Comic Relief 'was too hasty to change its investments'

Comic Relief: sold its 'sin' investments
Comic Relief: sold its 'sin' investments

A BBC Panorama documentary that raised ethical concerns about Comic Relief's investments had little long-term effect on the charity's reputation, and its decision to immediately divest its suspect assets might have been too hasty, according to the charity's finance director.

In December 2013 Charity Projects, the charity that operates Comic Relief and Sport Relief, said it would review its investment policy in the light of criticism of its decision to invest money in arms, alcohol and tobacco, as uncovered by the documentary.

In the same month, Charity Projects sold all investments it believed were in areas that were raised as a concern in the documentary. Helen Wright, the charity's finance director, told the Charity Finance Group's annual conference that this was roughly 80 per cent of its total portfolio.

After the review, published in May, the charity promised not to hold assets from those areas. The charity's annual accounts show that income from investments fell from £6.1m in 2012/13 to £3.9m in 2013/14.

"The public are less sensitive to this than we sometimes think," Wright said; by February 2014, public sentiment "had rebounded to almost the original position", and Sport Relief raised a record amount of money that year. But she acknowledged Comic Relief had a responsibility not to tarnish the reputation of the charity sector.

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