations in which ethical investment is an imperative not an option such as where investment will be in contradiction of their objects or where certain investments hamper the work of the charity.
What may well have changed is the public perception of charities and what they should be doing. The Harries case envisaged that there would be rare cases when a charity depending on donations would need to avoid certain investments which were likely to alienate their donors. It may be that now there is more of an expectation from the public that ethical investment is a good thing and that they are more likely to support charities that take such an approach. Accordingly, charities dependant on public support are well advised to take very seriously the words of the vice-chancellor, “trustees will need to balance the difficulties they would encounter or likely financial loss they would sustain if they were to hold the investments against the risk of financial detriment if those investments were excluded from their portfolio“.
That this may now be a more common occurrence than before reflects the move towards encouraging more social responsibility generally. Thus, in the Companies Act 2006 there is a requirement on directors of companies, including charitable companies, in complying with their duties to have regard to “the impact of the company’s operations on the community and the environment” and “the desirability of the company maintaining a reputation for high standards of business conduct”.
Further, trustees can always take into account well-established ethical criteria, provided that trustees discharge their investment powers in accordance with their duties regarding diversification and suitability and there is no financial detriment to the income of the charity which arises from applying those criteria.
Stephen Roberts is head of legal policy and litigation at the Charity Commission. This article was first published in Solicitors Journal on March 31 2014 and is reproduced by kind permission (www.solicitorsjournal.com).
Photo: Andreas.’s via Flickr
How to be More eco-Responsible in 2018
Nowadays, more and more people are talking about being more eco-responsible. There is a constant growth of information regarding the importance of being aware of ecological issues and the methods of using eco-friendly necessities on daily basis.
Have you been considering becoming more eco-responsible after the New Year? If so, here are some useful tips that could help you make the difference in the following year:
1. Energy – produce it, save it
If you’re building a house or planning to expand your living space, think before deciding on the final square footage. Maybe you don’t really need that much space. Unnecessary square footage will force you to spend more building materials, but it will also result in having to use extra heating, air-conditioning, and electricity in it.
It’s even better if you seek professional help to reduce energy consumption. An energy audit can provide you some great piece of advice on how to save on your energy bills.
While buying appliances such as a refrigerator or a dishwasher, make sure they have “Energy Star” label on, as it means they are energy-efficient.
Regarding the production of energy, you can power your home with renewable energy. The most common way is to install rooftop solar panels. They can be used for producing electricity, as well as heat for the house. If powering the whole home is a big step for you, try with solar oven then – they trap the sunlight in order to heat food! Solar air conditioning is another interesting thing to try out – instead of providing you with heat, it cools your house!
2. Don’t be just another tourist
Think about the environment, as well your own enjoyment – try not to travel too far, as most forms of transport contribute to the climate change. Choose the most environmentally friendly means of transport that you can, as well as environmentally friendly accommodation. If you can go to a destination that is being recommended as an eco-travel destination – even better! Interesting countries such as Zambia, Vietnam or Nicaragua are among these destinations that are famous for its sustainability efforts.
3. Let your beauty be also eco-friendly
We all want to look beautiful. Unfortunately, sometimes (or very often) it comes with a price. Cruelty-free cosmetics are making its way on the world market but be careful with the labels – just because it says a product hasn’t been tested on animals, it doesn’t mean that some of the product’s ingredients haven’t been tested on some poor animal.
To be sure which companies definitely stay away from the cruel testing on animals, check PETA Bunny list of cosmetic companies just to make sure which ones are truly and completely cruelty-free.
It’s also important if a brand uses toxic ingredients. Brands such as Tata Harper Skincare or Dr Bronner’s use only organic ingredients and biodegradable packaging, as well as being cruelty-free. Of course, this list is longer, so you’ll have to do some online research.
4. Know thy recycling
People often make mistakes while wanting to do something good for the environment. For example, plastic grocery bags, take-out containers, paper coffee cups and shredded paper cannot be recycled in your curb for many reasons, so don’t throw them into recycling bins. The same applies to pizza boxes, household glass, ceramics, and pottery – whether they are contaminated by grease or difficult to recycle, they just can’t go through the usual recycling process.
People usually forget to do is to rinse plastic and metal containers – they always have some residue, so be thorough. Also, bottle caps are allowed, too, so don’t separate them from the bottles. However, yard waste isn’t recyclable, so any yard waste or junk you are unsure of – just contact rubbish removal services instead of piling it up in public containers or in your own yard.
5. Fashion can be both eco-friendly and cool
Believe it or not, there are actually places where you can buy clothes that are eco-friendly, sustainable, as well as ethical. And they look cool, too! Companies like Everlane are very transparent about where their clothes are manufactured and how the price is set. PACT is another great company that uses non-GMO, organic cotton and non-toxic dyes for their clothing, while simultaneously using renewable energy factories. Soko is a company that uses natural and recycled materials in making their clothes and jewelry.
All in all
The truth is – being eco-responsible can be done in many ways. There are tons of small things we could change when it comes to our habits that would make a positive influence on the environment. The point is to start doing research on things that can be done by every person and it can start with the only thing that person has the control of – their own household.
Top 5 Changes You can Make in Your Life to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
In a world, where war rages and global warming threatens our very existence, the inhabitants of earth need to be extra vigilant in their efforts to go green. This includes reducing your carbon footprint on the earth and leading a more sustainable life.
Many homeowners feel perplexed by all of the options available to reduce their carbon footprint. They may even feel (falsely) that making their household more green will fail to make that much of a difference in the fight to save our planet.
Even a single home going green has a massive impact on the environment. We can win this battle on home at a time. If you’re interested in accepting the challenge of making your household a green home, read on below for a few of the top changes you can make in your life to reduce your carbon footprint. We all stand to benefit from making the earth safer for future generations – and your wallet won’t complain when you start to see the savings in annual energy costs.
Switch From Dirty Energy to Clean Solar
The ION Solar reviews tell it all–solar is the best way to go. Whether your goal is to slash your energy bills, or to reduce your carbon footprint, the sun is a fantastic source of renewable energy.
It’s important to get past the hype from solar installers. Instead, listen to the plethora of impartial customer reviews that mention everything from a $20 energy bill, to the incredible feeling of knowing that you are doing your part by going green and minimizing harmful emissions in to our atmosphere.
The average investment is $15,000 to $30,000 for installation and purchase of solar panels. Optional battery power packs can help provide consistent power during both night and day. And many government agencies provide federal, state or local grants to help offset upfront investments in clean energy.
Depending on which installed you choose, your household may qualify for low-interest or zero interest loans to cover the up-front cost of your installation. And the loan payments are usually less than your current monthly power bill.
It really is a win-win, as home buyers are looking for homes that feature this technology – meaning solar power installation improves the resale value of your property.
And there are a number of additional home modifications that can help improve the energy efficiency of your home. A programmable thermostat can better manage energy consumption from home cooling and heating systems while you’re away from home. And weather stripping your doors can help keep cool air in during the summer, and warm air in during the winter.
Of course, energy conservation starts at home. And this includes setting a powerful example for your kids. Teach your children how to close windows, strategically keep doors open or closed based on airflow, and encourage them to leave the thermostat alone – opting for adding or removing layers of clothing instead.
Unplug Appliances and Shut Off Electronics
Unplugging your appliances when they aren’t in use, such as the toaster and the coffee maker, has more of an impact than you might think. Set your TVs and stereos on sleep timers, instead of letting them run around the clock. The cumulative impact of wasteful electronic device usage is horrible for our environment – putting unnecessary strain on our electrical grid.
One of the simplest and easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint is by recycling. You are already throwing this stuff away anyway, right? It doesn’t take much more effort to just put recyclables in a separate container to be recycled, now does it?
Oh, and did I mention that you can earn money for recycling? Yes! Many cities and towns have recycling centers that will purchase your clean plastic and glass bottles for reuse.
Minimize Your Water Usage
Water is one of the easiest things to forget about when it comes to reducing your carbon footprint. Preserve water by turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth. Shorten your shower by a few minutes and turn down the heat on that water heater. You’ll be surprised at how much lower your water bill and your energy bill will be.
Saving money and reducing your carbon footprint? What isn’t to love?
These are just a few of the top ways that you can reduce your carbon footprint and start living a greener lifestyle. And we aren’t factoring in all of the advantages that we’ll reap from public investments in a smarter energy grid.
From decreasing your water usage, to switching to solar for your home’s energy needs, you will feel good at the end of the day knowing you are doing your part to save the future of this planet for generations to come!
- Energy2 weeks ago
How Much Energy Does Bitcoin Use, Really?
- Environment3 weeks ago
Biggest Tip to Eco-Friendly Car Ownership (Which May Surprise You)
- Energy3 weeks ago
Top 5 Changes You can Make in Your Life to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
- Energy3 weeks ago
4 Energy Efficient Home Upgrades that You Can Install Yourself