Charities and social enterprises are being urged to consider the ethics of their investments, following the revelations about Comic Relief last year, by the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO).
ACEVO is a network of charity leaders and acts as the leading voice of the UK’s charity and social enterprise sector. The organisation provides support and representation of members, which range from leaders of small community based organisations to well-known charity brands.
At the end of 2013 a BBC Panorama investigation alleged that Comic Relief had invested £630,000 in an arms manufacturer and had more than £300,000 invested in the alcohol industry. The investments were in direct conflict with the charity’s mission statement, which pledges to help those affected by conflict and work to minimise alcohol related harm.
Comic Relief defended it decisions, arguing that using ethical screening would have left it subjected to unacceptable financial risk. However, after being told some ethical funds are outperform their mainstream counterparts Kevin Cahill, chief executive of Comic Relief, admitted it would be a “no brainer for us to be in those [ethical] funds”.
The findings led to a debate on what charities should consider when investing and how they reflect on the core functions of the organisation. In response to this, ACEVO has launched a commission to advise charities and social enterprises on responsible investment.
The Commission will be chaired by Martin Clarke, chairman of the UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association (UKSIF), and will include professionals from the financial industry.
According to Charity Times, Sir Stephen Bubb, CEO of ACEVO, said, “The BBC Panorama programme was a wake-up call for our sector. We need to work hard to retain public trust in all expects of our work.
“Through our responsible investments commission, we want charities to look seriously at responsible funds and to understand that this isn’t something you can delegate to a finance committee.”
The commission will provide insights into how charities can align their missions with their investment policy and the state of the current ethical investment market, as well as many other areas.
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