My Week: Edward Mason reflects on the ethics of investment

Edward Mason
Edward Mason

MONDAY - I get in early to finish writing the papers for our next meeting - the first since the controversy over the Church Commissioners' investment in the payday lender Wonga, so it's a busy agenda. In a £5.5bn portfolio, Wonga was a small exposure - £100k through a venture capital fund. It didn't breach our policy because there are areas where commissioners can't invest directly and thus can't observe all our ethical investment restrictions. But we need to consider whether our policies are right.

TUESDAY - Today I'm proof-reading papers for the meeting, not all of which are about Wonga. Another topic we are considering is how to approach fracking as an ethical investment issue. We need to think about whether it's simply another method of oil and gas extraction - which is OK if done properly - or whether the risks are unusually high.

WEDNESDAY - A sub-group is meeting this morning to discuss how theology should shape the development of our policy on climate change and investment. Our aim is to ensure that our ethical policies are underpinned by Christian theology and the views of the CofE. The expertise that we can draw on in this group is incredible - from a professor of biblical interpretation to the chairman of a FTSE 350 company.

THURSDAY - I'm meeting the drinks company Diageo. We don't invest in alcohol firms but we do invest in supermarkets, which sell huge quantities of alcohol. We want to make sure our investment policy focuses on companies that fail to tackle alcohol misuse. Interestingly, it appears the drinks companies might be doing more to prevent alcohol misuse than some supermarkets.

FRIDAY - I'm off to a conference about choosing investments intended to produce positive environmental or social benefits, as well as financial returns. It's a growing area, so I want to catch up with what's going on. In the basement of the venue are the remains of London's Roman amphitheatre, so I make sure I find time to have a look.

The Church of England Ethical Investment Advisory Group advises the church's national investing bodies

Edward Mason is secretary of the Church of England Ethical Investment Advisory Group

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