Increasing numbers of charities are using the shares they own to try to improve corporate ethics, according to new research from not-for-profit charity fund manager CCLA.
The firm asked its clients whether they thought they had a duty to improve the performance of companies in their portfolios in areas such as human rights, the International Labour Organisation's core standards and carbon emissions.
Eighty per cent of charities said they would use their status as shareholders to press for improved ethical standards and would threaten to sell shares if companies refused to meet international standards. Most of the remaining 20 per cent of charities said they would not engage with companies at all.
Helen Wildsmith, head of ethical and responsible investment at CCLA, said charities were becoming "activist" investors.
"They are holding the companies they invest in to account," she said. "Most say they will initially engage, put pressure on companies and divest their shareholding if the company is a persistent laggard."
The research involved a postal survey of 2,000 of the firm's clients and a more detailed survey of 50 of its largest clients over an 18-month period.