Finance News: Ethical concerns prompt RSPCA to reconsidersupermarket links

The RSPCA could pull out of its investments in high street supermarkets following a decision to exclude companies involved in intensive farming.

The animal welfare charity is planning to formally adopt a wider ethical investment policy by the end of the year, once it has completed market research into the effect of the change on its public reputation and general support.

The charity's existing ethical policy is limited to excluding investments in companies that have links with animal testing.

But the RSPCA's trustees have decided that the criteria need to be broadened to encompass its animal welfare policies. These include fur farming, the pet trade, the use of animals in sport and the use of animals for food.

However, the only area likely to have a real impact on the choice of the charity's investments is intensive farming.

High street supermarket chains could face exclusion from the society's investment portfolio because they sell food sourced from intensive farms.

The RSPCA recently launched a major campaign for improvements in the welfare of broiler chickens.

But finance director Mark Watts emphasised that the charity would continue a process of engagement with companies from which it had decided to disinvest.

He said: "The policy is trying to find a balance that is constructive rather than destructive.

"It combines exclusions with engagement with companies in a bid to improve their records. The number of companies on the excluded list could gradually diminish over time."

An analysis by the RSPCA's fund manager, Schroders, has concluded that although the new policy could have a negative impact on investment returns, it would be able to create a sufficiently diversified portfolio to nullify the loss of income. The charity has a portfolio worth £70m, but its block of £35-£40m in UK equities is the only part likely to be affected by the change.

The charity is currently conducting market research to gauge the reaction of members and supporters to the widening of its ethical policy.

The research will ask whether it should further restrict the scope of its investments and, if so, in which areas.


The RSPCA is considering pulling out of investments in high street supermarkets that sell products from companies involved in intensive farming

The potential move is part of a wider ethical investment policy

The charity's existing ethical policy excludes only investing in companies linked with animal testing

The trustees decided the criteria should be broadened to cover other animal welfare policies

The charity aims to engage with companies from which it disinvests.

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