Charities should set an example on ethical investment, survey of investors finds

Three in five say charities should take the lead on 'stewardship' issues, but Penny Shepherd of Uksif says not enough of them are signed up to the Financial Reporting Council's stewardship code

Penny Shepherd
Penny Shepherd

Charities should set an example on ethical investment, according to almost three in five investors that took part in a survey commissioned by the ethical investment body Uksif.

The YouGov survey of 1,291 investors, released as part of National Ethical Investment Week, which began on Monday, found that 59 per cent felt it was the job of charities to take a lead on ‘stewardship’ issues by engaging with companies to make sure their environmental, social and governance policies were sufficiently ethical.

And 56 per cent of respondents said they believed that charities should measure the social impact of their investments to the same extent that they measured that of their charitable activities.

But Penny Shepherd, chief executive of Uksif, said that relatively few charities had signed up to the Financial Reporting Council’s UK Stewardship Code. "It appears that pensions funds are much more likely to be signatories," she said.

She said that many charity investment managers had also signed up and were often committed to exercising voting rights on behalf of charities, but needed to know they had the support of their investors.

"Charities are beginning to recognise that their impact on society goes beyond their direct activities," she said. "But there’s still a perspective that investments exist only to provide a financial return."

Data collected by the Charity Finance Group in 2009 found that only 46 per cent of charities had an ethical investment policy of any sort. The CFG has said it has plans to publish an updated survey looking at whether more charities have developed ethical investment policies in the intervening years.

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